Signs of a Physically Abusive Wife or Girlfriend

Signs of a Physically Abusive Wife or Girlfriend

“My ex-wife would grab me, scratch my face, tear my shirt. If I tried to get away, she’d stand in the doorway and block the exit. She’d take my car keys. Sometimes, she would park her car behind mine or drive my car away so I couldn’t escape.

I never got physical back. I kept hoping she’d stop.”

-a battered man


Physical abuse of a partner (domestic violence) is the category of partner abuse that gets the most attention. 

When I became aware of abuse of men by women, I wasn’t expecting to see or hear much about physical abuse, but I have been surprised by how many men have dealt with a physically abusive wife or girlfriend. 


What's in This Post

Domestic Violence Against Men Statistics
How Abusive Women Overcome Strength Disadvantage
15 Signs of a Physically Abusive Girlfriend or Wife
Men's Stories: Examples of Domestic Violence Against Men
Resources for Battered and Abused Husbands and Boyfriends


Abuse OF Men BY Women: It Happens, It Hurts, and It's Time to Get Real About It



Domestic Violence Against Men Statistics

The US Center For Disease Control 2018 Report on the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey reports that:

1 in 3 men experience physical violence from an intimate partner during their lifetime (the same percentage as women)

When the results of the telephone survey of 10k people that the report is based are examined for DV prevalence in the previous year, more men than women said they were physically abused by their partner in the previous year:

  • 2.9% of women (3.4 million) compared to 3.8% of men (4.2 million)

And the survey also showed that men and women experienced severe physical abuse from a partner in the past year in basically equal numbers:

  • 1.9% of women and 2.0% of men



For more on the numbers of men who are abused by their wives and girlfriends and research sources, click here. 


How Many Men are Abused by Women?



How Abusive Women Overcome Strength Disadvantage

Men’s size and strength advantage over women has been among deciding factors that have led many people to conclude that physical abuse of a man by a woman is a non-issue. However, women who physically abuse men can overcome their strength disadvantage in many ways.

Women who physically abuse men can overcome their strength disadvantage in many ways, including:

  • surprise attacks,

  • the use of objects either as direct weapons or projectiles,

  • striking when their prey is in a vulnerable position (driving, asleep, drunk, has his back turned . . .),

  • counting on their partner to not strike back*, or

  • soliciting the help of others to attack him.

*A man may prevent himself from striking back because of training or desire to not hurt a woman, his non-violent nature, or concern that he will get in legal trouble. Even when his partner is whaling on him, a man may restrain himself from countering the attack.

Poisoning over a period of time is a method that some very malicious women use to abuse their husbands and partners. It falls into several of the methods for overcoming size disadvantage that I mentioned above: surprise, use of objects, and striking when their prey is vulnerable (unsuspecting in the case of poisoning--just going about his daily routine).

In Abuse OF Men BY Women: It Happens, It Hurts, and It's Time to Get Real About It, I write about 3 cases of women poisoning their husband's and boyfriend's food: one with visine eye drops, one with thallium (an odorless tasteless chemical she obtained through her job as a chemist for a large pharmaceutical company), and one with anti-freeze. Another poisoning case that has hit the news is the story of Emily Yu being caught on video repeatedly lacing her husband's breakfast drink with Drano. 


Size does not matter. 5 ways women overcome their size disadvantage when they physically abuse husbands and boyfriends



15 Signs of a Physically Abusive Girlfriend or Wife

Women use a variety of methods to physically abuse their partners:

  1. throwing or breaking things

  2. scratching

  3. kicking

  4. biting

  5. hair-pulling

  6. burning

  7. shoving

  8. interfering with sleeping or eating

  9. blocking exits

  10. poisoning

  11. hitting with open hands or fists

  12. hitting with objects

  13. forcing him out of the house

  14. attacking, or threatening to attack, others

  15. assaulting with knives, guns, or vehicles


Men's Stories: Examples of Domestic Violence Against Men

I've talked with many men who have been targets of domestic violence and from their wives and girlfriends. 

Here are a few of their stories. There are many more in my book Abuse OF Men BY Women: It Happens, It Hurts, and It's Time to Get Real About It.


1. Attacked in His Sleep

A man was woken up in the middle of the night by his wife pounding him with the clock radio. She hit him in both arms, the chest, and face—right beside his eye—before he fled the house and called the police.

They hadn’t argued that day. The attack came out of nowhere. He had become accustomed to her being controlling, demanding, and manipulating, even throwing things, but she had never hit him before.

He was cut and bruised from the attack, which upon further reflection seemed to be an attempt on her part to provoke him to fight back so she could get him into legal trouble. He hadn’t known beforehand, but she seemed to have been trying to put herself in the best position to divorce him.


2. Hit by His Wife and Kids

A man’s wife often violently hammered him with her fists, pounding him all over his body.

At times, she would encourage their teenage sons to beat him as well.

He would curl up to try and protect himself from the blows, but he didn’t physically fight back. He was not a physically violent person. He hoped that reasoning with his wife would make the attacks stop.


3. A Hidden Surprise in His Dessert

A woman who was demanding and controlling, lied, had affairs, emptied joint bank accounts . . . and generally terrorized her husband, physically abused him
in a way that defies categorization: she put needles into his favorite dessert.

When he discovered the needles, she acted like it was a joke.



Check out my post Love Shouldn't Hurt. A Battered Husband's Story for the story of Tom, a man who opens up about his 20-year marriage to a woman who beat, choked, and kicked him. 

a physically abused man's story


Resources for Battered and Abused Husbands and Boyfriends

If your wife or girlfriend is physically abusive, click here to find out how to make a Safety Plan.

For further explanation of each of the ways women physically abuse their male partners check out my book:


Abuse OF Men BY Women: It Happens, It Hurts, and It's Time to Get Real About It


 Abuse OF Men BY Women: It Happens, It Hurts, and It's Time to Get Real About It, domestic violence against men article and book, my girlfriend is physically abusive












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  • Ann Silvers
Comments 1
  • Shane Carty
    Shane Carty

    I am trying to get a story published in the Australian Guardian about this issue but they won’t even respond to me. It would be great to get your help. I am recovering from a surprise kidney punch by my partner two weeks ago. No verbal or physical warning she would punch me from behind while I was at the sink. My crime, drinking water from a glass she had just washed.

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