‘Hyper-masculine’ military culture leads to domestic abuse, report finds

A "hyper-masculine" military culture warps men’s ideas of gender roles and leads to domestic abuse, a study has found.

A report on experiences of intimate partner violence and abuse (IVPA) among the civilian partners of UK military personnel found the abuse was heightened by certain aspects of military culture such as the Armed Forces’ "normalisation of violence".

The study, carried out by the Forces in Mind Trust and King’s College London, found interviewees who had survived abuse felt military training or rank dynamics had contributed to a normalisation of violence and aggressive communication styles.

A gender-focused expectation of female spouses within predominantly male military communities also contributed to their experiences.

The report said the "legitimisation of violence" within a military context, as well as the male hierarchy, "may bleed into the family home" and as a result increase the risk of IVPA by personnel.

‘Sometimes the challenges of military life can lead to violence’

The study conducted interviews with 25 civilian partners of military personnel who have been deployed at some point in their career. Most reported multiple forms of abuse, with physical and psychological trauma resulting.

The report also found that aspects of military lifestyle, including frequent relocations, deployments and transition out of the military, were seen to provide contexts in which IVPA was more likely to occur or worsen.

Examples given included deployment separations and the challenges of reintegration into family life and/or relationships, or difficulties adjusting to life after military service.

Deirdre MacManus, the lead researcher on the report, said participants’ experiences suggested a shift in attitude to and understanding of IPVA was needed from "the top down and bottom up in the military".

Thomas McBarnet, the director of programmes at Forces in Mind Trust, said: "The latest UK Armed Forces families strategy aims to recognise the vital role that service families play. As part of this, we must recognise that sometimes the challenges of military life can lead to violence and abuse at home."

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: "We welcome this research into the contributing factors and context surrounding domestic abuse. We worked closely with the KCL researchers behind this report.

"Our strategy, No Defence for Abuse, stresses prevention, intervention, and partnering with appropriate agencies and organisations to help address the many factors that can contribute to domestic abuse. We are firmly committed to raising awareness and continuing training on the prevention of it."

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