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