When a woman posts about her experiences with domestic violence, harrassment or sexual assault — or simply vents about the prevalence of violence against women — there’s a high chance the comments or replies will look like this:
“It happens to men too.”
“Women can do this too, you know.”
“No one cares about male victims.”
These comments are almost always uncalled for. I’ve never seen a woman raise awareness about gender-based violence in one breath and then dismiss the experiences of male abuse victims. That’s not to say it never happens — and obviously this behavior should be condemned when it occurs — but these comments are often insidious for a few reasons.
First of all, they are extremely dismissive towards the women speaking out. Yes, the experiences of male victims deserve to be discussed as well, but the truth of the matter is, 90% of sexual assault victims are women and one in seven women have been injured by a partner, compared to one in 25 men. Violence against women is significantly more prevalent because of societal misogyny; queer women, women of color and disabled women are even more heavily affected. This desperately needs to be talked about so we can build a safer future for women and girls.
We can acknowledge that women suffer abuse at higher rates for systemic and cultural reasons, and that male victims of abuse face unique struggles with these issues because of their gender. Both of these things can be true.
I can’t help but feel like the majority of these commenters do not truly care about the experiences of the male victims they mention. It mostly feels as if they just want to talk over women — which isn’t surprising given the amount of blatant misogyny in society. While some of these commenters might genuinely care, it is still incredibly disrespectful to men who have been abused to use their experiences as fodder for a sexist argument.
Abuse against men should always be taken seriously, even if it is less prevalent than abuse against women.
The statistics surrounding abuse that men face are quite staggering. One in 33 men have been sexually assaulted, according to RAINN. One in four men have been physically abused by a partner (this includes actions like slapping, pushing, and shoving that did not result in injury), according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
Additionally, because domestic violence, sexual assault and sexual harrassment are seen as women’s issues, men who experience these things are often dismissed, not believed or mocked. This stigma makes it difficult for men to come forward with their experiences, which abuse victims of all genders say is already challenging.
That stigma makes these comments even more frustrating. They do nothing to help them — they just give speaking out about male abuse a bad reputation.
No matter who you are, you deserve to have your experiences with abuse, assault and harassment heard. You deserve to be believed. You deserve support from your community. You deserve justice.
You do not deserve to be dismissed, and you do not deserve to have your life experiences used as a sexist talking point.
Quinn Kennedy is a copy editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org