Men experience domestic violence, with health impact

Group Health study debunks five myths about abuse of men

SEATTLE—Domestic violence can happen to men, not only to women, according to Group Health research in the June American Journal of Preventive Medicine. “Domestic violence in men is under-studied and often hidden—much as it was in women 10 years ago,” said study leader Robert J. Reid, MD, PhD, an associate investigator at the Group Health Center for Health Studies. “We want abused men to know they’re not alone.” His findings confirm some common beliefs but also debunk five myths about abuse in men:

Myth 1: Few men experience domestic violence. Many do. In-depth phone interviews with over 400 randomly sampled adult male Group Health patients surprised Dr. Reid and his colleagues: 5% had experienced domestic violence in the past year, 10% in the past five years, and 29% over their lifetimes. The researchers defined domestic violence to include nonphysical abuse—threats, chronic disparaging remarks, or controlling behavior—as well as physical abuse: slapping, hitting, kicking, or forced sex.

Myth 2: Abuse of men has no serious effects. The researchers found domestic violence is associated with serious, long-term effects on men’s mental health. Women are more likely than men to experience more severe physical abuse, said Dr. Reid. “But even nonphysical abuse——can do lasting damage.” Depressive symptoms were nearly three times as common in older men who had experienced abuse than in those who hadn’t, with much more severe depression in the men who had been abused physically.

Myth 3: Abused men don’t stay, because they’re free to leave. In fact, men may stay for years with their abusive partners. “We know that many women may have trouble leaving abusive relationships, especially if they’re caring for young children and not working outside the home,” said Dr. Reid. “We were surprised to find that most men in abusive relationships also stay, through multiple episodes, for years.”

Myth 4: Domestic violence affects only poor people. The study actually showed it to be an equal-opportunity scourge. “As we found in our previous research with women experiencing domestic violence, this is a common problem affecting people in all walks of life,” said Dr. Reid. “Our patients at Group Health have health insurance and easy access to health care, and their employment rate and average income, education level, and age are higher than those of the rest of the U.S. population.”

Myth 5: Ignoring it will make it go away. Not so. “We doctors hardly ever ask our male patients about being abused—and they seldom tell us,” said Dr. Reid. “Many abused men feel ashamed because of societal expectations for men to be tough and in control.” Younger men were twice as likely as men age 55 or older to report recent abuse. “That may be because older men are even more reluctant to talk about it,” he added.

This study extends Group Health’s research on domestic violence, a.k.a. intimate partner violence. The team’s previous publications have documented the prevalence, persistence, and health effects of domestic violence on women. In the current study, they asked men the same questions that they had asked of women. “Our team is concerned about abuse of people: of women as well as men,” Dr. Reid added. “We do not want to downplay the seriousness of domestic violence as experienced by women.”

Dr. Reid said more research is needed to determine the best ways for doctors to ask men if they have experienced domestic violence—and how best to help them into couples counseling, leaving their partners, or getting protection orders. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is toll-free 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the Group Health Center for Health Studies funded this work, co-authored by Melissa Anderson, MS, Paul Fishman, PhD, David Carrell, PhD, and Robert Thompson, MD of the Group Health Center for Health Studies; Amy Bonomi, PhD, MPH, now an Ohio State University associate professor of human development & family science in Columbus; and Group Health Center for Health Studies affiliate scientific investigator Frederick Rivara, MD, MPH, of Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center and the University of Washington.

This article courtesy of EurekAlert!


Group Health Center for Health Studies

Founded in 1947, Group Health is a Seattle-based, consumer-governed, nonprofit health care system that coordinates care and coverage. For 25 years, the Group Health Center for Health Studies has conducted research on preventing, diagnosing, and treating major health problems. Government and private research grants provide its main funding.

“Clergy Responses to Domestic Violence” by Steven Tracy

I found this excerpt at A Wife’s Submission. It is excellent. I also did a little poking around the site and was impressed by what I read. I’ll be digging in some more to see what else she has to say.

The following is an excerpt from “Clergy Responses to Domestic Violence” by Steven Tracy


Clergy often state or imply that the woman is partially responsible for the abuse….

Research on domestic violence in fact reveals that the woman’s behavior actually has little bearing on the abuse. That is, abusive men ultimately do not abuse because of what their wives do or do not do; they abuse because of complex internal pathologies beyond the wife’s control or responsibility….

clergy who have not experienced abuse will not intuitively recognize many of the needs of battered women. Furthermore, since battered women have been systematically devalued, demeaned, and stripped of power…

I believe it is particularly important for clergy to understand the characteristics of abusive men. One of the greatest misnomers about abusers is that they look a certain way, so “you’ll know one when you see one.” Thus, clergy often are in deep denial when one of their members is charged with abuse, for the accused seemed like such a nice person and did not look like anyone who could abuse. In fact, abusers cannot be visually identified, but they do have some notable behavioral characteristics. The first and most consistent characteristic of physical abusers is a pervasive denial of responsibility. They simply refuse to own their destructive behavior. They do this by shifting the blame for their abuse, and/or by minimizing the abuse itself. For example, in one study of physically abusive men who were in mandated counseling researchers who interviewed these men cataloged dozens of rationalizations and minimizations for their abuse such as: “The booze made me do it.” “My wife verbally abused me.” “She was the provoker and I had to defend myself.”“I never beat my wife. I responded physically to her.” “Women bruise easily too. They bump into a door and they bruise.”

Over the years I have heard every imaginable excuse and minimization for abuse, yet rarely have I found abusers to condone abuse in general. They say that abuse is wrong but what they did was not abuse. Or they say that their wife forced them to hit her by being such a nag, by disrespecting their authority, by not meeting their sexual needs, etc. Pervasive denial of responsibility is exactly what we see in the life of King Saul, a physical abuser whose heart so displeased God that God rejected him from being king.

Before I clarify this point I should note the seriousness of clergy overlooking violence or absolving abusers of their sin. Scripture declares: “acquitting the guilty and condemning the innocent—the Lord detests them both” (Prov 17:15, NIV). God severely judged the prophet Eli because he refused to stop his sons from abusing men and women in the temple (1 Sam 2:16, 22; 3:13).

Holding abusers fully responsible means refusing to accept any excuses or minimizations for violence whatsoever. If clergy accept abusers’ blame shifting or minimizations, this inevitably serves to strongly reinforce the abusers’ pathological beliefs and actions. It is also profoundly harmful to battered wives….

Holding batterers fully responsible and accountable for their violence is not only necessary for the sake of the victim but also for the sake of the abuser. Pastoral counselor and abuse expert Carol Adams argues that abusers batter their wives because it works. They will often attempt to manipulate their minister, counselor, and friends to avoid something worse (such as jail time or having their wife leave).

So the best potential for abusers to genuinely repent and avoid the judgment of God is when clergy (and others) hold abusers fully responsible and accountable for their actions. In the context of holding batterers responsible, clergy can then begin to consider others ways of ministering to abusers.

Thus, clergy must take seriously all reports of domestic violence, must never minimize abuse victims’ concerns, and must be willing to boldly confront abusers and offer practical assistance to victims. This includes helping victims of domestic violence develop a safety plan, access safe housing (community shelters or a family in the church) and assist with financial needs.

Prioritizing protection certainly includes encouraging and supporting women to separate from abusive husbands. While an abused woman with no children has strong biblical warrant to flee an abusive husband she has additional warrant (even a mandate) to do so if she has children. Jesus pronounced the most severe judgments on those who cause one of the little ones (children) to stumble (Matt 18:1-10). Abusive husbands cause tremendous long term physical, emotional, and spiritual damage to children…

Separation from an abusive husband is also ethically important for the well being of the woman, because domestic violence creates serious physical, emotional, and spiritual damage. And Scripture does not commend enduring avoidable suffering. Christ repeatedly avoided physical assault by hiding (John 8:59), by maintaining physical separation from his abusers (Matt 12:14–15; John 11:53–54), and by eluding them (John 10:31, 39). Other godly individuals in Scripture, such as Paul and David, also repeatedly fled physically abusive civil and religious authorities (1 Sam 19:12; 27:1; Acts 9:22–25; 14:5–6; 17:8–10, 14). Following the example of godly individuals in Scripture, clergy should advise battered wives to flee from their abusive husbands and should assist them in every way they can to find safety and physical security.