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Domestic violence against men

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Domestic abuse – a women’s issue?

Domestic violence equals physical abuse of women in most people’s minds. But men can be abused in relationships too, and for those that are, the lack of recognition of abuse against men only ads to their problems.

Does it really exist?

Domestic violence against men does exist, although it is less common than abuse of women. The Home Office Statistical Bulletin of 2009/10 estimates that among adults, 15.8% of men and 29.4% of women have been victims of domestic violence since the age of 16.  It is possible that this is an under-estimate, because domestic violence is under-reported, and often hidden, whether it is men or women who are involved.

It may be difficult to envisage that men are on the receiving end of physical abuse, because we all think that men ought to be physically powerful enough to resist violence, especially from females. But the reality is that men can be intimidated by a female partner, can feel powerless or may be unwilling to retaliate physically. All of these men can be vulnerable to physical abuse. Add to this any gay men who are abused by their partners. And bear in mind that domestic abuse does not only occur between couples – young men may be abused within the home,  for example by an older sibling, or by a parent of either gender. Take into account, as well, those men who are more vulnerable because they are very young, because they are older, or because they are disabled. All of these add up to a significant group of men who can be on the receiving end of physical violence.

And on top of that, domestic abuse is not always physical; there is psychological and emotional abuse to take into account, too. Being controlled, financially restricted, subjected to irrational jealousy and suspicions of infidelity, verbal attacks,  and humiliating or demeaning comments all add up to abuse, irrespective of the gender of the perpetrator or the recipient.

domestic violence against men

Effects of abuse

The psychological effects of domestic abuse are similar to those of post traumatic stress disorder. They can include nervousness, anxiety or irritability, flashbacks to physical and verbal attacks, poor concentration, sleep disorders, and low self esteem. These effects are common for both women and men, but men may have additional psychological issues to cope with, because of our expectation that they should be able to resist physical violence. Furthermore, men who are psychologically and emotionally controlled or abused by their partners are often seen as ‘weak’, and this, too, can add to feelings of helplessness, isolation and shame. The top and the bottom of it is that we think that men who are abused are ‘letting’ the abuse happen, and by thinking this, we shift the blame from the perpetrator to the victim.

All of this can make a man who is being abused less able to ask for help or admit what is going on, and that in turn makes him even more vulnerable to the perpetrator’s abusive behaviour.

Getting help

If you are a man experiencing abuse at home, it is important first of all to be clear that men have the same legal rights as women when it comes to physical abuse. So a man can approach the local council for housing on the basis of being homeless because of abuse at home. A man can also take legal action, such as applying for a non-molestation order or an occupation order. There are very few refuge places for men, although there is one in the home counties area – for more information about this, see the links below.

But of course, the need for help goes way beyond the practicalities. If you are experiencing abuse, and you cannot safely confide in those around you, then it may be time to seek some expert help. There are a number of groups set up specifically to support and advise men who are in this situation, and there is no need to feel ashamed or embarrassed about approaching them, because they are usually set up and run by men who have experienced the same sort of abuse. If you don’t yet feel ready to actually talk to someone, the organisations’ websites contain a huge volume of information, resources and personal stories that can help you to see that you are not alone, and that other men have managed to rebuild their lives after experiences just like your own.  For help, support, and information about a male refuge, see http://www.dvmen.co.uk or http://www.mankind.org.uk  For information about housing rights and related legal issues, see the specialist pages of the Refuge website, http://refuge.org.uk/get-help-now/help-for-men/men-are-abused-too.

 

 

 

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About Paula Hendry

About Paula Hendry

Paula Hendry is a freelance consultant in the field of social work. She has been a social worker for twenty five years, and specialises in mental health. Paula has two children and writes in her spare time (which is virtually non-existent.)

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