Men and Abusive Relationships: It’s Not Always What You Think
Most conversations surrounding the topic of dating violence and domestic abuse focus on female victims of abuse. And of course there is a deep need for this focus: after all, the majority of abuse victims are women.
However, without denying the urgency of these women’s stories, it’s important to remember that there are men who face abusive situations as well. Male survivors of abuse are much more common than people often realize, and like female survivors, they come from all walks of life. It’s estimated that 1 in 4 men has experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking at the hands of a romantic partner. Additionally, RAINN estimates that 10% of sexual assault victims are male.
Dating violence and domestic abuse against men often looks similar to abuse against women–especially in terms of psychological effects. And abuse is never “less severe,” no matter who is the abuser and who is being abused. However, there are distinguishing elements that make these situations somewhat more complicated. For instance, many men feel that they cannot seek help for fear of not being believed: men are not “supposed” to be the victims. Men in abusive situations also face the possibility of losing custody of any children involved, and the skepticism of law enforcers. In the past, many shelters for victims of domestic abuse catered to women only, simply not having the resources for male survivors. The recent changes to the Violence Against Women Act now require domestic violence and sexual abuse shelters to serve men in the same manner they serve women.
While at first glance there don’t seem to be as many resources available to men seeking escape from abusive relationships, there are still many organizations that are attentive to this need. Hands of Hope, a division of Family Service Society, Inc., provides intervention and prevention services focusing on domestic violence and sexual abuse to anyone facing domestic violence or sexual abuse, regardless of gender. If you or someone you know is facing domestic violence or sexual abuse, Hands of Hope has a 24-hour Crisis Hotline that can be reached toll free at 1-800-434-8973. Additional resources include: Help4Guys, MaleSurvivor, and 1in6.
Ultimately, abuse is abuse, no matter who is the recipient. While our culture pushes men to be tough, powerful, and masculine, there are men in abusive situations who experience genuine pain and emotional trauma. Their reality is just as important as that of any other abuse survivor.