Men Too Are Victims of Domestic Violence

How to recognize domestic violence against men and what to do about it

Women aren’t the only victims of domestic violence. Understand the signs of domestic violence against men, and know how to get help. Domestic violence, also known as domestic abuse, battering or intimate partner violence, occurs between people in an intimate relationship. Domestic violence against men can take many forms, including emotional, sexual and physical abuse and threats of abuse. It can happen in heterosexual or same sex relationships.

It might not be easy to recognize domestic violence against men. Early in the relationship, your partner might seem attentive, generous and protective in ways that later turn out to be controlling and frightening. Initially, the abuse might appear as isolated incidents. Your partner might apologize and promise not to abuse you again. I’ve seen this occurrence with many victims that I’ve worked with in the past.

In other relationships, domestic violence against men might include both partners slapping or shoving each other when they get angry, and neither partner seeing him or her as being abused or controlled. This type of violence, however, can still devastate a relationship, causing both physical and emotional damage.

Signs and symptoms of domestic violence

Here are some warning signs to observe. You might be experiencing domestic violence if your partner:

  • Calls you names, insults you or puts you down
  • Prevents you from going to work or school
  • Stops you from seeing family members or friends
  • Tries to control how you spend money, where you go or what you wear
  • Acts jealous or possessive or constantly accuses you of being unfaithful
  • Gets angry when drinking alcohol or using drugs
  • Threatens you with violence or a weapon
  • Hits, kicks, shoves, slaps, chokes or otherwise hurts you, your children or your pets
  • Assaults you while you’re sleeping, you’ve been drinking or you’re not paying attention to make up for a difference in strength
  • Forces you to have sex or engage in sexual acts against your will
  • Blames you for his or her violent behavior or tells you that you deserve it
  • Portrays the violence as mutual and consensual

If you’re gay, bisexual or transgender, you might also be experiencing domestic violence if you’re in a relationship with someone who:

  • Threatens to tell friends, family, colleagues or community members your sexual orientation or gender identity
  • Tells you that authorities won’t help a gay, bisexual or transgender person
  • Tells you that leaving the relationship means you’re admitting that gay, bisexual or transgender relationships are deviant
  • Justifies abuse by telling you that you’re not “really” gay, bisexual or transgender
  • Says that men are naturally violent

Children and abuse

Domestic violence affects children, even if they’re just witnesses. If you have children, remember that exposure to domestic violence puts them at risk of developmental problems, psychiatric disorders, problems at school, aggressive behavior and low self-esteem. You might worry that seeking help could further endanger you and your children, or that it might break up your family. Fathers might fear that abusive partners will try to take their children away from them. However, getting help is the best way to protect your children, and yourself. There are some stats shows that children who have been abuse grow up to be abusers themselves, and that was the case with my abuse. My abuser was abused too as a child. He grew up with no treatment or therapy and the results were “us” his family, being abused.

Break the cycle

If you’re in an abusive situation, you might recognize this pattern:

  • Your abuser threatens violence.
  • Your abuser strikes you.
  • Your abuser apologizes, promises to change and offers gifts.
  • The cycle repeats itself.

Typically the violence becomes more frequent and severe over time. Domestic violence can leave you depressed and anxious. You might be more likely to abuse alcohol or drugs or engage in unprotected sex. Domestic violence can even trigger suicide attempts. Because men are traditionally thought to be physically stronger than women, you might be less likely to talk about or report incidents of domestic violence in your heterosexual relationship due to embarrassment or fear of ridicule.

You might also worry that the significance of the abuse will be minimized because you’re a man. Similarly, a man being abused by another man might be reluctant to talk about the problem because of how it reflects on his masculinity or because it exposes his sexual orientation.

Additionally, if you seek help, you might confront a shortage of resources for male victims of domestic violence. Health care providers and other contacts might not think to ask if your injuries were caused by domestic violence, making it harder to open up about abuse. You might also fear that if you talk to someone about the abuse, you’ll be accused of wrongdoing yourself. Remember, though, if you’re being abused, you aren’t to blame—and help is available.

This is what I suggest to victims of abuse, start by telling someone about the abuse, whether it’s a friend, relative, health care provider or other close contact. At first, you might find it hard to talk about the abuse. However, you’ll also likely feel relief and receive much-needed support.

If you are being abused

If you are a man and are being abused or have recently escaped an abusive relationship, please know that you are not alone. There are many of you out there, and many, like you, feel as though you are the only one to experience this sort of abuse. It is okay to be frightened, confused and hurt. Someone you love, care about and trust has broken that trust, turned against you and hurt you. You don’t have to suffer in silence, there are agencies and people who do care and can offer you help, support and advice.

Check out the links at the bottom of this page which are specifically designed with you in mind. They are there to help you. Just because you are a man does not mean you are impervious to pain! If you are no longer in the abusive relationship, know that you can ‘get over this’, but you may find that it still gives you nightmares and makes it difficult establishing a new relationship, learning to open up and trust someone again. It may help to talk to a counselor about what happened and how you feel.

Please don’t worry if you are disbelieved or ridiculed by some of the people you approach. Sadly many people do not want to or cannot (due to their own insecurities) believe that men can and do suffer abuse, remember that it is their personal problem if they don’t believe you, not yours. It does not make your experiences any less painful or devastating or valid. Try to disregard their attitude and try someone else. You will find many people who do take you seriously and can understand what you have suffered.

And finally, please realize that it is not your fault. You do not deserve to be hit, to be insulted and ridiculed, to be touched intimately if you have asked not to be, to be treated like a doormat, to be threatened, attacked with a weapon, shamed in front of your mates, told what to do when and with whom. You do not deserve to be abused in any way, shape or form.

I too am a survivor of domestic violence and I’m a woman, now I volunteer with different agencies and have learned that abuse has not boundaries, no gender preference, and no age group. Women as well as men can become victims of domestic violence. There is hope. I survived and so can you.

Some useful links:

Photo credit: Flickr / bark

About Laura Cowan

Laura Cowan was a domestic abuse victim who turned survivor, and now considers herself a thriver. Her work as an advocate and activist for domestic violence issues is a way of turning her personal experience into a tool of empowerment. She has volunteered for numerous domestic violence organizations, and received multiple awards for her work. For more of her history, including media links, visit


  1. When it comes to violence against males there is silencing, shaming, dismissal, and all the same things that happen to female victims of violence. But it happens in different ways. The signs and reasonings behind female victims are pretty clear. However when it comes male victims of violence (being dv or rape) I think there is problem of a preexisting conditioning that leads people to process violence as a male against female phenomenon.

    What happens is when the conversation goes to violence instead of looking at all possible scenarios of violence and looking at the different ways that different sets of victims are ignored people default to “we have to help women”. Now don’t get me wrong there are plenty of women who are victims of violence and they need help. But when you start and end the violence conversation with “it’s something that men do to women” it stands to reason that it’s going to be a hard go when it comes to recognizing, connecting with, and ultimately helping male victims.

    Let me ask. When we talk about suicide risks, mental ailments, and so forth (namely suicide) is that discussion gendered? From what I can tell it’s not. If someone were to reach out to suicidal women I bet it would be pretty easy to find examples of that outreach being made without starting and finishing with a reminder that men are more likely to kill themselves. Yes it’s factually true that more men kill themselves than women but what good does that do when trying to help suicidal women?

    Now let me come back to violence. When trying to reach out to male victims of violence what good does to constantly remind them that “women are more likely to be abused”, “most abuse is committed by men”, “men are more likely to be abusive”?

    I appreciate this post.

  2. This is a wonderful article. It is, however, a pity that such a comical image was shown for such a serious topic.

  3. There was a TV show a little while back where situations were staged to see how people would respond. One of the scenarios was a couple where a man was openly berating a women in public. When people would see a man doing it to a women, people would stop and some and take notice and many would intercede. But when it was the women doing the same to a man, few would take notice and no one interceded.

    VAWA is gone but the attitudes remain intact. What’s the news on battered men shelters? What programs are actually being developed for men? Or are they simply applying the same principles that have been used for women? What I mean is that a man dealing with DV is far different then women. Although there are some common denominators, men think differently and don’t see DV the same way. Heck, most men don’t see DV if it hits them in the face LITERALLY.

    Obama-Care …. What provision have been made for men?

    • True. I remember a while back (2008-2009 or so) when Tyra Banks was still on the air with her talk show and did a set of scenarios of couple arguing. She did male against female, female against female, and male against male.

      When her actors did the same sex scenarios people would stop and watch or walk by like nothing was happening.

      However for the male against female scenarios several times people called the police or someone intervened. In fact in one acting out of the male against female scenario (she had her actors play out their scenes in multiple places around the city) Tyra and her camera crew had to break the scene and reveal themselves to the responding police because they were actually trying to arrest the male actor. Also in this instance the responding police were told by callers the man had a knife, even though NONE of the actors in ANY of the scenarios had weapons.

      Over on the the “Ending violence against men and boys” post someone was talking about how there is no outcry for male against female violence but there is plenty of outcry for female against male audience. Hell we are just now getting to the point where people will even acknowledge female against male violence and actually test it out.

  4. With VAWA out of the picture, maybe men can start calling the police again in instances of DV.

    • Not exactly, DLZ.

      VAWA is gone, but the after effects still linger. Society still remains ignorant and it’s going to take a lot to get them to support the notion of men being victims of Domestic Abuse.

    • An extensive literature addresses citizen ignorance, but very little research focuses on
      misperceptions. Can these false or unsubstantiated beliefs about politics be corrected?

      …individuals who receive unwelcome information may not simply resist challenges to their views. Instead, they may come to support their original opinion even more strongly – what we call a “backfire effect.

      Nyhan, Brendan; Reifler, Jason. When Corrections Fail: The persistence of political misperceptions. Political Behavior 32 (2): 303–330. doi:10.1007/s11109-010-9112-2 . 2013-01-20. URL: (Archived by WebCite® at

      Well as a long term Pouf – Human Rights – Of course It’s DV when he gets beaten up type of guy and kick as specialist, I would not be holding my breath over the demise of VAWA. From a none US perspective it has truly poisoned the ground and salted legislation, administration, institutional administration, police, prosecutors … and Joe and Joanna Public. They will prefer to believe that there is an ongoing hidden and deeply shameful epidemic of abuse – violence – wife beating and femicide across the US that consider how politics, perception and tax dollars have been manipulated for over 20 years and so many made to look like idiots and snake oil buyers.

      VAWA and associated activitieshave been a pretty comprehensive and well executed smoke screen, that would make any military strategist proud. There has been so much misdirection, so much woozling so many woozles, factoids, false realities and urban myths generated they just keep on rolling – and of course then you have to deal with Confirmation bias and the Biggy “Backfire effect” – “When Corrections Fail: The persistence of political misperceptions”. When reality prevails over unreality, you get the stalwarts who demand that the debunked reality is in fact still correct – hold to it stronger than ever – and keep on in the gyre of gullability.

      That’s why it’s easier to to jump out of the closet in a tutu, fairy wings and fish net tights as a Hollywood A lister, that for a guy to be taken seriously when he says he is or has been the victim of DV, especially when the abuser is a woman.

      It will be a generational shift to get it out of the way, so unfortunately there will be a large number of male victims who will have to wait 20 to 25 years to be taken seriously and treated with respect. Just think Vietnam vets and you get the picture. In the mean time – QUOTE the “Backfire Effect” – Woozle Effect and don’t take prisoners.

  5. I wish it were as simple as not worrying about when people don’t believe but it often means that measures to reduce it such as activism and laws overlook male victims quite a lot. Great article though, thanks for writing it. We need to stop forgetting about men.

    For aussies –

  6. It took my wife’s therapist to convince her that her behavior was abuse. Only men could be abusive in her opinion before that. When her T explained that screwing with my heart meds was so far beyond the pale that jail time called for if it ever happened again, then she broke out of her pattern, though I doubt I’ll ever trust anyone much ever again.

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