November 2013

Male Domestic Abuse

The last week of November is recognised as being the time of the white ribbon campaign, to raise awareness of domestic abuse against women.  Whilst it is hugely important to campaign about this, we must also acknowledge that not much attention is given to  the issue of domestic abuse against men, so Men's Sexual Health is launching our first campaign on this; to help promote this important topic, working in partnership with the Swindon Community Safety Partnership, Swindon Domestic Violence Forum & Swindon SARC. The concept behind the campaign is 'lifting the mask off Domestic Abuse', and the fact that men can be victims too, whilst  they may be hiding under a mask of false smiles with friends, work colleagues or other members of their family, in fact, they could be a victim of domestic abuse.

40% of domestic abuse victims are male; that's 2 of every 5 victims
1 in 6 men will be a victim of domestic abuse in their lifetime
1 man is killed every fortnight by a current or ex-partner
Men are twice as likely NOT to tell anyone about being a victim
Gay and Bi Men are twice as likely as straight men to suffer partner abuse
Nearly half of those who were LGBT survivors of domestic abuse experienced more than 20 incidents before they sought help

What is classed as Domestic Abuse?   The Government definition of domestic abuse is:

Any incident or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse (psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional) between adults who are or have been intimate partners or are family members, regardless of gender or sexuality.

This not only includes physical violence but other types of abuse such as verbal abuse, threatening behaviour, emotional/psychological abuse, financial abuse, sexual abuse, isolation and false allegations. It can happen to any man, no matter what background, age, job, race or sexuality.

So let’s look more closely at some of those examples.

Examples of power and control:
Abusers believe they have a right to control their partners by:
Telling them what to do and expecting obedience
Using force to maintain power and control
Not accepting responsibility for the abuse – not their fault
Forced marriage

Examples of physical abuse include:

Being kicked, punched, pinched, slapped, choked and bitten
Use or threats of use of ‘weapons’ including knives and irons
Being scalded or poisoned
Objects being thrown
Violence against family members or pets
Willfully stopping fathers from seeing their children by breaching court orders

Examples of verbal abuse:
Constant yelling and shouting
Verbal humiliation either in private or in company
Constantly being laughed at and being made fun of
Blaming you for their own failures

Examples of threatening behaviour:
The threat of violence
The threat of use of ‘weapons’ including knives and irons
The threat of use of violence against family members or pets
Threatening to use extended family members to attack you
Destroying personal items
Threatening to tell the police that you are the person committing the domestic abuse
Threatening to remove your children

Examples of Emotional and Psychological Abuse:
Withholding affection
Turning your children and friends against you
Being stopped from seeing friends or relatives
Constantly being insulted, including in front of others
Repeatedly being belittled
Keeping you awake/stopping you sleeping
Excessive contact, for example stalking
Using social media sites to intimidate you (such as Facebook and Twitter)

Examples of Financial Abuse:
Totally controlling the family income
Not allowing you to spend any money unless ‘permitted’
Making you account for every pound you spend
Running up huge bills such as credit/store cards in your name
Purposely defaulting on payments

Examples of Sexual Abuse:
Sexual harassment/pressure
Forcing sex after physical assaults
Sexually degrading language

Examples of Isolation:
Limiting outside involvement such as family, friends and work colleagues
Not allowing any activity outside the home that does not include her
Constant checking up on your whereabouts

Examples of False Allegations:
Telling the police that you are the one committing the domestic abuse when it is the other way around
Telling friends, families, your employer and others such as sports clubs that you are the one committing the domestic abuse
False allegations of another ‘crime’

Many of the effects of abuse for the male victim of domestic violence are the same as for women. They are likely to feel deeply shamed, frightened, experience a loss of self-worth and confidence, feel isolated, guilty and confused about the situation.

A lot of male victims of abuse however, have great difficulty defining it as such. This is partially due to the image  western society generally has of Man. Men are often thought of as strong, domineering and macho. Boys, even at a young age, are taught that it is unmanly to cry. To many, the idea of a grown man being frightened or vulnerable is a taboo, the idea of a man - usually physically the stronger - of being battered, ludicrous. Hence many male victims of abuse may feel "less of a man" for suffering abuse, feel as though they are in some way not manly enough and ought to have the ability to prevent the abuse.

The reality though is that even if a man is physically attacked by their wives or partners, many men will take a beating rather than hitting back to defend themselves and risk harming their attacker, and even if they do, they are aware that they then risk being accused of being an abuser themselves. But abuse is not always physical, and a lot of men, in common with many women, face daily emotional, verbal and psychological abuse in silence for years, their self-esteem being slowly eroded away, more and more isolated from those around them.

Men can also be victims of sexual abuse. A gay victim may be raped by their partner, suffering all the agonies any other rape victim would. Many men in abusive relationships do not feel in control of their own sex life, their partners may demand or coerce intercourse, may make derisory comments about their manhood or ridicule them in public. Any form of sexual contact which is knowingly without consent can be experienced as sexual abuse - regardless of gender! Many men also experience "sex as a reward for good behaviour" and the opposite of being denied any intimacy if they have (knowingly or not) done something to displease their partners, as being an abusive use of sexuality. In an abusive relationship, sex is often used as another form of manipulating and controlling the other person, whether male or female, and that is abusive.

And many men with children feel trapped in an abusive relationship because they fear that if they leave, they will lose contact with their children. They may also be afraid that their abusive partner will continue to abuse the children if they are gone (especially if this is already the case). They are aware that in most cases, residency is given to the mother, and they are afraid that even if they do disclose the abuse they have suffered in Court, that they will either simply not be believed, or, worse, that their abusive partner will somehow 'turn the tables' on them, and they will be condemned as abusive and have an even harder time gaining any adequate contact, let alone residency of their children.

If you are a man and are being abused or have recently escaped an abusive relationship, please know that you are not alone. There are many of you out there, and many, like you, feel as though you are the only one to experience this sort of abuse. It is okay to be frightened, confused and hurt. Someone you love, care about and trust has broken that trust, turned against you and hurt you.

You don't have to suffer in silence, there are agencies and people who do care and can offer you help, support and advice.
If you live in Swindon then you can contact the Swindon Community Safety Partnership

There is also Mankind which is a national support service 01823 334244

For LGBT support there is national support service Broken Rainbow and for bi/gay men you can download a useful booklet using this link and for Trans support use this link

The team at MSH is also available for help and support, so get in touch with us via phone, email, website or Facebook or Twitter. However in an emergency, dial 999 for immediate help.