Domestic abuse against men is not something you will have heard much about. But new studies are showing that not only is it a significant and regular occurrence in the home, but that it is the cause of serious mental harm to male victims.
In a society that defaults to demonising men, any dialogue about men who are the victims of violence is one of a few things – taboo, ignored or ridiculed.
But the facts speak for themselves.
For every three victims of abuse in a relationship - two will be female, one will be male.1 One in six men, aged 16 or over, will suffer domestic abuse in their lifetime. This equates to 2.6 million men in total. It is estimated that 4.2% of men suffered domestic abuse in the years 2009/10 alone.
In America, the National Violence Against Women Survey surveyed 8000 men and 8000 women on domestic abuse. The researchers found that approximately 8% of men report they have been physically or sexually abused by a current or former partner, compared with 25% of women who report similar abuse.
The figures are higher for women who have suffered domestic violence from their male partners, but research is also showing that the number of women convicted of perpetrating domestic abuse in the UK has quadrupled in the last six years from 806 to 3494.
Men are also less likely to tell anyone or seek help if they have been abused. In fact, 41% of men remain silent about their abuse compared to 19% of women.
This silence is linked to a wider social tragedy. Men who suffer mental health problems in general do not talk about their experiences. A kind of tacit gagging order on male vulnerability inflicted by society insures that crimes against men remain unreported.
Two recent studies in the USA have reviewed the fallout of domestic abuse on male mental health.
The first study,2 led by Anna Randle, of Multidimensional Treatment Foster Care, reviewed two decades of data on violence against men.
The investigation found that men experience serious psychological symptoms as a result of domestic violence. The associations identified included post traumatic stress, depression, and suicide ideation.
A second study,3 led by Denise Hines of Clark University, studied 822 men ages 18 to 59. One group of 302 men included individuals who had sought professional help after they experienced violence and controlling behavior from their female partners.
Another group, consisted of 520 men selected at random to answer questions about their relationships during a phone survey. In this group, 16% reported they had experienced minor acts of violent and psychological abuse during arguments with their female partners.
Significantly, the men who had experienced the more violent behavior were at much greater risk of developing post traumatic stress syndrome than were the men who experienced more minor acts of violence from their partners.
Both studies show that there is direct link between serious mental health problems among men, and domestic violence against men. As depression among men increases, society must shift the focus of its domestic violence services from purely female orientated operations, to ones that deal with the full scale of this problem.
2. Psychology of Men & Masculinity © 2011 American Psychological Association
2011, Vol. 12, No. 2, 97–111
3.Psychology of Men & Masculinity © 2011 American Psychological Association
2011, Vol. 12, No. 2, 112–127 1