There is still, though, a huge swath of dating abuse victims and potential victims who do not have the same national and international attention that some are, rightfully, receiving: men. Young men and minority men are at particular risk for dating abuse. In 2008, 13 percent of male Latino seventh-graders reported that their partners, according to a study by the Journal of Interpersonal Violence, had physically abused them.
The social stigmas that exist about masculinity and violence-based assertions of machismo prevent male victims of domestic or dating abuse from receiving the help they so desperately need. In reality, male students who are in abusive relationships may feel uncomfortable coming forward to a teacher or administrator or even to friends because of the misconception that male victims are weak.
Assistant principal Jeanene Sims agrees.
“It’s unfortunate, because guys are not volunteering to come forward, and I don’t even know if they would share that with their male friends,” she said.
In reality, many do not take claims of dating abuse against males seriously. Last year, a speaker at Marshall joked about dating abuse against male students. The news reports about the subject are presented as almost funny.
Yet, no matter how lightly some take the subject, domestic abuse knows no sex or gender. It crosses lines of race, sexual orientation and age, and all cases should be taken seriously; domestic abuse is no joke.
Bringing programs like Dating Abuse Stops Here into high schools is a good first step, but that will not address the greater issue: the American community and, by extension, the world, must become more tolerant of non-normative expressions of gender. Male does not have to mean masculine and female does not have to mean feminine; moreover, masculine does not have to mean unemotional or aggressive.
We must begin to accept these expressions of gender in order to create an environment wherein male victims are free to express concerns about abuse without discomfort or mockery. Only then can we have a truly honest conversation about dating abuse in this country.