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Battered Men - The Hidden Side of Domestic Violence

Help for Battered Men

Why Men Don't Do Anything About It

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.

Find out more about battered men


Here’s some information from Phil Cook’s pamphlet for battered men. (Ordering information: see Phil's Web site. Why not order a handful and try to get your local DV shelter program to put them out?)

Abused Men: The Hidden Side of Domestic Violence


Taking on a macho “I can handle it” attitude. Even if you have been hurt much worse on an athletic playing field, that is not the same thing as being physically attacked by your intimate partner, which hurts emotionally as well as physically. Allowing this pattern to continue can result in depression, substance abuse, loss of confidence, even suicide. (At its worst, It has resulted in death at the hands or a partner or someone induced to kill you by the partner.)

“Men Don’t Tell.” This is the actual title of a fact-based CBS TV movie about male victims of domestic abuse. Keeping silent, (not confiding to a friend, relative or professional) is a common reaction of both male and female victims of domestic abuse; it’s embarrassing. Men typically face a greater degree of disbelief and ridicule than do most women in this situation, which helps enforce the silence. Domestic violence victims make excuses for injuries that show (“It was an accident” or “it happened while playing sports”) when friends or medical personnel ask about them.

Hiding From it. Men often escape a bad home life that they are afraid of by spending extra time at work, staying in “their” space (garage, den) at home, or even sleeping in the car or at a friends place.

As my wife and I discussed this and reviewed case histories we're familiar with, we came up with five major, interrelated categories why a man--or a woman--might stay in an abusive relationship:

  • Shame
What will my friends, family, colleagues and neighbors think?
What will people think if they knew I let a woman beat up on me?
It's a private matter--belongs in the family
If I say anything, she'll tell everyone I'm the abusive one, and shame me in public
I'm ashamed I'm not strong enough to defend myself.
Everyone knows it's men that are the violent ones (shame of male for being male)
  • Self-Worth
I probably deserved it.
This is the best I deserve.
With my looks, or age, or personality, or income, this is as good a relationship as I'll ever be able to get.
  • Denial
It's not that bad.
All I have to do is leave the house until she cools down. (That's what TV star Phil Hartman said , before his wife murdered him and killed herself.)
I can weather this one, just like I did the others.
  • Reluctance to Give Up the Good
If people got to know her, they'd see what a creative, or loving, or wonderful person she is.
She's like this only some of the time.
The sex is great, and I can put up with being batted around a little.
I'd be lost without a relationship with her.
I'd be lost without a relationship.
  • Inertia
It's too hard to do anything.
I'm not ready for that much change in my life.
I'll do it tomorrow, or later, when I'm not so busy.
Sounds like a lot of work--more to take care of than I can handle right now.
Force of habit. I'm used to life the way it is now.

Another reason for staying is to protect the kids. The research shows that people--women as well as men--who assault their partners are likely to assault their children, too. If he leaves, chances are he'll never be able to come back. In today's climate, there's a good chance she'll be able to allege that he has assaulted her or assaulted or even sexually abused the kids, and get a protection order on her say-so, barring him from seeing the kids. This was a common theme in many of the battered men's personal stories here on MenWeb. Sorry, guys, but if you need to come up with a safety plan and plan out a way for you and the kids to leave the abusive relationship, you also need a "dose of reality" about what some of the risks and problems are. They aren't insurmountable problems, and many guys have overcome them, but they are difficult ones.

But there's another factor, too. If a man is being battered and trying to protect the kids, and he calls 911, too-frequently he is the one who ends up being arrested. This was another common theme in many of the battered men's personal stories here on MenWeb. At a minimum, he may experience problems getting the police to believe that he's been assaulted or that he needs police help. Family violence researcher Murray A. Straus observes:

Men are also less likely to call the police, even when there is injury, because, like women, they feel shame about disclosing family violence. But for many men, the shame is compounded by the shame of not being able to keep their wives under control. Among this group, a "real man" would be able to keep her under control. Moreover, the police tend to share these same traditional gender role expectations. This adds to the legal and regulatory presumption that the offender is a man. As a result, the police are reluctant to arrest women for domestic assault. Women know this. That is, they know they are likely to be able to get away with it. As in the case of other crimes, the probability of a woman assaulting her partner is strongly influenced by what she thinks she can get away with.

One man's story. Why don't men seek help? A male therapist who had to deal with abuse issues in his own life posted an answer to that on Usenet. Doug Flor was formerly a project coordinator for the Department of Child and Family Development and the Adolescent Development Research Program, Institute for Behavioral Research, The University of Georgia

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S.A.F.E. logo

S.A.F.E. ( concentrates on domestic violence against straight men, gay men, and lesbian women, because few services exist for these groups. Personal stories, a comprehensive listing of Web resources and books, info on local shelters and groups that help battered men or offer services for abusive women, suggestions on how you can make a difference in the lives of people affected by abuse. E-mail list and Bulletin Board.

Links to other info on the Web
Including media coverage of the topic
ABC News Special ReportMetro: Silicon Valley WeeklyNovaNewsNetUK Channel 4 logoMother Jones November/December 1994 cover


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