Defining domestic violence is more than just kicks and punches. It is the norm when speaking about domestic abuse that women are highlighted, but domestic violence doesn’t only happen to or affect women. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) found that one in nine men is likely to experience domestic abuse on a national average in their lifetime.
Why don’t we talk about it?
Socio-cultural gender norms play a significant role in why discussing male victims can get a lackluster spotlight. Just like how we see the roles that create gender biases in car insurance, getting home improvement rates, or salary negotiations, the other side of the grass isn’t greener. Not that other reasons don’t contribute, but domestic violence is often perceived as a “womanly” problem, making most men less likely to report their abuse.
You Can’t Measure What’s Not There
Those suffering from domestic abuse are often too afraid, ashamed, or embarrassed to report their abuser, causing the numbers that we do have to keep us from seeing how big of an issue domestic abuse is. The macho stigmas that follow males when having to seek help when becoming victims of domestic abuse situations play a large role in the duration of the abuse. Being a man doesn’t mean that others cannot harm or manipulate you, and if you are with an abusive partner, you should speak to someone you trust.
Outside of the realm of emotion and stigma, those living with or dating an abusive partner often belittle their partner’s abusive behavior. Domestic abuse is any behavior or action that falls under:
- Physical violence
- Harassment or stalking
- Sexual abuse
- Psychological abuse
- Isolating you from friends or family
- Threatening you, your loved ones, things you care about, or your belongings
- Constant insulting or belittling
- Using intimidation to manipulate you
- Embarrassing you in public
We often think no harm, no foul, but words do hurt, and even worse, they can have long-lasting effects on our psyche. Abusive actions can cause anyone to self-isolate or feel that their partner isn’t irrational and that they are the problem.
Living with someone who is physically or mentally abusive creates a traumatizing mental cycle of depression and anxiety that can have permanent effects on one’s mental state.
How to be Prepared
Removing yourself from an abusive situation is difficult, but thankfully there are people and organizations out there waiting to help. As a man, you may think that helping hands are not being extended to you, but they are.
You have the power in your choices to decide how you want resolution and whether you want to take your partner to court, press charges, or just want a clean break free of any further abuse.
Do Research on Staying Safe
Make sure you are somewhere safe, and research domestic abuse laws and recent cases that have occurred in your city and state. If you plan on pressing charges or need to keep children safe from your partner, knowing what laws are on your side will only help you protect yourself and others.
Arming yourself with knowledge will help you act faster if and when abusive episodes start. In many cases, when abuse charges are dismissed, it is because the defense will claim that injuries only occurred because of an accident or self-defense.
Whether you are living alone or with children, knowing what organizations have safe houses near you can be a safer option than going to the home of a friend or family member.
Document all of the Details
Sometimes abuse is hard to prove, especially if the abuse isn’t physical. As safely as you can, document your partner’s behavior with video, auto recordings, photos, and saved texts. Backup all your proof from your device, or send it to someone you trust until you are ready to leave.
Stay consistent with how you document and video yourself, giving a statement on the event after it happens, so your memory is fresh. Having unmanipulated documentation will help arm your case against the arguments your partner’s defense team may use.
File a Protective Order
You can gain access to these forms online, and if you are in the process of leaving your current partner, you should keep this form on you at all times. Your partner will be getting served with a notice to stay away and to refrain from contacting you, so if you currently live together, you should do this after you’ve found somewhere safe to go.
This form is documentation that could potentially help you in court and ensures your protection against any further abuse. Upon completing this form, you can request that any weapons in your partner’s possession be turned into the police. No matter the sex or amount of physical threat, your ex-partner serves, documenting your separation is better for your safety.
Abuse is Gender Blind
Chances are that if you’re trying to find out what constitutes domestic abuse and you’ve read this far, you may have realized there’s something wrong.
As a man, regardless of your sexual orientation, gender identity, race, or income, you are entitled to happiness and safety. Though gender biases are a social construct, the burdens of macho rhetoric are a mental problem and, at times, a physical problem that affects the lives of men.
Unfortunately, the answer to our original question, “Is it harder for men to claim domestic abuse?” is yes, it is.
That’s not nearly the answer we’d hope for in a society that seems to be ever progressing past gender and sex stereotypes. But the good news is that the answer can change. The main factor behind male domestic abuse victims not receiving help is culture.
The more open we become to accept the fluidity between masculinity and femininity, the higher chances we have of getting accurate domestic abuse data as well as knowing how to eradicate the behaviors that lead to abusive behavior.
Identifying abuse is just the first step in healing from an abusive relationship and getting you, your children, family, and even friends into a safer situation away from your abuser. If you feel alone, organizations are here to help you.
Your experiences are real. Your safety matters. You are a man for stopping abusive behavior.
Danielle Beck-Hunter writes and researches for AutoInsurance.org. Danielle is an advocate for standing against domestic violence. Having worked on the annual Take Back the Night event with the Women’s Center of the University of Nevada Las Vegas, Danielle has worked with domestic abuse victims from various backgrounds and is passionate about sharing information that could save lives.