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Silent sufferers: Acknowledging male victims of domestic violence

  • Published
  • By Brenda Edmond, Family Advocacy Outreach Manager
  • 628th Medical Operations Squadron
June is Men’s Health Month and a perfect time to highlight an important and overlooked issue. There is a general assumption that women are always the victims in an abusive relationship. Even in our progressive society, we continue to marginalize, isolate, and disbelieve the existence of domestic violence against men.

The less-told story is that a striking number of men are abused by their partner. These men often suffer physical, mental and sexual abuse in both heterosexual and same-sex relationships. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in four men will experience physical abuse by an intimate partner during their lifetime. That equates to approximately three million male who are abused by an intimate partner every year. 

Men who find themselves in abusive relationships are often made to feel emasculated and weak or viewed as such. Men are told to fight back and are ridiculed for “accepting” or “allowing” the abuse. Several years ago, Family Advocacy conducted a “Black Eye” event at a commander’s call. Members of the squadron were moulaged with black eyes. The males were ignored for the most part, while the females were questioned and offered support by fellow military members. One male was asked what happened and when he said, “My wife hit me,” the response he received was, “What did you do to get hit?”

This example shows that many people don’t know how to approach the conversation of domestic violence, especially with men as the victim. Many are concerned about adding insult to literal injury and others don’t believe a man can be a receiver of domestic violence. Admitting to being a recipient of abuse can be embarrassing for many males and this may lead to feelings of loss of masculinity. The result is that males in relationships experiencing physical and emotional abuse often suffer in silence.

There are several types of domestic violence, including emotional, sexual and physical abuse and/or threats of abuse. It can happen in heterosexual or same-sex relationships. Abusive relationships often involve an imbalance of power and control where an abuser uses intimidation or hurtful words and behaviors to control their partner.

Often, it’s not easy to recognize male victims; however, there can be clear indicators that a relationship is abusive. In the early stages of the relationship, the abusive partner may appear attentive, generous and protective in ways that later turn out to be controlling and often scary. Initially, the abuse might seem to be isolated, with the partner later apologizing and making promises that the abuse will not occur again. However, after some time, a pattern often develops.

Some indicators that you are in an abusive relationship are if your partner:

  • Calls you names, insults you or puts you down
  • Prevents you from going to work or school
  • Stops you from seeing family members or friends
  • Tries to control how you spend money, where you go or what you wear
  • Acts jealous or possessive or constantly accuses you of being unfaithful
  • Threatens you with violence or a weapon
  • Hits, kicks, shoves, slaps, chokes or otherwise hurts you, your children or your pets
  • Forces you to have sex or engage in sexual acts against your will
  • Blames you for their violent behavior or tells you that you deserve it

If you are in a relationship with someone who is treating you like any of the examples above, you have options for professional intervention. These are unrestricted or a restricted reporting. Unrestricted reports can be made if you want to pursue an official investigation. To initiate an unrestricted report, contact the service member's command, the Family Advocacy Program, or law enforcement. The victim will have access to victim advocacy services, medical care and counselling. An unrestricted report also allows for command participation in supporting and protecting the receiver of abuse and provides command the option of taking administrative action against the offender.

A restricted report is an option for those who do not want to pursue an official investigation but would like to receive advocacy services, medical care and counselling. Restricted reports can only be made to Family Advocacy or to a military healthcare provider. This reporting option allows individuals in abusive relationships time to think about the direction of their relationship and keep control over when, what and with whom they choose to share the information. A restricted report also means that law enforcement and the member’s command will not be notified of the abuse and there will be no investigation or administrative action taken against the offender. Reporting to anyone else could jeopardize the individual’s option for a restricted report.

Help stop the cycle of domestic violence. If you know someone in an abusive relationship or you have identified yourself as being in a victim after reading this article, know that there is no excuse for abuse. Whether you are a male or female abuse, abuse is never okay and rarely ends without intervention. If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse, contact the Family Advocacy Program.