By Tatiana Shams, Content Manager
Talking about abuse and domestic violence can be a difficult task for anyone. It can be painful, confusing and make you feel ashamed, inadequate and isolated.
And it can be incredibly challenging when you are a man because of all the stigma, fear, misinformation and societal pressures that only men seem to experience.
We know that while domestic violence does not discriminate when it comes to gender, men seem to not report abuse in the same way women do. In fact, many men remain silent because they think there’s no point in reporting the abuse because no one will ever believe them. Let’s debunk some of the myths about abuse and why are men not believed:
The world tells us that men can’t be victims of abuse: We know that 1 in 10 men have experienced rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner and yet, we also hear from our male contacts that they are simply not believed or taken seriously when reporting the abuse to family members, friends or law enforcement. On average, 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner, so violence can and does happen to men too!
The media tells us men are just the perpetrators of violence, but never the victims: In “Contribution of Media to the Normalization and Perpetuation of Domestic Violence,” we see that domestic violence has become so pervasive in our society thanks to media exposure that we have become desensitized and even accustomed to it. According to this study, “chronic and repeated exposure to domestic violence is believed to cause changes in affective, cognitive, and behavioral processes.” So, what happens when this repeated exposure only portrays men as perpetrators and not victims? You get the idea. But make no mistake: domestic violence is not normal, it’s not a joke and it’s not something we should readily accept as something that only happens to women. It happens to men too.
Men are not real men if they can’t take it: We hear from male contacts that reach out to The Hotline daily that they feel emasculated and like less of a man when undergoing situations of abuse at the hands of their spouses or partners. Some have even reported feeling so ashamed that they don’t want to acknowledge the abuse because they fear that if they do they will make the situation “real.” According to the American Psychological Association, stereotypes of masculinity can have a negative effect on young boys and men because they can stigmatize “normal human emotions,” and if a man feels stigmatized about what’s happening to him, it’s very likely they might not want to report the abuse or talk about ways of dealing with it and their emotions. Feeling angry, scared or sad are normal emotions for all people when dealing with abuse regardless of sex or sexual orientation and they don’t have to “take it” to prove their masculinity.
Men don’t have access to the same resources as women: While there seem to be more resources for women than men when it comes to dealing with domestic violence, we continue to make strides toward this issue. In Oct. 2017, the Associated Press reported that a shelter exclusively for men was the second of its kind to open its doors in the state of Texas. They suggest more resources are becoming available to men as society’s views on abuse and domestic violence affecting men are also changing.
Men who are gay or bisexual will bring shame to the LGBTQIA community if they report being victims of abuse: It’s already hard enough dealing with abuse when you are a heterosexual person, but for gay or trans men this can be even more difficult, as we hear from some LGBTQIA contacts that reporting abuse in a same-sex or trans-relationship will bring “shame” to their community because it will create more stereotypes, misinformation and also because some of them feel this is an issue that should be dealt with only behind closed doors. As Audre Lorde famously coined, “silence will not protect you,” regardless of what your sexual orientation is, it is always worth talking about it and it’s always worth leaving.
To combat these myths, here are a few ideas to help men affected by abuse and domestic violence:
Believe victims and survivors: One of the most important and compassionate things that we can do to support male victims of abuse and domestic violence is to simply believe. It’s worth repeating: do not judge, do not criticize and listen without questioning the victim’s experience. It’s already hard enough to reach out for help when you are a man, so if you find that a male victim wants to share their experience with you, don’t be so quick to judge or assume that they are not telling the truth.
Document the abuse: This is a great way to not only keep track of the situation but also to materialize the abuse, as we mentioned before, many people believe that if they don’t talk about it’s like it’s not really happening. If you are experiencing abuse, it may help to document the situation: There are several ways you can do document the abuse: take pictures of yourself if you have physical cuts and bruises, keep a calendar that shows the instances of the abuse suffered or start journaling as a way to document the abuse in an organized fashion. Documenting the abuse can help in two ways: It can be a cathartic way to deal with negative emotions and it may also help the victim to obtain legal aid later on. Remember, if you decide to document your experience, make sure your abuser can’t get access to your documents or pictures, so he/she can’t destroy the evidence and so that you can remain safe while you figure out the next steps in your relationship.
Find a support system: Perhaps there’s a good friend or a coworker you can confide in when talking about what you are experiencing. Having a strong support system could be the key to get through difficult times. You don’t have to share everything that is happening to you, but just the fact there is someone there to listen to what you are going through can be beneficial for your emotional well-being.
Take a proactive approach to your own safety: Keeping your mental, emotional and physical sanity in check are great ways to remain grounded during and after a situation of abuse. Perhaps you like to play video games, read comics or lift weights. Engage in activities that make you feel happy and good about yourself. Avoid self-destructive behaviors such binge-drinking, using drugs or anything that can have negative consequences for your health or the health of those around you.
Reach out to The Hotline for help: Know that our advocates are here to support you every step of the way with a sympathetic hear and zero judgment. We are here 24/7/365 and our interactions are completely free and confidential.
This article is an updated version of Men Can Be Victims of Abuse, Too