Domestic abuse, or domestic violence, is most commonly a problem between a man and a woman. The man beats, or otherwise abuses and controls the woman. However, this is by no means the entire picture. Some cases of domestic abuse involve same sex couples, children or elder members of the family. And, there are a rising number of cases reported where a man is abused by his female partner. In fact, a report in the UK newspaper, The Guardian, from research undertaken in 2010, shows that as many as 40% of reported incidents of domestic violence feature attacks on men by women.
The same figures are reported in the US, where some 40 in every 100 cases of domestic violence are perpetrated on men by women.
Women abusing men: the hidden menace
The figures are actually almost certainly far higher than the statistics show. Men find it harder to admit to domestic abuse, seeing it as unmanly and weak, so many cases go unnoticed and unreported. Outsiders, even close family members, also find it more difficult to accept and ignore the signs that abuse of this type is taking place. Many years of work have gone into providing resources for battered women and encouragement for them to report domestic violence, but the resources for men are far fewer and less developed. Men may also feel that they will not be taken seriously if they report domestic violence.
Domestic abuse is not only physical
If it seems difficult to understand how a man, usually physically stronger and bigger than a woman, can allow himself to become a victim of domestic abuse, it is important to know that domestic abuse is not always physical. It is just as easy for a woman to inflict emotional or psychological abuse on a man as it is for a man to inflict this type of abuse on a woman. Emotional abuse includes:
- Controlling behaviour
- Belittling or putting down, in private or in public
- Extreme jealousy and accusations of infidelity
- Restricting or preventing access to family, friends or social life
- Restricting access to finances or possessions
- Disruption of work life or education
- Invasion of privacy
- Infidelity or threat of infidelity
Even in cases where a woman is smaller and physically weaker than the man in the relationship, physical abuse and violence can take place. While it is true to say that in many cases, the physical injuries inflicted on a man by a woman are less serious than on a woman by a man, there are cases where a man has been seriously injured or even killed by his female partner. Even a small woman who has access to a weapon can inflict fatal injuries.
Even the less serious injuries are less likely to raise comment when seen on a man than a woman. If a man has a black eye, it is assumed that he has obtained it taking part in a sport, or perhaps in a fight. If a woman has a black eye, domestic abuse is immediately suspected.
Why women abuse men
The reasons why a woman may become emotionally or physically abusive towards her male partner can be similar to the reasons behind male to female abuse. Mental illness, alcoholism or drug dependency, an abusive family background and personality disorders can all be factors.
Why men stay in abusive relationships
Men are more likely to remain in abusive relationships than women. This is partly due to the reasons stated above, ie. That they feel unable or unwilling to call attention to their situation, but they also often stay as a result of a sense of responsibility to their children and wives. Men also, like women, can assume the guilt for the abuse even if this is totally unjustified.
Why don’t men fight back
Many men in abusive relationships do not put up physical resistance to the violence thanks to an ingrained sense that it is wrong to hit or physically restrain a woman under any circumstances.