One third of domestic abuse victims reported in the UK are male. Domestic abuse can affect both men and women. Yet the awareness towards male domestic abuse victims, support groups for them, and empathy towards them are ridiculously low. I grew up and saw things first hand but I didn’t even recognise the abuse my own father was facing. I hope this article will help others recognise the signs, if someone close to them may be facing a similar situation.
There are many forms of abuse. Physical, psychological, sexual, emotional, financial. Anyone, male or female can be subject to any one or multiple forms of abuse. They come in so many ways, it can be hard to realise it’s happening. Being able to spot signs of abuse is the first step in helping someone get help.
Before getting into this article, I was to say that my mum and dad were separated, so the personal accounts I mention of abuse against my dad was by someone I will not be mentioning.
Signs of physical abuse towards male domestic abuse victims
When you hear the words “physical abuse” you think of hitting, punching, kicking. These all counts as types of physical abuse. But they are not the only types. Someone can also be threatened with the use of weapons, and in some cases have weapons used against them. Poisoning, scalding and burns, having objects thrown also count as physical abuse. On top of that, physical abuse direct at family members or pets also count.
I’ve witnessed my father face physical abuse. He was a dwarf, only 4″2. I saw things being thrown at him, him being hit, and at times a weapon pointed at him. At those times I knew something was bad, something was wrong. But as a child, I didn’t know what to do about it.
Abuse can start before it turns physical though. Threatening behaviour is extremely common and causes fear in victims. This includes things such as threats of violence whether they involve weapons or not, threats against family members and pets, destruction of the victim’s personal possessions. Sometimes they will also threaten to get others to hurt the victim. On top of that, if children are involved the abuser may threaten to take the children away.
As a child, I didn’t realise how much I was being used as leverage against him. I believe that he took a lot of physical abuse because for him it was better than the risk of me experiencing it.
Signs of power and control being used in abusive ways
Abusers look to control and have power over their victims. Often the ways they go about getting it is steady over time. It can feel like a niggle at first, it’s easy to make excuses or imagine you’re being paranoid. But as their power and controlling tactics increase, the victim ends up in a very drastic place.
In terms of control, my father did a lot of things his abuser told him to. It came steadily, from being told how he should act, how he should behave, how he should talk. There was the ever present threat that if he didn’t do as his abuser wanted him to, his children would be taken away. Sometimes to make him comply, physical force was used.
Control can also be taken in the form of communications monitoring. Abusers often take control of their victim’s phones, emails or messaging services. This can be by physically taking the device or login details of the victim, or by installing spyware. Some will make the victim us GPS apps so that they can track their movements at all times.
They may also set out strict scheduling for the victim, controlling what they can do, when they can do it, who they can see, who they can talk to. They may take away the victim’s ability to seek help from friends, family or professionals.
Signs of emotional abuse
Emotional abuse is one of the hardest things to recognise. Because they don’t leave visible scars, it’s harder to prove and also harder for others to spot. However, they can be just as painful as physical violence.
Emotional abuse includes things such as being constantly insulted, belittled, and gaslighting. There were so many occasions that I saw him being told the things that were happening were his fault, that he caused his abuser to react in the way they did. I watched as over years his confidence was whittled away. Until he got to the point that he genuinely believed he deserved the things that were happening to him, that he had somehow caused the misfortune that befell on his family.
Emotional abusers have many ways to make the victim question themselves, and their own sanity. They can stop you from seeing friends and family, taking away outside support opportunities.
Another form of emotional abuse is being constantly punished and humiliated. This can be in private or in front of others. The point is to make the victim feel that they are at fault. Feelings of humiliation makes it harder for a victim to break away.
Many people don’t realise that stalking is also a form of emotional abuse. Being stalked is terrifying. This includes both in person and online. Having someone stalk you means you can never feel relaxed, you’re always on guard and you are in a constant state of paranoia.
Turning things against the victim
Especially seen against male domestic abuse victims, is when the abuser will turn things on the victim. This can be done by telling friends and family that the victim is actually the one doing abusive things. Sometimes the abuser will also call the police or other authority figures against the victim.
There was one incident in my childhood where I was beaten. My nose was bloody, my eye was bruising shut. The police was called and the blame was put on my dad. It took a lot of convincing for them to not take him away immediately.
The incident was spread amongst our friends. Rumours spread and many thought it really had been my dad and others didn’t know what to believe. These rumours caused him to be even more isolated from people. The incident also made it impossible for him to reach out to authorities as it was clear him being male made him the most suspect.
Men not being taken seriously
A huge issue for male domestic abuse victims is the fact they may not be taken seriously. There is a very strong feeling that guys are the strong and powerful ones in any relationship, whether as family members, friends or other. Men are less likely to speak out about being physically assaulted. It’s even harder for them to admit when they are experiencing emotional abuse. On top of that, many outsiders will automatically be more sympathetic towards women in any situation.
Questions like “You were bigger/stronger than her, why didn’t you fight back?” makes male domestic abuse victims feel that they were somehow in the wrong. But if a guy fights back then he would definitely be considered wrong. Often that leaves men feeling that they have no power of the situation, unable to defend themselves and unable to have people understand the situation.
Yet it happens to so many people. In a twitter poll at the time of writing this article, 38.9% of men who responded said they had been victims to domestic abuse. It is a lot more common than most people realise.
Unfortunately a lot of men know if they call the police on their abuser they will likely get arrested themselves. This is due to Flaws in the Duluth Model of domestic violence which uses Patriarchal Terrorism as a basis.
— 🎃 Mathew Silva 🎃↗️ (@chumasu) October 6, 2019
I had a friend that was raped by a woman. When he reported it to LAPD, he was laughed out of the room. There is a serious problem with how people view abuse of men.
— mltcjl76 (@mltcjl76) October 6, 2019
When i was in my early 20's, i dated a girl that in hindsight was regularly overly-aggressive. Regularly told "if you were 2 steps closer to me when we argued yesterday, i would of smashed your face in", and one of the final straws was being told "its hard, HE obviously wants it"
— DirtyContent (@dirty_content) October 6, 2019
Other signs of abuse and speaking out
It’s horrifying just how long the list of abusive behaviour is. There are many that don’t fit into any specific category. For a more full and comprehensive list you can check out this source by ManKind. They also have a helpline for men in the UK to call if they have concerns about facing domestic abuse.
For other countries, there are similar services and charities that you can reach out to.
It’s hard to speak out against an abuser. Sometimes you won’t even realise the things that are happening to you are domestic abuse. That’s why it’s important to reach out to friends, family, or others. It’s why it’s also important to look out for these signs in those close to you.
My father became extremely depressed. He attempted to take his own life several times. I look back now and wonder if there were things I could have done to help him. Or I question why others couldn’t see the things that were happening to him. I hope this article will help some of you see the signs of male domestic abuse victims and help you reach out. Of course these signs also apply to female domestic abuse victims.