In speaking out about Intimate Partner Violence, I’ve encountered several differing attitudes. There does seem to be reluctance in accepting that men can also be victims of domestic abuse.
The common perception is that far more women than men suffer from domestic violence. For the few men that do, it is easier for them to leave the relationship and rebuild their lives. Even then, a common-held viewpoint is than men who claim to be victims, are in fact abusers themselves. This leads to certain assumptions:
- Violent women are acting solely in self-defence or retaliation
- Because men are naturally physically stronger than women, they can restrain their aggressor and so any violence towards them is humourous and trivial
- Men can leave an abusive relationship easier because they have greater economic means to be independent
- Men can leave an abusive relationship because the emotional and psychological attachments to a home isn’t as strong as in women
There is no solid research to evidence these assumptions, and yet, it is on the basis of the above that Domestic Violence services and projects are aimed and target ‘women and children’, with seldom provision for men.
The truth is, however, different. Consider these facts produced by the ManKind Initiative in February 2013:
· 40% of domestic abuse victims are male: for every five victims, three will be
female, two will be male.
· 7% of women and 5% of men were estimated to have experienced any domestic
abuse in the last year, equivalent to an estimated 1.2 million female and 800,000
· 31% of women and 18% (one in six) of men had experienced any domestic abuse
since the age of 16. These figures were equivalent to an estimated 5.0 million
female victims of domestic abuse and 2.9 million male victims.
· Partner abuse (non-sexual) was the most commonly experienced type of intimate
violence among both women and men. 24% of women (3.9 million) and 13% of
men (2.1 million) reported having experienced such abuse since the age of 16: for
every three victims of partner abuse, two will be female and one will be male.
· In 2011/12, 4% of women (675,000) and 3% of men (491,000) experienced
partner abuse: a split of 57%.43% (for every seven victims – four will be female,
three will be male).
· 1.1% of men and 1.3% of women were victims of severe force at the hands of
their partner during 2011/12. Over a lifetime the figures are 6.1% and 13.2%
· More married men (2.3%) suffered from partner abuse in 2011/12 than
married women (1.8%)
· More men in managerial and professional occupations (3.0%) suffered from
partner abuse in 2011/12 than women with the same occupation (2.6%)
· Men with children (3.0%) are as likely to be victims of partner abuse than men
without children. The figure is the same for female victims (3.5%)
· Twice as many male victims (28%) than women (13%) do not tell anyone
about the domestic abuse they are suffering – highlighting the level of
underreporting. Male victims are three times (10%) more likely not to tell the
police they are victim than a female victim (29%) and only 4% of male victims will
tell a health professional compared to 19% of female victims.
· In 2011/12 – 17 men (one every 21 days) died at the hands of their partner or ex-partner compared with 88 women (one every four days)
· 12 organisations offer refuge or safe house provision in the UK - a total of 76
spaces, of which 33 are dedicated to male DV victims only (the rest being for
victims of either gender), and of these 33 dedicated spaces, 18 are for gay males
only. There are over 260 organisations with around 4,000 spaces dedicated to
· On at least 120 occasions in 2010 a caller decided not to consider a refuge or safe
house because they were too far away and would mean having to completely
uproot their lives, often having to leave their children and their job behind.
Source: Office for National Statistics(UK): Crime Survey (Focus on Violent Crime and Sexual Offences, 2011/12
The perceptions and assumptions are misleading and do not help men. All domestic violence is wrong irrespective of the gender of the perpetrator. Such common-held views about the nature of domestic abuse could actually empower women to commit violence against their partners (eg. No one will believe you etc..) I know my abusive ex-wife would justify her violent assaults on me by saying, “You’re a man, you can cope with it.” And yet she knew full well that I would never strike back even in retaliation.
By comparison, very little academic research has been carried out concerning male victims of Intimate Partner Violence. However, Dr Denise A. Hines, Research Assistant Professor, of the Psychology Dept., Clark University, Worcester MA is leading the way.
A joint study with Dr. Emiliy M. Douglas entitled ‘A Closer Look at Men Who Sustain Intimate terrorism by Women,’(2008) challenges and seeks to correct the mistaken beliefs existing around Domestic Abuse. Their findings show that:
WHO ARE THE MEN WHO SUSTAIN INTIMATE TERRORISM?
Our research indicates that the majority of male helpseekers in our sample who sustained
IT are, or were in serious, long‐term relationships with most being married (48%) or
separated (18%). The average relationship lasted over 8 years, and of the 112 men who
were no longer in these relationships, the relationships had ended an average of 6 months
prior to participation in our study. Additionally, almost three‐quarters (73%) of the
relationships involved minor children, with the helpseekers reporting the presence of 2
children on average. Furthermore, the helpseekers in our study:
• Were more likely to be white (87%)
• Were an average of 41 years old
• Were employed full‐time (69%)
• Had, on average, graduated from a 2 to 4 year College
• Were, on average, employed in a professional role
• Earned, on average, about $52,000 annually
MENTAL ILLNESS AMONG MEN WHO EXPERIENCE IT
Of the 302 male helpseekers in this study, about a quarter (24%) reported that they had a
mental illness. Of these men, close to half (41)% reported that they only had the diagnosis
since being in the relationship. The most common mental illnesses were depressive
disorders (65%), followed by anxiety disorders (48%).
WHAT PREVENTS MEN FROM LEAVING
Of the male helpseekers in this study, 189 of them were still with their partners. They
endorsed a number of different reasons for staying in the relationship. Figure 2
summarizes those reasons.
The male helpseekers in this study paint a picture of men who are fairly well educated, who
have professional‐level jobs, and who have children involved in their relationships. They
report sustaining severe levels of violence at the hands of their partner and have significant
concerns about whether to leave their partners and what would happen if they did leave.
Many of these men report loving their partners, hoping that she will change, showing
commitment to their marriage, and concern about what would happen to the children.
The limited statistics and studies available highlights a completely different reality to the one commonly accepted concerning Domestic Violence and male victims. Until more men find their voice and speak out, well-meaning (but unfounded) assumptions will continued to be made.