Why Men Don’t Report Physical Abuse

Christina Gleason
May 25, 2008

Men who are abused by women often suffer in silence. In addition to the shame shared by many women victims of domestic violence, men must overcome gender stereotypes.

While most attention is given to women who are abused by men, men are often overlooked victims of domestic violence. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics Crime Data Brief, men account for approximately 15% of the victims of reported intimate partner violence (February 2003).

How Women Abuse Men
Women who abuse men are not much different than their male counterparts who abuse women. Men can be hit, kicked, punched, pushed, or bitten by women abusers. Women can also use weapons, such as knives, guns, or any blunt object that can be used to strike.

Abused men are not necessarily smaller or physically weaker than the women who abuse them, but they do not use their size or strength to hurt their abusive partners even when they are being hurt.

Why Men Don’t Report Physical Abuse
Men often suffer physical abuse in silence because they are afraid that no one will believe them or take them seriously. In fact, some men who do try to get help find that they are mocked and ridiculed. No one would even think of telling a battered woman that getting beaten by her husband wasn’t a big deal, but people often don’t think twice about saying that to a battered man. Many men are too embarrassed to admit that they are being abused.

Traditional gender roles confuse the matter. A “real man” is expected to be able to “control” his wife. Aside from the embarrassment over admitting abuse, abused men may feel that they are somehow less of a man for “allowing” themselves to be abused. But just like abused women are told when they suffer physical violence, abuse is never the victim’s fault. This is no less true just because the victim happens to be male.

Lack of Resources for Abused Men
Another issue that prevents men from reporting abuse is a lack of resources, which may be real or imagined. Many domestic violence services are aimed mostly at helping a female population. While the broader term “domestic violence shelter” is becoming more common, many shelters are still known colloquially as “battered women shelters.”

Legally, many of these community resources are supposed to help male victims as well as female, but there may be resistance for them to do so. Even if these support services do cater to men, abused men may feel as though they are not welcome there because of the primarily female population.

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