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Battered Men - The Hidden Side of Domestic Violence

Help for Battered Men

What Is Abuse?

Are You in an Abusive Relationship?

© 1999 by Bert H. Hoff

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Note: If you have been the victim of domestic violence, please e-mail me and tell me about it. What happened? Did you tell anyone about it? Why or why not? Did you seek help? Why or why not? If you did seek help, did you get it? May we publish your story here? We'll do it anonymously, unless you give specific permission to use your name and/or e-mail address.

Know a man who may be battered? Print out this page and give it to him. Often, it'll be enough to get him to talk to you about it -- if not right away, perhaps in a bit. And talking to another man about it is the first step in healing -- in survival.
Remember: TV star and comedian Phil Hartman never talked about his marital problems, either, except to joke about having to leave the house when his wife was mad. He told everyone the marriage was wonderful -- as so many men do.

Are You Battered or Abused?
Check out MenWeb's listing of resources for battered men

Are You in an Abusive Relationship?

A man who had to deal with abuse issues in his own life (and who has started a message board for abused men) looked into the issue of how a man can know if his relationship is abusive. He found two books that focus on women in abusive relationships, but none for men. He has extracted and edited sections from these books, to make them relevant for men.

A message board for battered men ...

Battered Husband Support
A place for battered husbands or boyfriends.
If you're a man who's been battered by your female partner, this is a place to come for support. The only rule I'm absolutely firm on is that anyone abusing others here will be booted. Other than that, any areas of discussion are open.
     -- anpwhotep

It's Not OK Anymore
order on-line

Here are some ideas drawn from It's Not OK Anymore, by Greg Enns and Jan Black (order on-line). The man who operates the message board says it's a good guide to helping you decide for yourself whether you are being abused (or have been abused), and helps in guiding you through the steps you need to take to escape your abuser, and once you've escaped, change your own life so you don't go back, or get involved with another person who's like the person you left.

Some things that are worth thinking about when you're wondering "Was I abused?" include:

  • Did she embarass or humiliate you in front of other people, including your friends or family?
  • Did she insist that anything you wanted for yourself was selfish and/or wrong?
  • Did she withhold affection to "punish" you for any violations of her rules?
  • Did she intimidate you in any way?
  • Did she threaten you, or threaten to harm herself or anyone else, if/when you left?
  • Did she force you to ask her for money, or take your money away from you? Did she have control of the family finances, so you didn't even know what or when money was being spent?
  • Did she prevent you from taking a job you wanted, or going to school? Did she force you, either directly or through manipulation, to quit a job you had?
  • Did she make jokes about her treatment of you, insist that she never did anything to hurt you, or blame you for her behavior?
  • Did she treat you as if you were her servant?
  • Did she ever make you do things you felt were wrong or illegal?
  • Did she ever belittle your beliefs, or tell you that your faith is wrong?
  • Did she make you leave social gatherings, or restrict your contact with your friends or family?
  • Did she make you feel afraid, or like you needed to be "careful" around her?
  • Did she make you feel guilty or ashamed about yourself, your feelings, your beliefs, or anything else that makes you a unique individual?
Any one of these is a sign of abuse. Only you can decide how many it takes to add up to proof that you were abused.

Here are some ideas from the book The Verbally Abusive Relationship, by Patricia Evans, and adjusted to reflect the fact that we're talking about abusive women

Signs that you're living with a verbal abuser.

  • She seems irritated or angry with you several times a week or more although you hadn't meant to upset her. You are surprised each time. (She says she's not mad when you ask her what she's mad about, or she tells you in some way that it's your fault.)
  • When you feel hurt or try to discuss your upset feelings with her, you don't feel as if the issue has been fully resolved, so you don't feel happy and relieved, nor do you have a feeling that you've "kissed and made up". (She says, "You're just trying to start an argument!" or in some other way expresses her refusal to discuss the situation.)
  • You frequently feel perplexed and frustrated by her responses because you can't get her to understand your intentions.
  • You are upset not so much about concrete issues -- how much time to spend with each other, where to go on vactaion, etc. -- as about the communication in the relationship: what she thinks you said and what you heard her say.
  • You sometimes wonder, "What's wrong with me? I shouldn't feel so bad."
  • She rarely, if ever, seems to want to share her thoughts or plans with you.
  • She seems to take the opposite view from you on almost everything you mention, and her view is not qualified by "I think" or "I believe" or "I feel" -- as if your view were wrong and hers were right.
  • You sometimes wonder if she perceives you as a separate person.
  • You can't recall saying to her, "Cut it out!" or, "Stop it!"
  • She is either angry or has "no idea of what you're talking about" when you try to discuss an issue with her.

If these signs seem familiar to you, it's a good bet you're being verbally abused. And that can be difficult to convince anyone else of, because some identifying traits of verbal abuse include:

  • Mostly, it's done in secret. Your abuser usually doesn't do it where anyone else can witness it.
  • It usually starts off with little stuff, then gets worse over time, so you get accustomed to it...and other people get accustomed to seeing you suffer it.
  • It comes in many disguises.
  • It consistently discounts your perceptions. No matter how cruel your partner is, she will deny that anything is wrong.
  • Finally, physical abuse is always preceded by verbal abuse.

Verbal abuse is hurtful. Especially when it's denied.

Verbal abuse attacks your nature and abilities, usually so thoroughly that you begin to believe that there's something inherently wrong with you, or that your abilities are actually failings.

Verbal abuse may be overt (angry outbursts and namecalling) or covert (subtle stuff, like brainwashing).

Verbal abuse may be voiced in an extremely sincere and concerned way (like when she expresses her concern that you just aren't capable of understanding finances well enough to balance your checkbook).

Verbal abuse is manipulative and controlling.

Verbal abuse is insidious -- it destroys your self-esteem, it steals your self-confidence, it brainwashes you to try to change yourself to please your abuser, so she won't hurt you anymore.

Verbal abuse is unpredictable. No matter how intelligent, careful, or perceptive you are, she'll always find a way to hit a blind spot you didn't even know you had.

Verbal abuse is the issue in the relationship. In normal relationships, arguments are over concrete things that can be resolved. In a verbally abusive one, there is no specific conflict - the whole point of any argument is to make you suffer.

Verbal abuse expresses a double message. For example, she'll say something like "I love you", and then spend 4 hours raving about how love is worthless and all that matters is power; or she'll scream "I'm not mad!" in a rage-filled voice; or she'll suggest going out to dinner, and then treat you like a servant.

Verbal abuse usually escalates, increasing in intensity, frequency, and variety. For example, early in the relationship she may make jokes about you, and as time goes on she'll start "punishing" you by withholding affection, namecalling, accusing and blaming, undermining, maybe even escalating into face-slapping, kicking, biting, scratching, or even use of weapons.

Related: Utra-Sensitive Men and Abusive Relationships. Not just for ultra-sensitive men. Ultra-sensitive men don't have diffrent reactions to an abusive relationship, often, they have more intense reactions. They're magnified, and we can see them more clearly. If you recognize any of the patterns you see in this article, whether or not you're ultra-sensitive, it's time to look at whether your relationship is abusive.

Related: Borderline Personality Disorder and Abusive Relationships. Is she "crazymaking"? Borderline personality disorders are often abusive in relationships, and have often been abused themselves. Here's more information.

Are You Battered or Abused?
Check out MenWeb's listing of resources for battered men

Click here for books on battered men.

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Click here to return to MenWeb's Battered Men page

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Domestic Violence in Washington: 25,473 Men a Year
According to a Nov. 1998 Department of Justice report on the National Violence Against Women Survey, 1,510,455 women and 834,732 men are victims of physical violence by an intimate. In Washington, that's 42,824 women and 25,473 men. That includes 2,754 on whom a knife was used, 5,508 threatened with a knife and 11,016 hit with an object. Here are the data.

Help for Battered Men Practical suggestions, Hotline numbers, on-line resources. Print it out and hand it to a man you think may be battered--your caring opens him up to talking about it.

Men's Stories Here are some personal stories by battered men, and links to sites with more of them. The more we talk about it, the more we tell our stories, the more we increase public awareness that men are battered and encourage battered men to get the help they need. Send us your story, so we can post it here (anonymously, of course, unless you tell us differently.)

What's Wrong with the Duluth Model? The "Duluth Model" is the approach most widely used for perpetrator treatment--but it gender polarizes the "people problem" of domestic violence.. What's wrong with the Duluth Model? It blames and shames men. It's based on ideology, not science. It ignores drinking, drugs and pathology. Only one cause, only one solution. There's no real evidence it works. It ignores domestic violence by women. Women who need help can't get it. It's taught by wounded healers.

Latest Research Findings National Violence Against Women survey shows 37.5% of victims each year are men. Men are at real risk of serious physical injury. Murray A. Straus looks at controversies in DV research. Martin Fiebert examines reasons women give for assaulting men. JAMA emergency room study shows equal number of men, woman victims.


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