A family portrait with the male figure cut out. Illustration.

Can men be victims of DVA?

Domestic abuse is often discussed as a women’s issue because the majority of domestic abuse is experienced by women (and perpetrated by men). However, domestic abuse also happens to lots of men.

Men can experience domestic abuse from a partner or a former partner in heterosexual or same-sex relationships. Men can also be abused by family members: adult children, siblings or others. Family abuse against men includes so-called ‘honour’-based abuse, such as forced marriage.

Domestic abuse against men is perpetrated by both men and women, as well as people of other gender identities.

Domestic abuse against men can include physical violence, as well as emotional and psychological bullying, sexual violence or financial control and abuse.

A man who is being abused may experience some or all of the following behaviours:

  • Bullying: mocking, humiliation, insults, criticism
  • Control: Being checked up on, followed, or stalked
  • Threats: intimidation, attacks or violence
  • Destruction of their possessions
  • Isolation: being stopped from seeing family and friends
  • Being forced into sex
  • Having money taken or controlled
  • Lying, blame and denial of the abuse

Do men and women experience DVA equally?

A widely quoted statistic from the UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men experience domestic violence has led to a belief that men and women experience DVA at equal levels.

However, this data only tells us the number of people who have ever experienced a single incident of physical violence. It doesn’t tell us how many people are experiencing a pattern of abusive behaviour or living in fear of their partner.

There are important differences between male violence against women and female violence against men.

The violence that women experience is more repeated and systematic, more severe and more likely to result in injury or death.

In fact, last year in the UK 48% of adult female homicide victims were killed in a domestic homicide. In contrast, 8% of male victims were killed by a partner or ex-partner or a family member. Men are more likely to be killed by a friend or acquaintance, stranger or other known person.

Support for men experiencing DVA

Every case of domestic abuse should be taken seriously and each individual given access to the support they need.

Recognition of the gendered nature of DVA is not a justification to ignore the needs of male victims. Instead, it needs to inform how we design services to support these men with the understanding that some of their experiences and needs may be similar to women survivors, but others may be different.

Men who are being abused may feel ashamed or afraid of judgment by others, but it does not make a man ‘weak’ or less ‘manly’ if they experience abuse. Domestic abuse is always a choice by the perpetrator.

We need to challenge cultural stereotypes which still assume that the perpetrators of domestic violence are men and the victims are women. However, at the same time, we must recognise that the majority of perpetrators are men.

What do you think?

Should support services for victims be gender-neutral or gender-informed?

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This article is from the free online course:

Supporting Victims of Domestic Violence

The University of Sheffield