Think about domestic violence and you think of women, battered by their husband, boyfriend, or a man they used to involved with. Now, think again. Every year in the U.S., about 3.2 million men are the victims of an assault by an intimate partner. Most assaults are of a relatively minor nature such as pushing, shoving, slapping or hitting, though many are more serious - and some end in homicide.
Intimate Partner Violence - The Stats
There are a number of difficulties in the collection of statistical data about intimate partner violence (IPV). The major problem is that the true size of IPV is unknown because of under-reporting. Statistical data are also affected by different countries and states not collecting data in the same way, partly because definitions of IPV can differ. This is particularly marked in the case of men, probably because of the stigma and embarrassment men may feel as victims of domestic violence.
It is universally recognized that women are more likely than men to be the victims of IPV. In 2002, 24 percent of U.S. homicides that were as a result of IPV were men, compared with 76 percent involving women as victims. The National Crime Victimization Survey reported in 2003 that 85 percent of IPV victims were women and that firearms were the weapons of choice in many homicides that occurred between 1981 and 1998. Research found that 22 percent of men (and 29 percent of women) experienced physical, sexual, or psychological IPV during their lifetime. Sadly, some children also become injured during IPV incidents between parents. Men of different ethnicity than their partners are at greater risk being a victim of IPV.
Why Men Do Not Report IPV Abuse
The level of violence inflicted on men by women is generally less serious than that inflicted on women, but IPV abuse is still a significant men's health problem.
One reason men do not report abuse is that they feel people will not believe them. Arguably, IPV towards women had been ignored for so long, society now finds the concept of violence towards men difficult to grasp and consequently has been slow to address it as a serious issue.
Men, even if they are hit by a woman partner in front of others, can often hide their abuse by saying they would never retaliate or hit a woman. Their 'abuse' can even be interpreted as a strength or masculine characteristic.
Humiliation as abuse is more difficult to rationalize. Belittling, humiliating IPV can have a devastating effect and sustains a relationship in which power rests unfairly with the abuser. Regular, repeated psychological and emotional abuse undermines confidence. Men begin to believe that they deserve the abuse they are getting, that they are worthless human beings nobody else would want. It is a difficult belief to turn around if it has gone on for a long time, and it is one of the major reasons why people remain in abusive relationships.
Violence in Gay Men's Relationships
Violence within gay relationships is a recognized health problem. Gay men are just as susceptible to domestic violence as any other member of society. There are some differences though, as Ramon Johnson points out in his article about Gay Partner Abuse. Gay people often feel they cannot seek help from agencies that mostly offer help and advice to heterosexual couples. Gay men are more reluctant to expose their sexuality to health care professionals. Health workers are not immune to prejudice and may be intolerant of gay relationships. The victim may have the same friends as the abuser, and can be worried about losing the support from his partner and mutual friends.
Visit Ramon's site for more information and help: Gay Life
Getting Help for Domestic Violence Against Men
Do not ignore or put up with domestic violence. If you or someone you know is the victim/survivor of IPV and needs help, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE (7233), 800-787-3224 TYY
Web information is available from the National Domestic Violence Hotline http://www.ndvh.org/