Violence against women receives regular attention, but violence against men is still a relatively unexplored area. A possible explanation is that men do not want to admit or report violence as it is associated with shame and social ridicule.
“It is right to pay more attention to violence against women, as it is much more widespread. Nevertheless, violence against men is a public health problem and more research is needed here”, says Gloria Macassa, medical doctor and professor of public health sciences and epidemiology.
Men experience stress and anxiety
She has co-authored a new article that shows that the health of men who are victims of violence is often very poor and that they experience psychological violence to a higher extent than physical violence. Findings of studies from other parts of the world are similar.
“They experience stress and anxiety and may become depressed. Instead of contacting health care services and talk about the violence, they suffer in silence. This affects their mental health negatively and can be related to suicidal thoughts and suicide”, Gloria Macassa says.
Together with research colleagues, she has analysed public health surveys in which men responded that they had been subjected to psychological violence. International studies show that although violence can occur outside the home, it often occurs in the home.
“In domestic conflicts and custody disputes, insults, abuse, and emotional violence are common. For example, the woman may threaten that she will take the children away from him”, Gloria Macassa says.
A shameful topic
The health care system has difficulty in reaching these men who do not report the violence, do not seek help, and do not talk about it.
“This topic is very shameful for men. Because of masculinity norms, admitting to being a victim of violence is not considered manly, especially if the offender is a woman. Studies show that men do not want to be seen as victims”, says Gloria Macassa.
The men’s reluctance to seek medical care is often related to a fear of not being taken seriously and of being ridiculed.
“We who work in public health and primary care need to show more adamantly that we take men seriously and we must change the way we think about violence against men.”
"We must dare to ask"
Gloria Macassa mentions that violence against men needs to be included in preventive healthcare. Today, men who are victims of violence rarely know where to turn for support. Therefore, she believes that doctors and other healthcare professionals need more training in how to recognise and provide support to men who are victims of violence.
“We must dare to ask. For example, if a man is seeking treatment for depression, stress or anxiety, the doctor needs to ask if he has been subjected to violence."
The studies Gloria Macassa have co-authored show that men who are victims of psychological violence often self-assess their health as very poor.
“But because men don't talk about it, it becomes a complex issue to address. All violence must be acknowledged, but we cannot deal with violence against men in the same way as we deal with violence against women”, Gloria Macassa says.
Read the article: "Interpersonal Violence Is Associated with Self-Reported Stress, Anxiety and Depression among Men in East-Central Sweden: Results of a Population-Based Survey"
Research presentation of Gloria Macassa.
Text: Anna Sällberg