The Canadian Association for Equality (CAFE) held a press conference today and launched their campaign to raise awareness for male victims of domestic violence with a newly purchased billboard in Toronto.
The billboard, located at the corner of Davenport Rd. and Bedford Rd. says that half of domestic violence victims are men and yet there are no shelters dedicated to them.
“We believe that all victims of violence and abuse should be supported, even those who don’t fit the stereotypes of what a victim is suppose to look like,” said Justin Trottier, co-founder of CAFE and director of the Canadian Centre for Men and Families.
Critics, however, are not impressed with CAFE’s approach. “It’s incredibly tacky for them to put up the billboard on International Women’s Day,” said Aeryn Pfaff, a student in the Bachelor of Journalism program at Humber College, adding, “If their point is to raise awareness about violence against men, then they should make that point, but not at the expense of women or feminism.”
Women’s Day was last Sunday, but Trottier said the timing was just a coincidence and CAFE had been planning their campaign for months. Trottier also said he doesn’t look at issues of domestic violence through the lens of a “gender ideology” and that he’s concerned with all individuals in need of support. “Efforts to combat violence against women are absolutely necessary and praiseworthy,” Trottier said, “but such initiatives, when they leave people out, are made weaker and less effective.”
CAFE’s claim that half of domestic violence victims are men comes from a 2009 Statistics Canada survey, which reveals some 585,000 men and 601,000 women are victims of self-reported domestic violence. However, according to recent data from the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics’ 2013 profile of family violence in Canada, women make up almost 80 per cent of victims from police reports of domestic violence.
Malcolm Johnston, an advisor to CAFE, told reporters at the press conference that the reason for the discrepancy may be found in the Ministry of Public Safety’s Domestic Violence Response: A Community Framework for Maximizing Women’s Safety, which mandates that police operate under a “gender lens” when responding to cases of domestic violence to “ensure the safety of women and their children.”
“So you can see why there might be a difference between the police reported statistics when they’re motivated to act on this mandate,” Johnston said. “It’s ridiculous in this era, where we’re told to believe victims, but the police are told not to believe these victims and to arrest only the men,” he said.
Speaking at the conference, psychiatrist James Brown, who is also an advisor to CAFE, gave an account of his family’s experience with domestic violence, referring to his son’s abusive relationship with a former girlfriend. On one occasion, Brown said, she tried to stab his son, but when police were called, he was the one arrested. According to Brown, his son was later advised by legal council to plead guilty to charges of domestic violence because no one would believe him.
Listen to Brown’s story here.