Domestic violence has long been a grim reality in many societies worldwide. Frequently, discussions around this issue center on women, who undoubtedly face significant rates of abuse. However, it’s important to acknowledge and address the challenges and struggles of an often underrepresented demographic — men.
Here’s a closer look at the gender stereotypes that can be harmful for male victims of domestic violence, the prevalence of domestic violence against men, and how we can work to challenge damaging stereotypes and support men who may be overlooked.
Domestic Violence Gender Stereotypes
Our societal narratives, often influenced by media and cultural norms, reinforce gender stereotypes. These stereotypes cast women as the only victims of domestic violence, while men are viewed as always being the perpetrators. This notion is not only injurious, but also far from reality.
Domestic Violence Against Men: Statistics
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) reports:
1 in 9 men experience severe intimate partner physical violence, intimate partner contact sexual violence, and/or intimate partner stalking
1 in 4 men have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner
1 in 7 men have been victims of severe physical violence (e.g. beating, burning, strangling) by an intimate partner in their lifetime
5.1 million men in the United States have been stalked in their lifetime
These statistics clearly show that, contrary to stereotypes, men are often victims of domestic violence too.
How Male Stereotypes Surrounding Domestic Violence Create Unique Challenges
Men who are the target of domestic violence can have their circumstances further complicated by gender stereotypes — not only ones related to domestic violence specifically, but also social norms regarding acceptable male conduct. The harmful stereotype that men should always be strong, tough, and unemotional can result in their victimhood being minimized or dismissed. Furthermore, they may be reluctant to report abuse due to fear of ridicule, disbelief, or stigmatization, or lack of awareness about available help.
This dismissal is more than an injustice to the individual victims; it perpetuates the harmful cycle of domestic violence. To challenge and change these stereotypes, we need to redefine societal expectations about masculinity and raise awareness that men can be, and are, victims of domestic violence.
The Reality of Domestic Violence Against Men
When we think of domestic violence, the stereotypical image that comes to mind is physical abuse. However, domestic violence extends beyond physical harm. It can take on various forms, such as emotional, psychological, financial, or sexual abuse. These types of abuse can be just as destructive and long-lasting as physical violence.
Male victims may face threats, manipulation, stalking, forced isolation, and other forms of control and dominance by their partners. Also, men are equally likely to experience poor mental health outcomes such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety as a consequence of enduring domestic violence.
Challenging Stereotypes and Providing Support for Male Victims
Breaking down these harmful stereotypes and opening up support for male victims of domestic violence is a complex and time-intensive undertaking. However, there are many steps we can take to advance progress and to make a difference in our local communities. Ways to help include:
Promoting a broader understanding of domestic violence: Male victims should be included in conversations and campaigns related to domestic violence. Their experiences should not be taken lightly or seen as a joke; instead, they should be validated and vocalized.
Challenging male stereotypes and societal expectations: It’s essential to break down harmful stereotypes about masculinity, showing that it's not a weakness for men to seek help or express their emotions.
Implementing educational programs: Educational programs should be implemented in schools, workplaces, and communities to raise awareness about domestic violence against men. Policymakers, law enforcement, social workers, and mental health professionals can also be equipped with appropriate training to help them recognize and support male victims.
Holding media to higher standards: Balanced representation of male victims in news reports, movies, and television can help break down stereotypes and increase societal understanding of the issue.
Developing (and sharing about) resources for male victims of domestic violence: While there are numerous resources for female victims of domestic violence, support for men is often lacking. The development of more shelters, hotlines, and counseling services that can cater to male victims are of great importance. Such initiatives should be more widely promoted, so that men experiencing violence can know where to go for help. Here at Crisis House, we offer domestic violence support for men, women, and children in East County, San Diego. Support our work by donating today or sharing about our services.
At Crisis House, we are here during these stressful times to support individuals and families with our services and resources. We’re leaders in critical services in East County, San Diego, providing crisis intervention, transitional and permanent housing, and services for families and children fleeing domestic violence.
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