The media often talks about domestic violence calling the perpetrator 'him' while the victim is 'her' but the reality is that men are victims too.
It's true that women are more likely to be the victims of domestic violence but 15% of victims are men, according to Bureau of Justice data from 2003. That translates to hundreds if not thousands of men who are the victims of violence in their own homes.
Those numbers don't include the men who don't report DV for various reasons. Some non-reporting may be because of shame or embarrassment. But it may also be that they don't know to report it as domestic violence because it's not physical.
It's fairly obvious that physical violence falls under domestic abuse. It hurts, it can leave marks, and it's what most often comes to mind when DV is mentioned.
But domestic violence goes beyond physical harm.
Included in the definition of DV are emotional abuse, economic abuse (controlling the purse strings), threats, and stalking. All of those can happen to both men and women.
Part of the problem is that men's claims of DV are often belittled or ignored. A man hitting a woman is seen as wrong but a woman hitting a man isn't always taken seriously. On paper the law sees both equally but in practice it can be hard to make law enforcement see it that way.
The first step for any DV victim, either man or woman, is to get out of the situation. Violence and abuse take a toll on your self-worth even if there are no physical scars.
Once you're out of the situation get a restraining order to keep the distance between you and your attacker. If you have trouble filing it yourself an attorney can help you figure out the paperwork.
It's true that a restraining order is just a piece of paper but it also gives you power. Violating a restraining order is a crime and it adds weight to a harassment claim brought in civil court.
Men may not get equal attention as victims of DV but the letter of the law doesn't make it harder for them to bring claims or succeed at trial. If you've been a victim, don't suffer in silence. The law is on your side.
- Domestic Violence (FindLaw)
- How to Get a Restraining Order (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
- October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month (FindLaw's Common Law)