Domestic abuse doesn’t just happen to women. Statistics tell us that men are less likely to be abused. But is that really the case? Or have we just conditioned men to ignore the signs and shamed them into staying quiet?
We know they’re out there. So, why don’t we hear more about male domestic violence victims?
Male Domestic Abuse Victims: How Many Are There?
According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, about 13% of all callers identified themselves as male. About 1 in 7 of those men reported severe physical violence at the hands of an intimate partner. An estimated 1 in 10 men reports experiencing rape, physical violence, or stalking from a domestic partner.
Even though statistics show that women are more likely than men to experience intimate partner violence, experts believe men are far underreporting their abuse. Men experience domestic abuse, too. But they are less likely to recognize it as abuse and report it than their female counterparts.
There are many reasons that men either fail to recognize the abuse as a problem or decide not to report it. We’ll examine those reasons more below.
Female Against Male Abuse
Domestic violence doesn’t discriminate. Anyone can find themselves in an abusive relationship, regardless of race, socioeconomic status, geographic location, or gender.
Men end up in abusive relationships, too. However, female abusers tend to be emotionally or psychologically abusive rather than physically violent. Most often, female abusers use tactics like financial control, invasion of privacy (like reading text messages or demanding to know where their partner is at all times), talking down to their partners, stalking, or threatening to leave the relationship or take the children.
Because the abuse is less likely to be physical, men often fail to recognize this behavior as abusive.
Same-Sex Couples and Domestic Abuse
Men in the LGBTQ+ community have a higher risk of domestic violence than cisgender, heterosexual men. Studies show that about 1 in 4 gay men report experiencing rape, physical violence, or stalking by a partner.
Those who identify as LGBTQ+ are also less likely to report the abuse because of real and perceived barriers to care. In some instances, male victims might not have supportive family to lean on if they leave an abusive relationship, leaving them feeling like they have few options.
Why Men Don’t Report
Why don’t we hear more about male victims of domestic abuse?
Even though men experience domestic violence, they are substantially less likely to report it than female survivors. There are several reasons for this underreporting:
In some cases, men don’t even realize they can experience domestic abuse. So much of the public conversation about domestic violence centers around female victims. Most of us don’t associate domestic violence with male victims. And because we never hear about or see their stories, many men wrongly assume that what they’re experiencing isn’t abuse, or they don’t know how to report it.
Many men who experience abuse avoid reporting because they don’t want to appear weak or “less of a man.” American culture is a patriarchal society. Even today, many boys are taught to “suck it up” or “be a man.” They’re taught not to cry, not to show emotion, and to “be tough” when they experience hardship.
Therefore, when they find themselves in unhealthy relationships, they don’t have the tools they need to share their concerns with friends or ask for help. Instead, they endure the abuse, afraid that reporting the abuse would make them appear weak.
Fewer Resources and Support Systems
Men also avoid reporting abuse because they believe they have fewer resources and support. After all, what’s the sense of reporting abuse if there’s no help for male victims?
While the bulk of shelters and other domestic violence resources are aimed at female victims, male survivors can get help, too (more about that below).
Resources for Male Survivors
Abuse is never okay. Male survivors deserve healthy relationships just as much as everyone else.
Many domestic violence resource services are increasingly offering support for male victims. The most prominent source, the National Domestic Violence Hotline, has trained advocates that can help abuse survivors identify the abuse, leave abusive situations safely, and report the abuse to the proper authorities when necessary.
Male survivors can also contact their local domestic violence shelter. If the local shelter isn’t equipped to take male clientele, the center should be able to direct him to another shelter than can help.
Finally, everyone experiencing domestic violence – regardless of gender – can take steps to keep themselves safe. Start by creating a safety plan, which can help you plan for potential escalating situations.
Do you think you or someone you love might be in an abusive relationship? Click here to learn more about the signs of abuse and how to stay safe.