As unlikely as it may sound, men are also frequent victims of emotional and physical violence—at the hands of women. We see men as stronger and more likely to lash out and be violent. However, they are also less likely to report or even acknowledge they are being battered because they fear others will see them as weak or effeminate, or because they don’t want to get their partner in trouble.
We rarely hear stories of men being abused by their female partners. While it is true that women far outnumber men as victims of domestic violence, the numbers of men suffering abuse are not exactly low. A 2011 study from Clark University in Massachusetts suggests that roughly 40% of victims of physical or emotional domestic violence are male, and adds that police often ignore the domestic violence claims of men.
WHY DON’T WE TAKE IT SERIOUSLY?
We’re accustomed to seeing women slap men, in films, on TV and even in public. Are we so used to these roles that we find them acceptable and even humorous? If a woman kicks a man between the legs, women cheer and other men laugh sympathetically. Boy, he must have done something to deserve that! Is this what we want our children to learn—that it’s okay to beat and belittle men and that women are always the victims? Shouldn’t we be teaching our kids instead that no type of physical abuse is acceptable?
As an example of just how inured we are to the concept of women abusing men, a segment filmed for ABC News shows a woman violently beating and insulting her partner in public. Out of 163 people who witnessed the abuse, only one woman walked over to help the man, and finally called 911.
Men are less likely to speak up and report the issue because they buy into the notion that as the physically stronger of the sexes, they should be able to take care of the situation by themselves. Men who do report violence are often ridiculed by law enforcement and the general public.
We all know too well that emotional violence is just as real and damaging as physical abuse, and abused men do not escape emotional damage any more than women do. Emotional violence is exerted through blackmailing, belittling, ridiculing and playing cruel mind games. The scars may not be visible to the eye, but they are every bit as real.
Read Related: How to Recognize & Help Victims of Domestic Violence
WARNING SIGNS OF ABUSE
The Mayo Clinic lists these warning signs of domestic violence, for both sexes:
Your partner or family member:
- Insults you and belittles you.
- Prevents you from going places, such as to work, classes, school.
- Doesn’t allow you to see family members or friends.
- Tries to control how you spend money, where you go or even what you wear.
- Is jealous, possessive or accuses you of being unfaithful.
- Lashes out at you when drinking alcohol or using drugs.
- Threatens you physically or with a weapon.
- Does any sort of beating: Hitting, kicking, shoving, slapping.
- Assaults you while you are your weakest—like after you’ve had a few drinks, or while you’re sleeping.
- Forces you to have sex 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.
I’ve met men who’ve been emotionally abused by their spouses. Although from the outside the abuse was very clear, these men just couldn’t get away from their abusive partners. They seemed to be stuck in codependent relationships. They would speak of their terrible stories but sadly, most thought they deserved the bad treatment. Some wanted to leave but couldn’t because they felt their wife or girlfriend needed them. Others truly believed their wives really loved them and were just going through a phase—even if it was a ten year long phase.
There are very few studies or resources for abused men, because so few report domestic violence due to the stigma. If more men were to speak up, perhaps more resources would be available. Here are two: