John Bolch says: men are also victims of domestic violence

Family|June 12th 2014

Assuming that domestic violence is something only suffered by women is an easy trap to fall into. After all, men are physically stronger, right? How can they possibly be victims of domestic violence?

Whilst it is of course true that the majority of reported domestic violence is against women, a significant proportion is against men. I would also venture to suggest that male victims might be even more reluctant than female victims to report violence against them, in which case the proportion of men suffering domestic violence might be even higher.

What are the figures? Well, according to the British Crime Survey men were the victims of just over a quarter of incidents of domestic violence in 2010. I suspect that that figure may surprise many. As a long-time family lawyer I have of course been aware that men suffer domestic violence too, but even I didn’t think the percentage was that high before I saw first the survey.

Looking at the latest annual results for the Crime Survey for England and Wales, which were published in January 2014, we can get a better idea of the number of victims. In 2010/11 the British Crime Survey estimated that there were 392,000 incidents of domestic violence. If men were the victims in a quarter of those, that comes to a horrific 98,000.

So just what proportion of the male population are victims – surely only a small fraction? Well, not exactly – whilst the survey showed that (just) 4.8 per centof men aged 16 to 59 had been victims of domestic abuse in the previous year, a full 17 per cent had been victims at some time since the age of 16.

So, the figures clearly indicate a very serious problem. I can see, however, that some may still not be convinced. They may accept that the odd hen-pecked husband may be abused by his domineering wife, but surely most men are quite capable of defending themselves?

Well, I’m not really qualified to comment upon how many men are physically able and mentally prepared to defend themselves against an attack by their female partners, although whilst I was practising I did come across a number of cases where they were not prepared to do so.

We should also, however, consider two other points:

Firstly, domestic violence also takes place in same-sex relationships. Obviously, if both partners or spouses are men, then the victim will be male.

Secondly, domestic abuse does not just include physical violence. Last year the Home Office defined domestic violence and abuse as:

“Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are, or have been, intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. The abuse can encompass, but is not limited to:

  • psychological
  • physical
  • sexual
  • financial
  • emotional”

Controlling behaviour is defined as “a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour.”

Coercive behaviour is defined as “an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim.”

Perhaps it is a little easier to envisage men as victims of controlling or coercive behaviour, which they suffer along with actual violence. Realising that domestic abuse includes such behaviour, I think, helps an understanding of the problem.

Whether you understand it or not, however, the simple fact of the matter is that domestic violence is a scourge that can affect anyone, irrespective of gender. Accordingly, all efforts and initiatives aimed at dealing with it should recognise that fact.

I will finish by saying what I said at the end of my post on Tuesday about World Cup-related domestic violence: if you are the victim of domestic violence then there are legal steps that you can take to protect yourself – contact a specialist family lawyer for advice.

Author: John Bolch

John Bolch often wonders how he ever became a family lawyer. He no longer practises, but has instead earned a reputation as one of the UK's best-known family law bloggers.

Comments(10)

  1. Luke says:

    “I would also venture to suggest that male victims might be even more reluctant than female victims to report violence against them, in which case the proportion of men suffering domestic violence might be even higher.”
    ===================================
    .
    Might be even higher ? Good grief…
    .
    Study after study shows that domestic violence (depending how you define it of course) by women is about 50% of all incidents – it is something feminists don’t like to be reported but it is true.
    .
    In terms of damage done, men can sustain far more physical abuse without major injury and inevitably are also generally more capable of inflicting it so injuries to women will inevitably be higher.

  2. Andrew says:

    By what power does the Home Office “define” domestic violence or anything else? DV is violence occurring in a domestic context. Violence involves the commission of one or more criminal offences. Criminal offences are defined by common law (e.g. murder) or by statutes (e.g. common assault or a.b.h.) and the holdings of the courts as to the meaning of the words in those statutes. No role for the Home Office.

  3. Luke says:

    ===========
    “My figure, which ties up with others, of the first 100 women that came into my Refuge – 62 were as violent or some more violent than the men they left – and the rest (38) were innocent victims of their partner’s violence”
    .
    Erin Pizzey – Domestic Violence Symposium
    Establishied Europe’s first domestic violence shelters, founding the charity Refuge
    .
    ==============
    .
    We need to get away from the idea that domestic violence is gender specific – it isn’t.

  4. Tony bevington says:

    Statistics can be very misleading. men are far more reluctant to come forward and admit they have been abused. This for reasons of how it makes them look. Also there has been a recognition of DV to women for many years now. Women’s groups have worked hard at making men out to be the perpetrators and women the victims. The Media have played along with this as well. Men have an uphill task to get abuse, violence and emotional control against them recognised and not belittled, as it is mostly at the moment.

  5. Domestic violence: women more likely to be aggressive in relationships - Marilyn Stowe Blog says:

    […] addition, women prone to domestic violence were also likely to display controlling behaviour such as limiting who their partner could see […]

  6. The Devil's Advocate says:

    In consideration of the following information John B provided…

    “Firstly, domestic violence also takes place in same-sex relationships. Obviously, if both partners or spouses are men, then the victim will be male.

    Secondly, domestic abuse does not just include physical violence. Last year the Home Office defined domestic violence and abuse as:

    “Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are, or have been, intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. The abuse can encompass, but is not limited to:

    psychological
    physical
    sexual
    financial
    emotional”

    Controlling behaviour is defined as “a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour.”

    Coercive behaviour is defined as “an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim.”

    Perhaps it is a little easier to envisage men as victims of controlling or coercive behaviour, which they suffer along with actual violence. Realising that domestic abuse includes such behaviour, I think, helps an understanding of the problem.

    Whether you understand it or not, however, the simple fact of the matter is that domestic violence is a scourge that can affect anyone, irrespective of gender. Accordingly, all efforts and initiatives aimed at dealing with it should recognise that fact.

    I will finish by saying what I said at the end of my post on Tuesday about World Cup-related domestic violence: if you are the victim of domestic violence then there are legal steps that you can take to protect yourself – contact a specialist family lawyer for advice.”

    Thank you for this. If a poster summarising this was placed in all CAB Offices I am sure that local family solicitors would be rubbing their hands with glee, for I feel even JB will know that allegations made by an applicant relating to domestic violence may be eligible to Legal Aid too. Wow!

    • charles Jackson-Smythe says:

      Apart from letting people know about the Free to Attend Convention in Bedford on March 12th 2016. I do make the point that regarding obtaining a Specialist, and I repeat a Specialist, Family Lawyer who specialises in men as victims read one or two books about the process. Plan your divorce at least 6 months in advance, do not walk out ‘in a huff’ because the whole process is nasty and as a man you will generally lose even if you are in the right and particularly if there are children involved. The money grapping wives that file for divorce plan for months on end and will gather evidence and formulate her lies by visiting a Female orientated Specialist Family Lawyer months in advance, she won’t havethe decency to tell you about her schemes, you have to Exercise Due Diligence because if you don’t she will have done and you are, as a friend of mine said,’ the Turkey that is going to be served up at Christmas’

      • Stitchedup says:

        Very true regarding the scheming that many women get up to. I know my ex visited a solicitor months before we separated and spent the time between formulating her lies and preparing her exit. She was egged on by several groups of people including recently divorced old school “friends”, all of whom she has since fallen out with, an interfering feminist work colleague who just happened to be a volunteer with women’s aid, and her “lover boy” boss. All these people only had their own interests at heart, which I believe the ex has since discovered. Unfortunately for the man he’s shown no quarter once the bombshell is dropped; as yo say, very much the Turkey served on Christmas day.

  7. Tony Bevington says:

    Finding a specialist Lawyer in Domestic Abuse against men is not as simple as you make it sound and even then you will be extremely lucky to get Legal Aid unless you have substantive proof of ‘physical damage’ against you. Emotional control is not eligible for Legal Aid I discovered. The Judge decided the abuse against me was not ‘extreme enough’. Despite the Police reports of aggressive behaviour and threats of suicide. So men are still out on a limb as regards getting justice for abuse. Maybe that’s also because the Judges are invariably ‘old school’ in attitude and belief ? The Government is conceivably attempting to move with the times. The Law is lagging far behind.

  8. AH says:

    Many women play on the fact that domestic abuse is something that happens to women. Knowing that what ever they say to the police should it be truth or lies the police will accept what the woman says and side with the women..
    I left my partner because she is agressive and abusive when she drinks.. this went on for some time i had to accept it in order to keep sering my daughter..as my daughter got older . She would see her mothers behaviour. I had to leave my family to create peace around my child . When ever my x became aggressive and abusive i would get in my car and leave as we lived apart..
    On the day i finally left my x she had taken my car keys . OfI which i had snatched back from her hands… this got me an assault charge .. the drunken behaviour of my x had no bearing on things. … i believed i was being the civil minded adult .. how wrong i was

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