At loveisrespect, we know dating abuse can happen to anyone – including guys. One in 10 men has experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner, but unfortunately that’s a fact a lot of people aren’t really aware of. Although people who identify as male make up a smaller percentage of callers to loveisrespect, we know there are likely many more who do not seek help for their abuse. So why the silence? Here are a few of the common misconceptions and stereotypes that can make it tough for guys who are experiencing abuse:
The belief that guys are supposed to “man up”
Although things are slowly getting better, our culture still clings to pretty narrow definitions of gender, and these definitions shape how we see ourselves and others. Boys are taught from a young age not to express their emotions, to “suck it up” and “be a man.” Former football player and coach Joe Ehrmann talks about the “Be a man mandate” in his awesome TED talk. This way of thinking can be really harmful to guys, especially if they find themselves in an abusive relationship. They may feel embarrassed that abuse is happening to them, since it doesn’t fit the cultural definition of “manhood.” They may feel discouraged to talk about what’s going on in their personal lives, or they may feel like they’ll be seen as weak by their peers. But abuse can happen to anyone, and the fact that someone is being abusive towards you doesn’t mean you’re weak.
The “abuse = guy hurting girl” stereotype
Put simply, dating abuse is a pattern of behavior used by one partner to try to gain and maintain power and control over another. There is nothing inherently “male” about being abusive or inherently “female” about being a victim. As a society, when we talk about abuse we tend to talk about male perpetrators and female victims who are typically in straight relationships. While we don’t want to minimize those stories, it’s important to remember that this isn’t the only way abuse happens. We should be respectful of anyone experiencing abuse, so that victims know they have the right to speak out about their own experiences and seek help. Abuse can happen to people regardless of gender or sexual orientation, and EVERYONE deserves support.
The idea that abuse by a woman towards a man is “funny”
We saw this in action with the elevator footage of Solange Knowles attacking Jay-Z in 2014. When a man is abused by a woman, many people don’t take it as seriously (in part due to the previous two reasons we’ve mentioned). Unfortunately, because we tend to think of men as stronger and as “the aggressors,” and women as weaker and “the victims,” the idea of a man being abused by a woman can seem laughable to some, but that just shows a lack of understanding about gender AND abuse. First of all, people come in all shapes, sizes and levels of physical strength regardless of gender. Even if the victim is physically stronger, they may not want to fight back because they don’t want to hurt their partner, or they may fear their partner turning the tables to make them look like the abusive person. Being abusive also doesn’t require being physically stronger, because abuse can take many forms unrelated to physical strength, like emotional and digital abuse. No one is immune to abuse, no matter how strong they are, and abuse is never a joke, in any situation, between any two people.
The fear that there’s no help out there for male victims
It can seem like the majority of services for dating abuse and domestic violence victims are women-focused. However, services for male victims do exist! Most federal funding sources require that domestic violence services be provided to all victims of abuse. Our advocates can provide information, assist with safety planning, and/or find local resources, if available. They can also help brainstorm alternative options if local programs are not meeting the requirements for male victims, including who a survivor may be able to contact if they believe they have experienced discrimination.
If you are concerned that you or someone you know might be in an abusive relationship, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation, chat with a peer advocate! We are here to listen and offer support and resources 24/7/365 to ALL victims and survivors.