CERi Funding Program Spotlight: Alexandra Lysova

July 05, 2022
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We are excited to feature CERi’s Funding Program recipient Alexandra Lysova, who received a $5,000 grant in the Fall of 2021 for her research project titled Engaging men and boys in addressing family violence: A Vancouver-based initiative. She is an associate professor at the School of Criminology at SFU, with the main focus of her research being the complexities surrounding domestic abuse. Lysova will also be presenting her research project at CERi’s upcoming conference Horizons: Crisis and Social Transformation in Community-Engaged Research.

In collaboration with the Canadian Centre for Men and Families (CCMF) in Vancouver, Lysova conducted one-on-one interviews with men with experience of abuse to answer two main questions:

  1. What are the main barriers that prevent men from seeking help in cases of family violence?
  2. Which strategies can help increase social awareness of men’s experiences of family violence and encourage men to look for support?

One of the barriers identified by Lysova is a failure to recognize that abuse is occurring, or in her words, being blind to abuse.

“What is important before asking for help is to realize that one is a victim of abuse. Many men don’t see themselves as victims.  It is hard for them to admit that they are being abused, or controlled, or a victim of violence,” said Lysova.

Additionally, Lysova noted that many men who experienced abuse are uncomfortable with the labels a “victim” or “survivor” of abuse, which can be detrimental to seeking help. This unease concerning labels is a symptom of another major barrier to men’s help-seeking, which is the intense social stigma around male abuse. Men are expected to fit certain stereotypes such as being strong, not crying, and being able to take on challenges themselves.

“What is painful is that men are constantly reminded about the social stigma, by their partners, their parents, society,  advertisements, and even by those who are there to help like police officers. We have some reports where men were told by the police, ‘Oh, man up! Who are you? Can’t you protect yourself against a girl?’” explained Lysova.

Such attitudes towards men speaking out may create a cycle where men see how other men are treated and are then hesitant to speak out themselves. Through promoting awareness, Lysova along with the CCMF - Vancouver hope to break this cycle by letting men know that they are not alone in their experiences with abuse and that it is OK to speak out. However, even in cases where men did seek help, Lysova found that the responses were not always helpful.

“It was almost like some of them lucked out and found good service, while some men who reached out for help were rejected or not heard” said Lysova.

In her upcoming presentation at Horizons: Crisis and Social Transformation in Community-Engaged Research, Lysova hopes to break down the social stigma that currently exists toward male abuse.

“One of the goals is to let voices of men who experienced abuse and tried to find help be heard. It is important to continue to raise awareness about men’s victimization in intimate relationships. There are still many people who are reluctant to believe that male domestic abuse is possible and happening,” she said.

“It’s important that Statistics Canada collects information about victimization experiences not only from females but also from males. This is how we know that there are so many men who have been abused physically, psychologically, financially, and exposed to controlling behaviors,” Lysova said. “However, it is hard to see the individuals behind these numbers. Therefore, at the conference, we will provide some excerpts from real stories reported to us by men who experienced violence from their female partners,” Lysova continued.

According to Lysova, the way forward in addressing the issue of male abuse is to promote not only awareness but also empathy towards all victims of abuse, regardless of their gender.

“When men speak out, they are often met with approval rather than empathy, are only allowed to be masculine and stoic, and their vulnerabilities are invalidated,” Lysova noticed.

In conducting her research, Lysova found that the act of simply listening to the men and letting them know that their voices were being heard had a positive impact.

Lysova also emphasized that “there are many benefits of helping men who experience abuse to women and children in such relationships. For example, the benefits to women include intervening in cases of mutually violent couples before a woman is injured. Helping men may also reduce the harm to children who witness domestic violence and thus can break the intergenerational transmission of violence.”

In working with CERi and the CCMF, Lysova noted that one of the strengths of community-engaged research, as opposed to regular research, was the benefit it provided to researchers in gathering data, especially among this hard-to-reach population as male victims of female-perpetrated abuse.

“What I faced in my previous research was an issue with recruiting men who were willing to tell us their stories and trust us as researchers. This time, it was much easier because I partnered with the CCMF in Vancouver that offers support to men who have experienced family violence (including a men’s support group and legal clinic for men post-divorce),” said Lysova.

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