What about men who are battered?

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 18, 2008

What about men who are battered? Certainly some men are physically abused by partners, especially in gay relationships, and some are battered by women. The suffering of abused men should not be ignored simply because their numbers are relatively small. All domestic violence is characterized by secrecy. Because it takes place in the home, it is difficult to study through the usual research methods — especially since it is a source of shame and denial for the people involved. For this reason, perhaps abuse against men is even more effectively hidden than violence against women.

Some experts argue that society tolerates women’s violence against men to a greater degree, so such violence is underreported and often ignored or inaccurately justified as self-defense. Others have indicated that an increasing number of men are experiencing verbal or physical abuse from their mates. Yet other, equally respected researchers insist that nearly all domestic violence is committed by men.

Many men are brutally victimized by violent women. They report, with no small degree of embarrassment, that they had been hit, kicked, slapped, punched, threatened with guns, or had their homes and property viciously destroyed by their wives or girlfriends. Some of the men did not hesitate to characterize such behavior as domestic violence, others simply reported these incidents factually as people who had been through a bad marriage or hostile divorce.

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The limited amount of psychological research that has been conducted shows that, while psychological traits of battered men and battered women are similar, there are key differences that make the nature and severity of the abuse different for men. Male victims suffer fewer physical injuries from abuse, at least in heterosexual relationships, simply because most women can’t hit as hard as men. Also, it appears that men are less likely to stay in abusive relationships for a long period. This is partially due to social and cultural factors, such as boys being raised to be self-reliant, the primary child-rearing responsibilities being placed on women, and the greater financial resources generally available to men.

However, male victims may react in a different manner than do many female victims of partner abuse. Abused men are ashamed and embarrassed to admit that they are victims and to seek help, especially from friends or family members to whom they do not wish to appear weak or incapable of handling their own problems. Men feel that they should be problem-solvers. They are frustrated by their inability to help themselves and afraid to do anything to stop their attackers for fear of reprisal. He may put up with it for awhile, then it often escalates into a mutually violent relationship, especially if they both have substance abuse problems.

At SMMHC’s Alcohol & Drug Office we have solutions for problems with substance abuse and anger. For more information contact: Carolene Britt, LAC, CADC, 200 S.Wall St., Natchez, MS 39121, 601-446-6635.

Carolene Britt is a counselor at Southwest Mississippi Mental Health Complex. She can be reached at 200 S. Wall St., Natchez, MS 39121, or 601-446-6634.