by Andrea M. Darcy
If your wife or partner hit you a few times, is it really abuse? Can men even really be victims of domestic violence? Yes. And it’s time to talk about women abusing men.
Recent police reports in England and Wales show almost 150 thousand reports of male domestic abuse a year. The real number is sadly probably far higher, as many men feel too ashamed to seek help.
But real men don’t get abused
This is not only not true, it is the sort of stigma that stops men from seeking support.
Real men DO get abused because abuse is nothing to do with how ‘manly’ you are or aren’t. In fact abuse is blind. It happens to people regardless of age, gender, size, strength, wealth, class, education, and sexuality.
Is it really domestic violence?
It is a myth that domestic violence is just about someone causing you physical pain. And it’s a dangerous myth, because it means we can excuse our partner by telling ourselves, ‘she just hit me a few times, it doesn’t count’.
A big part of domestic violence against men is actually psychological and emotional abuse. It can also include sexual abuse and economic abuse.
In fact the law in the UK has even changed so that people can be charged based on what is called ‘coercive control’.
Remember, domestic violence against men is a crime. And you have a legal right as much as anyone to feel safe in your own home.
Symptoms of domestic violence against men – sound familiar?
Photo by Christian Fregnan
So what does women abusing men look like? What do the various types of abuse mentioned above even mean?
*When you read the below symptoms of domestic violence against men keep in mind you only have to be experiencing a few of them to be the victim of abuse.
Physical violence includes things such as:
- being hit, pinched, pushed, shoved, slapped, poked, tripped
- having things thrown at you
- your skin being cut, burnt, or in any way hurt
- left in environments where you physically suffer, such as being locked outside without a coat in winter.
Psychological intimidation can mean your wife or partner:
- threatens you with pain, such as with knives, fire, or boiling water
- blackmails you, making you do something or else secrets will be told to family/friends
- says she’ll hurt your children or pets if you don’t comply with her
- damages your personal property to ‘punish’ you
- tells people lies about you
- constantly monitors you, never leaving you alone.
For more on intimdation, read our article on coercive control.
Emotional abuse means that she:
- cuts you off from friends and family
- takes away your phone or other ways to contact those who support you
- criticises and belittles you publicly and/or privately
- tells you you are unloveable
- lies to you about what other people said to make you feel bad.
Economic abuse means that your partner:
- refuses to let you work and support yourself
- even gets you fired from your job
- racks up debts in your name without your permission
- takes money away from you so you are dependent on her even for necessities
- only allows you tiny bits of money so you can’t leave.
Sexual abuse means you are:
- being forced to do things you don’t want to do sexually.
Maybe it will blow over or she will change
by Brian Patrick Tagalog
If you are being abused by a wife or partner it will not just go away. Someone who abuses others has deep-rooted psychological issues that don’t just change.
The general pattern is that with time the abuse gets worse, not better. Abusers continually seek to see how far they can take things.
If you feel like it’s not getting worse, it’s probably more that you have become so used to being abused you have lost perspective.
But I can’t just leave her
You can’t just leave her because she is your wife, because she is the mother of your children, because you don’t know what you would do or who you would be without her, because somehow, despite all she is putting you through, you feel that you still love her. Right?
All this is understandable. You are a human, with complicated emotions. Plus, at one point the woman who is now abusing you was kind to you, or you wouldn’t be with her.
You don’t have to hate her or have all the answers of what to do next. But you do need to get support and eventually leave.
Here’s the thing – if you are the victim of abuse there will never be a big ‘aha’ moment when you are sure you are ready to leave. You have being emotionally and psychologically manipulated and are exhausted. You will find the decision hard and confusing. This is normal given the circumstances. Don’t wait for clarity or certainty. Just seek help.
And know that an abuser does not get help or change if they are busy abusing someone. The best thing you can do for her, too, is walk away.
If you are worried about your children, home, and pets, there are charities that can help you to protect your children, pets, and home and can give you legal advice (see below).
If I was a real man, I could fix this
Abuse is not something anyone anywhere can ‘fix’. You can not fix a broken, sick person, and your wife or partner is unwell. The only person you have control over here is you. And the only thing you can do is get help to get out of this situation.
And it’s not ‘weak’ to seek support. It takes tremendous courage. If anything, it’s strong.
I am just not ready to walk away yet
Don’t give up on yourself and think it’s hopeless just as you can’t imagine ever walking away. Just take things one step at a time. This can look like:
- researching about women abusing men to learn the facts
- visiting online forums where other men are talking about it so you can see you are not alone
- learning about your different options both in the practical and legal sense
- calling a help line to talk
- starting to record the abuse you are suffering can help you see how it is not ‘in your head’. This can be helpful if you later take legal action. Be sure to keep this very safe from your partner finding it. You might, for example, want to leave it at work.
- journalling can help you realise what you think and feel. You can write things out then rip it up immediately afterwards so that there is no risk of it being found and used against you.
What doesn’t help, though, is to retaliate. That can mean you end up charged when you were originally the victim. If you feel that you might be about to hit back, it’s one more reason to reach out.
I feel too ashamed to tell my friends and family
It’s okay to feel ashamed. We live in a society that puts a lot of unrealistic expectations on men to be strong, to be able to take care of everything, to know how to fix things. You can feel ashamed you don’t live up to those expectations, even if you know they are not fair.
If you can’t bring yourself to reach out to friends and family, it might be easier to reach out to a stranger who is not invested in the situation. The point is to reach out to someone, somewhere.
A good starting point can be a free helpline. Here are places to contact in the UK:
Men’s Advice Line at 0808 801 0327, Mon to Fri 9-5. The number will not appear on your phone bill. If you feel too nervous to call, they have a web chat on Tuesdays and Thursday from 10 to 4pm.
Mankind Initiative 01823 334244 Mon to Fri 10-4. They also welcome calls from family members and friends of victims of male domestic abuse who want to know what they can do to help.
Victim Support 0808 1689 111, 24/7. Dial 141 before the number to stop it from registering on your phone bill. Domestic abuse against men is a crime. This charity gives free support to those affected by crime, and helps you deal with what is happening. It’s not connected to the police and you are not forced to report the crime. You are just given help.
The Good Samaritans call 116 123. They are open 24/7 even on holidays and provides trained listeners who do not judge you and know it took courage to give them a call.
**If you are in immediate danger, call emergency services for help at 999 in the UK.
Can counselling help?
A counsellor or psychotherapist will understand what you are experiencing and will not judge you. They create a safe space for you to share your experiences and feelings, and they help you find ways to rebuild your self- esteem and sense of self.
Harley Therapy puts you in touch with top London counsellors in centrally located offices. Not in the UK, or on a budget? Our booking platform connects you with a wide range of registered therapists, many of who you can talk to over online from anywhere.