I write about abuse, sexual assault, and trauma fairly frequently on this blog, but there is one aspect of domestic violence I have yet to address and that is domestic violence against men. That’s right – men are also victims of domestic abuse. And when it happens to men, they have a much more difficult time finding help in recovery.

Personally, I know at least four men who are survivors of domestic abuse. I say “at least” because it is entirely possible (even probably) that other men I know have shared this experience, but aren’t comfortable speaking with me about it. That discomfort is not without cause.

Even in 2019, there is still a stigma surrounding the issue of domestic abuse. Thankfully, that stigma is falling away. But it’s falling away faster for women than for men. There are reasons for this too.

The number of women in abusive relationships outnumbers that of men. In the year 2000, the United States Department of Justice surveyed 16,000 Americans about domestic violence. The survey revealed that 22.1 percent of women and 7.4 percent of men reported being physically assaulted by a current or former spouse, cohabiting partner, boyfriend or girlfriend, or date in their lifetime. If this statistic is applied to the population as a whole, it means more than 20,000 men have been physically assaulted by their wives, girlfriends, and partners that year. This number does not include the men who have survived emotional, psychological, and even economic abuse in an intimate relationship.

But my guess is that this survey even underestimates the scope of the problem. According to the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, determining the rate of intimate partner violence (IPV) against males can be difficult, as men may be reluctant to report their abuse or seek help.

For those men who are ready to get out of the relationship and get help, the resources are limited. Most men (or at least all those who have talked to me) have not sought professional help in managing the emotions and challenges that result from the trauma they have sustained. Instead, they seek out the support of family and friends. And while friends are great and I am happy to listen and validate their experience, I am not a trained professional and neither are their respective family members.

Women also can get help recovering economically. In my community, there is a homeless shelter specifically for women leaving situations involving domestic violence. I spent most of last year living in that shelter. There is even a program for our pets so they can have a safe space too. It is difficult enough to leave an abusive partner, but leaving a beloved furry family member behind with an abuser is a recipe for disaster. It is a fact that women with pets may delay leaving a dangerous environment for fear of their pets’ safety. I suspect the same is true for men and their beloved companion animals.

I have heard from many survivors – both men and women – of their reluctance to leave because of what they justifiably fear their abuser may do to the pet they leave behind. So many stay for the sake of preventing an innocent animal from being thrown out in the cold, kicked around, or even killed in an act of retribution against the fleeing partner. If they can’t continue to hurt you directly, then they will go after what you love.

In closing, the elements of abusive relationships are often the same for male and female survivors. There is lying, degradation, humiliation, manipulation, isolation, and even physical violence. However, when men are ready to leave and seek help, they undoubtedly have a more difficult time.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, please seek help whether or not you are ready to leave – you deserve to have support through this difficult time. The trained staff at the National Domestic Violence Hotline are ready to help victims of any gender. The number is 1-800-799-7233.


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