When a man is a victim of partner abuse

The US Dept. of Justice says there about 840,00 male victims of domestic violence each year.

These are just the men we know about. If there’s anything I’ve learned in 10 years of advocacy for unserved victims of partner abuse, it’s that men don’t tell. Some men even think that being abused is the price they have to pay for living with a beautiful/wonderful/sexy women.

Nobody really knows how many men are being abused by their wives or girlfriends. The numbers of victims don’t actually matter; what matters is that men are being abused every day, and it’s no joke. Despite the popular presumption that men should somehow be able to “control” the woman in their lives, and if they can’t, then they deserve what they get, the fact is that today a man who tries to defend himself is more likely than not to end up in jail.

Several decades of awareness campaigns devoted to shedding light on the issue of battered women have resulted in laws that have tipped the scales so far that not only do male victims have little or no legal recourse, abusive women have learned to take advantage of these women-friendly laws and public policies as an aspect of their abusive behaviors.

So what can a man do, when the behavior of his significant other is either violent, abusive, or both?

Because the few objective researchers into the matter have recognized partner abuse as a multi-faceted problem, with a number of causes and origins, there are no easy answers. There are, however, a few things you can do on your own to help not only yourself, but your partner as well.

Probably the most important thing to recognize is that not all situations are alike. Not only is there no single cause for partner abuse, abusive people – male or female – do not all follow the same pattern. There is no supportable evidence for the idea that domestic violence is always a deliberate choice; neither does it always progress in severity.

First, try to look to the cause. It’s possible that some women just don’t realize what they’re doing.

Maybe they’ve been brought up in the kind of an environment where this kind of behavior is considered usual. Some people live their entire lives in an atmosphere of mutual combat on a regular basis – we’re talking about long-term marriages of many years. If that’s the kind of family she had growing up, perhaps she’d be willing to get some counseling, if she knows she’s causing harm to her husband or children.

Is there a medical problem? If a woman who has been congenial and serene suddenly becomes angry or violent, there’s a possibility that a visit to a doctor could be helpful. There are a number of conditions and diseases that can cause behavioral changes, and early recognition and treatment for these problems is important. Fortunately, women are more likely to seek medical treatment if they know that it’s necessary.

What about drugs or alcohol? Is the abusive behavior something that seems to occur when she’s under the influence? Would she be willing to get help for this problem if she knows it’s causing harm to her family?

If those kinds of solutions have not been helpful, perhaps then it is a case of a psychological problem such as borderline personality disorder.

At the extreme end of the scale is the woman who knows what she is doing, and doesn’t care. In that kind of a situation, then it’s up to you to decide whether you can live under these conditions, or you need to get out for your own safety, or the safety of your children.

There are a few things you can do to be proactive in dealing with a situation that is violent or has the potential to turn violent:

  • Move the argument: if you are in the bedroom or kitchen, try to move. The bedroom has understandable reminders of issues that could be important, and the kitchen can be a dangerous source of weapons. The living room or even the front yard is a better place for you to be.
  • If you have collections of guns or knives get them out of the house, and store them elsewhere. Women tend to go to weapons as equalizers more quickly than men. While even simple items as CD cases and wine glasses can be turned into weapons by a violent woman, it makes sense to remove the obvious dangers.
  • Get witnesses. Tell family or friends about your situation, difficult as that may be. Even one person with first-hand knowledge of your problem can make the difference between your wife or girlfriend getting help or using the issue against you. That’s why I suggested the front yard in the earlier point. A nosy neighbor can be your best friend in some cases.
  • Do not phone police unless you are in immediate danger, and your life is at risk. Law enforcement professionals nationwide have been trained to presume the man is always the perpetrator. There have been many cases where a man has been arrested, even while his wife is in the process of assaulting him and/or a police officer. Don’t add this extra risk unless you absolutely cannot avoid it.
  • Have a safety plan. Put together a bag with a change of clothes, cash, spare keys and toiletries, and keep it somewhere away from your residence. If you have children, make provisions for them as well, and also include such things as birth certificates and social security cards. You may want to start storing your important papers in a bank safety deposit box. Be sure to arrange for a place to go if you need to spend a night or more away from home.

It’s important for male victims to be aware than you cannot rely on help from traditional domestic violence programs. You are not welcome at most shelters, and some domestic violence hotlines train their employees to attempt to convince male callers they are actually at fault.

This article is only an overview of the main points of the issue. For more information here are some resources for men:

Domestic Abuse Helpline for Men and Women
Men's eNews
The San Diego Men’s Centers
Stop Abuse For Everyone

I also have video at my own site that provides a look into the circumstance of a few men. Entitled, Husband Beaters , it is in five parts and was part of the Secret Lives of Women series on the WE network.

©2010, Trudy W. Schuett

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Trudy W. Schuett is an Arizona-based online veteran with 10 years in cyberspace; an author and multiblogger. She has held workshops on blogging, writing, and promo for writers at the New Communications Forum and Arizona Western College, and has participated in world blogging events such as Global PR Blog Week. She is also an advocate for unserved victims of domestic violence. She is is the author of three novels, two how-to books and eight blogs. Note: Books are currently out of print, but two appear in blog form. She currently publishes New Perspectives on Partner Abuse at She has a video at her site that provides a look into the circumstance of a few men. Entitled, Husband Beaters It is in five parts and was part of the Secret Lives of Women series on the WE network. She publishes the AZ Rural Times and New Perspectives on Partner Abuse , she is on Twitter and Facebook She lives in Yuma AZ, with her husband, Paul. or E-Mail.

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