Domestic Violence Awareness: Men Can Be Victims Too

Merely Me Health Guide
  • October has been designated as Domestic Violence Awareness month by the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence (NRCDV). This collaborative project defines its mission in this way: The Domestic Violence Awareness Project (DVAP) supports the rights of all individuals, especially women and girls, to live in peace and dignity. Here’s the thing. What about men who are victims of domestic abuse? When most people think about domestic abuse they are visualizing a man as the perpetrator and a woman as the individual who is being battered. It is true that in many cases women are the victims of domestic abuse. The National Institutes of Health, for example, report that the most common cause of injury to women ages 15 to 44 is domestic violence. And according to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, women experience approximately 4.8 million intimate partner-related physical assaults and rapes every year. Yet male victims of spousal violence are seldom included in domestic abuse statistics. Do these men exist? They sure do and we are going to hear from some of them. In this post we are going to explore the hidden realm of men who suffer from domestic abuse and what we can do about it to help.

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    When Lene Andersen, the community leader for our Rheumatoid Arthritis site, asked me to contribute some articles for Domestic Violence Awareness  I quickly found a post that I had already written on this topic. A couple of years ago I had written Ten Signs That You May be Involved in an Emotionally Abusive Relationship. I wrote much of it from my first-hand perspective of being a woman who had been abused. The post garnished a ton of comments, mostly from other female victims. But over time an intriguing trend began to develop where our male members began to speak out.


    Here are some of those comments from our male members who have been subjected to domestic abuse:


    Idon’tknow writes: I don't like how the article focuses on men being the abuser. I'm depressed, often think of suicide (but would never do it - couldn't put my kids through that), am completely isolated (0 friends and I'm not kidding) and feel even worse because regardless of what anyone says, I feel seeking help with these things is a sign of weakness and that I should just be a man and get over it.


    Jim says: Women can do this too!


    Mike writes: Guys out there reading this... I know you are probably more afraid than women to get help but I know you can do it. I am and did, but I still have a long road ahead of me.


    And most recently MK shares: I'm a male in an emotionally abusive relationship. I came to your site to look for some help, but realized you made it all about men as the abusers. Disappointed.


    To these members and others I wish to say I am sorry.  And more so, you are right. Men also get abused by their partners and it is largely overlooked by our society for various reasons. I am hopeful that this post will increase awareness that domestic violence can happen to both genders.


    What is domestic abuse?


    Domestic abuse is defined by some as the willful intimidation, physical assault or battery, or sexual assault perpetrated by an intimate partner against one another. Domestic abuse is a way for an individual to gain control over his or her partner. Both men AND women can be subjected to domestic abuse.


    How many men are victims of domestic abuse?


    This is where it gets tricky because many men will not report that they are being abused by their partner. In 2008 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)  estimated that as many as 11.5 percent of men reported being a victim of “intimate partner violence” at some time in their life. Some say these statistics merely scratch the surface of reality. The numbers of men being victimized by their partner may be substantially higher as found by a 2008 study led by Dr. Robert J.Reid, MD. A telephone survey was conducted of more than 400 adult males and the researchers found that as many as 29% of respondents had been victims of domestic violence at some point in their life. Five percent of those surveyed had reported that they had been abused within the past year.

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    Domestic abuse was defined in this study as including: Slapping, hitting, kicking, forced sex, verbal threats, chronic disparaging remarks, or controlling behavior. You may view the study, Intimate Partner Violence Among Men, in this 2008 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.


    For more information about studies on the frequency of spousal abuse perpetrated by women on men please refer to this resource page  created by Martin S. Fiebert, Department of Psychology, California State University.


    Which men get abused by their partners?


    Any man can be the victim of spousal or partner abuse. Yet most of the time you will hear about it when the male victim is famous. Here are some examples:


    • In 2002 actress Tawny Kitaen attacked her husband, Cleveland Indians pitcher Chuck Finley, in a limousine. Sports Illustrated reported that she repeatedly kicked him with her high heels. A third party, who noticed Finley’s abrasions and injuries, called the police.


    • In 2006 the wife of Indianapolis Colts cornerback Nick Harper stabbed him with a knife during an argument. According to ESPN the reason was that he was ignoring her. She wanted his attention. Nick Harper had been arrested previously on a domestic battery charge after police reported that he hit his wife in the face.


    • In 2007 Mary Delgado, who most will remember as being a contestant on the TV reality show “The Bachelor” was arrested for physically attacking her fiancé, Bryon Velvick. Delgado repeatedly hit him in the face and split his lip open. Evidently alcohol played a role in her violence.


    Does disability or chronic illness make some men more susceptible to domestic abuse?


    This is clearly a factor which needs more study but in some cases disability or chronic illness may cause male victims to be more vulnerable to abuse.  This was certainly the case for David Woods, a partially disabled former Marine who suffered years of physical abuse from his wife. The abuse escalated one day when David’s wife Ruth took the children on a 7-hour walk in freezing cold weather. MSN reports that when they returned David Woods tried to warm the children as they had hypothermia and this provoked an argument with his wife. His wife then used a knife to stab him. When he blocked the knife she ran to call the police claiming her husband was hitting her. Although he was bleeding from his injury when the police arrived, they handcuffed him, assuming he was the perpetrator. One of the children had to tell the police that the mother was the one to initiate the violence and to protect daddy.

  • In this poignant interview entitled, “Nobody Believed Me”  David Woods describes how his disability made him vulnerable to physical abuse from his wife:


    "The violence really began in our family about 10 days after Ruth realized that she had all the power [financially]. I knew I had to get my kids out. I called the largest domestic violence shelter agency in Sacramento County several times. They told me, 'Men are perpetrators of domestic violence; women are victims of domestic violence,' and hung up.


    Why is domestic abuse against men an invisible issue?


    There are many reasons why the general public is not aware that men can suffer from abuse in the home. One is that it is difficult for some men to admit that their girlfriend or spouse is abusive because of societal stigma. They may worry about appearing “weak” or unmanly if they share that their partner is controlling or abusing them. If there are children involved the emotionally or physically abusive woman may use the kids as pawns against her husband. The husband may be fearful to leave or do anything which may harm the children. There is also very little support or resources given for men who are in abusive situations.

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    And as David Woods, states, many people simply do not believe a man who says he is being abused. Here is a video from ABC news  to prove this point. They set up a hidden camera showing a couple in a park where the woman is verbally berating her male partner and hitting him repeatedly. The reaction? They showed how 163 people walked by without doing anything, even a cop. One woman responded gleefully by mock punching the air to show her “support” because she assumed the man did something to deserve this aggressive treatment. Most people also assumed that he could take care of himself and that the woman really couldn’t hurt him. This is a false assumption. Men do get physically hurt and maimed by domestic abuse. Some men also become depressed or even suicidal due to chronic emotional and/or physical abuse in the home.


    Is there a difference between men and women in how they exhibit physical violence towards their partner?


    On a site created to help battered men called MenWeb, they state that:


    The data show that men are more likely to have a knife used on them or to be threatened with a knife, hit with an object, kicked, bitten or have something thrown at them. Women are more likely to beaten up, threatened with a gun, choked, victims of drowning attempts, have their hair pulled or be pushed, grabbed or shoved.


    Are there certain factors which may increase the likelihood that a woman will emotionally or physically abuse her partner?


    MenWeb cites that having a partner who is addicted to drugs or alcohol or who has a psychiatric condition, especially borderline personality disorder may contribute to abusive behavior.


    Is there any help or support for men who are in abusive relationships?


    The following are links to resources, information, and support for men who are victims of domestic abuse.


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    Please remember that Health Central cannot vouch for the usefulness, validity, or functionality of any external links to resources. You are responsible for judging whether or not these sites are of any value to you and your circumstance.


    The National Center for Victims of Crime


    National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-SAFE or 800-799-7233


    Men’s Advice Line of the UK: A confidential free phone helpline for all men experiencing domestic violence by a current or ex-partner. This includes men in heterosexual or same-sex relationships. Helpline: 0808 801 0327


    ManKind Initiative Support of the UK


    Domestic Abuse Hotline for Men and Women 1-888-7HELPLINE (1-888-743-5754)


    • Battered Men: The hidden side of domestic violence (MenWeb)


    Male Abuse


    The Psychological Effects of Partner Abuse against Men


    Resource List for Abused Men


    Abused Men: The Hidden Side of Domestic Violence (A book by Philip W. Cook)


    Stop Abuse for Everyone (SAFE)


    Battered Husbands Support 


    In addition please make sure to check out Health Central's landing page devoted to information and resources about domestic violence awareness


    Are you a man who is being emotionally, sexually, or physically abused by your partner? We would like to hear from you. Your story can help someone else who is going through the same thing. Know that you are not alone. There is help and support. We are here to listen.

Published On: October 10, 2011