In a contradicting and often conflicting society that sends mixed messages to men on how they should act and behave, talking about male domestic abuse and violence at the hands of women is still a taboo subject. It is one that is quickly swept under the rug and driven by a social justice media that sets the narrative of women as victims and men as villainous perpetrators.

After the 2020 suicide of TV presenter Caroline Flack, who was charged with domestic violence and was due to face trial over claims she had assaulted her boyfriend Lewis Burton by allegedly hitting him over the head with a lamp, the subject of domestic abuse and violence against men made national headlines. Then, of course, there was the much-publicized court case of Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, in which Depp told a jury that his ex-wife was frequently violent towards him as arguments spiraled out of control. Depp was awarded $10.35 million in damages and won all three counts of defamation concerning a 2018 op-ed Heard had written about domestic abuse claims.

Statistically, women are more likely to be abused by men in a relationship. However, it is essential to recognize that men can also be victims of domestic violence, as demonstrated by these high-profile cases. In fact, domestic violence against men inflicted by female perpetrators is more frequent than often realized. According to statistics from Mankind, a confidential helpline service for male victims of domestic abuse and violence, 13.2% of men aged between 16 and 59 had experienced some form of domestic abuse since the age of 16. This is equivalent to an estimated 2.2 million male victims in the UK.

From 2017 to 2018, there were 695,000 male victims of domestic abuse in the UK. In 2020, that number increased to 757,000 men who reported abuse. Unfortunately, only half of the male victims reported the abuse to the police, highlighting the underreporting and reluctance to come forward.

Among the common forms of abuse inflicted by female perpetrators on male victims, physical and psychological abuse are the most common, followed by financial and coercive control. It is crucial to shed light on these statistics and have open discussions about domestic abuse against men to create a more balanced understanding of the issue.

Why do men not report domestic abuse and violence?

According to research found in the 50 Key Facts about Male Victims of Domestic Abuse published in 2020, the main reasons why men stay in abusive relationships or do not report the abuse to authorities are:

  • Concern about the children (89%)
  • Marriage commitment (81%)
  • Love (71%)
  • Fear of never seeing their children again (68%)
  • A belief she will change (56%)
  • Lack of money (53%)
  • Nowhere to go (52%)
  • Embarrassment (52%)
  • Not wanting to take their children away from their mother (46%)
  • Threats that she will kill herself (28%)
  • Fear she will kill him (24%)

When it comes to male domestic abuse, often men do not want to report their abuse to authorities due to social stigma but also because they fear that they will not be believed as victims. In a society that encourages us to "believe all women," as if there is unequivocally no way a man could ever experience violence and abuse at the hands of a woman, is it any wonder that men may feel discouraged to talk about what’s going on in their personal lives, particularly when damaging terms like "toxic masculinity" and "male privilege" are so often flung at men with detest and feminist loathing?

Unfortunately, male victims are often an afterthought, eclipsed by the socially constructed narrative of victimhood and oppression of the poor, defenceless woman hunched in fear of her misogynistic aggressor, particularly in the wake of the #MeToo movement.

Male victims often face hostility and shame when reporting their abuse, and many safeguarding services continue to overlook cases involving female abusers. ManKind Charity reported that in 2021, out of 238 refuge spaces for victims of domestic abuse, only 58 were committed to supporting male survivors. Women have a greater support system if they find themselves victims of domestic violence than men, and this is evident in the lack of dedicated resources and help available for male victims of domestic violence. The majority of domestic violence stories covered by the mainstream media are about male perpetrators and female victims, and in the aftermath of the suicide of Caroline Flack, this would not be more evident with the outpouring of public adulation for the former host of Love Island, with many people seemingly forgetting that this was also a woman that was due to face trial over alleged domestic abuse and violence against her then-boyfriend.

The Wales-based domestic abuse charity Calan reports that male victims fear a lack of trust or confidence in the police when reporting domestic abuse and violence perpetrated by women.

The bias towards women as not being capable of violence or abuse, particularly towards male victims, is rooted in (conscious or unconscious) law enforcement practices. This is telling, especially when enforcement officials respond to crimes involving domestic violence, tending to believe the word of a woman over a man, with some female perpetrators even going as far as making false and malicious allegations of domestic abuse towards their victim, perverting the course of justice.

1 in 6 men will experience domestic violence at one point in their lives, with every third victim of reported domestic violence being a man. Domestic abuse against men isn’t often talked about in a society that expects so much from them. But until we begin recognising and understanding domestic violence and abuse and the stereotyping and perceptions of male victims, domestic abuse and violence perpetrated by women towards men will always be a subject that we continue to keep tight-lipped about.