In today’s media, intimate partner violence (IPV) is often depicted as a gendered problem, primarily affecting women. This portrayal has shaped much of our understanding of IPV, mainly through studies involving cisgender heterosexual women in relationships with men. However, it is imperative to recognize that IPV impacts individuals of all genders.
IPV encompasses any harmful action within an intimate relationship, whether in the past or present, with the potential to cause physical, sexual, or psychological harm. This comprehensive definition includes various forms of abuse, such as controlling behaviors like financial abuse, physical aggression, sexual coercion, and psychological abuse. It is crucial to stress that IPV can affect anyone, regardless of their gender, and its profound impact should never be underestimated or overlooked, irrespective of whether the victim or perpetrator is male or female. Recognizing the multifaceted nature of IPV experiences is vital in addressing this pervasive issue and providing support to all those affected.
Research has consistently shown that violence in intimate partner relationships is often reciprocal, meaning both partners engage in violent behavior. Surprisingly, women are often the initiators of such violence. Studies also reveal that women themselves acknowledge their involvement in domestic violence and are more likely to be the initial aggressors in such situations. Additionally, a significant portion of the physical harm in these conflicts is inflicted on men.
To put the statistics into perspective, researchers analyzing data from 11,370 respondents found that half of violent relationships were reciprocally violent. In non-reciprocal violence, women were the perpetrators in over 70% of cases. Shockingly, a quarter of female respondents admitted to perpetrating domestic violence, and when violence was mutual, women often initiated it. Furthermore, an analysis of 552 domestic violence studies published in the Psychological Bulletin revealed that men suffered 38% of the physical injuries in domestic violence disputes.
The American Journal of Public Health published a report in 2007, revealing that nearly 24% of all relationships had experienced some form of violence, with half being reciprocally violent. In non-reciprocal violent relationships, women were the perpetrators in over 70% of cases. This data highlights the discrepancy between the common stereotype of domestic violence and the reality.
Contrary to the prevailing stereotype that domestic violence primarily involves male perpetrators and female victims, data from sources such as the British Crime Survey and Home Office statistics tell a different story. In some years, men accounted for nearly half of all domestic abuse victims. Additionally, men have reported experiencing severe force during incidents involving their partners.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), statistics in the United States estimate that over 5.3 million men have been victims of intimate partner physical violence in the past year, compared to 4.7 million women. This study defined physical violence as slapping, pushing, and shoving. Even more concerning is that approximately 40% of the victims of severe physical violence were men. These numbers were confirmed in a 2011 CDC survey, demonstrating a consistent pattern.
Challenging the perception that victimization is primarily a female experience in Western society, some researchers argue that “intimate partner violence” may carry a gendered connotation that affects perceptions of masculinity. Some evidence suggests that when women perpetrate violence against men, it is not always perceived as abusive by men.
In a 2000 Guardian piece, Sophie Goodchild reported on a study revealing that women were likelier to initiate violence in relationships. Based on the 34,000 men and women analysis, the study concluded that women lash out more frequently than their male counterparts.
Society often reacts differently when witnessing domestic violence based on the gender of the victim. While people tend to intervene and offer help when a woman is mistreated in public, the reaction is often dismissive when a man is the victim. However, statistics reveal that men experience approximately 40% of domestic violence cases.
Consider the case of actor Jonathan Majors, whose role as Kang the Conqueror is in jeopardy due to an alleged domestic dispute. New York City Police arrested him, but his lawyers claim prosecutors have withheld evidence of his innocence. This case raises questions about why his female accuser was not arrested or charged. Men, especially Black men, are always seen as the aggressor in domestic violence or intimate partner violence incidents. This incident highlights the untold stories of many other men who lack the resources to challenge the false perception that women are always the victims of domestic violence. In the case of Johnathan Majors, there was no public outcry, no media support, and even no pressure to make sure that Disney kept him in his star-studded movie role because he was the victim, not the perpetrator.
Both men and women tend to underreport the violence they commit against their partners, while women may overreport their own and men’s acts of violence against them. Research indicates that most intimate partner violence involves both partners engaging in violent behavior. In cases of one-sided abuse, women are more likely to be the aggressors.
Over the years, research has consistently questioned the idea that women are invariably victims and men are always the aggressors in domestic violence. Studies indicate that women can be equally prone to initiating violence in relationships as men. While the physical harm caused by women may be less severe due to differences in size and strength, it’s essential to recognize that many women engage in mental and psychological abuse, which remains a significant concern. Unfortunately, today’s media, women’s magazines, and public discourse overlook this issue. Moreover, societal taboos against men using force, even in self-defense against women, add further complexity to the issue.
Regarding men as victims of domestic abuse, it’s important to understand that abuse isn’t limited to physical violence; emotional, psychological, and verbal abuse can be equally damaging. As a males spouse or partner may engage in the following behaviors:
They may verbally abuse, belittle, or humiliate him in front of others, including friends, colleagues, family members, or on social media.
They might exhibit possessive behavior, act jealous, or constantly accuse you of being unfaithful.
They could take away the man’s car keys or medications and attempt to control his movements and social interactions, dictating where he can go and who he can see.
They may try controlling his finances, overseeing how he spends money, or intentionally defaulting on shared responsibilities.
They might make false allegations about him to your friends, employer, or law enforcement or employ other manipulative tactics to isolate the man.
They may threaten to leave him and prevent him from seeing your children if he reports the abuse.
Recognizing these non-physical forms of abuse is crucial in addressing domestic abuse against men.
These findings emphasize the need to understand that domestic violence is not exclusively a gender-based problem. There is a strong call for open and fact-based discussions regarding domestic abuse in light of the prevalence of social media and other media platforms. It’s important to recognize that men are victims as well, and this should be acknowledged, particularly by women who advocate for victims. Domestic abuse affects individuals of all genders, and addressing it without bias is crucial. To combat this widespread issue effectively, we must support all domestic abuse victims, regardless of gender.