Let’s Talk About Domestic Violence

Over at DWR, there is a post about domestic violence, and as usual it paints men as the monsters and women as the oppressed.

But it struck a nerve, partially because I’ve been hit in relationships, and because I find it incredibly sexist when people pretend that domestic violence is a male only issue – as in men are the only ones engaged in verbal, emotional or physical abuse against their partners.

Domestic violence is a human problem and it can happen to anyone, no matter whether you’re male or female.

So let’s hit some statistics:

Yet in 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data from its National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey — and one of the most shocking statistics wasn’t just the sheer total of victims of physical violence but also how those numbers broke down by gender.

According to the CDC’s statistics — estimates based on more than 18,000  telephone-survey responses in the United States — roughly 5,365,000 men had been victims of intimate partner physical violence in the previous 12 months, compared with 4,741,000 women. By the study’s definition, physical violence includes slapping, pushing, and shoving. 

More severe threats like being beaten, burned, choked, kicked, slammed with a heavy object, or hit with a fist were also tracked. Roughly 40 percent of the victims of severe physical violence were men. The CDC repeated the survey in 2011, the results of which were published in 2014, and found almost identical numbers — with the percentage of male severe physical violence victims slightly rising.

“Reports are also showing a decline of the number of women and an increase in the number of men reporting” abuse, says counselor and psychologist Karla Ivankovich, PhD, an adjunct professor of psychology at the University of Illinois, Springfield.

That’s a whole lot of men and women being abused.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence:

  • On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men.1

  • 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been victims of [some form of] physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime.1

  • 1 in 5 women and 1 in 7 men have been victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.

And according to a Guardian article:

Data from Home Office statistical bulletins and the British Crime Survey show that men made up about 40% of domestic violence victims each year between 2004-05 and 2008-09, the last year for which figures are available. In 2006-07 men made up 43.4% of all those who had suffered partner abuse in the previous year, which rose to 45.5% in 2007-08 but fell to 37.7% in 2008-09.

Similar or slightly larger numbers of men were subjected to severe force in an incident with their partner, according to the same documents. The figure stood at 48.6% in 2006-07, 48.3% the next year and 37.5% in 2008-09, Home Office statistics show.

At DWR, he had this to (quote) say:

If the problem is that men simply cannot control their tempers, then the solution is to start building anger management skills into school curricula, starting in kindergarten.

I guess you could say the same for women. Maybe a good go round of anger management for everyone.

But if the problem is men’s learned need to exercise power and control over women, then the solution is much more difficult. It requires that all of us take a look in the mirror and ask: Why do so many men in our society feel the need to control and dominate women?

Or maybe we could look in the mirror and ask ourselves, why do so many people want to control and dominate other people?

At what age do boys begin to learn that having power over women is part of being a man? What steps can we take in order to change that, both on an individual and an institutional level?”

At no stage was I taught that having power over a woman is part of being a man. In fact, I was taught to respect women by my father, who role-modeled that behavior to me until the day he died. He treated my mother with respect, and taught me that violence wasn’t a solution.

Imagine for a second that someone took a knife and cut off a woman’s breast, put it in a blender and turned it on. Then a group of males went on national television and had a good laugh about it, and said that they’d put it in the dog bowl.

Think the audience would be laughing about it?

That’s what they did on The Talk, when a man suffered genital mutilation.

That clip makes me want to puke in my mouth. Jesus.

Ask yourself if women’s domestic violence shelters (who do good work by the way) have a terrible time of finding funding?

Well in England and Wales, women’s refuge’s get a pile more funding than men’s:

“Their plight is largely overlooked by the media, in official reports and in government policy, for example in the provision of refuge places – 7,500 for females in England and Wales but only 60 for men.”

And in Canada, one man completed suicide after he tried to get funding for a male shelter, after he was abused himself:


Mr. Silverman closed his shelter last month, saying he could no longer afford its upkeep. He long sought funding from provincial and federal governments to help run his hybrid shelter and home, but believed he was always refused because the space was dedicated to helping male victims and their children. He said he was unable to pay for heat and grocery bills.

Steven Howitt purchased Mr. Silverman’s house and said he helped the advocate move his belongings on Thursday.

“I couldn’t have predicted this. I got the sense that he was pretty frustrated that the shelter didn’t work out. He was frustrated with the government that he didn’t get any help,” Mr. Howitt said on Saturday.

Mr. Silverman’s shelter was the only one of its kind in Canada.

So I hope the next time you hear the words ‘domestic violence’ you take a moment to acknowledge that DV is a human problem, and it’s a serious one. No matter what gender the victim, we should be offering services and help.





  1. yep. I think it’s under reported because a lot of men dont even recognize it for what it is. She slaps him, he laughs, she slaps him harder, he backs up. Violence? “Naw, she’s just having bad day (wink wink nudge), one a them PMS things.”

    A lot of men won’t report it even if they do think it’s abuse, because they’re embarrassed. “I should be able to handle a woman, lookit the size of her”. Or they can’t quite connect the dots that it is abuse.

    Knew a guy online who kept threatening to leave his wife, he said she had locked him out of the house more than once, and out of the bedroom permanently. She’d throw stuff at him, and berate him, and he kept going back.
    Change the gender roles, and guess what. It’s abuse.

    Men and women can both be bullies or victims, and it’s genetic. You dont learn it, you are born that way. Really. The secret is to know that, and work against it.

  2. Agreed. I’ve been the victim (years ago) of such domestic violence — no serious injuries, though it was very disturbing; I left the relationship shortly after — but I’ve never talked about it with anyone. Why? I was ashamed of it, and also didn’t think anyone would take it seriously. Unfortunately, I still think that’s so.

    You’re right that violence by _anyone_ in a domestic situation is inexcusable, all victims deserve help, and that it’s time to start talking about why “so many people want to control and dominate other people.”

    That topic would require several good-sized books to address. (Unfortunately, the best one I’ve read, “The Psychology of Power,” by Ronald V. Sampson, has been out of print for decades.)

    • Precisely. It’s nonsense to pretend that only one gender suffers from DV. Like you, I’ve suffered from it and said nothing.

      The author later tried to sell that because men only reported repercussions (bad dreams, loss of sleep, difficulty at work) after being abused 14% of the time compared to 24% of the time for women, that men didn’t have it that bad.

      I just don’t understand how people can be so willfully blind. Just because someone doesn’t report something, doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. Even if it didn’t happen, you just hand waved 14% of the men as not severe enough.

  3. “If the problem is that men simply cannot control their tempers, then the solution is to start building anger management skills into school curricula, starting in kindergarten.”

    The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 80-97% of a child’s formative years are spent under the care and guidance of females. Perhaps that’s where the anger is cultivated.

  4. There was a recent news story here about a woman who beat up her boyfriend. One commentor on the online news post wrote “I wonder what he did”. Someone responded “if this had been a man beating up his girlfriend, you wouldn’t ask what she did to deserve it.” The first commentor responded, “you’re right, good point.”

    It is such a pervasive bias that most people don’t even realize it exists.

    Domestic violence is exacerbated by our culture of personal privacy. I like my privacy very much, too, so I don’t really want to give it up. But our lifestyle is very isolated. Our own neighbors don’t know what is going on in our houses, they might not even know our names. So it is hard to keep on eye on people in our community and take them to task for their actions, hold them accountable. Instead, we rely on the police. But police can’t really protect people. They mostly have to show up after the offense has taken place.

    I see so many of these ills of modern society to be results of living out of balance with nature and community. I want something different. But from what I can tell, most people are content with modern civilization. They only dispute minor details of this lifestyle (like legal status of gay couples, for example) but have no desire for a completely different way of life. I do think something better is possible. But history would indicate that it’s not likely any time soon.

    • “One commentor on the online news post wrote “I wonder what he did”. Someone responded “if this had been a man beating up his girlfriend, you wouldn’t ask what she did to deserve it.” The first commentor responded, “you’re right, good point.”

      So true. When I wrote my post on why I don’t identify as a feminist, I told someone that I had been sexually assaulted when I was a teen as a way of illustrating that it doesn’t just happen to women.

      They said the required words, ‘sorry that happened to you’ etc.

      Then proceeded to ask me how I thought my experience would differ from a woman’s in the same situation.

      I couldn’t believe my eyes. Imagine I had said that to a woman relating how she was sexually assaulted.

      Sorry bout that. Now how much worse do you think it might have been if it had happened to a man.

      Anyways, I like my privacy as well. lol. But you make a good point that being cut off from society would make it easier. It’s why the majority of abusers try to get you away from your support structure, such as family and friends. It’s easier to control you that way.

  5. No person should ever use violence against another person unless necessary to save yourself or another, both valid, affirmative defenses recognized by the law in our society.

    You really cannot have the conversation about domestic violence without including both genders. And it’s unfortunate that the stigma of deep shame is still associated with men who are victims of domestic violence. Men are brought up to be “men” and if they speak out about being abused, they are labeled as “sissies” or that other word beginning with the letter “p”. 😉 I find this type of stigma beyond deplorable.

    In my opinion, one insidious aspect of this argument lies in the area of false claims (from either gender). There are times when perpetrators, falsely claim to be victims. I’m not a fan of the “I’m a victim, blah, blah, blah….” when this same individual is a rampant abuser behind closed doors.

    Where a claim of abuse (in any form) is made, it’s critical to have all of the facts, not just one side of the story or skewed data. But, the sad truth is that often this type of abuse is perpetrated in private, and as such, difficult to sort out, especially where physical evidence is concerned. Example: A female can strike a male (maybe even multiple times) and not leave any marks. Then, if he strikes her back (even just once) and she is the one with the bruises, guess who’s going to jail? Yep. More often than not, the male will be arrested in this scenario. It’s unfortunate.

    As we become a more transparent world (with the advent of social media, uploaded pictures, screenshots, voice memos, etc.), it’s getting easier and easier to dispute false claims.

    It’s a tough topic, at any rate.

    • Exactly: It’s also very hard to know what to believe: we had (and thank god for past tenses) neighbors who used to regularly beat each other up, and one day the woman was telling me her husband was in jail again for abuse, he dragged her across the floor by her hair.

      “I prolly shouldn’ta socked him in the eye”, she said, ruefully. “that got him pretty pissed”. So when he retaliated she called the cops and they arrested him. Neither of them saw the sock in the eye as abuse, but they both (husband actually apologized) saw his behavior afterwards as abusive.

    • “You really cannot have the conversation about domestic violence without including both genders. And it’s unfortunate that the stigma of deep shame is still associated with men who are victims of domestic violence.”

      Indeed. I think the shame is encountered with women and men who suffer DV. Many people don’t want to admit that they’re a victim or think they deserve it and so forth.

      It is a tough topic and I’m all for having that discussion, but we have to stop leaving males out of that discussion. All men aren’t just violent brutes and women aren’t always the victim. People in general should be able to find help if they’re being abused.

  6. Man, has always had to prove his innocence in domestic situations and the woman’s word has usually trumped (funny how this word keeps popping up now) the man’s explanation.

    I remember in NZ a decade or more ago a couple of stories about women who made up domestic violence complaints due to being aggrieved about their husbands socialising with other women. This was because the first thing the police would do is remove any firearms from the premises. These collections involved many weapons taken from genuine firearms collectors that included rare antiques and various types of military weapons.

    Maybe some men deserved such a cruel retribution and it was justified in genuine cases but the crying shame was unless the problem was resolved in the man’s favour the police could decide to revoke his licence and have the collection disposed of.

  7. As ‘civilized” humans we tend toward total uninvolvement in issues like this, and then go overboard the other way. There seems to be no middle ground.
    When my folks were first married (in 1937) they lived in a two family house, downstairs. Mother said that every night they could hear the husband upstairs beating the tar out of his wife. She said it would go on seemingly endlessly, and ended with the woman sobbing for most of the evening. She wanted to call the cops on them, but my Dad said, “stay out of it, it’s none of our business, and the cops won’t interfere in family arguments.”

    And he was right. It was only in the 60s or so before the police began to consider domestic violence as a serious issue, and while they started tentatively (with counseling, for god’s sake) now it’s a much more important crime.

    The problem now, is, determining the occasional poke in the eye, the “get back at the bastard” reports, or the habitual offender (who, to be fair, is often led on (like the woman in the story up there) who runs on a hair trigger.

    and what those women did was stupid and mean. Anyone that vindictive, my first thought is, I don’t blame the guys at all for finding a gentler partner.

  8. As an aside, if there is one thing that grinds my gears is women slapping men and then saying ‘you can’t hit a woman.’

    Of course there is a reporting imbalance and gradually it is being recognized if not addressed.
    The Sharon Osborne vid? Wow. I do and I don’t blame her per se as it is a mindset that hasn’t been checked or challenged. It’s prevalent. We all show ignorance on one or more subjects so I’m not hanging her just yet. I get the feeling that if someone checks her (and her giggling cohorts) she would re-visit her thoughts on it.

  9. I’m glad that you wrote this article domestic abuse is everywhere with men women children etc. It is surprising to me that women on male abuse isn’t reported more. Just as there are with women there are many men that do not report. This happens because the system will look at them crazy as if they can’t stand up for themselves rather then there actually being a real problem that the man is trying to avoid. The article you posted about the man committing suicide is real sad. There are problems on both ends of the spectrum and I commend you for allowing us to hear the other side.

  10. One last thought: in many instances, even if a man does report his wife as beating him up, it’s ignored. If he’s 6’1″ and she’s 5’3″ he gets laughed out of the police station.

    Easy to ignore the fact that a kitchen is loaded with painful weapons, from mixing spoons to rolling pins to all those knives…

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