The issue of male victims of domestic abuse is beginning to get more attention. Sadly though there is very little support available to them and the very limited number of refuges for them are under threat.
This article gives details of some first hand experiences and the estimated scale of the issue. It claims 1 in 6 men could be a victim in their lifetime. However, this is an estimate as it’s such an under-reported and mis-understood crime.
Sufficient support for all victims of domestic abuse regardless of gender is sadly hard to come by.
I sometimes come across a view point that counselling is only for a certain type of person. While it’s not always specific what that type is maybe you can fill in the blanks for yourself.
It can be that a person comes to counselling because of a series of events but sometimes it is just one unexpected thing that rocks a person so badly they need support to come to terms with where it has left them.
None of us can anticipate or prepare for a day like that. We will get up, get washed and dressed, follow our usual routine or no routine oblivious to the fact that tomorrow morning our lives will be completely different.
The life changing event can take many forms. An error in judgement on our part or someone else’s. stepping out into the road too soon, not applying the brakes quickly enough. Getting on the wrong train. Missing a bus and walking instead. Our lives are full of these possibilities and thankfully they don’t always come to pass.
Sometimes though it’s an event caused maliciously and deliberately or one where someone is working to deflect attention and/or guilt from themselves.
False accusations of sexual abuse can fall into this category. Whatever gender we are, there will be others of any gender who will use these type of allegations for many reasons. To get revenge, to punish someone, to avoid their own feelings of guilt and shame, to convince themselves they aren’t responsible for their own actions.
Whatever the reason, the person accused will never to quite the same. Even when no charges are brought or if the are dismissed at trial, there will always be people who view them with suspicious and believe them guilty.
They will have to find a way in future relationships to share what has happened and run the risk of being judged as well.
Finding a way to reclaim trust in people when it gets shattered is no easy task. It can take a great deal of work and determination to keep trying; to hang onto hope that things will improve; to make yourself vulnerable again.
Trigger warning – the linked article contains details of domestic abuse
This article is a very clear at detailing the impact of long term domestic abuse. It documents both physical and emotional abuse over a significant period of time. The toll it took on the victim, not just while they were with their partner by the psychological impact they have experienced ever since.
The victim in this case is male, the perpetrator female. This is a form of abuse that is still not as recognised by society and the scale of if is I believe still significantly under-reported.
Even the victims can find it incredibly hard to name what is happening to them as abuse. How society views maleness and what a man should be like can make it even harder for them to seek help as they can be mocked and vilified for “letting” this happen to them.
I am affiliated with Mencasa which aims to help you find a suitable therapist with experience in this area. Please get in touch if you need it.
This article on sibling abuse raises some interesting points on why it happens and signs to look out for.
It does seem to be focused mainly on sibling sexual abuse rather than physical or emotional abuse. All forms of sibling abuse are hard to get statistics for as in all the studies I’ve researched the sibling figures are included in “other family” general categories.
This quote from the article on impact for me is key for people to understand:
WHAT ARE THE LONG-TERM EFFECTS OF SIBLING ABUSE?
Time does not necessarily heal. Adult victims of childhood sibling abuse generally have lower self-esteem and are overly sensitive and insecure. They have trouble with relationships and repeat the victim role in their other relationships. They can have sexual functioning problems. There is continued self-blame at the same time that anger at their perpetrator is played out with others.
This article describes very clearly what it is like to be the family scapegoat in a toxic and abusive family dynamic.
This is a form of emotional abuse. Not only does it involve gas lighting where your experience of reality is denied and twisted, but it also can include collusion from all the family members. While they may not be as active at scapegoating, if they choose to be convinced and don’t take the time to reflect on what is really happening they are colluding with it.
How hard though is it for the person set up as the scapegoat to recover? The sad truth is very hard and this may take a lot of work and self-reflection. When these behaviour patterns get set into us in childhood we can take a lifetime to undo them.
If any of the points are resonating with you though, don’t give up hope. Because while it is hard work to recover, its worth it to find your authentic self and what you are truly capable of.
I come back to forms of emotional abuse again and again as I believe it is the least understood and acknowledged form of abuse.
Emotional abuse exists in all other forms of abuse, sexual, physical and neglect but it also occurs without these other signs and that is why it is so hard to recognise from the outside.
Even the victims may not realise what has happened to them, especially when it occurred in childhood. It can take years to come to terms with and recognise the relationship between the emotional abuse and low self-esteem, depression and anxiety that the adult who was emotionally abused in childhood may experience.
Low self-esteem involve being made to feel that the victim isn’t as important as everyone else, that their needs don’t count. Their abuser’s needs are put before their own and it may be done so subtly they don’t even know it has happened. It’s hard enough to realise it is happening as an adult, much more in a child.
The child victim may be very helpful and easy to deal with, after all they have already been taught their needs are less important than others. This is why they so often get missed. As they grow up, they may be sensitive to what they see as selfish behaviour in others. After all, they never put themselves first, how selfish that other people do so. This view can be a symptom of the abuse they don’t even realise they have suffered and they can be very judgemental of other people because of it.
They have been conditioned to the fact that they shouldn’t put themselves and their needs first. But really, we all have to do that. Even parents who are doing all they can for their children can’t be totally selfless all the time. After all, if they don’t look after themselves then what impact can that have?
Emotional abusers expect others to put them first and they have an array of tools to manipulate, shame and bully their victims into making this happen.
It is not a personality flaw to put yourself first, it doesn’t make you bad or selfish. It is part of self-care. What is damaging and abusive is to expect others to put you first as well and to be resentful and coercive when it doesn’t happen.
Below is a reminder of the scale of violence between intimate partners. This is an American organisation so the overall totals reflect that countries population but there is no reason to believe that the same ratio’s don’t apply in the UK. The EU wide survey published in 2014 documents one in three women (33 %) has experienced physical and/or sexual violence since she was 15 years old.
This article describes really well what happens with imposter syndrome.
In my experience it is very linked to emotional abuse; not just from parents and guardians but also siblings.
Siblings who resent the attention that another sibling gets can cause great damage with their jealously. When you end up feeling insecure and paranoid because of doing well at something it doesn’t help you grow into a confident and secure adult.
Gas lighting takes away a persons ability to trust in reality and they can end up blaming themselves for the appalling behaviour of another person.
“If I was better/smarter/slimmer/kinder/quieter/cleverer/etc then they wouldn’t be so upset and frustrated with me”.
Other people can get pulled into it as well and can see the victim in the way the perpetrators wants them to so they miss the abuse that is happening.
This isn’t limited to gender roles either, despite the most common examples being reported as men abusing women. It also isn’t limited to partners; its a form of abuse that can occur with any type of relationship. Family, friends, work. I have worked with sibling abuse in this form and also adults who were raised by parents who did this.
It takes the victim time and space to trust their own perceptions again; to stop self blaming. They may never heal completely, but it is possible to bring about a lot of change.