NEW PERSPECTIVE : If there’s anything I’ve learned in 10 years of advocacy for unserved victims of partner abuse, it’s that men don’t tell.
Yes, the U.S. Dept. of Justice says there about 840,000 male victims of domestic violence each year. But those are just the ones who’ve reported it.
Not that the numbers really matter: What matters is that it’s happening, and it’s no joke.
There’s a popular presumption that men should somehow be able to “control” the woman in their lives, and if they can’t, then they deserve what they get. But the fact is that today a man who tries to defend himself is more likely than not to end up in jail.
Several decades of awareness campaigns devoted to shedding light on the issue of battered women have resulted in laws that have tipped the scales so far that not only do male victims have little or no legal recourse, abusive women have learned to take advantage of these women-friendly laws and public policies as an aspect of their abusive behaviors.
So what can a man do, when the behavior of his significant other is either violent, abusive, or both?
There are no easy answers, because the few objective researchers into the matter say partner abuse has various causes and origins. However, there are a few things you can do on your own to help not only yourself but your partner.
The most important is to recognize that not all situations are alike. They don’t follow the same pattern. When it comes to men as victims, there is no supportable evidence that domestic violence is always a deliberate choice; nor does it always progress in severity.Trudy W. Schuett
Try to look to the cause. It’s possible that some women just don’t realize what they’re doing.
Maybe they’ve been brought up in an environment where this kind of behavior is considered usual. Some people live their entire lives in an atmosphere of mutual combat on a regular basis – we’re talking about long-term marriages of many years. If that’s the kind of family she had growing up, perhaps she’d be willing to get some counseling, if she knows she’s causing harm to her husband or children.
Is there a medical problem? If a woman who has been congenial and serene suddenly becomes angry or violent, there’s a possibility that a visit to a doctor could be helpful. There are a number of conditions and diseases that can cause behavioral changes, and early recognition and treatment for these is important. Fortunately, women are more likely to seek medical treatment if they know that it’s necessary.
What about drugs or alcohol? Is the abusive behavior something that seems to occur when she’s under the influence? Would she be willing to get help for this problem if she knows it’s causing harm?
If those kinds of solutions don’t address the problem, you could be dealing with a borderline personality disorder.
At the extreme end of the scale is the woman who knows what she is doing and doesn’t care. In that kind of a situation, it’s up to you to decide whether you can live under these conditions, or whether you need to get out for your own safety, or the safety of your children.
Consider proactive steps that can keep a situation from turning violent:
* Move the argument: if you are in the bedroom or kitchen, try to move. The bedroom has understandable reminders of issues that could be important, and the kitchen can be a dangerous source of weapons. The living room or even the front yard is a better place for you to be;
* If you have collections of guns or knives, obviously, get them out of the house, and store them elsewhere. Women tend to go to weapons as equalizers more quickly than men. While even simple items as CD cases and wine glasses can be turned into weapons by a violent woman, it makes sense to remove the obvious dangers;
* Get witnesses. Tell family or friends about your situation, difficult as that may be. Even one person with first-hand knowledge of your problem can make the difference between your wife or girlfriend getting help or using the issue against you. That’s why I suggested the front yard in the earlier point. A nosy neighbor can be your best friend in some cases;
* Do not phone police unless you are in immediate danger, and your life is at risk. Law enforcement professionals nationwide have been trained to presume the man is always the perpetrator. There have been many cases where a man has been arrested, even while his wife is in the process of assaulting him and/or a police officer. Don’t add this extra risk unless you absolutely cannot avoid it;
* Have a safety plan. Put together a bag with a change of clothes, cash, spare keys and toiletries, and keep it somewhere away from your residence.
If you have children, make provisions for them as well, and also include such things as birth certificates and social security cards. You may want to start storing your important papers in a bank safety deposit box. Be sure to arrange for a place to go if you need to spend a night or more away from home.
For more information:
Domestic Abuse Helpline for Men and Women
I also have video on my own site that looks into the circumstance of a few men. It’s called “
” and was part of “The Secret Lives of Women” series on the WE Network.