Men are often conditioned to believe that they can’t be a survivor of abuse. Even in today’s society, there are still segments of culture wherein the idea of not conforming to masculine norms is ridiculed. 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.
What Is Domestic Abuse?
Types of Domestic Violence
Effects of Trauma on Mental Health
Effects of Trauma and Abuse on the Body
Domestic Abuse Prevention Strategies
Domestic Violence Support
Organizations and Community Resources
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:
- Throwing objects
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:
- Forcing you to watch pornography
- Forcing you to engage in sexual acts you are uncomfortable with
- Exposing themselves inappropriately or forcing you to expose yourself
- Unwanted sexual advances
- Obscene comments that make the other person feel uncomfortable
- Any other form of sexual harassment or forced sexual activity
Emotional abuse occurs when a person’s self-esteem is diminished by continual criticism. This type of abuse involves:
- Belittling someone’s abilities
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:
- Intimidation tactics
- Damaging property when angry
- Breaking things
- Punching walls
- Abusing pets
- Not allowing you to speak for yourself
- Playing mind games
Financial or economical
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:
- Making you account for every penny spent
- Taking your money without permission
- Treating all accounts as if they are co-mingled
- Refusing to work
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.
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:
- PTSD: Post-traumatic stress disorder can occur after a traumatic event such as abuse. It may start with disturbing dreams and flashbacks to the incident, but over time these symptoms become more severe and might include avoiding situations that remind you of your traumatic experience; constantly feeling on edge; having difficulty sleeping; or having an exaggerated startle reflex (jumpiness).
- Depression: An abusive or violent relationship can lead to depression or prolonged sadness. This environment is hostile, and an individual caught in it may feel shameful. Those who are abused may become isolated from those around them and may start to see themselves as worthless and powerless. They may also feel hopeless about their situation.
- Anxiety: Anxiety can occur after a stressful event such as abuse. An individual experiencing abuse may have panic attacks anytime they become stressed, and they may experience anxiety symptoms throughout the day. They may be irritable, restless, or easily fatigued. They may also have trouble concentrating or sleeping. Those who are abused often feel that their life is out of their control, and this can result in anxiety.
- Suicidal thoughts: A person who is abused may become suicidal if the depressive effects are too severe. They may feel like they have no reason to go on, and they may lose all hope for their future. The individual might reach a point where they believe death may be better than living with their current pain.
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 and cause physical effects such as liver damage or liver failure.
Sexual abuse, regardless of gender, always puts the survivor at risk for 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:
- Planning for an escape route in case you feel threatened
- Deciding where you would go if you had to leave quickly
- Finding a safe place (either with friends or family or at a shelter)
- Arranging child care if needed
- Preparing an escape bag containing clothing, spare keys, money, medications, and other items that might be helpful in case of emergency
- Talking to loved ones about a long-term solution (staying at their house, financial assistance to live alone, and pressing criminal charges)
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. Being vulnerable is a small price to pay to 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 them. 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 also need support in leaving their abuser.
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 or feel as though they are back within 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.
Hotlines are another effective method of 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. They 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:
- What services they provide
- Whether their counselors are trained in specific areas such as child abuse or sexual assault
- How long it may take for you to get a return call
- What safety measures they have in place
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.
Domestic Violence Organizations
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: The National Domestic Violence Hotline is the only national hotline that offers help to survivors of domestic violence seeking information and referrals to community resources in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Language translation services are available in numerous languages, including Spanish, Farsi, and Arabic.
- National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma and Mental Health: This site is devoted to understanding domestic violence and trauma, particularly as they co-occur. It has information about mental health issues for survivors and professionals, including symptoms and effects of trauma; coping with flashbacks and dissociation; treatment options for survivors and their children; and safety planning.
- National Coalition Against Domestic Violence: The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence is a federation of state domestic violence coalitions and allied organizations that advocates for programs, policies, and legislation to end the violence in communities. Each year this coalition works with thousands of local programs providing direct services to women, men, children, and families who have been affected by physical and sexual abuse at the hands of someone.
- National Sexual Violence Resource Center: The NSVRC is a nonprofit organization that facilitates the development of effective responses to sexual violence. NSVRC provides leadership and consultation on public policy, prevention strategies, treatment programs, and community-engaged initiatives through collaboration, resource development, and training.
- Overcoming Sexual Abuse: Overcoming Sexual Abuse is dedicated to providing resources and support for survivors who have been sexually abused or assaulted. The website contains numerous articles, information about therapy, video interviews with other survivors, and much more.
- RAINN: The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network is one of the nation’s largest anti-sexual-violence organizations. RAINN operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE and the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline via www.Rainn.org. RAINN connects sexual assault survivors with local rape crisis centers, provides free information about sexual assault as well as personalized healing for survivors, and educates the public about sexual assault.
- National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs: The NCAVP supports LGBTQ+ communities and addresses the most critical issues in their lives, focusing on hate crimes against LGBTQ+ people.
- Los Angeles LGBT Center: The Los Angeles LGBT Center provides free and low-cost support to sexual assault and domestic violence survivors. They also provide general legal assistance, including immigration, adoption, name changes, advance directives, and more.
- The Network/La Red: The Network/La Red is a survivor-led social justice organization that works to end partner abuse in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, polyamorous, and queer communities. Their site has information about abusive relationships, including red flags to watch for when dating someone new.
- FORGE: FORGE is a nonprofit organization that provides education, support, and advocacy to help the transgender community heal from trauma, such as sexual violence. They provide resources on their site for transgender survivors, friends, and family. They also have information about how the criminal justice system might treat a survivor based on their gender identity and how to work with mental health providers who may not understand transgender identities.
Children and Teen Abuse Resources
- Domestic Abuse and Sexual Assault Intervention Services: The DASAIS program is devoted to serving survivors, children, friends, and family. They provide free services, including an emergency shelter for adults and teens, transitional housing programs (with support services like childcare), individual counseling for parents and children, legal advocacy/representation, community education, and training on domestic violence issues.
- Child Welfare Information Gateway: This site provides national statistics and resources on child-related issues, including child abuse and neglect, foster care, adoption, teen pregnancy, and more.
- Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline: The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline is available 24/7 to report child abuse or neglect. They also provide information about starting a local hotline in your community and ways to volunteer if you are interested.
Resources Geared Toward Male Survivors
- 1in6: 1in6 provides information about the unique issues facing men who experienced unwanted or abusive childhood sexual experiences. The site also offers guidance on the different types of therapy that are helpful for men who share these experiences and ways to connect with other survivors.
- Help Guide: This site provides tips on how to leave an abusive relationship; warning signs of domestic abuse, including emotional abuse; and ways men can avoid becoming abusers. They also provide resources for men to determine if they’ve been abused and what to do if they have.
- Men’s Rights: There are many resources available for men who want to learn more about what they can do to stop violence against women. This page provides information on how to hold abusers accountable and offers guidance on the best way to be an ally for this cause.
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention: The CDC’s site has information about different types of abuse, signs and symptoms to watch for, and ways to prevent sexual violence. This includes resources on domestic violence among men.
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.