MENZ Issues

Minimization of Violence Against Men

A National Radio interview this morning was another example of how violence against men by women is minimized. The mayor of Waitomo, Mark Ammon, described being assaulted by a Maori woman, Kahu Hohaia when he went to walk on a beach. Ms Hohaia believes visitors do not have a right to walk on the beach because it ajoins Maori land and a burial site, and she appears to have appointed herself as an enforcer of that rule even though her view is not consistent with the legal status of the beach.

According to Mr Ammon she assaulted him violently including trying to stab him with a walking stick that had broken during the assault. Although both parties have laid complaints with police, in the radio interview Ms Hohaia would not describe her claimed version of events. The male interviewer was more challenging towards Mr Ammon than towards Ms Hohaia, claimed he “admitted” to going to walk on the beach in the first place, showed absolutely no empathy or recognition of how traumatic an assault as described would have been for him. Imagine if a woman described being assaulted whilst walking in town,and the interviewer challenged her with “so you admit walking in town that night?”. That would be seen as victim-blaming. But that seems fine when done to men.

At the end of the interview the announcer wished Ms Hohaia “good luck with it” and “I hope that you and Mark Ammon can sort out your differences one way or t’other”. He then described the incident as “…he’s had a bit of a dust up with Kahu and it looks like that will end up in Court.” Just imagine if a female claimed she had been assaulted by a male with a weapon whilst walking legally on a beach, and the interviewer described it as “a bit of a dust-up”, showed great respect and friendliness towards the assaulter, wished the assaulter good luck in sorting out differences, implied the victim was to blame for being assaulted, and generally spoke about the assault in patronizing and light-hearted ways.

This is the attitude facing male victims of female violence. We have numerous accounts from men who have tried to lay assault complaints against women that the police have refused to act on or have treated casually. Numerous accounts from men who phoned police when they were being assaulted at home by their partner, only to find they were then the ones arrested and charged for domestic violence. Numerous accounts of women being given very light sentences for similar acts of violence that caused men to be given harsh sentences. When women kill their partners we see other women marching in support of the offender and seeking to blame the dead victim. Violence towards men is minimized or accepted, the rules are very different for violent men than for violent women.

Many people, including many judges, reason that the current attitudes are appropriate because men are stronger and they still commit more serious violence on average. They claim that women are more likely to feel really scared or traumatized by violence from males than the other way round. On this basis they argue that violence by a male should be taken more seriously. This argument is little more than blatant sexism, promoting a dangerous trend of applying laws differently to different groups for the same offending behaviour. One could equally apply the argument to race, calling for offending by Maori to be prosecuted more vigorously, sentenced more harshly and generally seen as worse because Maori commit more serious violence on average than do Pakeha. But that wouldn’t be acceptable. The argument is shown up for what it is, discrimination.

Further, the claim that women will be more frightened because they are weaker etc is sexist and largely inaccurate. Men’s fear may not always be of not being able to protect themselves from serious injury, though often they will feel exactly that fear especially when a woman is threatening or assaulting them with a weapon. But men I have talked to who have been assaulted by women describe being traumatized in various other ways. Many men live by a moral code that they will not assault women, and this can cause them to feel helpless and frightened when attacked by a woman. Many men are aware that they are likely to be seen as the culprit if they use any self-defensive force, and this results in a fear perhaps similar to that of a strong slave being assaulted by the slave owner; the slave is capable of overpowering the owner but knows he is then likely to be harmed more severely by the system that supports the slave owner. The fear many men experience is that they will have to succumb to being hurt because they see it as simply too immoral and/or dangerous to do anything else. Then there is the emotional trauma/loss of trust/sense of rejection etc of experiencing your partner or any other citizen behaving violently and wanting to harm you; that will differ little between the genders.

The interview was a good example of modern sexism and an opportunity to explore this important issue. The interview can be heard through the National Radio web page for the next couple of weeks, and after that I can arrange for anyone who is interested to hear it.