Domestic Violence Against Men
By FindLaw Staff | Legally reviewed by Nicole Prebeck, Esq. | Last reviewed December 28, 2022
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When most people hear the term "domestic violence," they often assume that a man is an 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.
This article discusses domestic violence against men.
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 between the abuser to the victim.
Types of Abuse
Most of the time, domestic violence against men only gets attention when a celebrity is the victim of some kind of noteworthy physical harm. Examples include when Tiger Woods' wife attacked him with a golf club or when Johnny Depp took his ex-wife, Amber Heard, to court and presented evidence of domestic violence in the defamation trial. 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."
However, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) estimates that 1 in 4 men (compared to 1 in 3 women) have suffered some kind of physical violence from their partner. 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:
- Using insults, name-calling, and other berating language
- Interfering with him seeing his family and friends
- Threatening to expose embarrassing personal information to others
- Showing oppressive possessiveness or jealousy
- Restricting his spending or controlling his finances
- Shoving, slapping, or otherwise striking him
- Threatening harm to themselves or others as a way to "punish" him
In cases involving Tiger Woods and Phil Hartman 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 man who admits to falling victim to the abuser. Despite some research suggesting that men and women commit domestic violence against each other in equal numbers, regardless of heterosexual or same-sex relationships, the reported victims are overwhelmingly female.
The disparity in reported victims might also be due to the fact that men might hesitate before calling the police for fear of being arrested themselves when trying to get help. Domestic violence reports may also be affected when children are involved. Some men fear that leaving them with their partner may create risk for the children, but attempting to take them may be interpreted as abducting the children. Underreporting will be a problem so long as the stigma against male victims continues.
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 abuser 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 requiring at least one party to 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 to 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 your 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 everyone. 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.
You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help
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Contact a qualified family law attorney to make sure your rights are protected.