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Research investigates male experience of intimate partner violence

August 13, 2019
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By Christine Palka

Family violence is a global issue that negatively impacts men as well as women and children.

Researcher Alexandra Lysova, an assistant professor in Simon Fraser University’s School of Criminology, wants to involve men in strategies to reduce intimate partner violence. To aid her efforts, she’s studying the male experience of heterosexual, intimate partner violence.

Traditionally, researchers have studied intimate partner violence from the perspective of women or children. Lysova’s research shows that men can be victims too and that addressing their needs can help reduce the violence against them, as well as against women and children.

“I’ve realized that intimate partner violence is a multifaceted problem,” says Lysova. “We must continue to address violence against women and children, who are predominantly victims of the most severe violence, but this is just part of the problem. We’ve found that violence is bidirectional. It comes from both men and women, and it is very diverse and complex in the relationship. For this reason, we need to look at the experiences and motivations of both partners.”

Drawing on data from the Canadian General Social Survey on Victimization, Lysova found an overall decline in the rates of intimate partner victimization in Canada over the past 15 years. However, the rates of intimate partner violence against men declined more slowly relative to women, resulting in a higher number of male victims of intimate partner violence than female victims in 2014.

These findings sparked Lysova’s curiosity. She seeks to explain these trends and examine why anti-violence efforts do not seem to include assistance to male victims of intimate partner violence. In 2014, for example, there were about 418,000 male victims of such violence in Canada.

Intimate partner psychological and physical violence can become deadly if the situation is not diffused. That’s why Lysova is using an Insight Development Research Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) to examine spousal homicides in Canada perpetrated by men who were previously victims of intimate partner violence. She argues some spousal homicides could be prevented if male victims receive help to handle their experiences with violence and depression and to find a peaceful way out of a violent situation.

To prevent family violence, Lysova wants to explain men’s victimization. She says many current theories of family violence are based on understandings of patriarchy and control, yet many other explanations, including masculine stereotypes, have not been fully examined.

“This is an important theme to study because masculine stereotypes hinder men from looking for help and acknowledging they can be victims,” she says. “I want researchers and the public to see this as a human problem. We need to realize that by helping men, in addition to women, we actually help the entire family and society in general.”

Lysova is collaborating with other leading researchers in the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom. Their research group has carried out 12 international focus groups with 41 male victims in these countries and is currently publishing the research results.