Invisible Victims: When Men Are AbusedIn cases of domestic abuse throughout the world, the stereotype involves a man abusing a woman. For some, however, the story goes the other way around.

In figures quoted by, approximately one in three abuse victims are male. That’s 33 percent — a startlingly high number.

Men usually are blamed for abuse because of modern gender stereotypes. Women are perceived as the weaker, gentler sex, whereas men are perceived as being stronger and having natural tendencies toward violence. These stereotypes are false.

13 Comments to
Invisible Victims: When Men Are Abused

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  1. As a male working in the community services field, a female orientated field, I have found the male victims of domestic violence are rejected from services and are seen as being weak or incapable. There are very little in the way of male orientated services ‘…as men are the perpetrators and not the victims of domestic violence…’ this statement was made by a domestic violence worker during a staff training session I attended. If a woman is violent towards a male it is seen as ‘she was driven to it’ by the male. When I challenged this statement I was berated by other female staff attending the session. The words ‘male’ and ‘victim’ just don’t go together.
    The information in this report needs to be disseminated to all domestic violence services and acknowledged by society in general.

  2. Very informative, thank you. I know 2 men who were physically abused. One was fortunate to leave before things got even worse, the relationship was in the early stages. The other, unfortunately, was a lot more violent, lasted about 8 years,caused him to be arrested even though he was the only one bleeding. It ruined his life and shortened it. He couldn’t get a job because of the domestic violence charge and drank alcohol very heavily. His was a tragic life that ended far too soon due to alcoholism.

  3. This is a great article! Unfortunately many people feel that talking about male abuse victims is an anti female sentiment. For this, and all the reasons you highlighted, the problem is not discussed openly and men do not seek help.

  4. “Withholding sex” is NEVER abuse. A person’s choice to have sex or not is always a choice whether out of anger or otherwise.

    I strongly suggest rewording this one or using another example.

    • You’re right, it should be reworded. But you’re wrong when you say withholding sex is never abuse. When one partner refuses sex and communicates that sex can resume when the other partner complies with their unrelated, non-sexual demands, that is a controlling behavior. No, just because you’re in a relationship doesn’t mean you have the right to your partner’s body whenever you want. But using sex as a weapon of manipulation and control is an unhealthy and dysfunctional behavior that shouldn’t be coddled out of fear that calling it out will somehow encourage sexual violence.

  5. Choosing to have or not have sex at ANY time in a relationship is in no way abusive behavior. Positioning “withholding sex” as abuse suggests that women should always have sex with their partners whether they feel like it or not. Sex within a relationship is not a right for either partner. This article perpetuates the stereotype that women are the property of men and should always be submissive. Please use a different example that does not denigrate females.

  6. @Julie and Amanda: While I agree with you it is either partner’s right to determine when and if they want to have sex. Withholding sex as a tactic to inflict emotional trauma is very real.

    Asking a spouse/significant other to do something in exchange for sex later, happens all the time. Sad that couples resort to that, I agree, but it does happen. However, when a sexual reward is offered and then withdrawn, this could be abusive if it is a constant behavior. It’s one thing to say “Hon, I know but I am worn out after this long day”. That’s fine, but if the partner constantly offers a sexual reward and then withdraws said reward, this is a form of abuse. You could replace sex with any other activity and it would be considered abusive behavior.

    This is an attempt to in fact create a submissive partner, “If I do all these as I was told, maybe I’ll get a treat.” At the end of the day, no matter what, the reward is refused and the partner begins to question where they went wrong. Honestly, it works both ways. However, If a man were to use this approach on a woman, of course he would be a terrible human being. If a woman does it though, she’s liberated, she’s the woman she makes the rules.

    Double standards are so much fun.

  7. I am highly suspicious of the “men are victims of domestic violence” meme. I think this is hugely overstated. my brother used to beat me up constantly, and I feel like if anything ever happens again I cannot defend myself, because the one time I did fight back, I got in trouble for it. unfortunately, I had to bite him on the back to get him to stop strangling me, and he called the cops. in the instance of physical altercation, it is typically not the woman who has the control, and this is why they pick up weapons and shoot the ceiling and get 20 years in jail. my experience has been that it is very hard to get the cops to take male on female domestic violence seriously, and I have never been able to get them to take action on my part, although I was dealing with quite serious physical and medical abuse, as well as stalking. I get the distinct impression that they believe I am being vindictive, when the truth is that I just want it to stop.
    that said, I do know men who have been abused, but they always had the resources to leave. Women are in a much more vulnerable position as they typically make a lower salary, or may have given up working altogether in order to raise the kids. my chiropractor is exiting a relationship with a narcissist, and I feel bad for him, but then he starts talking about his golf habit and I lose all sympathy. I’d like to have the money to do golf, or, better yet, therapy, because god knows I need it.
    the sex thing is problematic too; I have dated guys in the past who I did not feel good having sex with after a while, as I felt I could not trust them anymore (it turns out I was right). also, it’s my experience that expressing my displeasure towards something a guy has done is greeted with comments such as, “you’re just having your period”. so I think that there is room for misinterpretation here.
    I should mention that my mother fits all the characteristics of “female abuser”, but this is not something I feel threatened by as an adult, because I am large enough that I am able to physically defend myself if need be. I do find her behavior really obnoxious, and choose not to have a relationship with her because of it, but it’s hardly traumatizing. finding oneself in a physical altercation with a bigger and stronger person hell bent on humiliating you for whatever sadistic pleasure it may bring is very traumatizing indeed. but men don’t typically face that.

    • Maureen, I am a man that does everything possible to make my wife happy, but I can never earn enough $ and everything I do is wrong because what she wants changes every 5 minutes. My wife is a cold-hearted & crazy narcissist that just tonight attacked me and broke our TV remote by throwing it across the room. She is tired and admittedly PMSing, but either way, decided out of no where as I waited on her hand and foot as a servant since she got home after 3 hours of work to tell me that she doesn’t love me and intentionally withholds affection & sex because I don’t earn enough $.

      I explained that I do earn enough money, but as I explained to her before buying her a new Mercedes, the budget will be tight until she gets her first job with her MBA. Then she stupidly got into a car fender bender before even the first car payment for tailgating, as I warned her not to do. Now our car insurance skyrocketed and we have no discretionary income. That’s all my fault obviously for agreeing to buy the car early for her birthday, even after explaining that we’d need to sacrifice eating dinner out and watch our budget.

      She keeps spending money like crazy and disregards my insistence to stop. I can’t afford a divorce after all the debt that she put us in. I’m trapped. It’s not so simple. When she doesn’t get her way, she breaks my things, stains the carpet, claws my face and body, drawing blood and leaving an embarrassing wound for me at work, has swung a knife at me before, slams doors, and the very worst weapon she uses is our credit card.

      • Dear author of “can’t take much more” –

        You describe your wife as an abuser, a person with an abusive personality. I was in a very similar situation eith my wife and had many theories about how and why things would get better, fantasizing that my wife would become my friend again. I was forced to separate for reasons outside of my control and it is the best thing that ever happened to me.

        Listen: you NEED to leave the relationship. Things will only get WORSE the longer you stay. The only basis upon which you MIGHT considered staying is if she accepts full individual responsibility (NOT mutual abuse) and enters an extensive “batterer’s intervention” program. Other types of therapy are ineffective if the woman is truly as abusive as your comment suggests. You know she will not accept individual responsibility if she is abusive, unless it is her last resort to avoid some major negative consequence (eg, prison).

        Abusive personalities of either gender are extremely dangerous and manipulative people who will turn any situation to their advantage and become extremely vindictive in response to your efforts to show them the true problem in your relationship – nothing is her fault in her mind and it never will be. GET OUT before you are seriously injured, arrested on false charges, or worse.

        As long as you are in the relationship, begin collecting evidence of abuse (and create back up copies that you mail to trusted friends or place in safe location outside the house). This will help you in divorce or if you need a restraining order (which is an option if you want to remove her from the home but are not ready for divorce).

        People get killed by abusers; gender is irrelevant (weapons in the hands of an abusive person more than equalize an imbalance of physical strength). You should leave sooner rather than later. Until then, stay out of the kitchen during attacks (knives) and record everything you possibly can.

        Good luck. You are not alone.

      • Women are as capable if not more adept at emotional and verbal abuse than men. The main difference is that women are generally not physically able to use their fists.
        To think that only men are capable of evil is wrong. It is not fair to sons and daughters of mothers who carry out abuse on children.
        I will never marry again. It was a mistake. I’ve been called a cheater, accused of being gay, hiding money, subjected to daily complaining. I could never work hard enough. She drank every day, gambled money savings away on the stock market and then would be the most loving and giving and understanding person. Then the random cycle of abusive comments would begin. I became a caregiver and people pleaser in sheer desperation to try to stop the anger. I mistakenly thought that was the duty and role of being a good husband. I should have been aware because I’m a recovering alcoholic and sober ten years before we got married. She was so wonderful but after the wedding the wolf slowly emerged. First it was passive agression then she began taking an inventory of my vulnerabilities and attacking me with the barbs when I treied to speak up for myself. Sharing feelings became a study session for her to gather information to use in future confrontations. Eventually every communication became a win and lose situation. I shut down.

        Marriage is a prison.

        She had an online affair and even told the children she was leaving and today denies everything including the drinking as if I didn’t even exist.

        And now she has a lawyer.

  8. Nice to read someone in the psychotherapy profession caring about men for a change.

    Not wanting to be overly picky, but I find it striking that in the list of women’s physical abuse the two most common form of violence is not included: the slap in the face and throwing objects at him. Why is that? Why was that forgotten? Curious, isn’t it?

    Please don’t try to defend it, just contemplate it.

    And also, you say that men make up 1/3rd of manifest “victims” of abuse, then you continue saying that women do more of the emotional abuse. This to me would add to the 1 in 3, because the 1 in 3 is physical. I believe this has great implication for psychotherapy for men, because most men walk around with an indoctrinated shame and deference to the woman in their life, because they believe that men (meaning himself included) is a violent beast who, if not controlled by consciously trying to be a “better man” would go on a rampage to hurt the angelic beings that are women. It is false, and very destructive idea and unfortunately rarely challenged in partner therapy (and then therapists wonder why so few men care much about submitting to therapy.)

    The truth, by the way, is 30 years old and been researched all over the world. See all the studies by Murray Straus, and see the PASK meta-study. The summary is:

    25% of couples are affected by partner violence of any kind. This is in the US. In Brazil it is more 20%, in Europe it is more like 30%, it gets worse in India over 40% and in Iran nearly 50%! But in all these cultures the same pattern plays out, only in different overall levels. The pattern is:

    60% of partner violence is mutual, both hitting each other. Often the woman strikes first, and often that is an additional risk factor for her getting injured.

    Where physical violence is unilateral, women are the perpetrators up to twice the rate as men. At least the same rate, but almost all studies show a higher rate of perpetration for women. And that is not bias, it is even when you ask only women (which many such studies do, because they operate heavily biased for women, and then can’t digest the truth they find.)

    These patterns are universal.

    It is important, again, when you actually want to work with men as humans, that you eradicate this idea that untamed savage men in distant times and cultures are habitual wife abusers. They are not. Only in places like India and Iran the overall level of violence is higher, and so more women get hurt, but also more men.

    When you look at physical injuries inflicted, women score higher as victims, which is not surprising because of their average weaker physique and reduced physical skills to duck and defend and attack.

    Further, the Lancet study by Stoeckl in June 2013 showed that intimate partner homicide from surveys shows a large number of male victims. This doesn’t come out as clearly in the Stoeckl article as in the additional Editorial printed in the same issue. Men are coming close to 50% of partner homicide victims, and that is *excluding* cases where men are killed by hired hands or navigated into “accidents.”

    Thank you for broaching this important subject, ever so carefully, in this article. I encourage you to call your therapeutic profession to face more of the full truth and work it into paradigms of male and partner-therapy, but also the therapy with women, because much of the stereotypes and anxieties that women have seem to be self-limiting and fueled by disinformation. Someone who is told they are a victim at every turn must have a hard time to live a fulfilling happy life.

  9. 1972 was when I remember my mother beating my father. These bloody beatings continued even when he was 73 with cancer and multiple other health issues and police were no help because he would be so scared of her he would not follow up with charges. He was not a sissy he had health problems as a child so she was beating on someone already disabled then elderly too. The shame increased when in the late 1970′s a mob of neighbors beat up my parents in the front yard in middle of night. This was before 911 and the rest of our lives we were made fun of. If anyone is going through this I pray you run away nearest police or social services demand help we were children and did not know back then. My father lived the lufe of a slave his last 5 years. He worked and got beat. The horror stories are so many but now he is in heaven safe and happy with jesus.

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