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If you would like to contribute to the art and science section contact: Gwen Clarke, art and science editor, Nursing Standard,
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Domestic violence against men

Barber CF (2008) Domestic violence against men. Nursing Standard. 22, 51, 35-39. Date of acceptance:
February 19 2008.

application of physical force to an individual

Summary without their consent (Martin and Law 2006).
This article reviews the literature relating to domestic violence The term battered spouse implies a physical event
against men and examines some of the reasons why men are – the battery. In recent years the term ‘battered
reluctant to report violent episodes. The article focuses on men as spouse’ has no longer been widely accepted as
the victims and women as the perpetrators of domestic violence abuse takes on many forms aside from physical
and identifies gaps in service provision. The role of the nurse in violence and occurs between different groups of
supporting male victims is also discussed. individuals in all social and sexual groups, not
just between those who are married. The terms
Author domestic violence and abuse can go beyond these
Christopher F Barber is an agency nurse and NVQ assessor, parameters and include couples who are not
Birmingham City Council. Email: married but are living together, and also couples
who are in same-sex relationships. Lawrence
Keywords (2003) defined domestic violence as verbal,
Domestic violence; Men’s health; Support services sexual and emotional intimidation or financial
abuse. A similar definition was provided by Kelly
These keywords are based on the subject headings from the British
(1999) who defined it as the emotional, physical,
Nursing Index. This article has been subject to double-blind review.
sexual, psychological or economic abuse of
For author and research article guidelines visit the Nursing Standard
power. Domestic violence can also be viewed as
home page at For related
an abusive exercise of power and control over
articles visit our online archive and search using the keywords.
others, which leaves individuals feeling scared
and intimidated.
The Home Office (Undated) defines domestic
INFORMATION RELATING to domestic violence as: ‘any incident of threatening
violence has largely focused on women as the behaviour, violence or abuse between adults who
victims and men as the perpetrators. Domestic are or have been in a relationship together, or
violence against men tends to go unrecognised between family members, regardless of gender or
since men are less likely to admit to or report such sexuality… it is a pattern of abusive and
incidents because of embarrassment, fear of controlling behaviour through which the abuser
ridicule and lack of support services. It is a taboo seeks power over their victim.’
subject that is often ignored or trivialised by There is a distinction between domestic
society, which means that the extent of the violence and domestic abuse. Domestic violence
problem remains unknown. As a result, male suggests physical aggression, while domestic
victims of domestic violence may not have their abuse encompasses a far wider range of
health and social care needs met by healthcare behaviours including financial, sexual, emotional
professionals (Du Plat-Jones 2006). and psychological abuse based on power
structures. However, some authors use the term
‘domestic violence’ to encompass a wide range
Defining domestic violence
of abusive behaviours. For example, Sniechowski
A battered spouse or co-habitant is defined as an and Sherven (2004) define domestic violence as
individual subjected to physical violence by a that which relates to verbal, physical, sexual and
husband, wife or co-habitant (Martin and Law emotional intimidation or financial abuse.
2006). Battery is defined as the intentional Despite the various definitions, domestic

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art & science literature review keywords were used: domestic abuse, domestic
violence, male victims of domestic
abuse/violence and domestic abuse/violence
against men. Where the use of these keywords
violence encompasses unwanted violence, directed the author to references and websites
aggression, humiliation and intimidation. It relating to domestic violence against women,
is interesting to note that contemporary the information was disregarded unless it
definitions of domestic violence use gender provided basic statistics with which to compare
inclusive or gender neutral language to address figures relating to male victims of domestic
the changing dynamics of domestic violence, violence. For the purpose of this article the term
which can occur between all social and sexual ‘domestic violence’ is used to encompass
groups (Hester and Westmarland 2005, physical, emotional, sexual and financial abuse.
Du Plat-Jones 2006). Because of the lack of information available
relating to domestic violence against men,
web-based information was used as part of the
Prevalence of male victims
literature review. Although the authenticity and
Leonard (2003) suggests that it is difficult to accuracy of the material may be questionable,
establish reliable estimates of male victims of Coad et al (2006) suggest that the use of ‘grey
domestic violence because few men are willing literature’ (unpublished or internet material)
to admit that they are being abused and can be a source of useful information.
therefore do not seek professional help. The Forms of violence and the post-abuse experience
2001/02 British Crime Survey found George and Yarwood (2004) and Du Plat-Jones
that 19% of domestic violence incidents (2006) focused on the forms of violence
affected male victims, and that about half of experienced by men (Table 1 and Box 1) and
these incidents were committed by women police response (Table 2). Men experienced
(BBC 2005). The 2004/05 British Crime Survey similar types of physical abuse as women.
found that partner abuse was the most Although George and Yarwood (2004)
common form of intimate violence; 28% of highlighted the physical violence that men
women and 18% of men had experienced one experienced, little attention was given to the
or more forms of partner abuse (Finney 2006).
Using time as a marker, Fontes (1999) TABLE 1
suggested that while men abuse their female
Frequency and forms of domestic physical
partner every 15 seconds in the United States abuse against men (n =100)
(US), females abuse their male partner every
Percentage of
14.6 seconds. This male/female equality is
male victims
supported by Gelles (1999), suggesting that
violence between genders is equal. The figures Assaulted once a month 75
surrounding the occurrence of domestic abuse or more frequently
in men vary and this may be exacerbated by Assaulted more than More than
researchers and practitioners who use different ten times 66
definitions or criteria to measure the problem.
Threatened with a weapon 50
Despite the acknowledged prevalence and
growing numbers of male victims of domestic Received severe bruising 40
violence, Lawrence (2003) suggests the evidence Kicked in the genitals 33
surrounding domestic violence indicates that
Burnt or scalded 16
there may still be many male victims who do
not report such incidents because of the fear of Stabbed 10
ridicule, social isolation and humiliation. (George and Yarwood 2004)

Literature review BOX 1

Although the author acknowledges that Forms of domestic violence experienced
domestic violence occurs in all social and sexual by men
groups, this article explores the issues Stabbing.
surrounding domestic violence carried out by Teeth knocked out.
women against men. Search parameters for the
literature review included a time frame of 15 Injuries to the genitals.
years. Search engines such as Google were used Verbal, emotional and psychological cruelty.
and literature databases included the British
(Du Plat-Jones 2006)
Nursing Index (BNI) and Ovid. The following

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emotional, financial, sexual and psychological TABLE 2

abuse associated with domestic violence. It may
be that these forms of abuse are more difficult to Police response to domestic abuse (n =100)
identify and quantify in comparison to physical Percentage of
violence. male victims
It has been suggested that the effects of
domestic violence are the same for both male Threatened with arrest 47
and female victims (BBC 2005, Du Plat-Jones Ignored by the police 35
2006, Hidden Hurt (undated). Common Arrested 21
anecdotal experiences include feelings of shame,
fear, isolation, guilt, confusion and a loss of Reported that the violent 3
self-worth and confidence. female partner had been
Dewar (2008) found that male victims of
domestic abuse were less likely than females (George and Yarwood 2004)
to report violence or abuse and that many were
either arrested or threatened with arrest, so disbelief by health professionals and society in
perpetuating a culture of blaming the victim. general (Men Cry Too 2006).
In some cases, male victims were ignored by the Staffordshire Police (2008) suggest that men
police. Also when they did report domestic often find it hard to admit to themselves that
violence they often experienced discrimination they are being abused. Gelles (1999) suggests
or prejudice. Few female perpetrators of that male victims may not seek help because
domestic violence were arrested and even fewer care agencies often deny the existence of
were charged or convicted (Dewar 2008). violence against men where the wife or female
Reluctance to report Social prejudices There are partner is the perpetrator. It is suggested that
many reasons why domestic violence against men are not encouraged to report abuse, they
men may go unrecognised and why men may be are conditioned not to ask for help and may
reluctant to report such incidents. Much of the feel disempowered by those in authority and
literature relating to domestic violence focuses are therefore less likely to report incidents of
on women as the victims of abuse and does not domestic violence (Cook 1997, Du Plat-Jones
address domestic violence against men. Cook 2006). Disbelief by the victim, a culture of
(1997) and Lewis and Sarantakos (2001) victim blaming and the reluctance of the police
suggested that female violence directed against to produce and action crime reports on
male victims was largely ignored by society and domestic violence against men contribute to
the media because it is a taboo subject. A UK the unwillingness of men to report abusive
government resource manual on domestic episodes (Lawrence 2003).
violence made little reference to men as potential Inadequate support networks Lawrence (2003)
victims of domestic violence and instead focused suggests that support resources and networks
on the experience of women (Department of that are available for female victims of domestic
Health (DH) 2005). The Royal College of violence are not available for male victims. For
Nursing’s (2000) guidance on domestic violence example, there are shelters and safe homes to
only briefly mentions men as potential victims of assist in protecting women from violent partners,
such violence. This attitude towards domestic but these are not available for men. There are,
violence may perpetuate the common however, a limited number of resources and
assumption that women are the victims and support networks available to male victims of
men are the perpetrators of such violence. domestic violence as highlighted in Box 2.
Men are traditionally viewed as being
physically stronger than women. Consequently,
The nurse’s role
male abuse victims may not report incidents of
domestic violence or seek help because of the Male victims of domestic violence need to be
fear of being perceived as weak and subjected supported and encouraged to seek help and
to ridicule (Du Plat-Jones 2006, Hidden Hurt report incidents of violence. Gelles (1999)
undated). Men feel unable to define their highlights the importance of recognising that
experiences of domestic violence because of the men can be victims of domestic violence and that
perception that society has of men as being health professionals, including nurses, must
physically and emotionally stronger than demonstrate an understanding of, and sensitivity
women (Hidden Hurt undated). Society towards, the experience of male victims. Violence
perceives male victims as ‘wimps’, who are not against men, whether physical or psychological,
believed and refused the status of victim. Men should not be dismissed. Domestic violence
who attempt to report incidents of domestic covers a range of behaviours which may include
violence are often met with discrimination and physical, emotional, sexual or financial abuse.

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art & science literature review Providing appropriate information and
Promoting an opportunity to speak about
the experience.
Male victims may experience broken limbs,
bruising, knife wounds, teeth marks, deep Offering support and reassurance.
scratches and lacerations, inappropriate
Being non-judgemental.
comments, fear and intimidation, tearfulness
and refuse to be physically examined by nurses, The DH (2005) also points out that nursing staff
particularly female nurses. should adhere to their NHS trust’s domestic
Male victims of domestic abuse often do not policy and provides an overview of some of the
seek help from support services or health practical things nurses can do to assist those who
professionals because they fear that they will have experienced domestic violence (Box 3).
not be believed (Gelles 1999, Men Cry Too To enable nurses to engage successfully in
2006). Lawrence (2003) suggests that health these activities, they should become involved
professionals are not sensitive enough in in multi-agency working with other care
dealing with male victims. Health professionals professionals in social services, schools (when
need to show humility, compassion and there are children involved), GP practices and
sensitivity when addressing male victims of
domestic violence to encourage them to discuss
their situation. It is important to listen to the
victim and offer reassurance rather than Resources and support networks for male
ignoring or dismissing the problem. Male victims of domestic violence
victims of domestic violence may be too Men’s Advice Line: 0808 801 0327
nervous, afraid or embarrassed to talk about
UK National Domestic Violence Helpline:
what is happening to them. Sensitive
0808 2000 247
communication on the part of healthcare
professionals is crucial in eliciting information Male Advice and Enquiry Line: 0845 064 6800
from male victims (James-Hanman 1998, Hidden Hurt:
Campbell-Bliss et al 2000, Du Plat-Jones
BBC website Hitting Home:
2006). Healthcare professionals also need to
be supportive, non-judgemental and address
issues of dignity, privacy and confidentiality. Men Cry Too:
Just as it is helpful for nurses to have access to MPower:
best practice and up-to-date evidence relating to
(Information correct at time of going to press)
domestic violence against women, it is equally
important and valuable for staff to have access to
best practice and up-to-date material relating to BOX 3
domestic violence against men. Key areas nurses need to consider when
Nurses are often the first health professional dealing with domestic abuse
with whom male victims of domestic violence
come into contact. As well as providing treatment Be aware of local support services.
the nurse may be able to provide helpful Create a supportive environment in which
information regarding where the individual can the person can talk.
go to for further help and support. Nurses could Be aware of the signs that could indicate domestic
help to organise practical help such as housing for abuse.
male victims who need a safe place to stay after
leaving their partners. Sensitive provision of Know what questions to ask to encourage the
person to feel safe to confide in you.
appropriate information and advice on self-
advocacy groups, welfare benefits, the courts and Validate and support the person who reveals abuse.
child access issues in collaboration with social Provide information about the relevant support
services would also be helpful for male victims. agencies.
In the handbook Responding to Domestic
Maintain detailed and accurate records but do not
Abuse, the DH (2005) summarises the nurse’s
write this information in hand-held records.
role in responding to women who have
experienced domestic abuse. This information Ensure confidentiality and if you need to share
can also be applied to caring for men in similar information follow trust guidelines.
situations and includes: Address any health needs.
(Department of Health 2005)
Maintaining the safety of the person involved.

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also the police (Mirrlees-Black 1999). Creating are neglected and often ignored by society.
such links with various care professionals will Because of the taboo nature of violence against
help to raise awareness of domestic violence men, victims may be reluctant to report
against men and encourage the development of incidents of domestic violence for fear of being
support services. rejected, humiliated and ridiculed by care
It may also be helpful to create a clinical nurse professionals, including nurses who often do
specialist or consultant nurse role specialising in not have the training to deal with or support
working with male victims of domestic abuse. male victims appropriately.
The nurse in this role would have an awareness There is a lack of information and a lack of
of local, regional and national trends relating to support services available for male victims of
domestic violence, and provide appropriate domestic violence. Although it would be valid to
training for all care, nursing, medical and social call for more thorough and in-depth research to
service staff on how to support and deal with be carried out into domestic violence against men,
victims of domestic violence. there is a need to go much further than this. To
bring about a change in attitudes and approaches
to male victims and to improve service provision,
society needs to increase its awareness of
Male victims of domestic violence, where domestic violence against men and encourage and
women are the perpetrators of such violence, support men to report such violence NS

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