“We have got to stop beating up on each other,” says Ken Clearwater, manager of the Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse Trust. He’s laughing but not joking – because, he says, it’s not just a women problem.
“Longitudinal studies done in Christchurch and Dunedin tells us the perpetrators of domestic or family violence are both men and women – it’s 50/50.”
“But,” says Ken who’s in Tauranga for the Kidz Need Dadz ‘Working With Men’ conference, “you won’t see that published. Why would you want that information out there? There’s a strong worldwide movement against male victims – males are seen as more as perpetrators than victims.
”For some reason we are quite happy to think all men are bastards and all women are victims.” And, he says, people might get concerned we are taking the focus away from the female domestic violence cause.
Ken Clearwater says it’s also difficult for men to come forward and speak out about violence and abuse. “We live in a patriarchal society, so a man’s not going to go down to the pub and say the missus is beating me up. But we are starting to.”
He uses the example of Aaron Gilmore, champion ballroom and Latin American dance star, who spoke out about being sexually abused by a woman 25 years his senior when he was just 11. He hoped it would give other men the strength to come forward.
“There are people hurting people, women hurting boys and girls, men hurting boys and girls,” says Ken, a 20-year veteran in the field of male victim research and support. “We have got to move away from the blame game and recognise there is violence being perpetrated by both genders on both genders.”
Women have been fighting for 50 years to get their domestic violence issues sorted. “Suddenly men are standing up and saying, ‘hang on, we have problems here as well’. That’s causing a wedge.”
As is money. “Men started talking about prostate cancer and people were saying ‘hang on, are those sympathetic charity dollars going to be diverted away from breast cancer to prostate cancer?’”
The Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse Trust manager believes the only way forward is men and women walking side by side and working together, acknowledging there are issues on both sides and making sure there are the right resources and the right funding to deal with both.