The male rights movement sticks its head up again

Most people probably ignored the International Men’s Day on 19th November. Those who didn’t may have noticed the launch of a new website One in Three ( This is the latest attempt from the male rights movement (which most, perhaps, don’t even know exists!) to break another appalling silence in our society.

I must be stupid to raise this subject on The Sola Panel. Some months ago, I raised the issue with a bit of an ‘aside’ to another discussion—or perhaps it was best described as an attempted ‘drive by shooting’!:

I must confess to being similarly confused with the local Labor member’s pamphlet that came through the mail this week. Apparently the Labor Party is mounting a national campaign to reduce violence against women and their children. That’s a relief; apparently violence against husbands and fathers, or perhaps just any old random male on the streets, is still okay.

Okay, perhaps that was not the best way to broach serious social issues that have depths of emotion riding just beneath the surface, and perhaps I deserved the flak I received. But since a human being is a learning organism (unlike an amoeba), perhaps I can attempt to prove I am not an amoeba. So after International Men’s Day 2009, here is a sober note without any poor attempts at humour, in an attempt to raise the same agenda.

For almost two decades, those in the male rights movement have been trying to speak on behalf of male victims of domestic abuse. Their new website draws attention to a bibliography of 256 scholarly items representing a total research sample of one quarter of a million people. Conservatively, one in three victims of domestic abuse are male (see the latest ABS figures). Other research shows that it may, in fact, be one in two.

For almost two decades, those in the male rights movement have been trying to say, on the basis of this research, that there is a lot of misinformation being spread, due to the slanted politics associated with the issue of domestic violence. The new website has a page listing examples—many of them from government sources—of the misuse of statistics, and whether or not a retraction has been made of this misinformation.

So far, this is simply operating upon the standard definitions of ‘violence’ used to generate the figures of violence against women. One in Three also points out that the abuse of the male by his female partner often takes on a subtle form. Supporter of the campaign Melbourne psychologist Dr Elizabeth Celi says,

Unlike physical violence, many of the forms of domestic abuse faced by male victims are difficult to detect and hard for the man himself to defend against. A man’s health is wrapped up in his identity. Attacking his self-worth through various forms of criticism, manipulation and intimidation are forms of emotional and verbal violence that we need to learn about as a society and say ‘Enough!’.

Elizabeth Celi also warns against the common tendency to dichotomize the issue, as if a stand against violence against men somehow detracts from a stand against violence against women. Perhaps this explains the misinformation and the difficulty men’s rights have had in changing public perceptions. But there is no need for the dichotomy. This is basically about a common sense of humanity. If it is wrong for men to abuse women (and children), it is equally wrong for women to abuse men (and children).

Perhaps the time is ripe for society to hear this old viewpoint once again struggling for air in the public domain. Last week, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd released a survey of 10,000 people that shows that 46 per cent believe that women also commit acts of domestic violence. Most of those surveyed still believe that men commit the majority of abuse, so there is still work for groups such as One in Three to do in drawing attention to the research in order to bring about more nuanced public opinion.

But nevertheless a head speaking for the male has appeared over the parapet once again. There are other victims out there—usually silent, supplied with almost absolutely no resources to help them. Isn’t it time we heard their silent cry?

16 thoughts on “The male rights movement sticks its head up again

  1. I have been a Christian for 25 years and have never, even once, heard a sermon that explicitly condemned domestic or sexual violence.  Nor, come to think of it, have I heard a sermon that dealt with anything as complex as psychological abuse.  I would go so far as to say that instruction on ethics doesn’t get much of a look-in because we treat ethics as individual and private, and don’t ‘do’ topical sermons.  Preachers, your thoughts?

  2. Ellen, I cannot speak for others. However as a complementarian, whenever the Bible raises the topic of submission, I always make the point that such verses nor any other part of the Bible every excuses aggression or violence whether verbal or physical by a man against a woman (or a woman towards a man).

    In addition, we just preached through Judges. I really wished we could skip chapters 19-21. However we did not out of a commitment to systematic exposition and all God’s Word being useful. And the main application of chapter 19 was Say No To Abuse

    People sometimes say they do not believe in human depravity. Well here it is [in Judges 19]. And all I can think of to apply this to us today is to say no to abuse. Say no to domestic violence. Say no to all forms of sexual assault. Two Thursday ago, I was wearing a white ribbon. Most people did not know why.
    White ribbon day, on 25 November, is a national campaign to get all Australian men and boys never to commit, never to excuse, and never to remain silent about violence against women. It is wrong.

    I first learned about white ribbon day when I saw the famous Queensland Maroons hard man Gorden Tallis wearing the rugby league jersey of his footballing foes, the NSW Blues. Gorden said,  “I gave more than ten years of blood, sweat and pain to the Maroons. So am I embarrassed to be wearing this? You bet! But nothing is more embarrassing than knowing my kids are growing up in a country where almost half of the women will be victims of physical or sexual abuse in their lifetime. So if wearing this makes Australian men realise how serious this issue is, you know, I don’t care how embarrassing it is.”
    he Bible has always said violence against women is wrong. The old man’s sense of hospitality was terribly warped if he thought it meant he should tolerate sexual violence against women. And the Levite was simply selfish and gutless. Heterosexual rape is just as bad as homosexual rape.

    I believe the Bible teaches that God has made the husband the head of his household. But there is no excuse anywhere in the Bible, ever for any aggression, whether physical or verbal against a woman. No excuse, never ever. Repent and get help if you are guilty.
    But the sort of society we have comes where we tolerate pornography in the home computer or on late night TV, and say it’s not hurting anyone. You might not have ever hit a woman. But tolerating pornography just contributes to the sort of society that objectifies women and makes them targets of others. Stop it and get help. Christian men need to draw a line in the sand about such things.

  3. So, Sandy, do you have a comment about the post itself? i.e. male rights sticks its head up again?? (note, male)
    What do you do in your sermons to rectify the balance here?

  4. Peter,  I confess I find the statistics that suggest 1/3 or even 1/2 victims of domestic abuse are male are counter-intuitive. But then again, abuse is a broad category, which often includes emotional abuse, which can be verbal, neglect, bullying, etc., & not just physical and sexual abuse, so I guess it’s possible.

    So I suspect if you were measuring only the latter (physical violence and sexual abuse) then women would feature more predominantly as victims. Since this was the focus of the Judges 19 situation, where women were the victims, I feel comfortable with my sermon remarks.

    You may also note the first paragraph of my previous comment where I added in brackets that aggression or violence by a woman against a man is also unacceptable.

    That was a genuine comment. I raise Ephesians 5 with every couple I prepare for marriage – practising Christian or not – and I make the comment reported in my first paragraph to the couple every time, including the caveat that women should not abuse men.

    I still think men have an extra responsibility not to exploit their physical power over women (cf. 1 Pet 3:7?).

    I am going away on Long Service Leave so no further comment from me is likely.

  5. @Peter – I guess the trouble with this is that the point Ellen makes is pretty accurate. On the whole, in our subculture we don’t speak out a lot about the 2/3s of domestic violence/abuse which is against women. So it just seems odd to now stand up and say ‘hey, what about domestic abuse of men?’ – even if it is a neglected issue and that stats you cite are true. Since we aren’t (other than Sandy) speaking about it at all, it seems odd to speak up at this point.

    What’s more, given the complementarianism we espouse, the outsider looking in is likely to see this imbalance in our statements as reinforcing the power differential between men and women. They’d be wrong, but that’d be the perception.

    The point I think you highlight well iis the way in which in modern culture we need to be a victim to have a voice. If you are a victim, it seems, you have more right to speak. Your words are more authentic, you experience more genuine. Strangely, this has worked to victimise those not usually thought to be victims (ie, men who are abused!)

  6. Kevin Rudd’s survey was released on the same day Sandy was wearing his white ribbon. The new website (one in three) now enables skeptics to have some facts before they guess and speculate or speak up in a one-sided way. Now that the issue has surfaced (once again), why would any preacher NOT want to join their voice to help another set of victims (as Sandy strongly claims to have been doing for another set)? It is a pity about Ellen’s 25 years of not hearing anything raised at all (and sorry, Michael, Ellen rightly speaks about domestic abuse generally, not just female domestic abuse. Your post illustrates the blindness that the male rights movement has been clamouring about). But if sermons condemn only one side of a social problem, they join the victimisation of the other.

  7. Hum, I think my comment from the weekend has been eaten.

    As I’m a librarian, I have a suspicious mind when it comes to websites.  This one aims to “raise public awareness of the existence and needs of male victims of family violence and abuse.”  However, it also implies that these men are abused by women, which is the point Peter has picked up on.  Many of the large-font quotes are reports of women abusing men, for example.  However, the ABS survey from which the one in three stat is drawn does not say that women are the perpetrators.  It doesn’t mention the sex of the perpetrators at all, nor the sexuality of the couples involved.  Given the small numbers we are dealing with, I am wondering whether the men are mostly being beaten by other men.  After all, when I’m told that ~20% of teenage boys are having unwanted sex, I find it a little hard to believe that there’s an army of randy teenage girls forcing them into it—more likely, they are being abused by men.

    The Misinformation section also rings alarm bells.  One would expect that it would be devoted to misinformation about male victims of family violence.  Instead, it mostly reports inaccurate stats about female victims.  While I’m not condoning dud stats, these ones are irrelevant to the stated purposes of this website.  So why were they included?

    There is enough here for me to be very cautious with the data on the site.  Like Wikipedia, it might be a good start, but cross-check anything it tells you.

  8. A careful reading of the literature to which the website points will reveal that there are a variety of related issues being discussed. It is therefore important not to portray every survey being reported as if it purports to be saying the same thing.  To repeat the aim of the campaign, it is to show that not only women are victims of abuse in the home, and if abuse of females is wrong, then so is the abuse of males (from whomever). The misinformation segment aligns perfectly with this aim, for much of it picks up on the one-sided nature of the rhetoric. The website acts as a portal, and rather than knee-jerk reacting to the website itself, perhaps a careful and leisurely perusal of the vast amount of literature from across about a decade, with a sample size of about 1/4 million might enable a better judgement to be formed. To provide access to the fruit of this research is, after all, one of the reasons for the site.

    What it would be interesting to find out is why even raising the issue of male victims of domestic abuse encounters such ‘interesting’ (to try to be neutral) reactions. This rather brief string has seen side-tracking of the topic; negating of the need for such information; several skeptical opinions (presumably before all the literature has been read); and an attempt to discredit the website (and presumably its information) by guilt by association with Wikipedia no less! (which, by the way, and as I understand it, has scored quite well in the accuracy department!)

    I repeat. If there are silenced victims in our community (slash, churches) then why wouldn’t any preacher (or other) wish to know about them?

    As for repentance, Ellen, I find it difficult to pick up on your tone (if it is there), but on a straightforward reading of your comment, yes, this is certainly one solution. Or, to put it in reverse, for every two times a preacher [or Christian newspaper or magazine article, or blogist or opinion voiced in response to a blog] speaks on behalf of female victims, the third time he should speak sympathetically for male victims too.

  9. Sorry, Peter, I think I probably mispoke. All I meant was this: preachers in our circles rarely speak up for ANY victims of either gender! A good time to start perhaps?

  10. Michael, okay, and point taken. Often it seems as if a ‘condemnatory’ tone is felt to be necessary in order to call for repentance, and (at least in my own ‘25 years’ of experience) this can be more often than not directed at the male (perhaps on the principle espoused by Sandy that more is expected from the male??); but sympathy is often lacking for all, I agree. Strange when the gospel brings comfort to the broken as a key commodity for renovation and change. As you begin your new movement amongst preachers, Michael, perhaps you can show how they can promote a comfort- and sympathy-evoked repentance? I look forward to it.

  11. You know, the ole BCP used to manage this brilliantly as it took as through confession, repentance and to the gospel… why did we give it up again?

  12. I remember an occasion talking to a family member when I mentioned DV against males;  she didn’t want to know about support for them because she felt it would “detract” from the idea that violence is also perpetrated against women.  Some people need to grow up and get over the gender war to realise that the war is (or should be) against “sin, the world and the devil” not each other.

  13. Yanking the chain?  Moi??  Of course I was!

    However, I’m serious in my criticisms of the website, and still think it’s comparable to Wikipedia in terms of its authority, though for different reasons.  (Will Hood can give you an overview of the issues Wikipedia raises for librarians.)  Here’s the list, just quickly:

    – some unidentified sponsors
    – op-eds listed under News
    – use of material irrelevant to stated aims of website
    – some holes in the usage of stats

    So as I said: maybe it’s a starting point, but double-check the material at source.

  14. Dear Ellen,

    My name is Greg Andresen and I’m the Senior Researcher for the One in Three Campaign. I’d like to address some of the points you have made in your posts in order to hopefully clarify matters.

    You say the One in Three website “implies that these men are abused by women”. There is certainly no intention to do so, and I would be surprised if you found any specific reference to this on the site. The site tries to make it clear that men and boys can be abused by intimate partners, by parents, by siblings, by other family members, even by children, and obviously this includes both males and females.

    You are correct, however, that many of the large-font quotes are reports of women abusing men. These reports are taken from our ‘Tell Your Story’ page, where men are given an opportunity to tell their stories of being victims of family violence. It just so happens that most of the stories we have received are from men who have been victimised by women. I can assure you that we do not edit or curate these stories, and if men were to tell stories of being abused by other men we would certainly publish them.

    Another reason why men are probably telling stories about being abused by women is that, statistically, this is the most likely family violence scenario (and this leads to your point about “wondering whether the men are mostly being beaten by other men”). The ABS Personal Safety Survey 2005 found that, since the age of 15, two-thirds of male victims of physical assault by friends and family (regrettably the ABS doesn’t provide figures for family violence only) were abused by females.

    On your point about “20% of teenage boys having unwanted sex” and finding it “a little hard to believe that there’s an army of randy teenage girls forcing them into it”, regrettably the survey data does support the conclusion that many teenage boys don’t feel prepared to say no to sex from their female partners. The Secondary Students and Sexual Health Survey (2002) found that 23.3% of sexually active males and 28.1% of sexually active females had experienced an unwanted sexual encounter. Of the reasons presented to students, “being drunk” and “being pressured by one’s partner” were the most commonly reported reasons for unwanted sex. “Being high” and “being pressured by peers” were less often reported as reasons for unwanted sex.

    The students’ sexual partners were identified as either “someone you had met for the first time” (18.1%), “someone you had known for while but had not had sex with before” (29.4%) or “your current steady girlfriend/boyfriend” (52.5%). Only 5.8% of the males said their sexual partner was over the age of 20, and only 1.6% of the most recent sexual encounters reported by young men were homosexual in nature, so it is unlikely that these young men were having unwanted sex with other boys or with older men.

    Interestingly young males (23.7%) were almost twice as likely as young females (13.8%) to say that they were “A little confident or not at all confident” in saying no to unwanted sex.

    You ask why the Misinformation section of the website includes a listing of inaccurate stats about female victims. This is a good question. As you’ve correctly mentioned, one of the aims of the One in Three Campaign is to “raise public awareness of the existence and needs of male victims of family violence and abuse”. Many policies, programs, campaigns and publications by government and non-government organisations alike have, for many years, conflated ‘family violence’ and ‘domestic violence’ with ‘violence against women’. They continue to do so. This has obviously excluded male victims from the picture entirely. By critiquing the inaccurate statistics about female victims, we seek to highlight the fact that government and non-government organisations do not have a handle upon accurate, up-to-date research data (which shows that males make up at least one in three victims of family violence). We also hope to raise the question in the mind of readers as to why these organisations might have a blind spot to data that reveals male victimisation. To put it bluntly, if we have been fed the wrong story about family violence against women, we have probably been fed the wrong story about family violence against men (and children).

    I would be interested in hearing any suggestions you might have as to how we could re-word the Misinformation page so that this point is made a little clearer to the reader.

    As the website has merely been put together by a group of well-meaning researchers and academics in an attempt to provide an accurate picture of the data around male victims of family violence, it can make no more claims to authority than any other website. All we can do is leave it up to our readers to reference the linked source data and studies to make up their own minds.

    By the way, as a librarian you might be interested to know that the website has been selected by the National Library of Australia to be archived in its PANDORA database as a ‘publication of national significance of lasting research or cultural value’.

    Lastly, you say that you criticise the website because it has

    • some unidentified sponsors
    • op-eds listed under News
    • use of material irrelevant to stated aims of website
    • some holes in the usage of stats.

    The website clearly states that “The One in Three Campaign is currently funded entirely by public donations”. Many other highly respected organisations take public donations—Amnesty International, Medecins Sans Frontieres, Red Cross, Greenpeace, etc. I’m not sure how this is a critisicm.

    You’re right that op-eds are listed on our News page, however the page does say clearly that “This page contains a selection of recent news articles about male victims of violence and abuse plus related issues”. It doesn’t claim that all are factual news and not opinion. I would love to hear how you think we could better word this page so as not to confuse or mislead readers. Perhaps something like “This page contains a selection of recent news articles and opinion pieces about male victims of violence and abuse plus related issues”?

    I think I have covered the ‘irrelevant material’ issue earlier in this post.

    I’m not sure what you mean by “some holes in the usage of stats”. I’d love more information on this if you’re able to provide it. We have tried very hard to present recent, accurate, peer-reviewed data wherever possible.

    Thanks for your queries about the website and campaign. I hope I’ve managed to clarify some of your questions.

    Warm regards,


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