“What Do You Do When A Girl Hits You?”


Joseph Kerr wasn’t prepared when his wife became abusive–and the systems in place to help weren’t ready either.

What do you do when a girl hits you?

I was sitting across the desk from the child protective services supervisor, who spoke with confidence of things he didn’t know.

“You’ve been to Iraq, we know all the guys who come back are fucked up in the head… If you need medication to stay focused or to see someone for mental issues — we know the military just sends you to war and spits you back out on the streets — we can help you with that.”

That’s one hell of a worm in the water. I had steady hands on my gear as the bullets were flying. My voice was confident when addressing senior leaders no matter the circumstance. Now I wore a nice-guy smile and kept cool as the guy who was going to decide if I was fit to see my daughter again belittled my Marine Corps career and used my stack of medals to weigh the scales against me; to prove my psychosis.

My hands lay gently on the table; the identification tabs from jail and the hospital were stacked on my left wrist. I turned my head slightly. He’d have to continue to insult my manhood and military service into a baseball-sized lump enveloping my eye.

“What do you do when a girl hits you? … You wouldn’t just stand there, right? I mean you’re a big guy, you’re a Marine, you’re trained to fight, the Marines wouldn’t teach you to get beat up….”


Getting hit by a woman is a new kind of scary for me. I can face fear, I can fight scary, but I can’t hit a woman. It’s a prisoner’s dilemma for the assaulted. The guy laughed at me when I said there’s nothing to do except just turn away. I asked what he’d do if I were a woman and started hitting him in this private interview room. “I’d grab your arms and hold you back,” he said. I countered, “that’s going to be tough for you to explain why I’ll have your handprints and bruises on my arms and there’s not a scratch on you.”

He made a final attempt to reduce me to a crazy-veteran archetype. One more question and I could relieve him of the work required in an actual investigation.

“So the police thought you were lying, right? That’s why they arrested you. If they believed you they wouldn’t arrest you.”

Breathe. Think. Pause, not too long. The words have to sound calm. Breathe.

My marriage wasn’t great. Heck, let’s be straight, it was on the verge of collapse. Probably had been there for at least two years. I was staying for the kids. My wife and I fought (verbally) nearly every time we had more than a few sentences to say to each other. We were roommates with chidden running around. It was horrible, but each weekend I was home and I had my kids. My two awesome kids. I’d take them out as often I could and do anything I could so they didn’t need to be in the middle of their mom and I.

Finally it was going to end. She wanted to move out of state with the kids and had no interest in discussing sharing custody. “We’re not discussing it, you can’t stop us from leaving. Sign it or I’ll get a lawyer and make you sign it.” She handed me a do-it-yourself version of divorce papers.

I reached out to some divorce lawyers. This life sucks for me, for the kids, for everyone. What do I do? “It’s a game of chicken in your house now,” the he said. “Neither one of you can leave with the kids, and the first one who leaves without them is a step behind in trying to get custody.”

Is there a worse possible way to resolve such a pending disaster?

Then the email confirmation — plane tickets, one adult, two children, one way, leaving soon. Tomorrow morning would be different, but sleeping on the couch was normal. I ended up on the ground next to the stairs. She kicked my head into the solid wood base. I blacked out, came to, stood up, bleeding. My daughter was screaming, “Stop hurting daddy!”

It was over. We were over. I headed out the door to the police and then the hospital. My daughter stopped me. “Daddy, you need to go to a doctor, here take this,” she handed me a bandage. “I love you” was the last thing I said to her. It’s been almost a month.

I walked into the police station falling apart. What happened? What will I do next? What happens on Monday? What happens for the rest of my life? How will I explain what just happened to my kids? My head was spinning as much from the injury as from the complete collapse of my home life. I knew the officer, I had came by the night before suspecting that my wife was leaving with the kids, he assumed why I was crying, “hey man, it’s alright, you knew this was going to happen….”

I pulled off my sunglasses and revealed my bloody face. “Whoa, what the hell happened?”

I started piecing together what happened. The argument, her throwing the breakfast I was making for the kids on the ground, grabbing my laptop, the stairs, my kids, screaming. I pulled out the Band-Aid and broke down again.

“Is she hurt? Did you hit her…?” No. Never. I waited.

“We’re sending a car over there to talk to her.” I waited some more.

“You wife is telling a bit of a different story, as happens a lot in these situations, she says you threatened her.”

“We’re going to take you into custody now.”

“Stand up and put your hands behind your back.”

An hour later I was handcuffed to a hospital bed waiting for CAT scan results to know if my head was bleeding. I looked at the officer.

“What do you do when a woman hits you?”

“I don’t know what to tell you, man” he confided. “We don’t like doing these things, but our hands are tied. We have to look at who is the primary aggressor.”

Stop Violence Against Women aggregated legal writings and produced a list of determining factors for the primary aggressor. Below is a portion of the list:

⁃               The height and weight of the parties

⁃               Which party has the potential to seriously injure the other party

⁃               Whether a party has a fearful demeanor

⁃               Whether a party has a controlling demeanor

Like most men, I am taller and heavier than my wife. I’m a Marine veteran with combat training. Studies have shown that gender (either biologically or by social framework) plays a role in being fearful. Women are more likely to report being afraid[1].

In 2006, the spokesman for the New York Mass Transit Authority, Gene Sansone said, “a lot of psychologists agree that people are more receptive to orders from men.”[2] Of the full list of 12 criteria to consider, it seems unlikely the man in any situation wouldn’t have at least these four lined up against him from the moment the police start looking at the evidence. Another third of the list involve prior histories, and the final few ask the officers to weigh the injuries of both.

The two officers escorting me to and from the hospital and then to central booking didn’t have any advice when I asked what I should have done. “Sorry, man.”

They never took photographs of the side of my face.

Thirty hours later I stood in front of a judge and had a county prosecutor argue against me: “His wife is afraid of him. She said he…”

Released on my own recognizance; order of protection outlaws me from contacting her or my kids for a year.

A few days later my eye had an almost cartoonish discoloration. I’d gone back to the ER complaining of headaches and the light bothering me. She cleared out my bank account. I was a friend’s couch away from adding to the homeless veteran population — 62,619 + 1.

I sat across from my lawyer and talked about the other time. She grabbed me and ripped my shirt. Her nails cut my face. I bled. I tried to walk out the door. She blocked the door. I was a gym-every-day, active duty Marine, fearing someone a fraction of my size. If she had a penis I’d have a dozen ways to put her on the ground. Instead, I was left to sneak out a bedroom window and spend the night in a parking lot.

I tried the police and now in front of a guy practicing law for nearly as long as I’ve been alive I tried again.

“What do you do when a woman hits you?”

“Run. Run and don’t go to the police.”

That’s it.

I reached out to a few domestic abuse support groups. “How can this actually be happening? How can I be the one to have been arrested? Why?”

I spoke to a nice lady on the phone and tried to pass my confusion into a question they were built to answer: legal advice, criminal cases, orders of protection. I was going to have to get rid of this order of protection if I was going to get my kids.

“Sir, are you calling about domestic violence?” — yes.

“Okay, we’re going to help you. Has there been an arrest?” — yes, me.

“Ummm, wait what?”

Their web site mentioned they deal specifically with custody in cases of domestic abuse. Sounded like exactly whom I needed.

Then came the second punch. “Do you have custody of the children?” No, that’s why I’m calling.

“I’m sorry sir, our charter only allows us to help domestic abuse victims who have custody of their children.”

This silly game of catch-22. Why don’t I have my kids? Should I have taken them with me as I went to the police station? Should I have asked them to explain the nice officer how mommy had hit daddy and be an accomplice in her arrest? Would any of it matter? There were no injuries on her; plenty on me. They’d have just watched their dad get handcuffed and be as confused as I am.

At this point I couldn’t help but think beyond my situation. How I am I going to explain this all to my kids when I see them again. What would I tell my son if he ever was in a relationship that had gone as bad as mine had? If he called me up one night and said, dad….

“What do you do when a woman hits you?”

I never realized how much violence against men by women was a part of TV shows. There must be something disarming in realizing that the larger, stronger man is allowing the woman to do something physically to him. One of the classic tropes of the Seinfield series was Julia Louis-Dreyfus pushing the other male characters[3]. Sometimes it was playful, sometimes it was out of anger, but it was always her pushing him.

The HBO hit show Newsroom takes it a step further with Olivia Munn’s character, a socially awkward economics Ph.D. When someone suggests making up lies about her online to get a story on an internet prank group she grabs the guy and throws him up against a wall and yells at him[4]. After her ex-boyfriend posts naked pictures of her online she goes to her office and kicks him in the groin then punches him in the face, finally taking a photo of him laying on the ground with blood pouring out of his nose[5].

The character’s anger could be understood for either gender, but could the violence? There is no way a guy could go to his ex’s office and touch her no matter how grievous her transgressions, yet somehow Munn’s attack feels like a triumph over her emotional tailspin during the majority of the episode.

So, what do you do when a woman hits you?

Guys can laugh off a slap from a girl. It’s a punch line in sitcoms whenever there’s a crass joke. But be careful that those never become more than playful. Because I’ve never found a helpful answer to the question. I hope you never have to.

 Photo—tinou bao/Flickr

[1] “Gender role and behavioral avoidance: The influence of perceived confirmability of self-report,” McLean, Carmen P., Ph.D., University of Nebraska – Lincoln, 2007 http://gradworks.umi.com/32/62/3262188.html

[2] “Voices Down Below”, by Justin Rocket Silverman, AM New York, 2006

[4] Newsroom YouTube clip, Season 1, Episode 8 http://youtu.be/LZC0Nz255KQ

[5] Newsroom screen grab, Season 2, Episode 5 http://imgur.com/a/GN3ou#0


  1. What about less severe cases, though? E.g. women slapping due to perceived “disrespect.” I was watching “Something to Talk About” the other night, with JulIa Roberts and Dennis Quaid. Dennis Quaid’s character cheats on his wife, Julia Roberts’ character, and in retaliation: 1) Kyra Sedwick’s character, JR’s character’s sister, knees DQ’s character in the balls; and 2) JR’s character gives DQ’s character food poisoning in a fit of pique. The first act of violence is portrayed as deserved and the second as wrong-doing, but understandable wrong-doing. And I realized that I’d seen this movie many times without giving either instance of violence much thought. Yes cheating was involved and you could call this violence acts of passion, but I wouldn’t be okay with a man beating his cheating wife. But woman-on-man light violence was normalized for me.

    I agree with all the “walk away” advice, but at a deeper level, how do we stop thinking that violence against men by women is at some level acceptable, an okay way for a weaker person to interact with a stronger person? It’s as though we all need to re-do kindergarten: no hitting (except in strict defense), ever.

    • I think that the problem deals directly with body-size.

      One common refrain I’ve heard is a woman saying “Yeah, but when someone has 100 pounds on you…” I even read a version of this today, written by Joanna Schroeder, an editor of this site, in a comment on another article. This is SO common, that I’ve come to believe many women just cannot get past it.

      Speaking as a small man, I’ve never understood this point of view. I’m 5’7″ tall, and my weight fluctuates between 150 and 160 pounds, depending on how often I’ve gotten to the gym recently. The very same men that women complain about ALSO have 100 pounds and several inches on me. Moreover, one needs only glance at statistics to know that, as a man, I’m far more likely to be the victim of violence (whether its murder or simple assault), than any woman.

      Yet, despite the statistics being against me, and my small stature, I don’t feel scared around men, because as a man, I know that men are human beings and not mindless brutes.

      But no matter how many times I’ve tried to explain this, it just falls on deaf ears. The whole “I’m at risk because women are smaller,” still gets trotted out, and my own viewpoint as a small man is ignored.

      Until the hurdle that comes with body size differential can be overcome, I just don’t know how we can get past this.

      • wellokaythen says:

        When you go to the ER because someone has cracked your skull, the MRI machine can’t tell the difference between a female assailant and a male assailant. The doctor doesn’t evaluate the damage to your face based on the gender of the attacker, because damage is damage. A concussion is a concussion. A bruise is a bruise. Men’s nerve endings are just as sensitive as women’s. Men experience pain just as easily as women do.

        Contrary to what many women think, a man’s skull is not harder than a woman’s, and the physical size difference or muscle power difference matters even less when there are weapons involved. Put a gun in her hand and the “100 pounds difference” means nothing. Men don’t absorb bullets any better than women do.

      • There are other male privileges besides just physical body size. I am not automatically afraid of large men, I come from a family of large men who were all teddy bears. But that doesn’t mean I don’t feel nervous if I’m the only woman in a subway station at night.

        • Max Headroom says:

          Tia, you should protect yourself when alone at night with whatever is available to you legally in your area. Believe me, men are also afraid in those circumstances.

          You are however misinformed about the myth of male privilege. It is a feminist fairy tale that does not exist. Even wealthy men have wives and ex wives that spend their money with impunity. Mothers routinely alienate fathers from their children. Men are by far the largest share of victims of violent crime, workplace injury and death. I could go on. Educate yourself outside of the feminist propaganda machine if you want to learn the truth.

          • I must respectfully disagree that male privilege is a “myth”. While I agree men are more likely to be assumed perpetrators in terms of domestic abuse and are alienated from their children, male privilege exists in an economic sense (equal pay and stereotypes of women in the workplace), the commodification and sexualization of women’s bodies, and the fact that violence against women, especially women of color and trans women, IS perpetrated by men in its majority.
            However, having a penis/identifying as male is not the only piece that gives one privilege. Being white, able-bodied, financially well off, heterosexual, cisgender and stereotypically good-looking also play a part.
            No doubt there are many, many men who are abused and stereotyped by women. But male privilege can still exist without devaluing that. Male privilege presents the masculine ideal as such that it does not actually benefit in the long run; in domestic abuse situations, it encourages the idea that men are too physically strong/prone to rage to be victims.

            • That’s ridiculous. I’ve never worked at an employer that paid women any differently than men. Most of the job offers I see have a fixed pay scale that’s based upon clear guidelines.

              I was sexually abused when I was a child by one of the girls in my class. I never said anything about it, out of shame and even as an adult I can barely come to acknowledge that it happened. And when I do, I never admit that she was a classmate that sexually assaulted me.

              I remember being mugged and in a separate instance being beaten by a classmate in public. I didn’t fight back because I had been conditioned to never hit a girl.

              I have a hard time comprehending how all the damage I was forced to endure while nobody cared is not a big deal. How somehow I’m a lesser human being because I was unfortunate enough to have been born with only one X chromosome.

              Before you judge men, you might want to consider that our experiences tend to be demeaned and swept under the rug by advocates for women’s rights where they conflict with the narrative they wish to choose. If you listened to them, then all those women that engage in statutory rape don’t exist and dating violence is only male on female.

          • Max and Ted… I totally agree with you. I wish I could “like” your posts! :)

        • Michael Rowe says:

          So Tia, your reaction to an article on mean being battered by women is to cite “male privilege?” Wow.

      • wellokaythen says:

        An assault is an assault no matter what size either person is!

        Even *IF* an assault causes no obvious physical damage, it’s still an assault!

        Physical abuse is physical abuse no matter what force is behind the attack, no matter how “tough” the victim is.

        Imagine for a moment an abusive husband says in court that slapping his wife was no big deal because he didn’t hit her very hard and it didn’t even leave a mark. I’d like to string him up myself for saying something like that. I sure as hell wouldn’t let him off the hook as a juror.

        If I shoot a gun at a person in anger and the bullet totally misses, I don’t get a pass because I didn’t cause any damage. It’s aggravated assault even if there’s absolutely no physical damage to the person.

      • “Until the hurdle that comes with body size differential can be overcome, I just don’t know how we can get past this.”

        There is no hurdle. We ignore body size all the time when it comes to crime, so why not with domestic violence? Body size is not evidence of anything. A crime is a crime is a crime, no matter how big the person is.

        If I pull a gun on a bank teller, the FBI doesn’t stop to consider whether or not the bank teller is bigger than I am. It’s a robbery.

        “But Your Honor, how could I be guilty? The bank teller is a foot taller than I am!” Does anyone expect that to fly?

      • Women are scared of sexual violence mostly, dude. You don’t have to comprehend it, just accept that is a really scary thing.
        Many men condone it. If you don’t know, that is extremely common for women to receive rape threads on the internet, all the time. That is shocking. We have a society that blames the victim. Pornography shows how many men are attracted to women being raped, that is a highly searched for type. Sexual crimes can be very difficult to prove sometimes. Men are also raped, sure. Not as much as women on the streets, though, and that may be one of the reason most men can’t really see where women are coming from. Even if it happened 90% less, that is still too scary to risk not being super protective of yourself. Once again, you don’t have to comprehend exactly what passes through a woman’s mind, just respect it.

      • Women are at risk because WOMEN are devalued….size has less to do with it…

        • Poetentiate says:

          What a loaded statement. If you’re being assaulted you are certainly being devalued (as a person) by the assaulter. If what you say is true, then since men are assaulted more than women, they are devalued more than women.

    • you run. run as fast as you can.

  2. Ouuhh!

    I cannot believe why or how it is so hard for you to get legally punishment for the woman of abusive behavior or assaulting u!?? Put some hidden cameras to the house if she is really beating you, so u have hard evidence!!

    Or my way is to make very clear with my manly charisma that if u assault on humanbeen you better be ready to face the consequences, because if you will be violent you will get that back, cus that is how world works(I’m a christian ev.lut. strongly man of god), but every action has a counter and you have to take responsibility of your acts!! –Guys man up! What do you think the muslims say!? …laughing them ass off, i tell u!! ; )

    But all good, try to scope with your females, love them and make sure they know there is really no equality between our worlds! Mans world and hes surviving is completely different than the world of feminine..!


    • Troy Wahl says:

      In California (and I’m sure in some other states as well), one either needs informed consent (thus the signs that state a business does video surveillance) or a search warrant for surveillance to be admissible evidence. There is no way an abuser will give informed consent and a judge needs evidence of the abuse before they’ll sign a search warrant. Catch-22 again.

      Law in all states requires minimum and equal force (which includes skill level) be used to resolve a conflict. As a marine, dealing with a presumably untrained civilian, his training automatically meant that he had greater skill, thus touching (unarmed) her would have meant using excessive force unless she had a weapon (which is how a prosecutor would argue it). Catch-22 again.

  3. My mother raised me as a feminist. If a women slaps me or hits me I will hit her right back.

    • Then your ass will be shipped off to jail and you will be labeled a wife beater, denied any kind of services or assistance and constantly picked on and humiliated. Go on and tell the cops you are a feminist and that she hit you first as she spins out a lie about you being the aggressor and see which side they take. Spoiler alter: It won’t be yours.

      • Your 100% right.
        I guess that would also make me an activist. =D
        I will tell you one thing however, You tell a women upfront that you will hit her right back and she might very well rethink attacking you in the first place.

        I have used force with three women in my life. The first as a kid when this girl kept hitting me so my mom told me to just hit her back next time. The next time was at 16 with my girlfriends drunk mother who attacked me and was pulling my heir and hitting me. after a bit of this I told her if she did not let me go I would defend myself. I pushed her off me and started to walk out when she turned and went after my girlfriend…. so I beat the shit out of her, 14 years later she still has the scar on her forehead from our fight.

        the 3rd time had was at 20 when my new girlfriend tried to stop me from walking out the door and leaving by blocking my path. I stopped and looked her right in the eyes before I pushed past her. Not to hard but my point was made that if your going to try and stop me then you better be ready to stop me.

        • Anonguy, to me, it sounds to me that you have more anger and an agenda against “Feminism”, then you do the actual issue of violence against men.

          • Well your free to think that. I would point out I self identify as a liberal feminist. I also corun a feminist Facebook page examining issues of consent mostly.
            You could argued I have a issue with violence or masculunity, but I don’t see this as a agendy so much as respec for women. If I would hit a man only chivalry could explains why I would not hit a women.
            Its not violence vs men or women. Its just violence.

        • I agree with a lot of what you say. But hitting an abuser back does nothing to deter them from doing it again if they have anger issues. My ex wife used to hit me on a daily basis for five years. I eventually got to the point of hitting back (always at minimal level of force) to try to defend myself and deter her from doing it again in the future. But what I found is that she was so angry it did not matter to her if I injured her in response she was going to hit me anyway. So the point is violence only produces more violence. Best thing to do is simply leave the situation.

  4. Tom Brechlin says:

    When are people going to be honest and admit that men don’t count? A lot of empathy in these responses but it means nothing without action.

    President Obama and Vice President Biden signed the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization. March 7, 2013. It’s been reinstated……. And life goes on, business as usual.

  5. Dr. Kenneth Noisewater says:

    The only winning move is not to play.

  6. wellokaythen says:

    This whole “male perpetrator/female victim” assumption breaks down in same-sex relationships. (I think I wrote this somewhere else here, but I don’t remember where.) I wonder if there are people in same-sex relationships who can shed some light on this issue. There is DV within some of those relationships, and the dichotomy totally falls apart.

    Think about it:

    If one mad abuses another, then that means two perps and no victims?
    If one woman abuses another, then that means two victims and no perps?

    Total logical failure.

    • wellokaythen says:

      Sorry, should say “one man” not “one mad”. Hmm, writing mad when I mean man….Freudian slip, perhaps?

    • I recall reading something about this long ago, where the statistics apparently showed that domestic violence among lesbian couples was usually ignored and dismissed, because police and social service workers believed that women are incapable of violence, which meant that there cannot possibly be a victim in these cases.

    • Being gay totally changes gender dynamics in a relationship. It is something that is equally liberating as a gay man, and frightening to see in hetero relationships. Women are completely capable of violence against men, and it is damaging to society that we do not take this into consideration.

      A statement like “It is not ok to hit women” is bad for society. Quite frankly, it is not ok to hit people, no matter what their gender is. And it is time for society to catch up in this matter.

  7. Carrie writes:

    “Hey Good men project,
    Nice job rewriting the narrative regarding physical abuse in this country. Violence against women is an epidemic. Some of us aren’t buying your BS. Violence of any kind should not be tolerated, but simply look at the statistics for domestic violence and you will see the real issue.
    Feel free to call me an “angry feminist”—I wear that title with pride.”

    It would be unfair to call her angry on the basis of one message. When I look at her message, I don’t see anger. I see language that is:

    passive aggressive
    lacking in empathy
    ideologically blinkered

    But I don’t see anger, exactly. I don’t consider “angry feminist” to be an insult anyway. Anger is just a feeling. It can be justified or unjustified. It does tend to destroy reason and a sense of accountability, however. Same with being proud of a label. Pride can be good or bad. If I said I was proud of my anger, that ought to be evidence to others that I’m somewhat unhinged.

  8. This blindness to male victims of women is not doing women any favors, either. Think about it. Discounting aggression in women or discounting women’s capacity for violence is just one more way of discounting women. It’s just one more layer of the “sugar and spice and everything nice” infantilizing garbage that’s kept women down for centuries. It’s as much disempowering as empowering.

    If we want a society that really does think women are just as capable of men are, then we have to accept that women are just as capable at the BAD things, too, not just the good things. “Anything you can do, I can do better” also includes domestic violence.

    • Krissy C says:


      As a woman (and the sister of the Marine who wrote this article after getting his head smashed in by his wife in front of his daughter) I agree: blindness to male victims ISNT doing women any favors. I’m stymied by the incredible bias in the system. He’s still fighting; charges have been changed, dropped, added and his legal fees are mounting. I started a fundraiser to help with the cost; will you help by sharing his story?

      Women ARE capable, just as capable, of abusing men (and women) as men are.

      A Marine’s frustrated little sister,



  9. This is such a sad article. I wish that didn’t happen to you. I wish all victims of domestic violence could be taken seriously and get the assistance they need. I hope you got your children.

    • Krissy C says:


      He doesn’t have them yet but he gets to visit. It’s sad, too, the way they’ve been fed an awful narrative about how “bad” daddy is. My niece was in the room and SAW what her mommy did to her daddy and yet she’s starting to believe what she’s being told. Meanwhile he’s fighting a criminal case where charges keep changing, hearings are delayed and legal fees keep adding up. I started a fund raiser to help with his legal fees: will you help by sharing it?



  10. This is a really important piece to hear. And it is heartbreaking. Absolutely heartbreaking. What does a man do when a woman hits him? I have no answer for that. What do you when your wife kicks you in the head? I simply don’t know. I simply can’t imagine what kind of woman does this. Other then a really terrible one. The fact that a man does infact have a different body structure and muscle mass compared to a woman can clearly be both a draw back or a positive. I don’t think it’s fair to completely ignore what a man may be capable of when coming to combat with a woman. But we also should not deny that anyone is capable of violence.

    In the case of Joseph, when you have military training and are bigger than your wife, how do you stop an escalating situation without coming off as the abuser yourself? Again, I don’t know. Is the answer to use violence to fight violence? I don’t really believe it is. But then again, I have no answer for what really would be the answer. Would it be wrong to use the daughter to describe what she saw? I’m not so certain it would be. Especially if it prevents the daughter herself from being in an abusive situation with the mother.

    I certainly understand that abusers come in all shapes and sizes though. My brother dated a very gorgeous, young woman who was petite..maybe 5’5 and 110 pounds. She turned out to be an abusive person. It never escalated to the point of her hitting him, however, she had done things like hit herself in the head with a bat to get him to let her in the house after they broke up, would purposely let his dog out so it ran off, and threatened suicide right on the day he was suppose to fly to meet myself and my parents in Maui for a family vacation. My brother was always a confident guy and actually was the one that was abusive to me when we were younger. He didn’t fit any stereotype and either did she about what an abusive relationship looks like.

    So I think the key here is throw out our misconceptions about what abuse looks like. Preconceived notions in general get us in trouble. The people that didn’t help Joseph where both victims and perpetuators of their own biases. And because of that, Joseph was cut off from the help he needed.
    Unfortunately, I do see a common mentality in society to blame the victim or to not trust what the victim is accusing the other person of doing. We see it hear in Joseph’s story and other men like him and we see it in rape cases when it comes to both men and women, where the victims are still targeted as being the one to cause the trouble. What is exactly behind those mentalities, I have no clue. But I do know that unfortunately in our culture, not believing the victim is all to common.

    I do think that violence against men and women is common place in media. Joseph talked about the ease at which female characters are shown slapping, hitting or kicking the balls of a man. Unfortunately, when someone hurts you, it makes us feel better to hurt that person back. Which is why it can be so satisfying to a cheating man getting slapped in the face. But it’s not much fun seeing your gender the victim of violence. That much I get. And if we can take away the satisfaction to hurt others simply because they hurt us, that would be a key component in empathy and growth. I don’t personally like seeing men slapped or kicked in their private area. However, the psychology about why it’s prevalent can hopefully explain the way to change it.

    Women are no stranger to violence in the media themselves. Often though, violence against women is sexualized. Most story lines about violence against women focus on beautiful and young women being victims. When there is a less attractive or older victim of violence, often it is perceived that the abuse is somewhat deserving or the older or less attractive woman is portrayed as such a harpy herself that it’s hard to have sympathy for her. This doesn’t even get into the amount of actual violence that is often procured in alot of entertainment that is sexually satisfying to men such as pornography. Where a woman’s physical and verbal abuse is sexualized and often very much welcomed.

    Unfortunately, it does seem the public does like to see each gender receive some form of violence. How do we change that as well? I do not know. But I desperately wish we could.

    It is my hope for Joseph that someone reading this can actually give him the help he needs. That maybe there is a men’s group or a professional of some kind, a lawyer, reading this that may want to reach out to Joseph.

    Joseph, I hope you are able to get your life back together, especially your children. And I’m so sorry you’ve had to go through something like this. I wish there was more I could do to help you but just by reading your story, it’s given me a lot to consider.

    • Erin,

      You say you want to help. Why don’t you call around to domestic violence prevention centers in your area and ask them why they refuse to help men who are victims of domestic violence? If they won’t, start a shelter that helps men and women equally. Stop treating this as a one-off, unusual situation, and recognize the systematic way in which we refuse to help men and boys when they are abused.

      If you want justice, work for justice. Don’t just wring your hands.

  11. wellokaythen says:

    I’m very curious about the editorial decision to have the title say “when a girl hits you” instead of “when a woman hits you.” The first time he raises the question it says “girl,” but for the rest of the article it says:

    “What do you do when a woman hits you?”

    That seems to be the main question of the article. It’s describing an adult, female human who uses violence against a man. The assailant is clearly a woman and not a girl. It’s clear that “girl” and “woman” give very different connotations about how dangerous the abuse is. This is not a 5-year old pinching a little boy. This is adult fists and adult muscle power.

    The word “girl” gives the impression that the damage should be discounted somehow.

  12. I feel for you. There are no good options for you to take and it seems like everything is stacked against you. I’d like to share my own story. Although not as egregious a story as your, it still can be another story told about women who are violent towards men. I started dating a women last year and although things were hardly perfect, we both seemed to love each other. We had our fights, far more than I think a healthy relationship has (but I would still be in this relationship if it were healthy), but I never once laid my hands on her or threatened to do so. Slowly, as our arguments became more intense the stakes became high (we each invested so much our time into the relationship, towards the end we were all each other had it seemed) she became increasingly violent. Although she never hit me in the face, I was pushed and punched in the arm and chest many times. I am a large man and she was a tiny women so I knew I could never hit her, and I never will, or any other women. But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t afraid for my wellbeing (she had a rough history, mine…not so much) and actually found myself sleeping on my own couch one night with a hammer under my pillow and the door to the living room closed and locked. She had become very emotional that night after we had an argument and pushed me many times. I told her to stop and calm down but this only made her more angry and increased her threats to “try her”. I told her I was going to call the police and again was met with more pushing and threats until she stormed off to the bedroom. I didn’t call the police that night but I really should have. No one should have to fear for their safety (man or women).

    A few weeks later I did call the police after an argument led to being pushed and threatened. I asked her to leave (my home, she was not on the lease and had not been paying rent. Plus she had no job) and she refused, so I called the police and waited. When they arrived, we had already separated and I was on the sidewalk in front of my neighbors house and she was on the back porch. The male officer questioned me while she was questioned by a female officer. I told my side of the story, she was pushing me, threatening me and I feared for my safety and I wanted her to leave. Truth be told, I didn’t want her to leave, I loved her and I just wanted to stop arguing. The line of question from the officer was more a long the lines of whether I wanted her to leave (which I ultimately decided against) and nothing was mentioned about the violence or threats. If the roles had been reversed I am almost certain they would have been harder on me, than they were on her. Granted, I was given the opportunity to make her leave (4 oclock in the morning, nothing in hand for her) but I could hear and see her crying in the dim light of the porch and I just couldn’t do it. No charges were filed and I felt like I had wasted the time of the police.

    I am lucky to be out of that relationship, but I still worry that something might happen in the future.

  13. I cannot believe some of the comments I’m reading on this thread. To the women who are arguing that shedding light on female aggressors somehow diminishes awareness or clarity around violence against women, or cannibalizes limited resources to address such violence:

    1) Lies, damned lies and statistics – this writer is one of MANY men who is not “counted” in domestic abuse statistics. That doesn’t mean that females are aggressors as often as men; that doesn’t mean that women are not more vulnerable than men, physically and socially speaking. But it should make EVERYONE, male and female, VERY concerned that we operate within systems that don’t treat violence as violence – PERIOD. As a woman, I don’t want this man’s story swept under the rug so that a female-centric narrative can hold court. That doesn’t make me feel safer. It makes me feel terribly sad, and angry about the state of the systems that are supposed to keep us ALL safe.

    2) If there are limited resources to address domestic violence, how is that the FAULT of men who bring abuse against them to light? Why should it matter who suffers more, or who is more vulnerable – shouldn’t there be resources for EVERYONE who needs them? If you really want to rage against someone or something, then why not view men such as this author as a potential ally, and band together to protest and change the broken system with its insufficient resources, red tape, and insane biases?

    In short: how can you sit there and demonize someone speaking truth to power, when you yourselves seek the same outcome – a system that protects everyone from harm, and metes out justice when harm is done?? I just… I can’t understand it. This isn’t a zero-sum game.

    Joseph, thank you for sharing, and for your considered approach to this subject. We are all in this together.

    • 1. Exactly. This is that illusion that helping men somehow silences women. Its amazing that for people who make no small bones about how female abuse victims are under counted will then turn around and pretend that the numbers on male victims are totally accurate and there is no way they could be higher. Most likely its not that they don’t want them to be higher, but specifically they don’t want to lose the gap between the numbers of male and female victims. That gap is what helps keep women in the center of the conversation on violence.

      2. If there are limited resources to address domestic violence, how is that the FAULT of men who bring abuse against them to light?
      What they are doing is suspending the (correct) line of logic that a woman shouldn’t be blamed for being attacked.

      Why should it matter who suffers more, or who is more vulnerable – shouldn’t there be resources for EVERYONE who needs them?
      While ideally resources should be available to any who need them they are limited. Showing that “women have it worse” helps continue the argument that resources should not only continue to be diverted to women but actually diverted AWAY from men.

      If you really want to rage against someone or something, then why not view men such as this author as a potential ally, and band together to protest and change the broken system with its insufficient resources, red tape, and insane biases?
      Or they could even get outraged at the women that abuse these men. They have no problem raging at the men that abuse the women they care so much about but for some reason when abusive women are called the rage suddenly falls short (or is directed at the male victim because to them we’re supposed to help women and rage at men rather than help the victim and outrage at the abuser).

    • Heather says:

      A shocking story and I agree with both of you that domestic violence is unacceptable whether it is men against women or women against men and all victims should be taken seriously and treated equally. Whew, it’s scary how stereotyping still pervades our society and affects how such cases are treated. It’s true that usually when we see women hitting men in movies, the implication is that he deserved it. I guess it’s really hard for society to see women, who are meant to be nurturing, caring, motherly creatures, can also be angry, violent and messed up. We know such women exist, but we’d prefer to believe they’re largely an exception. My friend’s mother was extremely violent and the effects on her family were devastating. I have two boys and plan to have continued conversations with them around the fact that although I do not believe men should hit women, I also don’t believe women should hit men; and if they’re in a relationship where that happens, it is best to set boundaries around what is acceptable behaviour, get help to find better coping methods, or get out. I hope the legal system aided Joseph in the end or that his children are coping okay with not having their father around.

  14. egg mcmuffin says:

    The answer is… there is always a lead in to this kind of behavior. Men cannot dismiss it as “she just needs to calm down a bit”. Get cameras, audio recordings, and a pit bull for a lawyer. Also, file a statement with the police dept at the first sign of perceived trouble. Develop an exit strategy from the violent woman… also if you all remember…. the correct adage was “never hit a lady”. If she is hitting you, she is no lady. Game on. Defend yourself and have witnesses. Share your issues with people who can vouch for your character…. it could help you down the road. I don’t hit anyone, or am I a fighter. However… guy or gal… come stepping to me with fists a flying? Prepare yourself for war.

    • Josh K. says:

      Restraining is the best option. Most men can restrain most women. Heck, even most women can restrain most women as well. Only if you actually need to beat someone to defend yourself, then yes. But only to make em stop, till they stop – and focus on not to hurt them more than they have hurt you.

  15. I just want to say thank you for your courage in speaking out about these issues. I know that the feminist I have worked with over the years, in particular those who are working as advocates for victims of domestic violence, are NOT happy with the “required arrest” mandates and other ways that the system assumes men to be aggressors and women to be victims. There are a lot of things wrong with the way we handle violence, child-rearing, custody and other issues…. all of them tied up in patriarchal values of masculinity and femininity. I hope one day, as more people come forward to share their experiences, we can change this culture.

  16. Get out of there and get a restraining order and report it AFTER the restraining order. Also prepare for that eventuality, donate to the local prosecutor’s campaign every year. EVERY year. Also his/hers significant competition, you want to make friends, not enemies.

  17. Your main defense as I see it is to basically say.
    “If i’m a trained fighter and have so much ability to hurt someone, then why does she not have a bruise on her? I’m trained to fight and kill men twice her size, if I wanted to hurt her and be the aggressor she would have had least had one mark on her, she has none, I do.”

    However men not in the military can’t really pull that, but a variant of it might be a good defense if they use the “your bigger then her” argument and your the only one who’s been beaten”

    • That would work in a perfect world.
      Unfortunately, they use a checklist and determined that he is the “primary aggressor.” In handcuffs. Eight months fighting the bogus charges.

      We are raising money to help him with his legal fees, and appreciate all help in spreading the word / awareness.


  18. I can sympathize with this story. I spent a night in jail after being hit, and abused yet again by my long time live in girlfriend. I always kept my cool, thus time she had also decided hitting me wasn’t enough so she punched my 3 month old tv shattering the screen. I threw her out, called the cops, they came and looked for her, didn’t take a statement from me or my roommate who had seen most of it. Then I get a call threatening me to take her back or else. later that night cops showed up for me. I had audio, I had witnesses and it didn’t matter. I had never been to jail, had not broken the law but I got hauled away for being male. has far has weight and all she outweighed me, and was about has tall has me but I still had to be the aggressor. Luckily the charges were dropped after the detective investigated but still I should never have been hauled in to begin with.

  19. This broke my heart to read. I am truly sorry to hear what has happened to you and your family, and I fear for your children…

    As a woman who has suffered abuse from both of the female family members I grew up with, alongside of the men who came and left throughout it, I know how horrible of an experience it is. But having lived through this abuse, I know that women are just as capable of abuse as men are. Sure, most women I personally know resort more to barking than biting, but on the flipside, so do most of the men I know too. As many others have said on here, abuse is abuse. It’s terrible that men are just portrayed as these evil beasts who rape and abuse, but can never be the actual victims of such things.

    In this situation though, the justice system just failed on so many levels. They didn’t take the photos, therefore they basically just skipped the evidence collection. They didn’t get a story from the children, the witnesses, and so again that was an overlook of evidence/testimony as well as leaving the children in dangerous custody. If this woman was abusive to her husband, what is going to stop her from abusing the children? Even if they weren’t taking the man’s claim seriously enough to investigate for him, they should have done it for the safety of the children!

    It is just so frustrating and heartbreaking that good people get punished for being good people….

    Also for those who say women are incapable of violence, tell that to women like Gertrude Baniszewski.

  20. systembreakdown says:

    I’ve been accused of being a feminist because, as a female Marine, when I point out double standards, it is usually one in which women are viewed negatively (i.e, that girl hangs out with a bunch of guys and therefor must be promiscuous– something I have had people accuse me of when the guys in question were in my unit and we were eating together after a unit function). However, I have always been quick to point out double standards and sexist views that negatively portray men, as well. I find it very sexist that these officials didn’t believe a man could be a victim of abuse at the hands of a woman. Situations like this make it even harder for men to be comfortable admitting them when they arise because society will trey stripping them of their manhood or accusing them of lying. While women are more often victims (stastically speaking), they are not the only victims.

  21. Jennifer G. says:

    What do you do when a girl hits you?


    That is the only acceptable response. I have said this to females who chose to remain with abusers, and I say it now to men who are victims of violence:

    The day that a girl hits you is the day you leave.

    The first time you are hit you are a victim.
    The second time you are hit, you are a volunteer.

    By not leaving, you (male or female) have made a choice to stay.

    That is it: Get out, get gone and stay gone.

  22. So sad and so true.

  23. “Tomorrow morning would be different, but sleeping on the couch was normal. I ended up on the ground next to the stairs. ” – what happened in between those two sentences?

  24. Thank you for reading and sharing this story.

    We are working to help this Marine, my big brother, raise money for legal fees. Eight months, and still fighting this legal battle. (http://gofundme.com/battered-marine-dad)

    Thank you ALL for your support.

  25. Ymarsakar says:

    You can’t protect yourself from violence if you don’t avoid it first. Sleeping while predators are around, with no sentry or alarm system, is a bit too dangerous, okay.

    Would you go to sleep in the house of a mass murderer cop that had killed so many people and been cleared of any wrong doing every single time? Maybe? I wouldn’t.

    It’s much safer to go sleep out in the wilderness, with the bears and snakes and mosquitoes, then to sleep in the company or presence of a woman who has clearly been mind controlled by evil authorities and influences. If your authority is no longer the gold standard with her, then she will do whatever they tell her she can do. Stealing makes her righteous and forgiven? Yes. Using violence makes her right and you the aggressor? Yes. It doesn’t have to make sense, obeying authority is obedience, they aren’t allowed to question their orders. The moment she prostituted herself to the bully boys in the law, she was going to use force to get rid you, de facto. This is the same as a mobster telling you he has put a price on your head and the contract is being carried out. They have already gone to war, mentally speaking. You have to prepare yourself against this. You can’t ignore it. If you know martial arts and can deflect blows, then don’t go to sleep except in a closed and fortified room or implacement. Cause no warrior has ever deflected lethal attacks while asleep. Pretending to be asleep, yes, but not asleep.

    Evidence does help. It may not stop them from arresting you, but it would stop the civil suits and court fees, similar to Zimmerman. Being in California is perhaps… not wise. Florida, Georgia, Texas are all better places to be. Choose your battlefield wisely.

  26. Truly heart breaking story. When I read the title I thought “oh please.” You just grab her, detain her, whatever. Its simple. I was wrong.

    My heart goes out to this man. He illustrated beautifully how a man caught in this situation is bound to lose and lose big. Domestic violence is an incredibly despicable thing but it is horrible how we have such a bias as a society when it comes to men being abused my women.

    I had a girlfriend who was verbally and mentally abusive. I lucky enough to say that it was just mostly the verbal abuse that set me back a bit but the physical abuse (hitting, slapping, throwing objects) taught me something valuable. No one, regardless of gender, should hit another person. It is possibly one of the most disrespectful things a person can do and good confirmation that you are with the wrong person. I countered the physical abuse by stating that assault is assault and if you put me in a situation where I have to defend myself, you’re going to lose. What happens after, legally would be a different story.

    As a father of three boys, I’ve realized that I not only need to teach my sons to always be respectful to women but to also require that same respect in return. We live in a society where it is okay for women to hit a man, for reasons that are perceived as “okay”, but it is never okay for a man to hit a woman. That needs to stop, its never okay to hit ANYONE.

  27. Check the Police report Randall tells a story about his wife hitting him which ultimately caused him to get arrested. What the public failed to recognize is that Randall is a pathological liar. Randall was arrested due to the fact that he attempted to strangle his wife because she caught him cheating. Randall failed to note in his blog that he passed on STD’s to his wife who at the time was pregnant. The day of the confrontation, Randall body slammed his daughter and cracked her skull. She was innocent and was caught up in his rage. Randall went to jail due to his actions. The police arrested him based on the evidence of child abuse.

  28. Poetentiate says:

    Anyone thinking of enlisting in the Armed Forces needs to read this and consider if the system that they are wanting to risk life and limb for, is worth it. This man is being treated as subhuman garbage for reporting his (ex)wife to the police for assaulting and injuring him, and this appears to be the way it almost always is.

    Also, I wonder how often she injures her children when she gets angry, now that he is not around to protect them?


  1. […] Joseph Kerr writes at the Good Men Project: […]

  2. […] Like most men, I am taller and heavier than my wife. I’m a Marine veteran with combat training. Studies have shown that gender (either biologically or by social framework) plays a role in being fearful. Women are more likely to report being afraid[1]. […]

  3. […] by men against men, as well as violence by women against men). Psychological abuse is 50/50. As this man’s story shows, DV against men is significantly under […]

  4. […] who aren’t playing crazy.  The Good Men Project posted an article back in August titled What Do You Do When A Girl Hits You?  The author recounted how he was arrested after his wife brutally assaulted him in a successful […]

  5. […] stilted approaches to the subject make their way into the legal system. Consider the tragic case of Joseph Kerr, a victim of real […]

  6. […] as incidents of DV. And DV against men is significantly under reported (here’s an example of one man’s story). It’s also heterosexist: not all male abusers have female victims – gay men are the […]

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