A Qualitative Study of the Male Victims’ Experiences With the Criminal Justice Response to Intimate Partner Abuse in Four English-Speaking Countries

Published date01 October 2020
Date01 October 2020
Subject MatterArticles
CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND BEHAVIOR, 2020, Vol. 47, No. 10, October 2020, 1264 –1281.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0093854820927442
Article reuse guidelines: sagepub.com/journals-permissions
© 2020 International Association for Correctional and Forensic Psychology
Simon Fraser University
George Mason University
Victoria University of Wellington
Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Practicing Psychologist
The criminal justice system plays a pivotal role in addressing the safety of victims of intimate partner abuse (IPA). Over the
past 40 years, most changes in the criminal justice response to IPA have been made with the intention of improving support
to abused women and their children. However, a growing body of research shows there are many men who are victims of
IPA. This qualitative study explored the help-seeking experiences of 38 abused men within the criminal justice system in
Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Twelve online focus groups (three in each country) were
conducted and themes were identified inductively at a semantic level. Thematic analysis identified that most of their experi-
ences were negative and reflected the gender paradigm embedded in the criminal justice response. This study offers insights
into the relevance of a gender-inclusive criminal justice response in addressing IPA.
Keywords: intimate partner abuse; male victims; criminal justice response; gender paradigm; international study; thematic
Intimate partner abuse (IPA) was recognized and promoted as a serious social problem
that primarily affected women in the 1970s. Since that time, IPA has been typically under-
stood as an offense committed by men toward a female partner (Buzawa et al., 2017). The
AUTHORS’ NOTE: We acknowledge and thank the men who generously shared their experiences and the
organizations who helped to facilitate connections with the men. We have no conflicts of interests to disclose.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Alexandra Lysova, Assistant Professor, School
of Criminology, Simon Fraser University, 8888 University Drive, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada V5A1S6;
e-mail: alysova@sfu.ca.
927442CJBXXX10.1177/0093854820927442Criminal Justice and BehaviorLysova et al./ Male Victims’ Experiences With Criminal Justice
criminal justice system (CJS) in many industrialized countries has played an important role
in addressing the needs of female victims and holding males accountable for criminal
behavior. Although there are challenges to a criminal justice approach to IPA, such as con-
struing the crime as an offense against the state while the interests of any given victim are
secondary, the CJS has given a clear signal that they will treat IPA as seriously as violence
between strangers (Buzawa et al., 2017). Many substantial changes in the CJS around the
Western world, including pro-arrest, mandatory arrest policies, and no-drop prosecutions,
intended to symbolize the value that society placed on the safety of women and its commit-
ment to the social control of individuals convicted of an IPA (Fagan, 1996).
Despite this gendered understanding, a growing body of both qualitative and quantitative
research has found a large number of men are victimized by their intimate partners (Desmarais
et al., 2012; Douglas & Hines, 2011; Lysova et al., 2019). Research shows that men suffer
from various types of IPA, including physical violence and abuse, psychological, financial,
sexual, and legal and administrative abuse, parental alienation, and homicide (e.g., Harman
et al., 2016; Hines & Douglas, 2016). For example, the U.S. National Intimate Partner and
Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS) found that the annual prevalence of physical victimization
in the intimate relationships was 4.0% among women compared to 4.7% among men
(Breiding, 2014), while the 2014 General Social Survey on Victimization in Canada found
that the number of men who reported to have experienced physical or sexual violence in
ongoing intimate relationships in the past 5 years significantly exceeded that of women
(2.9% and 1.7%, respectively; Lysova et al., 2019). According to the Crime Survey for
England and Wales, year ending March 2019 (Office for National Statistics, 2019), 5.6% of
women and 2.8% of men reported experiencing IPA in the 12-month period studied. While
female victims were more likely than male victims to report emotional abuse, financial
abuse, and sexual assault, male victims reported a higher level of physical violence. In
Australia, the proportions of women and men who experienced IPA in the 12 months prior to
the 2016 survey were 1.7% and 0.8 %, respectively (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2017).
At the same time, official police statistics in the United States, Canada, and other Western
industrialized countries consistently show that women are more likely than men to become
victims of offenses related to intimate partner violence (e.g., sexual and physical assaults,
homicides), which also documents the severity of violence against women (García-Moreno
et al., 2005). The discrepancy between these two sources may also point to men’s barriers to
reporting violence to the police, even if they experience severe IPA (Douglas & Hines, 2011).
A growing body of IPA literature, along with a meta-analysis of 25 peer-reviewed studies
by Park and Kim (2019), have revealed that there is a significant overlap between IPA vic-
timization and perpetration in most couples that experience violence. It suggests that some
of the male and female victims have also perpetrated IPA. However, many qualitative stud-
ies of primarily female victims of IPA have rarely asked women about their perpetration of
IPA against a partner (e.g., Ragusa, 2013; Scheffer Lindgren & Renck, 2008). In addition,
victims who were identified as experiencing intimate terrorism were the least likely to be
involved in bidirectional violence (Johnson, 2008). Contrary to the notion of men as unlikely
victims of severe violence, especially in the context of coercive control (Johnson, 2008),
men have been found to experience intimate terrorism at a greater scale than was previously
argued (Jasinski et al., 2014; Lysova et al., 2019).
IPA directed at men has been associated with considerable negative effects for men,
including depression, serious injuries, cardiovascular and other physical health problems,

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT