When Men are the Victims of Domestic Violence

This article is from MenWeb Battered Men.


The Male Victim
By Roger Eldridge

The vast majority of recorded incidents of domestic violence are of men on women. Society, although aware of the male victim, treats him as a joke. In reality he is a man in fear, a man in isolation, a man stigmatised as weak. Why? Because he does not conform to the stereotypical male image.

In law, a male victim faces two obstacles; firstly to prove he is a victim, and secondly, to ensure that his children are protected and do not become the new victims. Men very often remain in an abusive relationship for the sake and protection of their children.

Most men react by staying silent. Often this silence is encouraged by factors such as fear of ridicule and, the realisation that it is unlikely his partner will be evicted. Even when a man has proved he is the victim it seems his only course of action is to leave the home. He is then separated from his children and often experiences difficulty in obtaining realistic and regular contact with them. He is in fact treated as the perpetrator rather than the victim.

Fighting the Myths

Modern medicine is aware of certain conditions which may cause people to be violent but we expect such sufferers to seek help or medical treatment. Men are expected to take responsibility for violence and abuse but no excuses are accepted. Yet when a female is violent society provides a list of excuses: Post-natal depression, stress, PMT, eating disorders, personality disorders, menopause, addictions, childhood traumas, provocation, self-defence etc. Although most men will be sensitive to these problems, they should not have to suffer violence as a consequence.

When a woman is violent and abusive in a relationship, it is not necessarily assumed that she is a bad mother. If a man is violent towards his partner, it is automatically assumed that he is an unfit parent. The law presumes that the children are almost always better off with their mother. Consequently the only options for men seem to be to put up with the abuse or to leave the home, since under the law there is no real protection for them.

If a male victim seeks help, society should offer the same protection and help to him and his children as is given to female victims. Women should be judged by the same standards as men, and women who are violent should be held legally responsible for their actions.

How Men Cope

Men in abusive relationships employ various methods to attempt to diffuse potentially violent situations:

They may:

  • go into another room or lock themselves away in a safe place
  • leave the dwelling, go to family or friends (but tell no-one the real reason)
  • sleep in their car, shed, garage or wherever they can find shelter
  • promise to do whatever she asks or demands
  • accept responsibility for all sorts of untrue accusations
  • cover up for their violent partner

These are all survival tactics but will not stop the attacks. However, most men will do anythmg in the vain hope of stopping the abuse. What they fail to do is record the incidents, injuries or pattern of events. They fail to tell any family members of the situation and make excuses for their injuries even vrhen they attend the hospital or the doctor. They fear the humiliation and stigma of disclosure even when the abuse is life-threatening.

How Society Reacts

If men attempt to report incidents of abuse they are met with blatant discrimination, disbelief, gender bias and comments such as the following:

“You must have done something terrible to her to deserve this …”

“Look at the size of you! Maybe she was just defending herself.”

“We can’t arrest her – what about the children? ”


“Why don’t you just leave?”

“Give her time to calm down. “

Society seems to want these men to go away because there is no simple solution to their plight and there are no support systems in place to deal with them.

What men should do:

Always keep a record of dates and times of incidents.

Always report the violence to your doctor and to the Gardai – ensure that they record your injuries and all the details of the assault.

Always seek medical attention for any injuries — do not cover up the true cause.

Always take legal advice.

Do tell your family and friends what is happening to you.

Do not be provoked into retaliating.

Victims’ Comments

She said “You realise I could kill you and get away with it”. She slept with the knife under the pillow.

“I am 80 years old come Christmas. I am blind. I obtained a protection order against her. She laughed at it and the beatings have increased”.

“My little darling is 4’11”, I am 6’2″. The Gardai suggested I go home and sort her out myself.”

“As I put away the shopping she stabbed me in the back with a 7″ knife. I was put on life support. It was several days before my family knew whether I would survive.”

“I’m a doctor. Who do I talk to? Who is going to believe me?”

“My hair has been pulled out in tufts. I am not allowed to wash before going to work in the morning. She is obsessively jealous even though it is she who is having the affairs.”

“I am 84 years old. My wife is 75. The violence has gone on for 40 years and has become progressively worse.”

“She beat myself and the children. I took out protection on the children. She promptly got an interim barring order on me. The Gardai removed me from my home. For God’s sake I was the victim! Who will protect my children now?”

Male Victims come from all walks of life, social backgrounds and cultures.

Male Victims suffer society’s stigma for not protecting themselves.

Male Victims become depressed in their isolation, feel suicidal and sometimes take their own lives without disclosure.

Male Victims are victimised because they fail to conform to the Macho man stereotype.

Male Victims are perceived as wimps.

Male Victims are disbelieved because they are men.

Male Victims are refused the status of victim.

Male Victims are caring, sensitive men, good fathers and providers. They want help for the abuser not further abuse from society and the caring agencies.

Male Victims are removed from or asked to leave their homes because it is the easy option.

Male Victims have no support systems in place. They have no “listening ear”.

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