Why was the media laughing at Jay Z a year ago when his sister-in-law, Solange Knowles, attacked him? Because women can’t hurt men, right? Domestic violence against men isn’t a thing, is it? The truth is men can be victims. Some researchers have estimated that men account for up to 40% of those injured in heterosexual couple violence. If this is the reality that nearly half of all men face, why do we not hear about these cases? Surely we’re in a society that can respect the plight of a victim—even if that victim is a man. The unfortunate truth, however, is that it seems the general public (male and female) are not ready to allow the ideas of physical abuse or signs of emotional abuse to be witnessed, even under the guise of couples violence.
According to research published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine by Robert J Reid, MD, PhD, “doctors hardly ever ask our male patients about being abused—and they seldom tell us.” When the expectation is that men would not ever be the victims in such cases, it’s easy to see why they don’t come forward with requests for help or charges against their abusers. “Many abused men feel ashamed because of societal expectations for men to be tough and in control,” says Reid.
But how is it that as a shared global consciousness, we remain unaware of such findings? “Domestic violence in men is under-studied and often hidden—much as it was in women 10 years ago,” says Reid. Perhaps we just haven’t evolved enough to allow for anything by couples and women’s violence to be studied?
Unfortunately, studying general couples abuse and cases solely relating to women offers little clarity. “We know that many women may have trouble leaving abusive relationships, especially if they’re caring for young children and not working outside the home,” says Reid, “[but] we were surprised to find that most men in abusive relationships also stay, through multiple episodes, for years.”
According to research published in Intimate Partner Violence in the United States, which was commissioned by the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, more men experience psychological aggression from an intimate partner than women. Moreover, half of all men in the nation report experiencing at least one aggressive psychological attack in their lives.
It’s undeniable that the abuse is happening. By no means should it be thought that the number of men being abused eclipses the amount of battered women in the United States or the world, but perhaps viewing abuse as a gender issue is a big part of the problem. Dale Curd, a therapist and men’s specialist believes that “domestic violence is not a gender issue—it is a result of unhealthy relationships regardless of gender.” Curd went on to say: “When we categorize domestic violence according to gender, we essentially create a distinction that seems to imply some abuse is of lesser significance than others, and no abuse should be acceptable.”
What does a man do if he is being abused? The same services that are in place for battered woman do not always exist for men. Why? As we said, few men experience domestic violence and even fewer reach out for help. Having said that, there is help. The National Domestic Violence Hotline (800-799-SAFE) offers referrals to resources and crisis intervention. But chances are that few men reading this article, whether they are being abused or not, will take such action. According to Curd, “While it may be hard to believe, as a society, we have to find ways to make it clear to men that they are allowed to be more than a stereotype and give them permission to be hurt and seek help.”
Until that time comes, however, and especially since men have historically been hiding abuse and will no doubt continue to do so, it’s important for every man experiencing such violence to find the strength and self-worth to either seek help or at the very least walk away from their abusive partners in the hopes of finding a healthier life.