Domestic violence against men: Know the signs

Domestic violence against men isn't always easy to identify, but it can be a serious threat. Know how to recognize if you're being abused — and how to get help.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Women aren't the only victims of domestic violence. Understand the signs of domestic violence against men, and know how to get help.

Recognize domestic violence against men

Domestic violence — also known as intimate partner violence — occurs between people in an intimate relationship. Domestic violence against men can take many forms, including emotional, sexual and physical abuse and threats of abuse. It can happen in heterosexual or same-sex relationships.

It might not be easy to recognize domestic violence against men. Early in the relationship, your partner might seem attentive, generous and protective in ways that later turn out to be controlling and frightening. Initially, the abuse might appear as isolated incidents. Your partner might apologize and promise not to abuse you again.

In other relationships, domestic violence against men might include both partners slapping or shoving each other when they get angry — and neither partner seeing himself or herself as being abused or controlled. This type of violence, however, can still devastate a relationship, causing both physical and emotional damage.

You might be experiencing domestic violence if your partner:

  • Calls you names, insults you or puts you down
  • Prevents you from going to work or school
  • Stops you from seeing family members or friends
  • Tries to control how you spend money, where you go or what you wear
  • Acts jealous or possessive or constantly accuses you of being unfaithful
  • Gets angry when drinking alcohol or using drugs
  • Threatens you with violence or a weapon
  • Hits, kicks, shoves, slaps, chokes or otherwise hurts you, your children or your pets
  • Forces you to have sex or engage in sexual acts against your will
  • Blames you for his or her violent behavior or tells you that you deserve it

If you're gay, bisexual or transgender, you might also be experiencing domestic violence if you're in a relationship with someone who:

  • Threatens to tell friends, family, colleagues or community members your sexual orientation or gender identity
  • Tells you that authorities won't help a gay, bisexual or transgender person
  • Tells you that leaving the relationship means you're admitting that gay, bisexual or transgender relationships are deviant
  • Justifies abuse by telling you that you're not "really" gay, bisexual or transgender
  • Says that men are naturally violent

Children and abuse

Domestic violence affects children, even if they're just witnesses. If you have children, remember that exposure to domestic violence puts them at risk of developmental problems, psychiatric disorders, problems at school, aggressive behavior and low self-esteem. You might worry that seeking help could further endanger you and your children, or that it might break up your family. Fathers might fear that abusive partners will try to take their children away from them. However, getting help is the best way to protect your children — and yourself.

Break the cycle

If you're in an abusive situation, you might recognize this pattern:

  • Your abuser threatens violence.
  • Your abuser strikes you.
  • Your abuser apologizes, promises to change and offers gifts.
  • The cycle repeats itself.

Typically the violence becomes more frequent and severe over time.

Domestic violence can leave you depressed and anxious. You might be more likely to abuse alcohol or drugs or engage in unprotected sex. Because men are traditionally thought to be physically stronger than women, you might be less likely to report domestic violence in your heterosexual relationship due to embarrassment. You might also worry that the significance of the abuse will be minimized because you're a man. Similarly, a man being abused by another man might be reluctant to talk about the problem because of how it reflects on his masculinity or because it exposes his sexual orientation.

If you seek help, you also might confront a shortage of resources for male victims of domestic violence. Health care providers and other contacts might not think to ask if your injuries were caused by domestic violence, making it harder to open up about abuse. You might fear that if you talk to someone about the abuse, you'll be accused of wrongdoing yourself. Remember, though, if you're being abused, you aren't to blame — and help is available.

Start by telling someone about the abuse, whether it's a friend, relative, health care provider or other close contact. At first, you might find it hard to talk about the abuse. However, you'll also likely feel relief and receive much-needed support.

Apr. 13, 2014 See more In-depth