If you are a man who has been the victim of abuse, rest assured that you are not alone. Whether the abuse was verbal, emotional, psychological, physical, sexual, financial, or a combination of these, you are not alone. Whether you were abused by your wife or girlfriend, your husband or boyfriend, your father or mother, you are not alone. Whether you have endured the abuse for a month, a year, or a decade, you are not alone.
If you are here because you think you might be a victim, there’s a good chance you are. Though this may be a first step for you, it is a huge step to take. Understanding the nature of abuse and its effects is crucial to your recovery.
For those of you who are in abusive relationships now, you are probably beginning to face a very difficult truth: you must leave. This is not about if, it’s about when and how. And as you may have already realized, you cannot wait to be liberated; you must free yourself. Frederick Douglass summed up his courageous escape from slavery as an act of will: “I prayed for freedom for twenty years, but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.”
The goal of this blog is not fully clear to me yet. I know that there are many websites and resources for men who are learning what it means to be a victim of abuse, so I want to add more than just encouragement. My hope is to provide whatever help I can to struggling men. What that looks like in my head right now is a sort of database, a crowd-sourced pool of resources for men to find help at a very local level. This may include phone numbers and addresses of male-friendly shelters, hotlines that offer support for abuse victims, and contact information for local support groups. If you have any ideas, suggestions, or information, please visit the contact page and send me an email. I would love to hear from you.
Every situation is different, and each one requires a unique solution. However, the more information that is available, the more stories that are shared, the more voices that are raised, the more we can establish connections that will allow us to help ourselves and others. By building a substantial network of resources, we can help individuals reclaim their lives and combat the myths about men as victims of abuse.
I am not an expert in psychology, mental health, relationships, or the law. I have no official credentials to offer, nor any professional experience to draw from. I have nothing but my own experience and my own research to offer. Still, for whatever it’s worth, I want to share my story and what I have learned so that I might help others in some way. This seems like as good a place as any to begin: you are not alone.
If you need immediate help, call the National Domestic Abuse Hotline: 1-800-799-7233.
Toll free, 24/7/365.
9 thoughts on “You are not alone”
I haven’t heard of Engel’s book, but it sounds like it would be helpful for me. I’ll add it to the list.
I’m actually not too sure of the differences between men and women as far as how much or how often they use various forms of abuse. It seems like I read somewhere that women are just as likely to be violent, but they tend to use weapons more readily (which is likely due to the size/strength difference). In my experience, there were several layers of abuse, which I haven’t fully thought about until just now, so excuse me if this ends up being incoherent.
The emotional/psychological “abuse” began very early in the relationship (I used quotation marks there because it’s hard to parse which incidents were genuinely normal and which were technically abusive). In the beginning, I was definitely put on a pedestal and told I was wonderful and smart and handsome and all that. However, she quickly began to pick me apart in some very subtle ways. My judgment in friends, my choice of university, my habits at work and at home, my communication skills, my appearance, my clothes. For a while, I assumed this was all just part of a relationship. It was these slight ups and downs that slowly (or quickly, who can tell?) turned into severe pitches between “you’re the love of my life” and “I hate your guts!” That was the beginning of the psychological abuse, the constant sense of imbalance, not knowing when I was going to cross a line or miss a cue or just be in the wrong place at the wrong time. That sense of unease remained embedded in our relationship for the entire time, resulting in numerous threats of violence, divorce, and suicide (to name a few).
Whether intentionally or not, she maintained that fear with verbal abuse. When she became angry, she said some pretty vile, hateful things that I often couldn’t believe. Again, I assumed it was normal, so I just kept my mouth shut for the most part and usually apologized for whatever real or imaginary crime I had committed. Occasionally, I would try to argue or explain or rationalize, but these attempts always just created more lingering hostility. Thus I began walking on eggshells pretty early on and never really stopped.
The physical violence was relatively rare, especially in the beginning. I’ll spare the details, but towards the end of our relationship, her attacks became more frequent and more dangerous. What I can say is that her violence was not regular in any way. Sometimes she scratched, sometimes she punched, sometimes she used physical objects as weapons. My response was generally the same: I would deflect and dodge as much as I could, sometimes I had to physically restrain her. It honestly never occurred to me to hit her back. It’s not even an impulse I had to fight against; I never once considered it. For a while, like everything else that she had done, I assumed it was somewhat normal. Later, when I looked back on those moments, especially when describing them to my therapist, I realized just how crazy they were.
Again, I feel I’ve overdone it a little, but I thought it might help to see how at least one woman orchestrated her abuse against a man. The emotional and verbal parts were a staple of our relationship; even when things were good and we were happy, there was a steady undercurrent of anxiety that it could slip at any moment. The physical stuff came a little later, but it increased very rapidly once it started.
Oh, and thanks for adding the link to your resources page. I feel like every connection between individuals (whether in person or online) is an important part of a much larger web of understanding and support.
I’m really glad I found your blog. As a female survivor of a male abuser I’m learning to understand my own abuser and abuse in general (‘start’ being the operative word of course) and am really interested in the male perspective. I recently found out my uncle has been sexually harassed and coerced in the workplace by women twice and I was shocked then ashamed I was shocked.
One of my favourite books on abuse is written specifically about male abusers (Why Does He Do That by Lundy Bancroft) and has an amazing section that breaks down abusers into abuser profiles/types. I’m wondering if you’ve read the book and if the types transcend gender, and in general if you find abuse literature that might be more women-focused to be relevant to your experiences, or if there are issues that are specific only to abused men.
Sorry about the long comment, I didn’t think I’d write this much! I look forward to reading more about abuse from your perspective.
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I’m glad you found it, too. Though my focus is on helping men, there is so much to learn from anyone who has been abused as well. I have heard of that book, but I haven’t read it yet. However, I have read quite a bit about abuse in the last couple of years, and I have noticed a few trends. Though I mainly began trying to find sites and resources that were specific to men, I found that a lot of the things women were saying about abuse applied to my situation. Not that I was very surprised; abuse has some pretty consistent features across cultural, racial, and gender lines.
Here are a few of the main commonalities among male and female victims/abusers:
1. The abuser denies, minimizes, or justifies the abuse. If there is any admission of guilt and/or apology, it’s often just part of a cycle of abuse that never gets better. It’s basically the old “look what you made me do” or “I didn’t mean to hurt you, but you provoked me.”
2. The victim feels somehow trapped in the relationship. There are lots of reasons why victims stay, each one as different as the individual relationship. One of the worst forms of manipulation is the abuser’s use of love as a weapon against the victim. “If you loved me, you wouldn’t make me so angry.” Or, “I love you so much that I can’t let you go.” Or, and this is the most sickening, “I can’t live without you. I’ll kill myself if you leave me.”
3. The victim feels ambivalent. There is no pure love or hatred for the abuser. Sometimes, the abuser is kind, loving, attentive, charming, sexy, endearing, sweet (or whatever else the victim is looking for). It’s these moments that keep the victim a little off-balance, teetering between “I’ve got to get out” and “I can’t believe I ever doubted him/her.”
4. The abuser often has some sort of mental illness or personality disorder. Though Narcissistic Personality Disorder is more common in men, and Borderline Personality Disorder is more common in women, they are certainly not mutually exclusive or limited to either gender. In any case, an abuser almost always has a sense of entitlement and an exaggerated sense of importance. They truly believe they deserve the love and attention of their partners regardless of their own behavior. (Please note, I cannot exactly recall where I’ve read all of this information, so I can’t give you exact sources. These are just some of the basic details I can remember off the top of my head.)
5. The victim doesn’t always recognize the abuse. This was a huge problem for me personally. In a lot of ways, I thought the crazy behavior was “normal.” I thought that all couples had similar issues, so it didn’t occur to me that I was being abused.
6. There are a wide variety of tactics that often seem to overlap. Physical abuse is fairly obvious, punching, hitting, throwing things. Verbal, emotional, and psychological abuse are a little harder to recognize, but they are often used in conjunction.
7. Abusers project. They love to accuse their victims of doing the crazy things that they themselves are doing. I don’t totally understand the psychology behind this, but I’ve read about it from many different victims (and of course, I experienced it myself).
8. Gaslighting. I wrote a whole post about this one, and there are tons of articles about it out there. Simply put, it’s the attempt of an abuser to make the victim feel crazy. Keeping the victim out of touch with family and friends is a clear sign of gaslighting because that’s exactly how abusers prevent victims from reconnecting with reality.
9. It’s REALLY hard for victims to leave. According to one source (thehotline.org), it takes an average of 7 attempts to leave an abusive relationship.
10. Abusers are control freaks of the worst kind. There’s a huge difference between a “neat freak” or someone who claims to be “a little OCD” about things and a person who wields control without any consideration for the emotional damage they cause. Victims of abuse are often isolated from friends and family; their habits, behaviors, and even beliefs are often regulated or checked to make sure they align with those of the abuser. Career choices, financial matters, even decisions about children are dangerous weapons in the hands of an abusive person.
11. Oh, I almost forgot one of the most common ones I’ve seen. The abuser loves to make the victim feel powerless. Male and female abusers both use this tactic, which can really be boiled down to this: “You have nothing without me. Where would you go? Who would help you? I’m the only person who cares about you.” Absolutely sickening stuff, but it’s effective.
As far as unique challenges or differences between genders, I haven’t noticed much. Probably the most significant one that faces men is the utter humiliation and shame of being emasculated. There’s something about the social pressures and stereotypes of masculinity that really strike at a man’s ability to admit that he’s been abused. Thankfully, everyone I’ve talked to has been very supportive, but I haven’t told anyone outside of family, a few close friends, and my therapist.
Women, on the other hand, I think might face a different kind of shame. In many social groups even today, there is an expectation for women to be obedient servants. They are supposed to love and honor their husbands in a very deferential way. After all, the man is the head of the household. Though I haven’t actually encountered this, I imagine that such a mentality is bound to cause abused women to feel guilty, like they are disappointments to their men and are thus deserving of his abuse. I can also imagine men using this exact sense of duty to keep their victims quiet. Am I completely making this up or overthinking it? Who knows.
Well, that response got out of hand, but I really wanted to answer your questions as best I could. I really hope we can continue a correspondence that will help us both understand ourselves, our situations, and each other better.
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That was an amazing response, thank you for taking the time to write back with so much information and wisdom.
I’ve heard a bit about BPD being more common in women abusers too. The Emotionally Abusive Relationship by Beverley Engel goes into personality disorders and abuse, particularly BPD.
My focus has been on male on female abuse so far and in my ignorance I assumed that female on male abuse would primarily be emotional or verbal abuse. So its enlightening and sad to hear that physical abuse is so common. I imagine it must be difficult for male victims to protect themselves from physical violence even if they’re physically stronger, either because they fear that if there are signs of physical violence visible on the woman it will be assumed the man instigated it, or that they may have been brought up to believe that it’s only men who are violent, so don’t understand what’s happening.
I’ve added a link to your resources page on my resources page (if that makes sense!) so that there is some male-specific info on my blog. I hope that’s ok.
All the best and I look forward to reading more about your journey and the experiences of other abused men. Hugs.
I nominated you for a blogging recognition award, I hope it helps people find you and spread the information. Keep posting on the Community Pool on Monday’s so you get more exposure!!
Wow, thanks! I haven’t done the community pool thing yet, but I’ll be sure and do that next Monday.
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Welcome to the Community! Great start! 🙂
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