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Medically reviewed by Scientific Advisory Board — Written by Victoria Ramos on April 9, 2014
In 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 HelpGuide.org, 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.
It is true, however, than women tend to abuse men differently than men abuse women. Women generally favor emotional abuse tactics, making the abuse much more difficult to detect.
Examples of the ways women perpetrate emotional abuse include:
- Extreme mood swings
- Constant anger or displeasure
- Withholding sex
- Name calling
- Public humiliation
Women rarely inflict physical abuse in the same way as men. However, it can still happen.
Examples of the ways women perpetrate physical abuse include:
- Harming pets
- Destroying possessions
- Striking out with fists or feet
- Using weapons, such as guns or knives
Women frequently are excused for these behaviors. Some excuses include “she was abused when she was younger”; “she experienced severe emotional trauma”; or “it’s just hormones.”
Even if a man does not sustain serious (or even physical) injuries from these abusive episodes, the damage manifests itself in other ways.
- Abused men are more likely to linger at work or after-work activities because they don’t want to go home.
- When asked how the relationship is going, he will hide the truth, saying, “It’s going great.” He doesn’t want to appear weak, or if the abusive partner is present, he doesn’t want to incite another episode of abuse.
- Excessive reading, watching TV, or playing video games becomes his way of escaping reality. He also may turn to substance abuse, especially alcohol.
- Abused men demonstrate unwillingness to trust, low self-esteem, emotional numbness, or depression. In severe cases, this can lead to suicidal thoughts.
- Suicidal thoughts may stimulate a sudden interest in reckless behavior. This can be as casual as reckless driving or walking into the road without looking. Or it can be a fascination with extreme sports such as mountain biking, bungee jumping, and other thrills in which death would be considered accidental.
- Sometimes, the stress will manifest itself physically with vague physical symptoms like insomnia, fatigue, indigestion, and headaches.
If you are being abused, call 1-888-7HELPLINE (1-888-743-5754), (in the USA), The Domestic Abuse Helpline for Men and Women. You are not alone, and you are not weak for seeking outside help.
However, due to unfortunate social stereotypes, you must be prepared for an uphill battle. Even for well-developed countries such as the U.S. and Canada, domestic abuse claims become suspicious when a man is reporting it. But there are things you can do to help convince the authorities.
- First, get out. Go to a safe house or somewhere else you know you (and your children, if any) will be protected.
If you have children, this may help you argue your case. Police are under legal obligation to protect children in cases of suspected danger.
- Don’t respond to the abusive behavior. If you allow the abuser to goad you into reacting, she may call the police and claim you abused her. This can potentially get you arrested.
- Collect evidence of your partner’s abusive behavior in a discreet place. Reporting all incidents to the police, keeping a journal complete with witness list, and taking pictures of injuries all provide convincing evidence. When a restraining order or other legal action becomes necessary, evidence is key to success.
After all is said and done, you will likely be emotionally exhausted, although free. It will take a while to undo the emotional damage from your experiences, so seek a therapist. He or she can guide you through the healing process. You can take your life back, and you will smile again.
Last medically reviewed on April 9, 2014