Herbert Grönemeyer summed it up 36 years ago with three words: “Men secretly cry,” he sang in 1984. At that time, men tended not to speak about their worries and fears, but also about psychological or physical violence, and more than three decades later Germany is not much further on the subject, at least not when it comes to experiences of violence. But there are minimal changes.
North Rhine-Westphalia’s Minister for Equal Opportunities Ina Scharrenbach (CDU) also noticed this when she looked at the statistics of the Federal Criminal Police Office for 2018 at the end of 2019 – and discovered a pattern. After the increase in the number of violent crimes and homicides against women (81.3 percent of the victims are female), the following note is noted: “However, violence in partnerships to the detriment of males also seems to be of increasing relevance (almost continuous) increase in the number of male victims in recent years. ” According to the latest figures, 18.7 percent of the victims are men.
Statistics cannot tell whether the numbers are really increasing. It is possible and likely that at least the reporting behavior will change, meaning that more men who have experienced violence will report to the police. In the statistics of the Federal Criminal Police Office, only acts are recorded that are also reported. Criminologists, however, estimate the number of unreported cases for this type of crime to be extremely high. “In the case of domestic violence, we assume an unreported figure of 80 percent, but we believe that it is significantly higher for men,” says Tobias Großekemper, the press spokesman for the largest German victim protection organization, the Weißer Ring. “This also has to do with the image of masculinity that still prevails in our society. To be a victim of domestic violence as a man is still very shame. To be a victim is considered unmanly, is a taboo subject. Don’t tell his buddies that in the evening. “
On average, between eight and nine men call
Equal Opportunities Minister Scharrenbach wants to further increase the number of men who identify themselves as victims of violence. Because there are hardly any contact points for affected men in Germany, a low-threshold offer should be created. “Men tend not to go to counseling centers, for many the shame is still too great,” says Scharrenbach. “That is why we concentrated on the hotline and the Internet.”
The state governments of North Rhine-Westphalia and Bavaria therefore jointly set up a service that is unique in Germany six months ago: the “men’s helpline”. Men who are affected by bullying, stalking, physical and sexual violence in their relationships or at work can contact the toll-free number 0800 1239900 from Monday to Friday. They should be offered specific help as possible over the phone and local contacts should be made. In North Rhine-Westphalia, the hotline is managed by the “Man-o-mann men advice” in Bielefeld, in Bavaria by the AWO Augsburg; both therapists, psychologists and educators can be reached by telephone. In Bielefeld, the advisory team consists only of men, in Augsburg it is mixed. NRW, the hotline costs around 124,000 euros a year.
After half a year, the minister has now taken stock: Almost 2,400 men have accepted the offer since April, so on average between eight and nine men call each working day. Most of the callers are between 31 and 50 years old; 70 percent of all men report by phone, the others write emails. More than half of all calls are received in Bielefeld between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Most of the conversations last around 25 minutes. The men and women are most frequently attacked mentally or physically by their partners or ex-partners; 93 percent of these suspects are women.
“Our experience from the first six months shows: It was right and high time to create the offer and provide quick help for men affected by violence,” says Scharrenbach. The White Ring is also happy about the hotline: “The idea is great. There are far too few advice centers for men in Germany. Those affected must get help – regardless of gender. We hope that the hotline will bring even more cases out of the dark field Brightfield come, “says Weißer Ring spokesman Großekemper.
A particularly large number of men have called in the past five weeks. However, the minister does not want to explain this with Corona, “even if I am thinking intensively about how it will now be in families in the dark season during the pandemic”.
Older men report experiences of abuse in childhood
Unlike women, men experienced psychological violence in most cases, reports Scharrenbach, that is 78 percent of all cases. But: Half of the men state that they were also physically attacked. The reasons given are mostly conflicts in the relationship and with other family members. In addition, older men who report sexual abuse in their childhood are also increasingly reporting. The minister believes that the public processing and reporting of the major abuse cases in Staufen, Lügde, Bergisch Gladbach and Münster also contribute to this.
In Cologne and Düsseldorf there are now eight so-called shelters for men, the concept of which is similar to that of women’s shelters. There should be more to come.