Men are often conditioned to believe that they can't be a survivor of abuse. Even in today’s society, some people ridicule others for not conforming to masculine norms. Many men have trouble reconciling their masculinity with being abused because it goes against much of what they believe defines them as a man.
Emotional, physical, and sexual abuse are examples of violence that may affect both women and men. Often, a survivor may experience several forms of domestic violence at once. While women are more likely to experience repeated domestic abuse, the percentage of abused men should not be overlooked. Domestic abuse against men also tends not to be recognized due to a lack of reporting.
Any person who feels trapped inside their abusive relationship because they don't want to lose their family or friends must learn about what they are going through and ways to get out of the situation. However, the stigma surrounding male abuse may lead men to deny being assaulted or may even cause them to not realize it is taking place.
Domestic abuse, or domestic violence, is a pattern of behaviors used by one partner to maintain power and control over another partner in an intimate relationship. Often the abuser will intimidate, manipulate, blame, or isolate the victim to get their way. No matter what form it takes, it is a tactic used for one purpose: to gain and maintain total control over another person.
Domestic abuse can happen to anyone of any race, age, sexual orientation, or gender. It can happen in couples who are married, not married, living together, or apart. While women tend to be the primary targets of domestic abuse, anyone can be affected — regardless of income, education, ethnicity, or religion.
Domestic violence comes in many forms. Regardless of what type of abuse occurs, certain red flags indicate when a partner may become abusive, and the affected individual should take steps to protect themselves.
The following information includes some common types of domestic violence that someone might encounter and how they differ from one another. It is vital to know what to look out for if you are worried about your own experience or someone else's.
Physical abuse is, unfortunately, a common form of domestic violence. This type of abuse involves putting someone at risk for an injury or hurting them in some way. It can include but is not limited to:
Sexual abuse is a form of abuse in which the abuser coerces or attempts to coerce the abused into having any sexual activity they do not want to have. This can include, but is not limited to:
Emotional abuse occurs when a person's self-esteem is diminished by continual criticism. This type of abuse involves:
Psychological abuse differs from emotional abuse in that it often involves the abuser displaying more control over their victim's thoughts and feelings. This can include, but is not limited to:
Financial abuse occurs when your partner takes advantage of or controls the family finances, withholding money or giving you an allowance. This can include, but is not limited to:
An abuser has one major objective — to obtain power and control, often isolating the victim so they can't get help or monitoring their behavior to ensure they won't leave.
If you are experiencing any of these forms of abuse, it is essential that you get out of the situation as soon as possible. Staying in these situations can increase the severity and risk of injury the longer you remain in a volatile relationship. It would be best to try to find a safe environment for yourself and any children who live with you.
Creating a safety plan is an important first step to escaping harmful environments and relationships, as it’s common for abusers to escalate abuse tactics or threaten victims when they leave. The National Domestic Violence Hotline offers an interactive guide to safety planning.
Abuse, especially prolonged violence, can have many harmful psychological effects. Many people perceive their home as safe and comforting, but those affected by domestic violence do not have this haven. Constantly living with harassment, intimidation, battery, and sexual assault can create a variety of psychological wounds, including:
While physical abuse can take a direct toll on the body (bruises, cuts, and even broken bones), prolonged emotional and psychological abuse can also have adverse physical effects. Extreme stress, anxiety, and depression can increase the risk for more severe conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and even cancer.
Men under extreme stress and mental duress can experience hair loss and a decreased libido — and a variety of sexual dysfunction conditions. This may make male survivors feel like their self-esteem and masculinity have been damaged. To reclaim your sense of confidence, part of your healing process might include finding hair loss solutions and researching erectile dysfunction treatments. Online treatment options like BlueChew thankfully offer a very discreet way to explore your options.
Abuse can lead to substance use, including alcoholism and drug use. Survivors of trauma may use drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism to block out the pain they feel or help themselves sleep at night. Unfortunately, this can become a habit, causing addiction and physical effects such as liver damage or liver failure.
Sexual abuse, regardless of gender, always puts the survivor at risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) from the perpetrator. If you have recently been the victim of sexual abuse, it is imperative to seek medical treatment and tests to determine if you contracted any STDs.
Survivors of abuse can take action to improve their safety. Taking the proper steps can lower your risk of being abused. These may include:
Ultimately, the main goal is to get you and any children away from the abuser. Living in an abusive household can make a survivor feel like they can never get out of the situation. Fortunately, there are many support options for survivors of any gender, age, and sexual orientation.
Domestic abuse survivors need to receive support to get out of the dangerous situation. A domestic violence organization can provide support through crisis intervention, counseling, and legal referrals. Such an organization may also offer transportation to a shelter or other safe location for survivors of abusive relationships.
A trained domestic abuse prevention advocate helps survivors assess the danger they face and helps them develop an escape plan while providing emotional support and safety planning. Support can be found online, over the phone, and even in person.
You can treat domestic abuse via both in-person and online therapy, as well as telehealth. Survivors of child abuse, men who have experienced sexual trauma, and anyone who has experienced domestic abuse should consider treatment for several reasons.
Similar to the difficulty men face in acknowledging domestic violence against them, men also struggle with the vulnerability of going to therapy. Online therapy, such as BetterHelp, values customer care and privacy. Vulnerability may seem scary, but it’s how you can regain your self-esteem and heal significant psychological wounds due to domestic violence and trauma. Once you have decided to seek therapy, you can find useful strategies and tips to help ensure you make the most of it.
Therapy can help individuals learn more about their experiences and come to terms with past trauma. Treatment may help you assess the incident or crisis that led to abuse and identify it as abusive. Individuals need to unpack their feelings and find healthy ways of coping with them so they do not lead to further distress and illness. They may also need support in leaving their abuser if they currently reside with them.
Therapy can also give you tools for coping with PTSD, anxiety, and depression symptoms. Trauma is often accompanied by triggers that cause survivors to relive their experiences, feel disconnected from themselves, or feel as though they are back in an abusive relationship. Working with a therapist can help you cope with these feelings, identify the triggers, and find ways to avoid them in the future.
The American Psychological Association states that, on average, 15-20 sessions are needed for about 50% of patients to recover, while others prefer (and see success with) treatments spanning 20-30 sessions over six months. Some trauma therapies the APA “strongly recommends” include:
Hotlines are another effective method of immediate crisis support for domestic violence survivors. Many organizations that have local hotlines also have online chat services or email support. They often provide a great deal of information about support services in your local community. You can call hotlines to get general information, crisis intervention, referrals, and safety planning.
Hotline staff are trained in many issues that affect any domestic abuse survivor. Some hotlines offer counseling and support, although these are different from professional therapy. Hotline staff can discuss your options and help you develop a plan of action to get the assistance and information available to you.
If you choose to use a hotline, it is essential to know:
Many organizations provide information and assistance against domestic abuse. Organizations provide support and awareness through fundraisers, seminars, conferences, survivor retreats, therapy, and hotlines.
Free or low-cost therapy and support groups are resources that every survivor should investigate. Community-based domestic abuse and sexual assault programs and rape crisis centers can provide individual and group counseling for both male and female survivors. They also provide information about family court, legal issues, mental health services, housing assistance, substance abuse treatment, medical care, advocacy with other social service agencies, and follow-up contact.
Support applies to anyone, but there are options for specialized support for all genders, faiths, cultures, children, and the LGBTQ+ community.
Many of these groups, especially region-specific ones, can point you to a local organization if needed. It's also likely that you live near a domestic violence charity in your community.