How Many Men are Abused by Women?
Abuse of men by their partners, especially female partners, is usually dismissed as infrequent or not harmful, and is often laughed at or even encouraged.
But how many men experience domestic abuse and violence from their wives and girlfriends? What are the percentage statistics for abuse of men? How do the numbers of abused men compare to the numbers of abused women?
My answers to these questions may surprise you.
What's in This Post
|The Patriarchy DV Narrative|
|The DV Focus on Abused Women|
|What are the DV (Domestic Violence) Statistics for both Men and Women?|
|What Numbers are Used by the US National Domestic Abuse Hotline?|
|The Stats Go Against The Gendered DV Narrative|
|Books About Partner Abuse|
The Patriarchy DV Narrative
Statistics typically cited by advocates for domestic violence show a higher percentage of partner abuse against women than men. Multiple factors contribute to the rendering of these numbers.
The bulk of the DV community is focused on female victimization by male perpetrators. They are driven by an ideology that is based on patriarchy being the reason why DV happens. This perspective informs their research and reporting.
In their article, Perpetrator programmes for partner violence: Are they based on ideology or evidence?, that appeared in the Legal and Criminological Psychology Journal (2012), professors Louise Dixon, John Archer and Nicola Graham-Kevan stated:
“The feminist view that men’s violence to women is a direct result of patriarchal belief systems acts as a filter or ‘lens’ (Yllo, 2005) for the choice of research samples, the way investigations are framed (e.g., as a ‘gender’ issue), and how findings are interpreted.”
I don't agree with the patriarchy view of DV or IPV. I explain why in this post:
The DV Focus on Abused Women
In his article, Toward a Gender-Inclusive Conception of Intimate Partner Violence Research and Theory: Part 1 – Traditional Perspectives, John Hamel proposes that the gendered narrative of domestic violence was influenced historically by the who, what, and when of the beginning of the DV movement:
The first people to organize the fight to raise awareness about DV were female survivors of abuse by male partners, and
Their 1970’s movement coincided with the women’s rights movement and growing number of scholars focused on a feminist perspective.
As a result of what is often labeled the feminist perspective on domestic violence, the vast majority of people prosecuted for such crimes are men, and most people who are provided supportive services are women.
NOTE: I am not anti-women. I offer as proof the fact that when I did my Psychology Bachelors' Degree, I also did a Minor in Women's Studies.
Lots of good has been done, and is being done, by feminists. Any movement can get distorted into a blinding fundamentalist version of itself to devasting effect. Aspects of the feminist movement have taken on a fundamentalist zeal that is unknowing and/or uncaring of the negative impact on men—and on women and children.
The female victim and male perpetrator narrative has controlled government funding, legislation, and laws since domestic violence became a topic of concern decades ago. It should surprise no one then, that if you study people prosecuted for DV, you are going to find that they are mostly male, and if you study people who are in service programs for victims of DV you are going to find that they are mostly female.
These gender-distorted population pools are often the source of subjects for studies that then claim that DV is one-sided male-v-female. But the numbers are self-perpetuating in their distortion.
In 2000, John Archer from the University of Lancashire analyzed the research of others who had studied “physical aggression to heterosexual partners”. He described research that supported the male aggression model as sourced in “female victims’ reports, male perpetrators identified by law enforcement agencies, or from crime surveys” (p 651).
Archer analyzed 82 studies that included data from treatment programs, shelters, and the general population. As a result of the analysis, he came to the following conclusion:
“When measures were based on specific acts, women were significantly more likely than men to have used physical aggression toward their partners and to have used it more frequently” (p. 664).
What are the DV (Domestic Violence) Statistics for both Men and Women?
The hashtag #AbuseHasNoGender is new, having been popularized by the increased awareness produced by the attention given by Johnny Depp’s defamation trial against his ex-wife Amber Heard for what the jury found to be her false accusations of DV against him. The televised trial exposed the many abuses, including physical assaults, that Johnny had endured from Amber during their relatively short relationship.
But there has been evidence that abuse is not a gendered issue since people started taking DV seriously. It's just that the evidence has been disregarded (and possibly actively suppressed).
Law professor Linda Kelly's 2003 article in the Florida State University Law Review summarized her examination of five extensive partner abuse studies from the 1970's in this way:
"The various surveys consistently reported that women not only use violence at rates similar to men, but that women match, and often exceed, husbands in the frequency with which they engage in violent behavior."
Kelly added that "Wives show a pattern of severely violent behavior statistically comparable to husbands" in these early studies.
In a 1987 report that can be found on the US Department of Justice website, Straus and Gelles point toward results from the 1985 National Family Violence Resurvey showing that:
“Assaults by women on their male partners occurred at about the same rate as assaults by men on female partners, and women initiated such violence about as often as men.”
Over the decades since this report, many more studies have produced lots of evidence that women abuse their husbands at least as often as men abuse their wives.
In 2013, Martin Fiebert from CA State U, published a list of references to, and conclusions of, over 300 scholarly papers—with a collective sample size of over 400K individuals—“demonstrating that women are as physically aggressive as men (or more) in their relationships with their spouses or opposite-sex partners.”
In 2018, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) published analyzed results from the 2015 US National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS). This telephone survey of 10,081 adults provided lots of information.
The CDC report shows that similar numbers of men and women, 1 in 3, experienced IPV over their lifetime:
Psychological aggression by an intimate partner during their lifetime: 1 in 3 for either gender (36.4% of women, 34.2% of men)
Physical violence from an intimate partner during their lifetime: 1 in 3 for either gender (30.6% of women, 31.0% of men)
Contact sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner during their lifetime: 1 in 3 for either gender (36.4% of women, 33.6% of men)
Interestingly, while the stats showing similar rates of abuse for women and men can be found within the text and charts of the body of the CDC report, the numbers do not appear side-by-side, the fact that the numbers are similar is not pointed out, and none of these parallels are referred to in the report summary.
Additional survey data points that dramatically contradict gendered domestic violence stereotypes are located in the tables following the report summary, but are not mentioned to the main body of the report.
I missed these numbers myself the first several times that I studied the report as I thought the summary was the end. I didn't venture further until someone else brought my attention to the tables in the back. To find the survey results that totally debunk the idea that partner abuse of men is insignificant compared to women you have to compare data from different tables that are pages apart.
The DV community would have you believe that men don't get abused by their partners as often as women do, and that abuse of men by women is not as important because it isn't really that bad.
But the CDC report's numbers undermine those statements.
When you side-by-side a couple of tables from the back of the report you see this:
Stats from the tables in the back of the CDC report:
Near-identical numbers of Women and men report experiencing coercive control from a partner during their lifetime: 30.6% of women, 29.8% of men
Considerably more men than women reported being the target of physical violence from their partner in the last 12 months: 2.9% of women (3.4 million) and 3.8% of men (4.2 million).
Basically identical percentages of women and men reported being on the receiving end of severe physical violence from their partner in the last 12 months: 1.9% of women and 2.0% of men
NOTE: The report's footnote says that “Severe physical violence includes hit with a fist or something hard, kicked, hurt by pulling hair, slammed against something, tried to hurt by choking or suffocating, beaten, burned on purpose, used a knife or gun.”
Women are the Abuser in 97% of Abused Male IPV Cases
Just in case you are thinking that the abuse of men in relationships is by other men: nope, it's mostly from female partners.
I found this statistic on a CDC website page about Intimate Partner Violence, Sexual Violence, and Stalking Among Men:
"97% of men who experienced rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner had only female perpetrators."
The statistic also appears in the CDC report on the 2010 US National Intimate Partner Violence Survey page 51.
What Numbers Are Used by the US National Domestic Abuse Hotline?
The US National Domestic Abuse Hotline is in alignment with the bulk of the DV advocacy community in that they tend to give lip service to the idea that anyone can be the victim of DV, but then provide examples of their bias toward only really caring about women as victims (i.e. they use the gender-skewed Duluth Power and Control Wheel as a basis for their advocacy).
Even this biased source says that the numbers of women and men who are abused by an intimate partner are near-equal:
"On average, more than 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men in the US will experience rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner."
They also provide a statistic that acknowledges that a significant number of men experience severe abuse from their partners:
1 in 4 women (24.3%) and 1 in 7 men (13.8%) aged 18 and older in the US have been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
Their source for the severe abuse statistic is The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS): 2010 Summary Report by the CDC. Note that this is from the 2010 survey and the stat that I provide for severe abuse in the last 12 months is from the more recent 2018 CDC report on the 2015 survey.
The Stats Go Against the Gendered-Based DV Narrative
The dominating DV narrative is that men abuse women because of patriarchy, and that if women get physical with men,
a) it’s because they deserve it, and
b) it’s not that bad.
Common terms for physical partner abuse have been Domestic Violence (DV) and the more recent Intimate Partner Violence (IPV), but now there is a global push to rebrand DV/IPV as Gender-Based Violence (GBV).
What they mean to do by using the term GBV is entrench the idea that the only form of DV that exists or matters is male-to-female.
But even the gender-biased US National Domestic Abuse Hotline accepts that men and women are abused in similar numbers by their partners, and that men experience significant amounts of severe physical IPV.
For the most part, partner abuse isn't about gender; partner abuse is about abuse.
DV advocates are also very big on pushing the idea that men use coercive control against their female partners. Again, they say it’s because of patriarchy.
To that end, there are initiatives scattered around the world to expand the definition of DV and include coercive control in DV laws. It’s only taken foothold in a few jurisdictions (unfortunately, including my home state of Washington in the US), but it is a trending movement.
Besides mountains of other research, the CDC reported stats that I mention above poke canon-sized holes in the men-are-perpetrators women-are-victims picture of partner abuse.
The DV specialist, Dr Dawn Hughes, who testified for Amber Heard in the Johnny Depp v Amber Heard defamation trial is a great case study in what's wrong with the majority of DV advocacy.
Click here for a transcript of Dr Hughes' testimony and my analysis.
Books About Partner Abuse
I have written several books about partner abuse.
One quick book describes partner abuse in any couple gender configuration straight or LGBTQ.
Two of the books cover abuse of men by women.
One is a quick overview and the other is a comprehensive full-sized book.
- Ann Silvers
Thank you for writing about this. Years before DvH, I witnessed this with my best friend. He was not believed by police until he was almost killed, despite documentation of numerous injuries reported prior to the last event. It’s a horrible and frightening story that took several years for him to recover from. I saw his ex in AH when I heard the tapes and watched her testimony.