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While it is a general perception the pain of domestic abuse is something endured only by women, domestic violence against men is more commonplace than is often realised.
Official statistics and surveys reveal what some would regard as a surprisingly high proportion of women inflict physical harm as well as emotional, psychological and coercive control over their male partner. The same is true in same-sex relationships.
Included in a 50-item collation of the latest available statistics compiled by ManKind Initiative, an organisation which supports male victims of domestic abuse, was its own freedom of information finding that a quarter (174,733) of those reporting domestic abuse to police forces in England and Wales in 2018 were men, up from 19.0% (73,000) in 2012. The massive jump in aggregate figures is partly explained by coercive control not being a crime in 2012.
The finding was mirrored in annual crime survey for England and Wales which found a quarter of all domestic abuse crimes in 2018/19 were committed against a male victim.
In the same year 16 men died at the hands of their partner or ex-partner compared with 80 women, according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS) data.
The crime survey’s stats also showed that 3.8% of men (equal to 786,000) and 7.5% of women (1.6m) were victims of domestic abuse in 2018/19.
As ManKind points out: “For every three victims of domestic abuse, two will be female, one will be male.”
That is not a stat which sits easily with the common idea of men being tough and macho. For many even the idea that there is domestic violence against men will be an eye-opener.
In its advice to male victims, ManKind says: “It is important to recognise that you are not to blame, you are not weak and you are not alone. Understand what is happening to you.
“If you are a victim of domestic abuse or domestic violence, it is unlikely the abusive person will change their behaviour towards you. Domestic violence or domestic abuse is always about asserting power and control.”
But with the tough, macho image in mind it is perhaps no surprise that 49% of men (compared with 19% of women) told no one they were victims of domestic abuse in the 12 months to March 2018, according to the crime survey for England and Wales.
The proportion jumps to 59% of men who call ManKind’s helpline (01823 334244), with 70% saying they would not have rung if the helpline was not anonymous.
The organisation reports 95% of its callers suffer emotional abuse, 68% physical, 41% psychological, 23% financial 13% coercive control and 3% sexual abuse.
In its 50 Key Facts about Male Victims of Domestic Abuse, Mankind refers to academic research into why men stay in abusive relationships. The main reason is concern about the children (89%), followed by considering marriage is for life (81%), love (71%), fear of never seeing their children again (68%), a belief she will change (56%), lack of money (53%), nowhere to go (52%), embarrassment (52%), not wanting to take their children away from their mother (46%), threats she will kill herself (28%) and a fear she will kill him (24%).
There also appears to be an unwillingness by men to suspect ‘their woman’ will turn violent against him: only 3% of applications made to police forces in 2017 under the Domestic Abuse Disclosure Scheme (Clare’s Law) were by men.
Related to the issue of domestic violence against men is coercive control. A survey of 2,003 adults in late-2018 by West London solicitors IBB found an equal portion of men and women (34%) saying they had experienced being in a coercive or controlling relationship.
Behaviours recorded included 30% men (23% women) suspected their partner of spying on them; 29% men (22% women) saying their partner monitored or controlled spending; 27% men (20% women) had a partner who intentionally destroyed possessions or deleted important emails or texts; 24% men (14% women) had a partner who hid or took away their phone, tablet or computer; and 24% men (11% women) had a partner who deprived or limited their intake of food.
Yet 48% of men who responded said they did nothing about it, compared with 33% of the women.
As for gay men, 3.2% said they suffered from partner abuse in 2018/19. Related figures from the national crime survey of England and Wales were 3.3% for bi-sexual men, 2.8% for heterosexual men, 7.6% for lesbian women, 9.1% for bisexual women and 5.6% for heterosexual women.
Stepping back a year, the 2017/18 crime survey came up with the finding that 32% of male victims of domestic abuse and 23% of women suffered a physical injury, while 11% male victims and 7.2% women had tried to take their own lives – a dark side to domestic violence against men.
Finally, it is all too easy to become prejudiced with this emotional issue and see one gender as the other’s victim. But ManKind says: “We are gender inclusive in our view, so we want all female victims (and their children) to escape too.”
And Rights of Women, which helps female victims, states in the introduction to its legal guidance: “Sexual violence and domestic abuse is most commonly perpetrated by men against women … However, we recognise that this is not always the case and that domestic abuse and sexual violence can and does occur in same-sex relationships and, in a minority of cases, by women against men. Our legal guidance relates equally to all survivors.”
The ManKind Initiative offers support to male victims, to enable them and any children to escape from the domestic abuse. The charity, which is funded by donations from the public, runs a national helpline with a trained team providing practical advice, information, signposting and emotional support to victims or concerned friends, family members and work colleagues.
ManKind offers a one-day training course and other support services for professionals who support men enduring domestic abuse.
For confidential help, male victims of domestic abuse should call: 01823 334244
Further information is available on ManKind’s website.