Where should men turn when they are victims of abuse?
By Tatsha Robertson
Much has been written and discussed about women abused by their intimate partners. However, stories of male survivors are often ignored, partly because of the universal stigmas that hinder men from speaking out, according to Zander Keig, LCSW.
Keig works with male victims of intimate partner violence (IPV).
“The numbers of abused men are much higher than people realize,’’ said Keig.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) contends 1 in 4 women and nearly 1 in 10 men have experienced “contact sexual violence, physical or stalking “by a former or current partner or spouse.”
“IPV is a pervasive problem in the United States,” according to a recent article in Risk-Informed Intervention: Using Intimate Partner Violence Risk Assessment Within an Evidence-Based Practice Framework. The article appeared in Social Work, a publication of NASW Press and Oxford Academic. “IPV is often repetitive and may escalate; in a small number of cases, IPV leads to homicide.”
The abuse can start early—before age 18—and can last a lifetime, according to the CDC. However, men tend to suffer in silence.
“Part of the issue is there are fewer resources for men,” Keig said. If a man calls an emergency hotline for help, where can he go to hide from a violent partner? Are they going to be directed to services that will meet their needs? My understanding is that there are few places.”
Some men feel so much shame and anger because they experienced arousal during the abuse. Although they were merely having a physical response to touch not enjoyment, their anger and confusion can make it hard for them to deal or talk about the abuse, Keig adds.
Another issue is that men, especially those in the military, might find themselves in a position without power, or drugged or intoxicated, which makes it easier to be pressured with unwanted to sex.
In order to prevent these abuses, the CDC suggests these strategies:
- engage influential adults and peers through ally-prevention services and bystander empowerment programs
- teach safety and healthy relationships
- create protective environments, which might include early childhood home visitations
- support survivors to increase safety and lessen harm by creating victim-centered services
Keig offered these facts for anyone who believes a man in their life could be a victim of male intimate partner violence:
- On average male survivors may wait 20 years before revealing what happened.
- Because of societal denial of male sexual abuse, male victims need additional support to come forward.
- Sexual abuse crosses all gender, race, religious and socioeconomic lines.
- Over 43 million women and 38 million men experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
Lastly, according to the aforementioned article, social workers can and should be aware of risk-informed social work practice when addressing IPV.
“Examples of risk-informed social work practice include the safe removal of firearms, safety planning around separation, and mitigating the negative consequences of strangulation and sexual violence. Clients ultimately use their self-determination to decide which risk reduction strategies to implement.”
Tatsha Robertson, a New York-based writer, is author of The Formula: Unlocking the Secrets to Rising Highly Successful Children (Benbella Publishing, 2019).