Domestic abuse

How Domestic Abuse Affects Men

When we think about domestic abuse, the image our minds usually create is one that places a female victim in the thrall of a violent husband/boyfriend figure. However, this is not always the case.

In the UK, ManKind reveals that 13 men are thought to have died at the hands of their partner in the year between 2016 and 2017.

In the year between 2017 and 2018, an estimated 695,000 men suffered from some form of domestic abuse in England and Wales alone, according to the National Office for Statistics.

Meanwhile, ManKind Initative claim that men make up one in three (31%) of the English and Welsh adults who have reported being a victim of domestic abuse in their lifetime.

Worse still, men are far less likely to get help if they find themselves in these situations. Therefore, these figures may not accurately represent the true amount of men who have suffered from domestic abuse.

Before we discuss why this is and just how domestic abuse affects men, let’s clear up exactly what is meant by the term.

What is domestic abuse?

Domestic abuse can look different for everyone that suffers from it.  One big misconception is that it only relates to incidents of physical violence. In reality, the term encompasses a lot more than the physical side of things.

The UK government defines domestic abuse as any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members.

They go on to add that this definition is regardless of gender or sexuality.

What might domestic abuse look like for a male victim?

Domestic Abuse

There are many different ways that domestic abuse will manifest in a relationship.

Verbal abuse – He may get shouted at and made fun of frequently.  Sometimes this can occur in public so that the abuser can ‘humiliate’ their victim.

Physical attacks – He may be punched, slapped, kicked, scratched, bitten, choked.  If weapons are involved he may be scalded, cut or have objects thrown at him by the abuser.

In the UK, ManKind reveals that 13 men are thought to have died at the hands of their partner in the year between 2016 and 2017.

Isolation – The abuser may try to isolate him from society by limiting his interactions with family, friends, and colleagues as much as possible.

They may constantly check up on his whereabouts and get angry if they find he has been amongst people that they don’t want him to be around.

Threatening Behaviour – The abuser may give him threats of violence, destroy his personal items, threaten to remove his children, threaten to tell the police that he is the one committing the abuse or threaten to hurt his family members.

Emotional/Psychological Abuse – The abuser may deprive him of affection, try to turn his parents, children or friends against him, constantly insult and belittle him, stop him from sleeping, stalk him, intimidate him over social media and make him doubt his own sanity (known as ‘Gaslighting’)

Controlling Behaviour – The abuser may tell him what to do and expect him to obey.  They may tell him he’ll never see his children again if he leaves the relationship.

Financial Abuse – The abuser may take full control of the family income, not allow him to spend money unless permitted or run up huge bills in his name.

Sexual Abuse – The abuser may sexually harass their victim and force him to have sex against his will. Sexual abuse also includes any sexually degrading language said from the abuser to the victim.

How to spot the signs of domestic abuse

As we will soon discuss, domestic abuse is an incredibly difficult situation to get yourself out of. Male victims, in particular, are less likely to get help and therefore more likely to have their abuse go on for longer.

At the beginning of an abusive relationship, the abuse is likely to be hidden more subtly. Over time it will worsen, at which point it may start to become physical too.

For this reason, it is vitally important to know some warning signs of a domestic abuser.

The following list includes things you should take seriously if you notice them occurring in your relationship:

  • You feel like you are walking on eggshells all of the time
  • Your partner uses phrases like ‘I love you, but…’ to deliver disguised criticism
  • Ask yourself questions such as ‘Am I really happy?’ and ‘Do I deserve to be treated like this?’
  • Your partner ignores you and refuses to communicate when they are angry
  • Your partner puts you down a lot
  • Your partner uses a lot of sarcasm and unpleasant tones of voice to mock you
  • Your partner gets jealous over small situations
  • Your partner is moody with you a lot
  • Your partner constantly calls or texts you when you’re out, particularly to ask what you are doing and who you are with

If you experience these forms of abuse at the beginning of a relationship, you should break up with this person.  If you stay, the situation is likely to worsen to the point where you may begin to feel that you are ‘trapped’ with no way out.

Why do male victims struggle to get help?

Domestic Abuse

Firstly, it is important to remember that everyone suffering from domestic abuse, whether male or female, will experience just how difficult it can be to admit what they are going through and escape the situation.

Clever manipulation is often at play from the abuser in order to make the victim feel worthless.  They will often try to make them question their own sanity and feel as though they ‘deserve’ the physical and verbal attacks.  They may try to make them feel that no one will believe them if they tell someone what’s going on.

It is simply not as easy as ‘just leaving.’

Other times terrifying threats will play a part such as ‘I’ll kill you if you try to leave’ or ‘You’ll never see your children again’ (if children are involved).

Many feel stuck in a cycle: the abuser will attack, then beg for forgiveness, the victim will forgive them and everything will seem okay until the next attack.

It is simply not as easy as ‘just leaving’.  However, statistics from ManKind reveal that male victims of domestic abuse are three times as likely not to tell anyone what they are going through:

“Only 10% of male victims will tell the police (26% women), only 23% will tell a person in an official position (43% women) and only 11% (23% women) will tell a health professional.”

But why do so many male victims struggle to tell someone what’s going on?

Society places a lot of pressure upon its men to be strong and to admit no weakness. In domestic situations, they are usually expected to be ‘the head of the household’: the one who sets the rules and has most of the power.

In heterosexual abusive relationships where the man is the victim and the woman the perpetrator, these traditional gender roles are dramatically subverted. This often results in the victim feeling ‘less of a man’ and will hurt his already fragile ego to no end.

Furthermore, these societal gender roles make it a lot harder and more embarrassing for a man to admit to being in an abusive relationship. 

He may fear that telling a friend will result in the friend not believing him or even mocking him for letting a female partner control/physically hurt him.

If you’re a man and need to talk to someone about domestic abuse from your partner, ManKind Initiative is there to help you. 

Based in the UK, they receive calls from men of all ages and in all professions every day and offer confidential support to help those men escape their situations. Visit their site to find out more and get in touch.