Australian Institute of Criminology

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Introduction


Male victims are a hidden group…people are not identifying them as needing services which means that male victims are overlooked and the resources aren’t there (Service provider personal communication September 2012)

Victims of crime are a heterogeneous group. As a result, their needs are both disparate and complex, and dependent on a range of factors (Davis, Lurigio & Skogan 1999; Green & Pomeroy 2007). Individuals’ reaction to victimisation often serves as an indicator of the type of assistance and support they require as a victim of crime. Although it may be perceived that reactions to victimisation are dependent on the severity or type of crime committed, research suggests that this is often not the case (Lamet & Wittebrood cited in Averdijk 2010). Rather, a range of factors can have an impact on the way an individual reacts to the crime committed against them, including age, socioeconomic status, pre-existing coping mechanisms, as well as the nature of the particular criminal incident (eg McCart, Smith & Sawyer 2010; Shapland & Hall 2007; Tontodonato & Erez 1994). This then influences the type of support and services that an individual victim of crime may seek to access.

Reported crime and crime victimisation data from Australia shows that, with the exception of sexual assault and kidnapping/abduction, men are more likely to experience violent crime victimisation than women (ABS 2013a, 2013b). Yet there has been very little research attention on the experiences and needs of male victims of violent crime, with the majority focusing on female victims of sexual assault and family and domestic violence (for a review, see McCart, Smith & Sawyer 2010). There is similarly limited research examining the experiences of men as victim/witnesses in court proceedings. What (albeit limited) literature is available demonstrates that male victims can be just as affected emotionally, physically and financially by their victimisation as their female counterparts (Mayhew & Reilly 2008; McCart, Smith & Sawyer; Riggs, Rothbaum & Foa 1995; Shapland & Hall 2007; Stanko & Hobdell 1993; Willis 2008).

Despite experiencing higher rates of victimisation, criminal justice agencies and victim support services more specifically, may be failing to recognise men as victims in need of support (Mayhew & Reilly 2008; Ringham & Salisbury 2004). As a consequence, there may be a deficit in the availability of appropriate services that, if not specifically targeted at male victims of violence, are of a form that promotes engagement.

Purpose of the research

A review of the victimology literature revealed that adult male victims of violence and more specifically adult male victims of non-sexual and non-domestic violence, were largely missing from any broader discussion around the effects of violent offences on victims and their subsequent support needs. As a response to this apparent omission, the AIC applied for funding under the Victims of Crime Research Grant Program administered by Victims Services, NSW Department of Attorney General and Justice to undertake a small exploratory study examining:

  • the support needs and experiences of adult male victims of non-sexual and non-domestic violence, including when they participate in the trial of perpetrators; and
  • the accessibility and appropriateness of existing victim support services in New South Wales for this group of victims.

In addressing these themes, the study proposed to answer the following questions:

  • What victim support services are currently available to men who have been victims of non-sexual/domestic violence in New South Wales?
  • Are there existing services in New South Wales that are accessible and appropriate for male victims of non-sexual/domestic violence?
  • What level of knowledge do stakeholders perceive male victims of crime have about support services?
  • What barriers are there for men who have been victims of non-sexual/domestic violence in accessing these services?
  • Are the existing services in New South Wales appropriate for male victims of non-sexual/domestic violence?
  • What are the experiences of male victims of non-sexual/domestic violence in New South Wales who appear as witnesses in court?
  • What support do male victims of non-sexual/domestic violence in New South Wales require when attending court?
  • What support do male victims of non-sexual/domestic violence in New South Wales require more generally?

For the purposes of the research, the victim population was defined as adult males (aged 18 years and over) who had experienced some form of non-sexual/non-domestic violence (eg aggravated or non-aggravated physical assault, armed robbery or stalking). The decision to exclude victims of sexual and domestic violence was informed by a preliminary review of the literature and anecdotal evidence which suggested that this group of victims tended to be better ‘recognised’ in the criminal justice system, due to the seriousness of their victimisation and hence to have a broader range of support options available to them.

Method

To address the research questions identified above, the project focused on eliciting the views of key stakeholders regarding the:

  • availability and appropriateness of support services in New South Wales for male victims of non-sexual and non-domestic violence;
  • perceived barriers for male victims in accessing support services; and
  • impact of participating in the court process on these victims.

The first phase of the research project was approved by the AIC Human Research Ethics Committee on 1 August 2012.

The two primary research methods that were used as part of this project were a comprehensive literature review, and interviews and focus groups with key stakeholders.

Literature review

A review of Australian and international literature was undertaken to gather the available information on the experiences and support needs of victims of violence more generally and of male victims specifically, as well as male victim/witnesses experiences in the court process. Particular attention was paid to research looking at the impact of violence on victims and their support needs, as well as the literature examining factors that influence help seeking behaviour and the barriers that men may confront in accessing formal victim support. The purpose of the review was to support the rationale for the research, guide the topic structure for the consultations and provide confirmation (or otherwise) for the findings from the stakeholder interviews.

Interviews and focus groups with key stakeholders

An important component of the research methodology involved interviews and focus groups conducted with a broad range of stakeholders either involved in, or associated with, the provision of victim support services in New South Wales. A list of relevant stakeholders was compiled with assistance from Victims Services.

Nine focus groups (involving a maximum of 4 people) and six interviews were conducted by AIC research staff in September and October 2012. A total of 33 participants from three government agencies (including 3 separate sections/programs within the one government agency) and five non-government organisations that engaged with male victims of violent crime at different points in the criminal justice system were involved in this consultation process. The interviews and focus groups were conducted face-to-face (where possible) or using telephone or video-conference facilities. The majority of respondents (n=25) who were involved in this consultation process were female. This was not unexpected for reasons identified throughout this report.

Interviews and focus groups were undertaken with the informed consent of all participants. Prior to attending the interview or focus group, participants were provided with a plain language information sheet describing the purpose of the project and the scope of the interview, and a consent and revocation of consent form. Stakeholders were asked to provide the research team with a signed copy of the consent form prior to participating in an interview or focus group. Interviews were conducted in accordance with a semi-structured interview schedule (see Appendix A) that was suitably flexible so it could be modified to suit the experiences and knowledge of different participants. The interviews and focus groups were conducted on the basis that no comments would be directly attributed to either the individual or their organisation.

Information shared during the interviews and focus groups was recorded by the research team using notes. These notes were then ordered into broad themes that ‘emerged’ from the data. Research team members analysed their consultation notes individually and then collaboratively to ensure that preliminary hypotheses and explanations were confirmed, challenged and developed further. The findings from this thematic analysis are presented throughout this report.