Research Paper on Male Victims of Domestic Violence

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This sample research paper on Male Victims of Domestic Violence features 1000 words (3 pages) and a bibliography with 27 sources.

Men represent half of all domestic violence victims (Archer 2000; Straus and Gelles 1990) and incur between 21 percent and 40 percent of physical injuries resulting from domestic violence (Archer 2000; Straus 2004; Tjaden and Thoennes 1998); the combined impact of physical and psychological abuse is comparable across genders (Pimlott-Kubiak and Cortina 2003). Children who witness their mothers assault their father are at risk for emotional distress (Mahoney et al. 2003), and for perpetrating relationship violence in adolescence (Foshee, Bauman, and Linder 1999; Moretti et al. in press) and adulthood (Kaura and Allen 2004; Langhinrichsen- Rohling, Neidig, and Thorn 1995; Straus 1992). Clearly, the problem of abused males is a serious one. And yet, male victims often remain in abusive relationships and do not get the help they need. Some of the reasons for staying are similar to those given by female victims, while others are particular to men.

Financial Dependency

A common misconception is that men, who typically have greater earning power than women, enjoy greater financial independence and can therefore more easily escape a violent environment. However, the advantage that men have in income levels when married is often lost after a divorce, when the female partner is awarded alimony and child support (Cook 1997; Pearson 1997). According to Steinmetz (1977–1978):

If the husband leaves the family he is still responsible for a certain amount of economic support of the family in addition to the cost of a separate residence for himself. Thus the loss in standard of living is certainly a consideration for any husband who is contemplating a separation. . . . Leaving the family home means leaving . . . the comfortable and familiar, that which is not likely to be reconstructed in a small apartment. (p. 506)

Emotional Dependency

Like female victims, many male victims come from abusive, dysfunctional family backgrounds and seek to meet their stunted emotional needs with their partners, who may have had similar experiences. These couples ‘‘form a partnership of mutual dependency, shoring up each other’s weaknesses and isolating each other from a world they believe is cruel and stress-laden’’ (Shupe, Stacey, and Hazlewood 1987, pp. 60–61). Most physically abused men (e.g., 95 percent of callers to the Domestic Abusive Helpline for Men; Hines, Brown, and Dunning in press) also report being controlled, verbally abused, and isolated from friends and family (Graham-Kevan in press). As a result, they suffer significant loss of self-esteem and may even become convinced that the violence is their fault. They do not believe that they could do much better in another relationship. When their partners apologize for their behavior and shower them with affection, male victims will recommit, rationalizing the abuse and viewing their partners as ‘‘really a good people’’ whom they must ‘‘heal,’’ rather than dangerous people from whom they should flee (Migliaccio 2002; Pearson 1997).

Fear of Retribution and Concern for the Children

Men who contemplate leaving an abusive relationship may fear being stalked, enduring malicious rumors spread by their partners among friends and at their place of employment, or having to face false accusations of domestic violence (Cook 1997; Hines et al. in press; Pearson 1997). Men worry about losing their children in a custody dispute and are further motivated to stay if the children have been abused by the mother—a valid concern, given that abusive wives are as likely to hit their children as are abusive husbands (Margolin and Gordis 2003; Straus and Smith 1990). Given the bias within law enforcement toward arresting males (e.g., Brown 2004; Hamel 2005; Shernock 2005), calling the police may often be futile. One victim who sought to press charges was told by the police, ‘‘There’s nothing to press charges on. She’s half your size. The judge won’t even look at it’’ (Cook 1997, p. 79).

Male Socialization and the ‘‘Wimp’’ Factor

Their identities ‘‘coded by masculine scripts’’ (Pearson 1997, p. 128), men are socialized to be responsible and competent, and this includes a commitment to marriage (Hines and Malley-Morrison 2001). As one man put it:

When you get married it’s your responsibility to provide to make sure there is food on the table, clothes. Regardless of the fact that women are going out working these days, men are still taught that it is their responsibility to provide. So, if you leave, you are abdicating your responsibility, and you are less than a man. (Cook 1997, p. 61)

The needs to suppress pain and to appear strong and in control also inhibit men’s ability to leave an abusive relationship and to admit they have been victimized. As children, males who are physically attacked have the choice of hitting back and being perceived as aggressive, running away and appearing weak, or minimizing the pain and appearing strong in the eyes of peers (Fontes 2003). In adulthood, male domestic violence victims are thus prone to minimize the abuse, out of fear of being labeled ‘‘wimps’’ (Cook 1997; Flynn 1990; Fontes 1998; George 2003) and becoming objects of ridicule. Society deplores wife abuse, but husband abuse is treated as a humorous topic (Steinmetz and Lucca 1988). Pat Overberg, past director of the Antelope Valley Oasis Shelter, relates the story of an ironworker whom she helped: ‘‘This guy was big, and his wife was tall, but thin, probably no more than a hundred pounds. . . . She kept beating him up with a baseball bat. Every time he came out of the hospital, they [his coworkers] were laughing him off the girders’’ (Cook 1997, p. 54).

When men do muster the courage to leave their abusers and seek help, they find few resources available. ‘‘I called eleven numbers for battered women,’’ one man recounted, ‘‘and got no help’’ (Hines et al. in press, p. 15). As of this writing, only one out of approximately 1,800 shelters in the United States accepts male residents and their children. Some shelters help men in other ways, but only if men happen to contact them, and there is little if any outreach (Cook 1997; Fontes 2003). Faced with these obstacles, it is not surprising that abused men so often choose to stay.

See also:


  1. Archer, J. ‘‘Sex Differences in Aggression between Heterosexual Partners: A Meta-Analytic Review.’’ Psychological Bulletin 126, no. 5 (2000): 651–680.
  2. Brown, G. ‘‘Gender as a Factor in the Response of the Law- Enforcement System to Violence against Partners.’’ Sexuality and Culture 8, no. 3-4 (2004): 1–87.
  3. Cook, P. Abused Men: The Hidden Side of Domestic Violence. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1997.
  4. Fontes, D. ‘‘Violent Touch: Breaking through the Stereotype,’’ 2003.
  5. Foshee, V., K. Bauman, and F. Linder. ‘‘Family Violence and the Preparation of Adolescent Dating Violence: Examining Social Learning and Social Control Processes.’’ Journal of Marriage and the Family 61, no. 2 (1999): 331–342.
  6. George, M. ‘‘Invisible Touch.’’ Aggression and Violent Behavior 8 (2003): 23–60.
  7. Graham-Kevan, N. ‘‘Power and Control in Relationship Aggression.’’ In Family Interventions in Domestic Violence: A Handbook of Gender-Inclusive Theory and Treatment, edited by J. Hamel and T. Nicholls. New York: Springer.
  8. Hamel, J. ‘‘Fixing Only Part of the Problem: Public Policy and Batterer Intervention.’’ Family Violence and Sexual Assault Bulletin, 21, no. 2/3 (2005): 18–42.
  9. Hines, D., J. Brown, and E. Dunning. ‘‘Characteristics of Callers to the Domestic Abuse Helpline for Men.’’ Journal of Family Violence.
  10. Hines, D., and K. Malley-Morrison. ‘‘Psychological Effects of Partner Abuse against Men: A Neglected Research Area.’’ Psychology of Men and Masculinity 2, no. 2 (2001): 75–85.
  11. Kaura, S., and C. Allen. ‘‘Dissatisfaction with Relationship Power and Dating Violence Perpetration by Men and Women.’’ Journal of Interpersonal Violence 19, no. 5 (2004): 576–588.
  12. Langhinrichsen-Rohling, J., P. Neidig, and G. Thorn. ‘‘Violent Marriages: Gender Differences in Levels of Current Violence and Past Abuse.’’ Journal of Family Violence 10, no. 2 (1995): 159–175.
  13. Mahoney, A., W. Donnelly, P. Boxer, and T. Lewis. ‘‘Marital and Severe Parent-to-Adolescent Physical Aggression in Clinic-Referred Families: Mother and Adolescent Reports on Co-occurrence and Links to Child Behavior Problems.’’ Journal of Family Psychology 17, no. 1 (2003): 3–19.
  14. Margolin, G., and E. Gordis. ‘‘Co-occurrence between Marital Aggression and Parents’ Child Abuse Potential: The Impact of Cumulative Stress.’’ Violence and Victims 18, no. 3 (2003): 243–258.
  15. Migliaccio, T. ‘‘Abused Husbands: A Narrative Analysis.’’ Journal of Family Issues 23, no. 1 (2002): 26–52.
  16. Moretti, M., C. Odgers, and I. Obsuth. ‘‘Exposure to Maternal Versus Paternal Partner Violence and Aggression in Adolescent Girls and Boys: The Moderating Role of PTSD.’’ Aggressive Behavior.
  17. Pearson, P. When She Was Bad: Women and the Myth of Innocence. New York: Penguin, 1997.
  18. Pimlott-Kubiak, S., and M. Cortina. ‘‘Gender, Victimization and Outcomes: Reconceptualizing Risk.’’ Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 71, no. 3 (2003): 528–539.
  19. Shernock, S. ‘‘Police Categorization and Disposition of Non-Lethal Partner Violence Incidents Involving Women Offenders in a Statewide Rural Jurisdiction with a Presumptive Arrest Policy.’’ Family Violence and Sexual Assault Bulletin, 21, no. 2/3 (2005): 11–17.
  20. Shupe, A., W. Stacey, and L. Hazlewood. Violent Men, Violent Couples: The Dynamics of Domestic Violence. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1987.
  21. Steinmetz, S. ‘‘The Battered Husband Syndrome.’’ Victimology 2 (1977–1978): 499–509.
  22. Steinmetz, S., and J. Lucca. ‘‘Husband Battering.’’ In Handbook of Family Violence, edited V. Van Hasselt. New York: Plenum Press, 1988, pp. 233–246.
  23. Straus, M. ‘‘Children as Witnesses to Marital Violence: A Risk Factor for Lifelong Problems among a Nationally Representative Sample of American Men and Women.’’ Report of the 23rd Ross Roundtable on Critical Approaches to Common Pediatric Problems, M5796. September 1992.
  24. ———. ‘‘Prevalence of Violence against Dating Partners by Male and Female University Students Worldwide.’’ Violence against Women 10, no. 7 (2004): 790–811.
  25. Straus, M., and R. Gelles. Physical Violence in American Families. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1990.
  26. Straus, M., and C. Smith. ‘‘Family Patterns and Child Abuse.’’ In Physical Violence in American Families, edited by M. Straus and R. Gelles. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1990, pp. 245–262.
  27. Tjaden, P., and N. Thoennes. ‘‘Prevalence, Incidence and Consequences of Violence against Women: Findings from the National Violence against Women Survey.’’ NCJ172837. National Institute of Justice, 1998.

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