His mother taught him that boys don't hit girls. She never told him there are women who hit men.
Mark, who asked that his full name not be used, is a former victim of domestic abuse.
“I was always taught that real men don’t hit women. But I just don’t know how we are supposed to defend ourselves,” Mark says.
He wonders why society doesn’t show respect to men like him. Instead, men might automatically become the accused when law enforcement is called to a domestic disturbance. Men also may be concerned about being ridiculed.
This stereotype is slowly changing as police officers are becoming more gender-neutral in cases of domestic disputes.
“Our department doesn’t just give a free pass to someone because they are a woman,” Boonville, Mo., police officer Lt. Randy Ayers says. “I’ve had to take a number of females into custody on domestic abuse charges.”
Mr. Ayers says that he has seen an increase in domestic violence cases where the woman is the perpetrator.
Still, men may stay silent because of the social perception that a male is physically stronger than a female and able to placate a woman’s attack easier.
Retired Kansas City psychologist Dr. Lawrence Scheck has treated both perpetrators and victims of domestic violence and says that males are at a disadvantage when psychologically abused by their female partners.
“Women have greater depth when it comes to verbalizing their feelings. It takes men a little longer to access and delve through the informational aspect of what is being argued about,” Dr. Scheck says.
He says men are asymmetrical and have perspective depth, while females tend to be bi-symmetrical in their thinking with greater communicative depth.
Recent studies have shown that there is an almost equal amount of abuse perpetrated against males as females. In a survey taken by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2010, researchers found that 40 percent of the victims of severe physical domestic violence are men.
Society is quick to focus attention on female victims, although that has not always been the case. It took decades of repeatedly speaking out before law enforcement, the courts and the public realized the severity of domestic abuse. Now, men must put a voice to their victimization.
One famous case of domestic violence centered on the popular comedian and actor Phil Hartman of “Saturday Night Live” fame. He endured domestic abuse at the hands of his wife, who eventually shot and killed him before turning the gun on herself.
Our society spends more money on women’s programs although men also are victims of both physical and psychological abuse. Congress currently spends around $1 billion annually on domestic violence programs.
While there are many resources to help female victims of domestic violence, males are not as fortunate. Federal tax dollars are funneled to support hotlines, temporary shelters and transitional housing, the majority of which are for women.
Services are scarce for men who do seek help. Most males are ashamed and don’t want to be viewed as “weak” or labeled as feminine. So, men suffer in silence without anyone knowing they are being abused by a woman.
Heartland EMT Travis Owens has been in the business of emergency care for the past 25 years. During that time he has seen many cases of domestic abuse. He says he had encountered a number of men who had been abused by the women they were in a relationship with.
“The sad thing is, when it’s gotten to the point that someone has to call us, it usually means the guy has been stabbed or shot,” Mr. Owens says.
Mr. Owens points out that in his experience, most victims of domestic violence are women, but the more severe cases are when the man is the victim.
Although there has been an increase in the number of fatal domestic violence incidents against women, men are more likely to be victims of attacks with deadly weapons. According to one study, 63 percent of male victims had a deadly weapon used against them in a fight with an intimate partner.
So how can a male victim of domestic violence protect himself? Hobbs, New Mexico, registered nurse Cynthia McVey says there are things men can do to be proactive in their defense.
“One thing they can do is keep a dated journal of every incident. They need to include pictures of any injuries with dates of the abuse,” Ms. McVey says.
She even suggests setting up a nanny cam or voice-activated recorder.
There are skeptics who believe a male can’t be a victim of domestic abuse. Those who have experienced psychological and physical cruelty usually react with shame, embarrassment and denial. Fear of being judged and the home being torn apart keeps many men silent.
Men or women in an abusive situation can call the Domestic Violence Hotline at (888) 743-5754 for help.