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Up to one in three domestic violence victims are male

I often write here on the subject of domestic abuse, usually referring to news stories on the subject. Most of those stories relate to domestic abuse committed against women. The reason for this is obviously because the majority of victims are women, as we will see in a moment.

However, that does not, of course, signify that I am being unbalanced in my coverage of the subject – I am only reporting stories from other sources. And to make that point clear, when writing about such stories I often mention that men can be victims of abuse as well as women, as I did here just last week in this post.

The fact that I don’t include that ‘disclaimer’ with every post I write relating to stories about domestic abuse against women does not mean I am promoting a view that only women are victims.

But it seems that there are still some who think that just because I have made no mention of male victims in relation to a story about domestic abuse that means I am being unbalanced in my reporting, or that I simply refuse to acknowledge that men are victims too.

In an attempt to put that right I will repeat what I have done here on at least two occasions previously: write a post solely about domestic abuse against men.

I will begin with some statistics, which will indicate just how serious the problem is. They are the latest that I am aware of, coming from the Office for National Statistics (‘ONS’) article Domestic abuse: findings from the Crime Survey for England and Wales: year ending March 2017, which you can find here.

Amongst its main points, the article states:

“The Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) estimated that 26% of women and 15% of men aged 16 to 59 had experienced some form of domestic abuse since the age of 16, equivalent to an estimated 4.3 million female and 2.4 million male victims, according to the year ending March 2017 CSEW.”


“An estimated 7.5% of women (1.2 million) and 4.3% of men (713,000) experienced domestic abuse in the last year.”

By my maths, the first figures indicated that male victims comprised about 35% of the whole, and the second figures indicated that they comprised about 37% of the whole.

In other words, if these figures are reasonably accurate then more than one in three victims of domestic abuse are men.

And the number of victims may be even higher than the figures set out above suggest. As the ONS explains, the Crime Survey used a definition of domestic abuse that broadly matches the cross-government definition of domestic abuse (which you can find here), but the CSEW estimates do not currently completely capture the offence of “coercive and controlling behaviour”, which was introduced in December 2015.

The statistic of one in three domestic abuse victims being male may come as a surprise to some. I remember when I first looked at the figures a few years ago I was surprised myself by how high the proportion of male victims was. I had of course always been aware that men were victims of abuse as well as women – like all family lawyers, I had come across male victims many times during the time I was practising – but I had always subconsciously assumed that the proportion of male victims was much lower. I suspect that most people who have not seen the figures may have the same assumption.

And that leads me to my next point. Whilst it is absolutely clear that men, and a large number of them, are victims of domestic abuse, the fact is that much of the population generally is not aware of this, and many people still refuse to take the issue seriously. We still, for example, come across the comedy stereotype of the ‘hen-pecked’ husband, unable to stand up to his domineering wife.

But being a victim of domestic abuse is not a joke, and such stereotypical thinking can make it much harder for male victims to be believed, particularly if their abusers are female, and especially if the abuse consists of physical violence. I acknowledge that this is likely to be a serious issue for many male victims. Hopefully, in its small way this post will help to raise awareness of men as victims of abuse, but more clearly needs to be done

So what can a man do if he is the victim of abuse? Well, everything that a woman can do. The law does not distinguish between male and female victims, even if it can be harder for a man to establish his case. Male victims can seek the assistance of the police or can take legal steps of their own to protect themselves. More information is available here.

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, with his content now supporting our divorce lawyers and child custody lawyers

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  1. Tony says:

    And I suspect the vast majority of emotional abuse victims are male – it appearing to be the case that women being able to conduct themselves to lower standards than men with impunity

  2. spinner says:

    This is not new information and if we were to include emotional types of abuse I’d suspect the percentage of victims would be reversed between male / female.

    Yet whenever we hear about government or charity initiatives they near always claim women are the victims not even using a gender neutral term.

    This is down to the institutional sexism we have in government and the courts where sexism is so casual and endemic that it wouldn’t even cross the mind of the person writing the report or making the law that they were being sexist.

  3. Helen Dudden says:

    Emotional abuse or bullying, exists in Parental Alienation. For too long, that has been ignored. At last, after sometime we are being listened too. I feel domestic abuse covers the subject that includes grandparents. To cause emotional pain is abuse, without good reason for no access to the grandchildren, it is inhuman.
    There has been almost an acceptance for many years, of how things are. A sort of ticking the boxes. I write often about international court problems. A husband does all he can to prevent his ex wife leaving the country, he knows if he retains the children, the control is working. Is this emotional abuse? He accuses, he is listened too, his wife is not.
    On the other hand, we should except all cases are different. As a woman, a mother, grandmother and great grandmother, life has taught me to listen and not judge.
    It was a learning curve to study law. Listen, that was one lesson to learn!

  4. James Franklin says:

    John, excellent blog post, I’ll admit to being surprised the figure is that high based on the narrow definition used in the determination by the state.

    I fear that many male victims are reluctant to report all forms of domestic abuse for fear of ridicule or simply being dismissed..we should not forget that the weapon of choice by many females is psychological and so the 1 in 3 for conventional is alarming.

    The Police, Social Services and other Government departments need to shine a light on this, lead the way, and take action to have all claims or instances of abuse treated with equal importance, not having any victim of abuse, male or female, young or old, dismissed, ignored or feel ridiculed when it is reported.

    Further, the Government, the Police, Social Services and especially the Courts/legal profession must treat claims of Parental Allienation as domestic abuse under s.76 The Serious Crime Act 2015.

    Perhaps then we can see both a real and perceived change.

  5. JamesB says:

    The psychological warfare is done for ages, for example silent treatment, then when you grab them you get put in a cell. The alternative of divorcing them where there are children involved is not viable. So, perhaps the answer is coercive control, except the government are making that illegal. How to fight the female abuse? Erm, don’t get married perhaps and if they bring in common law marriage dont live together.

  6. JamesB says:

    The point about men not reporting or knowing what to do when physically assaulted is true also. Speaking as one who has been with two women in my life who did that, you don’t go to the law, you just don’t. If you can you walk away. If you are married with children you have no options but to take it or lock yourself in a room until it stopped, which is what I did with first marriage when she eventually sued for divorce saying DV when she was the perpetrator.

  7. JamesB says:

    Her claims of DV were of course made up and the photos and evidence was all scarring on me. Didn’t stop police and family court branding me a criminal though. Strange thing this political correctness. Hopefully times are changing and the PC brigade have been seen for what they are – liars and rip off merchants out to further their own agendas. Like the charities scandal in the Caribbean for another of many examples which I could write all day.

  8. Mr T says:

    The myth of domestic violence and domestic abuse is that only men commit it.

    I would imagine most, if not all men are subjected to emotional abuse or another form of abuse by their partners. It has never been acknowledged and I would also imagine a very HIGH percentage of those figures are made up and actually females just being believed when they are actually the abusers.

    These then go onto become IDVA’s for Women’s Aid, Social Workers or CAFCASS workers it’s a total mess.

    The whole industry needs a massive overhaul headed by someone impartial. Not from any of the previously mentioned organisations.

  9. BillyO says:

    Due to the stigma of men reporting DV and the disbelief of the police and authorities the male population won’t report such abuse.
    Society is geared up to empower women.
    I have experienced and seen abuse by females that a male would go to jail for. A female is seen as defending herself.
    It’s all gone too far.
    It is refreshing that John has highlighted this but rather disturbing that he is pretending to be shocked by it.

    • John Bolch says:

      Hi BillyO,

      Would you please provide proof of your claim that I am “pretending to be shocked”?



  10. David Eggins says:

    Thank you for pointing out these discrepancies. Our work with female (and male) domestic abusers is in absolute earnest,more than 1,000 men and more than 100 women have completed the 36 hours of work. However, the authorities want to send all female abusers on The Freedom Programme – which is free – and which is only aiming to convince female abusers that they are in fact victims. The children of such abusive mothers are no less at risk than those of their abusive fathers! Amazingly we are about the only charity working with both men and women abusers and certainly the only one working in mixed groups. We are in our 24th year, no finance, of course! The money goes to supporting female victims!

  11. Stitchedup says:

    I agree with many of the comments already made, particularly with regards to the number of male victims of domestic violence being massively under called. The concept of domestic violence is deeply entrenched in gender bias and the courts, police and other agencies are only just beginning to wake-up to the fact that women are supremely capable of DV, particularly emotional violence, and they’re by far the main perpetrators of parental alienation. All that said, I think it has all gone too far now… the police and the courts should not be in the business of trying to police peoples personal relationships… it’s simply futile. People have to take responsibility for their own relationships and simply move on if they’re not happy with the relationship they’re in. Solicitors and other legal professionals have been playing the DV card as part of the gamesmanship of divorce and separation and destroying people’s characters and family relationships just to get the upper hand. Their behaviour and the behaviour of the courts and other organisations such as Women’s Aid and CAFCASS has been utterly reprehensible and it’s being going on for far too long. They need to get back to basics, the police and courts should only get involved when there has been genuine violence, not the absurd politically correct definition of DV that we have today that can be shoe horned to fit even the most petty of domestic agreements. Stop dishing out non-mols like smarties in the first place, and if petty breaches of existing non-mols occur they should be handled by the civil courts that issued the non-mol not the criminal courts. Men are being convicted just for voicing an opinion during one life’s most stressful events…. It’s absolutely ludicrous!!

  12. Helen Dudden says:

    I’ve felt that for too long the approach to solving disputes is out dated. We need blame free divorce, an understanding we do have to be responsible adults, sort out children’s future and care. Property matters, and anything else that ends the relationship. Of course it’s painful, it’s one of the stressful situations in life.I
    The above post did make it clear on that point. I was told the first year is the most important for all concerned. Meditation is a good tool, it can bring some foundations for the future.
    I will add, I was widowed at the age of 30 years, two young children, and my life was so stressful. Since that happened all those years ago, I can see the understanding of support at difficult times, though my needs were different, life was so difficult.

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