Do Men Experience Domestic Abuse? (Part 1)

Amanda Luzzader

Sometimes overlooked or neglected: men as victims of domestic abuse

Amber Heard and Johnny Depp’s high-profile day in court was packed with sensational claims of domestic abuse and often-lurid celebrity drama. It played out at the center of a media circus which was itself surrounded by a social-media circus. For more than a month, the testimony, allegations, and courtroom video were gleefully analyzed, mocked, and remixed into an endless procession of mordant memes and brutally glib TikTok clips.

While the case did not involve any legal charges of domestic abuse, the allegations of defamation (filed first by Depp and then counter-filed by Heard) nevertheless depended largely on the truthfulness of the domestic-abuse accusations Heard and Depp had publicly leveled at one another. Much of the American public seemed to decide who was telling the truth almost as soon as the six-week trial got underway, and Judge Penney Azcarate and a seven-person jury rendered verdicts and decisions that seems to have apportioned at least some guilt to both parties.

You may have followed the trial closely, or perhaps it didn’t interest you at all. However, now that the court battle has concluded, it might be a good time to visit an issue that, while not utterly ignored by society in the United States, is sometimes overlooked or neglected: men as victims of domestic abuse. In the first part of this two-part article, we’ll attempt to quantify the issue, examine its complexities, and discuss possible resources for assistance.

Men and domestic abuseWhile this article is not specifically intended to advise men who have suffered domestic abuse, it’s very important to know that the National Domestic Violence Hotline (NDVH) is available to anyone in the United States. The NDVH is cost-free, available 24/7, and is confidential.

If you or someone you know needs to escape domestic abuse, contact the NDVH via the following means:

Phone: 800-799-7233

Text: Text START to 88788

Online chat:

The NDVH is a nationwide federal program funded by the Violence Against Women Act (NAWA), a federal law signed by President Bill Clinton in 1994 and renewed and updated in 2000. It is available to all individuals and offers legal advice, counseling, and refers clients to other services and resources.

How many men experience domestic abuse in the United States?According to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NIPSVS), undertaken by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of 2016, one in nine men (about 11 percent) in the United States “were victims of contact sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner.” These incidents were classified by their negative impacts, which include “injury, fear, concern for safety, [or] needing services.”

While the NIPSVS (an ongoing study) found that more than twice as many women (one in four, or 25 percent) suffered the same abuse and negative impacts, the statistic for men may still come as a surprise to many. The CDC’s findings also concluded that one in six men (about 17 percent) had been victims of contact sexual violence at some point in their lives, and that one in seven men (about 14 percent) had experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner during their lifetime. Male survivors of domestic abuse may be victimized by a female spouse or partner, but may also be abused by a parent, child, or a male spouse or partner.

In a 2018 L.A. Times op-ed, Cathy Young, author of Ceasefire: Why Women and Men Must Join Forces to Achieve True Equality, asserts that the situation may be even worse.

Young stated, “The first large-scale study of domestic abuse, the 1975 National Family Violence Survey conducted by the late University of New Hampshire sociologist Murray Straus and his colleague Richard Gelles (now at the University of Pennsylvania), found that similar numbers of women and men admitted to assaulting a spouse or partner in the previous 12 months.” She then added, “Later surveys showed that in mutually violent relationships, women were as likely as men to be the aggressors. These findings have been confirmed in more than 200 studies.”

In the second part of this two-part article, we’ll discuss why domestic abuse directed against men is a complicated issue, and we’ll also outline possible solutions and resources.

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