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If you’re a man in an abusive relationship, it’s important to know that you’re not alone. Abuse of men happens far more often than you might expect—in both heterosexual and same sex relationships. It happens to men from all cultures and all walks of life, regardless of age or occupation.

About two in five of all victims of domestic violence are men, contradicting the widespread impression that it is almost always women who are left battered and bruised, a new report claims.

Men assaulted by their partners are often ignored by police, see their attacker go free and have far fewer refugees to flee to than women.

Domestic violence (DV, also known as intimate partner violence) deservedly receives a great deal of coverage in the media. DV is generally viewed as a gender issue where the victims are usually women and the perpetrators are usually men. This view was supported by early studies, which identified women as about 80% of DV victims and men as 20%. However, these studies were conducted using police reported statistics and men generally are reluctant to report a domestic abuse situation to the police for a number of reasons. These reasons include the social taboo for a man to be a victim, the fear of being arrested instead since police are directed to approach domestic incidents with a gendered lens, concern about leaving their children with their abusive partner, as well as the fear that an escalation in the domestic conflict would lead to separation and the victim will lose contact with his children.

Domestic abuse is not limited to violence. Emotional and verbal abuse can be just as damaging. As a male, your spouse or partner may:

  • Verbally abuse you, belittle you, or humiliate you in front of friends, colleagues, or family, or on social media.
  • Be possessive, act jealous, or harass you with accusations of being unfaithful.
  • Take away your car keys or medications, try to control where you go and who you see.
  • Try to control how you spend money or deliberately default on joint financial obligations.
  • Make false allegations about you to your friends, employer, or the police, or find other ways to manipulate and isolate you.
  • Threaten to leave you and prevent you from seeing your kids if you report the abuse.

If you’re gay, bisexual, or transgender

You may be in an abusive relationship if your partner:

  • Threatens to inform friends, family, colleagues, or community members about your sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • Insists that the police won’t help someone who’s gay, bisexual, or transgender.
  • Ridicules your attempts to escape the relationship by labeling you as someone who deep-down believes that gay, bisexual, or transgender relationships are aberrant or unnatural.
  • Accuses you of not really being gay, bisexual, or transgender.
  • Justifies their abuse with the excuse that all men are naturally aggressive and violent.

Why Men May Not Reach Out For Help When Experiencing Domestic Violence

Regardless of gender, ending a relationship, even an abusive one, is rarely easy. It becomes even harder if you’ve been isolated from friends and family, threatened, manipulated, and controlled, or physically and emotionally beaten down.

You may feel that you have to stay in the relationship because:

You feel ashamed. Many men feel great shame that they’ve been abused, been unable to stand up for themselves, or somehow failed in their role as a male, husband, or father.

Your religious beliefs dictate that you stay or your self-worth is so low that you feel this abusive relationship is all you deserve.

There’s a lack of resources. Many men worry they’ll have difficulty being believed by the authorities, or that their abuse will be minimized because they’re male, or find there are few resources to specifically help abused men.

You’re in a same sex relationship but haven’t come out to family or friends, and are afraid your partner will out you.

You’re in denial. Just as with female domestic violence victims, denying that there is a problem in your relationship will only prolong the abuse. You may still love your partner when they’re not being abusive and believe they will change or that you can help them. But change can only happen once your abuser takes full responsibility for their behavior and seeks professional treatment.

You want to protect your children. You worry that if you leave, your spouse will harm your children or prevent you from having access to them. Obtaining custody of children is always challenging for fathers, but even if you are confident that you can do so, you may still feel overwhelmed at the prospect of raising them alone.

At Life Under Construction, we understand domestic violence can happen to anyone – even men. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report 1 in 9 men will be physically, emotionally, and/or mentally abused by an intimate partner in their lifetime. Our Shelter staff and volunteers are committed to helping all victims of domestic violence through a wide range of services.