How Many Men Are We Talking About?

I recently changed employment and am now working at a statewide domestic violence coalition. Although I’ve worked in the anti-violence against women field for most of my professional life, I am shocked by how little I knew about the nuances of domestic violence and abuser behaviors. What I am not surprised by, however, is how little information there is about the individuals doing the abuse…the men.

If you google domestic violence, you can get a plethora of information on women as victims, but try and refine the search to find information about the numbers of men who are actually committing the violence and abuse and you’ll either retrieve information on ‘men as victims’ or after an incredibly deep google search, find one statistic citing  a study from 2000.

As I learn more horrifying information about the pervasiveness of domestic violence– like the fact that between 4%- 8% of women are abused by their partner during pregnancy, or that 30% of women experiences physical violence, 9% rape, 17% sexual violence, and 48% psychological aggression from their intimate partners, or that 1/3 of all criminal cases in Connecticut are for family violence—I’m left wondering, who are these men?

Although the stats fluctuate, men are overwhelmingly committing intimate partner violence against women (ranges from 80-99%). So then, why is it so hard to find any information on how many men are committing this violence? All I really want to know is, what percentage of the U.S. population is currently abusing, has abused, or has the propensity to abuse their intimate partner. And yet…nothing.

When I step out of the weeds of domestic violence, this complete lack of information about the very people committing the overwhelming majority of the violence against women (yes, men) isn’t unusual, in fact, it’s exactly the same with sexual violence and human trafficking. Those of us in the field, and many in the general public can recite with ease the number of women who will be victims of sexual assault or domestic violence, but how many men will rape? How many men will threaten their girlfriend or hit their wife?

In light of a few recent events, such as the massacre in Charleston, the Stanford rape case, and mass shootings, there has been much needed attention (on social media anyway) on toxic masculinity and the common denominator of men to violent acts in our culture. So then, might we do more to actually study who these men are, how we can prevent them from committing violence, and how we can get those who do or will commit violence into services. Instead of calling it violence against women, maybe we should start calling it, violence committed by men.

Who are these men?  How many are there? And, why aren’t we doing more to figure that out?

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