After reading this article in the Canberra Times (http://bit.ly/1TsykzG), I started to wonder how easily I could find some useful statistics about the men who suffer at the hands of their new partner's ex-partner "“ the guy with the history of domestic violence.
It wasn't easy. They are not often distinguished as an at-risk group. Perhaps it's because they're men, and we suffer from that unspoken and un-examined assumption that men are expected to be able to handle themselves.
In the end, the NSW Domestic Violence Death Review Team Annual Report 2013-2015 gave up some useful figures, after a bit of digging and manual calculation.
Of 191 domestic violence-related deaths (I excluded kinship/relative deaths and one where a man was murdered by his abusive flatmate) in NSW between 2000 and 2012, 129 victims (67.5%) of DV-related homicide were women. In all cases they were killed by a male partner or ex-partner. 62 were men (32.5%).
Of the 62 men killed, 40 (64.5%) were domestic violence abusers "“ 31 of these were killed by a woman who had been their victim, and the other 4 were killed by someone acting on behalf of or in defense of women who'd been subjected to domestic violence. Of the 40, five were in same-sex relationships, killed by their male partners who were also domestic violence abusers.
Another 22 men were killed by a woman's abusive partner or ex-partner. 18 killed were the woman's new partner, two were fathers murdered by their daughter's abusive boyfriends, and two were bystanders who gave their lives stepping in to protect a woman from domestic violence.
22 dead is 11.5% of the total number of DV-related deaths. If we consider only the 151 deaths at the hands of DV abusers, 85.4% were women, and 14.6% were men.
The issue here is not to deflect attention from the deaths of women by their abusers "“ these statistics alone make it very clear that women are much more at risk "“ but to point to the fact that men in this review show up as victims too. A lower risk category is still a risk category. People are dying in this category.
Whether it's 11.5% of the total, or 14.6% of the deaths by DV abusers, these are not insignificant numbers, but we don't mention them.
And if we're not mentioning the murders, we're sure not talking about the men who are being assaulted and terrorised by the men who have been abusing the women they've started relationships with "“ despite these occasional media reports, which reference violence to the men as if peripheral, incidental.
Including this group into the conversation about domestic violence won't distract from the fundamental issue "“ safety for partners and children will always be a priority. But if we don't start to include them in the statistics, in the research, in protective legal and service provisions, we don't get the full measure of the social impacts of domestic violence.
As for the impacts on children of seeing the new boyfriend beaten and scared and sometimes killed, on top of everything they've already seen happening to mum"¦and the impacts on mum too, of having yet another person she cares about being abused"¦
However, we should examine the impacts on the men for the harm being done to them as human beings, not as secondary or lesser, even when their abuse is a means to continue the abuse of the partner. Harm is harm.
Beyond the individual cases, to leave these men to fend for themselves, and not see them as being entitled to protection, perpetuates the destructive underlying social imperatives about being a man and being in control that drive domestic violence in the first place. Let these men take their place beside the women and children as their equals in their personal experience of vulnerability and suffering. Let's open our arms and our hearts to them too, and let them know they too are not on their own.