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IMAGE Domestic abuse is a "human" problem. And battered men, like battered women, need help.

Facing Up to the Problem

Unfortunately, awareness of the problem of abused men has been slow to come.

R.L. McNeely, PhD, professor of social welfare at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, attributes that, in part, to society's long-standing belief that men are typically stronger than women. How could big, strong men possibly be injured by "the weaker sex"? Armin Brott, in a Washington Post story, noted that even police officers often discount men's claims of abuse, assuming the men are exaggerating their injuries or that the woman involved was merely trying to defend herself.

Escalating Violence

Those who view female-on-male violence as a ridiculous are overlooking one fact: the abuse becomes worse the longer it goes on. While some injuries are minor (like cuts and bruises), other injuries are major and long-lasting, like knife wounds and broken bones. Weapons give an equalizing effect, making women equally capable of seriously assaulting their partners.

The similarities between the sexes do not end there.

According to Dr. McNeely, women lash out for the same reasons men do. He says the four main reasons for inflicting violence are:

  • As a response to something that was said or threatened
  • To get a partner to do something
  • To stop a partner from doing something
  • As a method by which one partner gets the attention of the other

In addition, battered men, like battered women, are likely to stay in an abusive relationship for the sake of the children in the household. "A high percentage of men who suffer abuse are trying to protect their children against abuse," Dr. McNeely notes. "And if they seek a divorce, they risk losing the children."

Finding Help and Hope

Gender similarities end, though, when it comes to getting help. While awareness is growing, the lack of public concern for battered men means that fewer social agencies exist to help them. And the stigma of being an abused man means that very few victims are going to step into the spotlight to demand support services. But, men need to realize that the longer they remain in the abusive relationship, the more harm they will do to themselves both physically and emotionally—low self-esteem, depression, even suicidal thinking can all result from being abused.

The Internet offers one avenue for help. Websites and chat rooms have made it possible for victims, counselors, researchers, and others to connect in a shame-free environment. Some victims use the Internet as a community, a place where they can share their feelings with other abused men and discover they are not alone.

Support also comes from organizations that serve battered women and men. The Domestic Abuse Helpline is one example. This non-profit group has a hotline, referrals to counseling and support groups, educational services, and emergency shelters. Although, support groups and shelters for male victims are hard to find compared to resources offered to women. In some cases, private counseling may be the best option for men.

And while men may be abused by their female partner, the risk of battering for men in same sex relationships also exists. If you are in an abusive relationship, you are not alone. There is help available.

  • Domestic Abuse Helpline for Men and Women

    http://dahmw.org/

  • Stop Abuse for Everyone (SAFE)

    http://www.safe4all.org/

  • Canadian Mental Health Association

    http://www.cmha.ca/

  • Canadian Psychiatric Association

    http://www.cpa-apc.org/

  • About domestic violence against men. Oregon Counseling website. Available at: http://www.oregoncounseling.org/Handouts/DomesticViolenceMen.htm . Updated May 2007. Accessed August 12, 2008.

  • Abuse in America. National Domestic Abuse Helpline website. Available at: http://www.ndvh.org/educate/abuse%5Fin%5Famerica.html . Accessed August 12, 2008.

  • Our services. Domestic Abuse Helpline website. Available at: http://www.dahmw.info/Services.html . Accessed August 12, 2008.

  • Understanding intimate partner violence. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/dvp/ipv%5Ffactsheet.pdf . Published 2006. Accessed August 12, 2008.