This article looks at the prevalence of domestic violence against men, including the latest statistics, why men may be less likely to report abuse and the help that is available.
How common is domestic violence against men?
The recognition that domestic violence is an issue for both men and women has been a long time coming. Awareness campaigns, official bodies and the media are increasingly acknowledging the problem of abuse against men and giving it the exposure and attention it deserves. How big is the problem?
- In 2015/16, 13.6% of men in England and Wales stated they had been victims of domestic abuse. This is the equivalent of 2.2 million victims. For every three victims, two will be female and one will be male.
- 1 in 6 men suffer domestic abuse in their lifetime. (Compared to 1 in 4 women.)
- Between 2004/5 and 2015/6, there was a sevenfold increase in the number of women convicted of perpetrating domestic abuse.*
*Sources: via ManKind Initiative
Whilst levels of domestic violence appear to be decreasing overall, the difference between levels of abuse against women and men is at its lowest since 2005 (ONS, 2016-17).
Types of domestic abuse against men
Forget the stereotypical image of men as the physically and emotionally stronger sex. As with mental health, it’s these stereotypes of how a ‘man’ should behave that have hidden the problem of male domestic abuse and have made it harder for men to come forward for help. Men face the same kinds of abuse as women do:
- Coercive control
- Psychological or emotional
The abuser can be male or female. According to statistics, 6.2% of gay or bi-sexual men suffered domestic abuse in 2008/9 – nearly double the number of heterosexual men (British Crime Survey 2008/09). Domestic violence doesn’t discriminate based on sexuality.
Are men less likely to speak out about domestic violence?
Sadly, the answer is ‘yes’. Male victims are three times as likely as women not to tell anyone about what they are suffering. Of those victims, only 10% of men will report the abuse to the police (ONS, 2014-15). There remains a lot of stigma that makes men believe they won’t be taken seriously if they report the abuse or that admitting the abuse will in some way emasculate them.
Unfortunately, there is such societal pressure on men to ‘man-up’ and behave ‘like a man’, keeping their emotions locked inside, that they fear being ridiculed if they admit to being a victim. The current attitudes of society towards so-called masculinity are a huge barrier to domestic violence becoming something that male victims can feel safe and comfortable speaking out about.
It’s a long battle, but thankfully awareness campaigns are trying to turn these perceptions around and there are positive movements in the law towards providing better help for male victims (see below).
What help is available for male victims?
Leaving an abusive relationship is an incredibly hard decision to make and requires courage, especially when children and a family home are involved. If a victim does decide to leave, then there are plans they can put in place to stay as safe as possible – see Leaving an Abusive Relationship.
There may be a trusted family member or friend who can assist with temporary accommodation. If not, then one safe option is a refuge. A refuge is not just a secure place to be – it is also an invaluable hub of support that aims to help victims get back on their feet, emotionally and in practical terms.
Twelve months ago, there were no refuges in London and only 18 nationally that catered for male victims. The good news is that this is changing as it’s acknowledged that the provision for men doesn’t match the scale of the problem. It was recently announced that the first refuge solely for men has opened in Northamptonshire. Eight more are planned for around the UK.
There is also a great charity called The Mankind Initiative that focusses on supporting male victims of partner abuse. They have shared some powerful survivor stories that may help your understanding of this issue further.
If you are a man experiencing domestic violence or think you know someone who is, you can contact Herts Domestic Abuse Helpline on 08 088 088 088 for FREE advice and support. We can help with finding refuge accommodation and signpost other sources of help.
Positive steps forward
In September 2017, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) published a public statement recognising the needs of male victims of offences such as domestic abuse, rape, harassment and stalking. The CPS statement covers
- Providing prosecutors with more information so they can better understand the experiences of male victims and the barriers to them reporting offences (e.g. the fear they will be seen as less of a ‘man’).
- Working with third sector organisations and campaign groups to challenge gender stereotypes and improve reporting.
- Involving more national men's groups in the scrutiny of CPS policies.
These are positive steps forward that will hopefully encourage more men to have the confidence to report abuse. Such approaches are hugely important to help stop the stigma attached to being a male victim.
Signs of domestic abuse against men
It’s not easy to know what’s going on in someone else’s home, especially as domestic violence doesn’t always leave physical marks or injuries. Changes in behaviour and physical appearance are potential signs that something isn’t right. If you think you know a male friend, family member, colleague or neighbour who is suffering abuse, then there are signs you can look for – How to Spot the Signs Someone is Enduring Domestic Abuse.
Try to encourage him to have a conversation and open up, bearing in mind that he may be feeling ashamed or embarrassed to admit what’s happening. Reassure him that he’s not to blame and that he’s not weak. You won’t be able to provide sole support or solutions, but be there to believe him, support his decisions and to assist him in finding the necessary help.
If you are experiencing Domestic Abuse, we are here to support you as and when you feel ready to take your first steps to seeking help and advice. You can contact Herts Domestic Abuse Helpline for advice and support. Our FREE confidential helpline is set up to support anyone who is impacted directly or indirectly by Domestic Abuse. Call 08 088 088 088 to speak to a local expert who can offer bespoke advice and signposting to support groups and the most appropriate agency support.