Male Victims of Domestic Violence – When HE is the Victim
By Judith Brown
There are many programs for female victims of domestic violence too numerous to mention – and that’s a good thing. But what happens when the MALE is the victim of domestic violence? Are we as a society quick to intervene, do we show compassion for the male victim, or do we simply look the other way?
Mainstream media and cheesy tabloids exploded with the news. A physical altercation left singer Rihanna bruised, allegedly by her equally-popular, then-boyfriend, Chris Brown.
The news traveled far and fast. People everywhere were furious and even the hip-hop world spoke out on the alleged assault. Talk shows dedicated entire episodes on the topic of violence against women and rightly so.
For a certainty, the subject of domestic violence (DV) is no longer taboo. As recently as the early 1990’s, the topic was only spoken of in smaller, more intimate circles. There were whispers in the dark and for the most part, people – including the victims’ family members – turned a blind eye.
While the outrage toward domestic violence is most appropriate, we often view the victims as our mother, sister, daughter or other female acquaintance.
But what happens when the male is the victim of domestic violence? While there are hundreds of human service programs to aid female victims, most male victims of domestic violence are shown no compassion, and are, quite frankly, forgotten. What’s worse: many people aren’t even aware such brutality exists. And yet, of the 400,000 annually-reported incidents of domestic violence, about 40 percent include male victims of domestic violence, abused either by their male partners, their wives or their girlfriends.
Yes, domestic violence seems to be an equal opportunity plague in our society.
The Silent Plague
“Lee” is one such victim. But to hear him tell it the relationship is not a “domestic violence” issue. Lee says, “As a straight man, you don’t want to believe you’re the ‘victim’ of anything – let alone domestic violence. It’s not a macho image.”
Like female victims, male victims of domestic violence are often themselves misled. For example, Lee goes on to say that the problems he experiences with his Baby-Mama is “normal relationship” drama. He says this just after telling me that Baby-Mama threatens to take his children away; has appeared (uninvited) at his place of employment on several occasions; and at one point broke out his car windshield. Lee has also been physically abused at the hands of his Baby-Mama.
Lee’s outlook on domestic violence is all too common. While society would view a male stalker as an obvious threat, a female stalker seems less threatening. But the numbers don’t support that view.
Statically speaking, over 370,000 men are stalked annually in the Unites States. Of that number, 30 percent of stalkers are intimate partners. Yet, only 10 percent of male victims of domestic violence seek a Protection from Abuse (PFA) order from the courts.
Lee explains why he never sought a PFA. “As a Black man, I have been the object of racism by the police. I don’t trust them, so why would I call them if I’m in need of help? And…she is the mother of my children.”
Racist authority aside, there are also other underlying factors that contribute to the ignorance of the ever-growing trend of domestic violence against males. As one DV counselor put it, “It’s hard enough for women to admit they’re in a dangerous situation. As difficult as it is for women, male victims of domestic violence are three times as likely to overlook a serious domestic violence issue.”
In fact, no one knows the accurate numbers of male victims of domestic violence, since men seldom bring their issues out in the open.
The reasons men stay in abusive relationships mirror that of female abuse victims: (1) for the children; (2) assuming blame for the abuse; (3) dependency on the abuser.
For the Children – Like many female victims of domestic violence, male victims of domestic violence often stay in the relationship to protect their children from the abuser. Often the male victim feels that the object of the abuser’s rage might be directed toward the children if he did not reside in the home, or that the children might be used against him. As in Lee’s case, the thought of never seeing his children haunted him. He decided to stay. Yes, Lee yet remains a statistic, one of hundreds of thousands of male victims of domestic violence.
Assuming Blame – Again, like their female counterparts, many male victims of domestic violence assume ‘they deserve what they get.’ While the truth is far from the mantra, the psychological burden often takes its toll on the victim until there is no more fight left. Male victims of domestic violence simply give up and resort themselves to a life of victimization through emotional, mental or physical abuse.
Dependency on the Abuser for Survival – In many circumstances, male victims of domestic violence are dependent on their abuser, either mentally, emotionally or financially. This scenario leaves the male victim feeling worthless, depressed or anxious, as he relies on the very person who harms him to provide his everyday needs for survival.
What can WE Do?
“Our society must view violence as just that – violent behavior. It doesn’t matter who the abuser might be. We [society as a whole] need to report abuse whenever we witness it,” explains the aforementioned DV counselor.
Whereas society is often quick to dial 9-1-1 when we witness an assault on a woman, we often look in the opposite direction when the victim is a man.
“I have clients that feel they have no way out because they don’t have the same support system that a woman might have. Most male victims of domestic violence would never call their homeboys to tell them they got a black eye from their partner. The thought of being ridiculed is greater than the affects of the abuse,” says the counselor. “Often society thinks male victims of domestic violence should simply ‘man-up’!”
This type of ignorance often comes at a much heavier price. When we neglect to reveal incidents of domestic violence, the ones who suffer most are the children raised in homes where abuse is taking place. Studies show that children who witness abused relationships have a likely chance of growing up to be either a victim or an abuser.
If we as a society don’t soon step up to the plate, the ongoing trend of violence in our communities will continue. In short, whether an abuse victim is a man or woman, abuse is still abuse.
If you are an abuse victim, or are the witness to an incident of abuse, contact the National Domestic Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or TTY 1-800-787-3224 immediately.
Together we can stop this growing trend!
Brown is a contributing writer for Regal Black Men’s Magazine.