Men Can Be Victims of Abuse, Too
While we are making great strides in creating safe spaces for abused women to come forward, it’s important to remember that men can be victims, too. Not only do we need to recognize the extent of male victimization, we need to create safe spaces for them to come forward and receive support and resources. We need to include them when talking about domestic and intimate partner violence so we can begin to shift the focus from women who have been abused to “people” who have been abused.
To shed some light on the extent of male victimization, we’ve gathered statistics from a number of sources.
- 1 in 4 men have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner
- 1 in 7 men have experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner
- Almost half of all men have been on the receiving end of psychological aggression from an intimate partner
- Just over 1 in 17 men have been stalked to the point of fear for safety of self and loved ones
- Approximately 11.7 million US men have had a partner who attempted or achieved pregnancy against the males wishes
- Nearly 2 in 5 gay or bisexual men will experience abuse at the hands of an intimate partner during their lifetime
- Almost 8% of men who have reported domestic violence have been assaulted with a deadly weapon (including being shot at, stabbed or hit with a weapon)
The statistics show that the abuse of men is real, and the problem is significant. In reality, these numbers are likely much higher, since many men don’t come forward to report the abuse.
Why don’t men report the abuse? While there are as many reasons as there are victims, we tend to see the same explanations for not reporting the abuse. It often comes down to embarrassment, shame, fear that nobody will believe them, and/or fear that they will be seen as the instigator.
Domestic Violence Against Men: What Does it Look Like?
Domestic violence/intimate partner violence can look different in every situation, however, there are some common signs of abuse:
- Physical violence, including hitting, kicking, punching
- Sexual assault
- Use of objects and/or weapons to intimidate or cause physical harm
- Attacks when the victim is sleeping or otherwise unable to defend themselves
- Verbal threats against yourself, friends, family and even pets
- Verbal abuse, including belittlement, public humiliation
- Limiting your personal freedoms (choice in friends, where you go, how long you stay out, etc.)
- Accuse you of being unfaithful
- Attempts to get pregnant against partner’s wishes
- Denying you access to important items like car keys, phone, medication
- Destruction of personal property
- Threats to take kids away if you report abuse
- For members of LGBTIQ community, threats to “out” you to family and friends
- Telling you that nobody will believe you if you report the abuse
Why Abused Men Stay
While we can’t speak for every man, we do see common reasons why men stay in an abusive relationship, including:
- Denial that the abuse is happening, or minimization of the extent of the abuse
- To protect the children – Some men fear that the abuser will harm the children if they leave, or that their children will be taken from them (either by the spouse or the authorities)
- Religious beliefs
- Shame, embarrassment
- If in a same-sex relationship and have yet to “come out,” fear that they will be outed to friends and family by the abuser
- Lack of resources
- Fear that the violence will escalate if a report is made
What can we do?
If you suspect a man is being abused:
- Believe anyone who reports abuse – men or women
- Listen to them without judgment
- Offer the same safe space you would offer a woman who shares with you that she’s being abused
- Pick up on subtle clues – if your buddy keeps talking about how his “crazy woman” hit him again, understand that this may not be just a funny story
- Encourage your friend or loved one to document the abuse
- Gather a list of resources and help them take the first steps
- Be proactive in reducing abuse in general. For every victim who speaks up, there are several others who remain silent. Consider booking a domestic violence speaker at your work, campus or social organization to help raise awareness.
If you are being abused:
Most importantly, know that you are not alone. Know that we believe you. Know that there is help. You have a right to feel safe and supported and connected. As you navigate your situation, take the following steps when possible:
- Find a friend you trust and confide in them. Living silently in an abusive situation can bring with it its own psychological injury.
- In addition to a confidante, begin identifying a support system. Whether it’s friends, family, co-workers or an organization set up to help victims of abuse, you need and deserve support during this challenging time.
- Document the abuse. Take photos of any injuries, write down any abusive incidents. If you don’t feel like you can report the abuse just yet, keep all documentation in a safe place for when/if you are ready to make a report
- If you fear you you or your loved ones are in immediate danger, call 911
- Reach out for help. There are many domestic violence organizations that provide advice, protection and resources for people (yes, men, too) who are in an abusive relationship.
Domestic and intimate partner violence doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a man, woman, gay, straight, religious, atheist, CEO or unemployed – abuse can affect anybody. And everybody has a right to safety.