When most people hear the term "domestic violence," they often assume that a man is the aggressor. While this may be true in many of the reported cases, domestic violence against men is more common than you may think and can pose a serious threat to its victims. Fortunately, men are generally protected just as women are under most domestic violence laws.
Domestic Violence Defined
The term "domestic violence" covers a broad range of violent acts committed by one member of a family or household against another. It often refers to the mistreatment of a child or spouse and can include not only physical harm, but also threats and verbal, psychological, and sexual abuse. The key distinction between domestic violence and more general assault crimes is the relationship of the abuser to the victim.
Types of Abuse
Most of the time, domestic violence against men only gets any attention when a celebrity is the victim of some kind of noteworthy physical harm, such as when Tiger Woods' wife attacked him with a golf club or when Phil Hartman's wife shot him as he slept. Even then, the violent acts are often perceived as isolated incidents and much of the public and private speculation presumes the man "did something to deserve it." In reality, this kind of violence is often foreshadowed by actions that may not seem like domestic violence on the surface, but do, in fact, represent a series of abuses against the men such as:
In both the Tiger Woods and Phil Hartman cases, the violent acts were caused, at least in part, by real or imagined accusations of infidelity, a common trigger for domestic violence. Alcohol and drug abuse also play a significant role in many of these cases.
Underreporting of Domestic Violence Against Men
Getting exact numbers on domestic violence overall is difficult since so many cases go unreported, but it's even tougher to figure out just how many men are suffering abuse. A big part of the reason is traditional gender roles in society and the stigma of the perceived weakness of any many who admits to falling victim to a woman. Despite some research suggesting that men and women commit domestic violence against each other in equal numbers, the reported victims are overwhelmingly female.
Part of the reason for the disparity in reported victims might also be because men who call police to report domestic violence against them fear that they will end up being the ones getting arrested. Domestic violence against men victims can be particularly reluctant when children are involved, since leaving them with the woman leaves the kids at risk for harm, but attempting to take the children out of the situation risks giving the impression that the man is abducting them. So long as the common misconception persists that men are always the abuser and women are always the victim, it's unlikely that male victims will feel comfortable reporting their abuse.
What to Do if You're the Victim of Domestic Abuse
A victim of domestic abuse is still a victim, no matter the gender of the attacker. Even as a man, you need to take violence against you seriously, even if you're significantly larger or stronger than the woman, since little things can escalate into more dangerous situations. Self-restraint is important, so be sure to control your emotions and physical actions, especially in states that mandate at least one party be arrested in domestic violence calls. In many jurisdictions, the police will arrest the "primary attacker," who may or may not be the person who initiated the abuse.
While it sounds simpler than it may be, male victims of domestic violence need to tell someone about it get out of the situation. There are support organizations in every state if you're uncomfortable talking to anyone you know. If the abuse persists, consider an order of protection or restraining order to give yourself additional legal recourse against their attacker. If you're unsure of your options or need assistance in getting legal protection, consult a domestic relations attorney in your area.
More Questions About Domestic Violence Against Men? Get Answers from an Attorney
Laws on domestic violence are gender neutral and apply equally to protect men as they do women. Often times male victims do not come forward in domestic violence cases because they're worried about social stigmas. However, by not coming forward they are also not getting the support they may need to break the cycle of violence. Take the first step and speak confidentially to a family law attorney in your area to learn more about your rights and how to protect yourself.