Content note: This article contains an extensive discussion of abuse and other potentially sensitive topics. If you or someone you know needs help, please contact one of the following hotlines.
Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline: Call 1-800-422-4453
National Domestic Violence Hotline: Call 1-800-799-7233 or text "START" to 88788.
National Sexual Assault Hotline: Call 1-800-656-4673 or use the webchat option.
When domestic violence* is discussed, many people have an image of a woman experiencing abuse at the hands of a male partner. What we often don't see, however, are the faces of the many male and other underrepresented survivors of domestic violence that exist throughout the world. Domestic violence can take many forms, including physical, emotional, and sexual violence.
Below, we’ll discuss some ways to help male survivors of domestic violence and strategies that survivors can use to seek help and escape abusive situations.
*If you or someone in your family is experiencing domestic violence, please know that you are not alone and that help is available. You can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). You can also text “START” to 88788 or use the hotline’s online chat feature.
What Is Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence is any act of violence committed by one member of a household against another. Violence doesn't have to be physical. Domestic violence can take the form of verbal abuse, mental abuse, emotional abuse, and more. Anyone can experience domestic violence regardless of age, gender, race, background, etc., but there are resources available for support and help no matter who you are.
The Trouble With Leaving Domestic Violence
Male survivors may feel anxiety, self-doubt, and even fear when thinking about leaving a violent situation. They may not know how to get away or may think that their abuser will seek them out if they leave. This can result in an intense fear of leaving home, going to the police, or seeking out shelter. With the memory of all that they have experienced at the hands of their abuser, many survivors don't seek help and end up staying with the abuser because they think there is no other way forward. he additional barrier of fearing that others won’t believe their experience can further inhibit seeking help.
How To Help Male Survivors Of Domestic Abuse
People often downplay the violence that male domestic violence survivors experience. People may not be able to understand the severity of what is happening. Gender norms and expectations often lead people to believe that men ought to be strong and independent, which can make reaching out and receiving help more difficult. Some men are socialized to believe they simply have to “man up.” Harmful rhetoric like this can not only minimize the experiences of underrepresented survivors but also continue to reinforce limiting stereotypes about what certain individuals are supposed to be like.
To help male survivors of domestic violence, we can all work to challenge stereotypes and recognize that emotion, pain, and fear are universal human experiences. We can also spread awareness that there is no limit on who can and cannot inflict pain onto others. A survivor’s experiences are valid no matter who they are, and anyone can be a perpetrator or survivor of domestic violence.
Raise Awareness Of Domestic Violence And Resources Available
Another common obstacle tends to be the lack of awareness of the types of abuse and the resources for men who are domestic violence survivors. Many survivors may not be aware that there are names for specific types of abuse beyond physical violence. Likewise, few resources are designed specifically for this population. Male survivors, therefore, may feel like they are on their own when navigating domestic violence
To help male survivors of domestic violence, we can all work to become more aware of the signs and types of domestic violence, including gaslighting, emotional abuse, financial abuse, digital abuse, and controlling behavior. Also, we can all spread awareness of resources that are available to help survivors of domestic violence, regardless of gender.
Tips For Survivors Of Domestic Violence
If you’re looking to report domestic violence to authorities, it may help to hold on to any records you may have of the time, place, and event(s) you’ve experienced as well as information for any witnesses who saw the event. Pictures or other documentation of any injuries may be important as well. This could include threats made via text or voice message, which you can take screenshots of in case an abuser attempts to remove them.
Also, many domestic violence shelters are equipped to help men and other underrepresented survivors as well as women. Even if a shelter seems to have a name that is geared toward women (such as a women's shelter), survivors of all genders are likely eligible to make use of its resources.
In some situations, it may be beneficial to speak with a lawyer that can help you understand what your legal options are. This may be especially useful in cases where the perpetrator of abuse is a spouse, where children may be involved, or where you otherwise may have to navigate the legal system as a part of removing yourself from the situation.
Getting Professional Help
If you are a survivor of domestic violence, you may find it helpful to speak with a mental health professional. Many survivors of domestic violence end up back with their abuser if they don’t know what steps to take to stop the abuse. A licensed counselor may be able to help you end the cycle of abuse and move forward with confidence. If you don’t feel comfortable discussing domestic violence in a therapist’s office, you might consider online therapy.
With online therapy, you can speak with a licensed therapist from home or anywhere you feel safe and have an internet connection. You can communicate with a therapist via phone, videoconference, or live chat if it’s more comfortable for you. In addition to being more available than in-office therapy, online therapy works to successfully treat many mental health challenges. One study published in 2017 found that online therapy was effective for anxiety, depression, phobias, and substance use disorder, among other conditions.
With BetterHelp, you can be matched with a licensed therapist who has experience helping men who have survived domestic violence. Take the first step toward healing from domestic violence and reach out to BetterHelp today.
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