Trigger Warning: Abuse is a very sensitive and triggering topic. If you feel that reading this blog may cause you distress, please refrain from reading it. Helpline resources are shared at the end of the blog.
“There's very much a belief that abuse only happens to women, and that prevents men coming forward. It feeds into this fear they're not going to be believed."
-Michael Dix- Williams
In the simplest definition, abuse refers to any action that intentionally hurts, harms, or injures another person. An abusive relationship is characterized by imbalance of power and control. When we think of the word abuse, we have a gender stereotyped image of what a perpetrator and what a victim looks like. Due to various reasons such as shame, perceived unmanliness, failure to leave to masculine ideas, male abuse is underreported, resulting in an incomplete image of abuse.
WHAT DOES ABUSE IN MEN LOOK LIKE?
Abuse in men takes many forms such as physical abuse, financial abuse, sexual abuse, psychological abuse, or intimidation tactics.
Identifying abuse in men can be a tricky task because it is often hidden and may be subtle in nature. However, there are various red flags listed below that may account for abusive behaviour:
Criticism, name-calling, frequent insults, condescending outlook
Stealing, financial withholding, controlling finances
Isolation, restriction, monitoring social interactions and activities
Throwing things, shoving, kicking, slapping, hitting, biting
Withholding food, shelter, clothing or medicine
Sexual violation, performance criticism, withholding affection or sex upon any rule-violation, forcing to engage in unwilling sexual activities
Destruction of property, threatening, stalking, harassment
Manipulation with lies, gaslighting, blame-game
BUT IF MEN DO EXPERIENCE ABUSE, AND THERE ARE SO MANY SIGNS, WHY DO WE NEVER HEAR ABOUT THESE CASES?
In a male-dominated society, attitudes and beliefs towards male abuse are very scarce, resulting in lower acceptance and empathy towards abuse victims and survivors. Quite often, the victims are unwilling to report the crimes against them as they worry that they will not be believed and no action will be taken, resulting in a worse situation for them. Other times, the fear is about how they will be perceived in the society, especially if the source of abuse is a woman.
SO, HOW DO WE AS A SOCIETY CAN WORK ON OUR ATTITUDE TOWARDS MALE ABUSE?
There are many myths associated with male abuse, and as a society, our first step would be destigmatize these myths.
Myth: Men are not a victim of abuse. Fact: Abuse is gender-neutral.
Myth: Men are not real men if they cannot take what comes their way. Fact: One does not have to prove his manliness by taking abuse.
Myth: Men cannot be sexually assaulted. Fact: Men are equally likely to be sexually assaulted as women.
Myth: Men don’t have access to resources like women. Fact: Resources are available for men also.
WHAT CAN BE DONE TO HELP ABUSE SURVIVOR?
Primarily, when it comes to male abuse, the first step is to believe and listen the victim and validate his emotions and experiences. Secondly, building a support system of loved and close ones is of great help. Documenting the abuse may also be of help when it comes to acquiring legal aid. And lastly, share resources for helpline and counselling services that may help the victim to step-out of the abusive environment and deal with the trauma associated with the abuse.
SO, WHAT ROLE DOES THERAPY AND COUNSEELING PLAY HERE?
Experiencing abuse of any kind, any magnitude can be traumatic for the survivor and may result in various disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depressive disorders, anxiety disorders etc. Providing the survivor with a therapeutic space to heal and work through their trauma is of utmost important to avoid any long-term consequences.
Validate the experiences of male abuse survivors, and provide them with the resources to heal through their trauma!
Helpline Resources for Men:
National Helpline for Men: 91-8882498498
Vaastav Foundation: 0842402498, 08424027498, 08424028498, 08424029498
By Ms. Rinkle Jain
Ms. Rinkle Jain is an aspiring psychologist-in-training (M.A. Clinical Psychology). She has an unmatched enthusiasm for writing, and research. She is passionate about Mental Health Advocacy and believes in addressing the role of social and political systems when working with mental health care. She is also a strong advocate of research, ethics, and proactive learning in her approach to Psychology, and hopes to create a safe, inclusive, and empathetic space for her future clientele.
Anonymous. (2021). Men Abused by Women in Intimate Relationships. Referred from: http://www.humanservices.alberta.ca/documents/PFVB1100-men-abused-by-women-booklet.pdf
Anonymous. (2021). Myths Around Men Experiencing Abuse. Referred from: https://www.thehotline.org/resources/myths-around-men-experiencing-abuse/
Deshpande, S. (2019). Sociocultural and Legal Aspects of Violence Against Men. Journal of Psychosexual Health, 1(3-4), 246-249.
Kulley, J., & Briscoe, C.S. (2020). For Male Survivors of Sexual Assault. Referred from: https://counselingcenter.utk.edu/self-help-materials/for-male-survivors-of-sexual-assault/
Rees, J. (2019). Male domestic abuse victims ‘suffering in silence’. Referred from: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-wales-47252756
Robinson, L. & Segal, J. (2021). Help for Men who are being abused. Referred from: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/abuse/help-for-men-who-are-being-abused.htm