Intimate Partner Violence Against Men

More Men Are in Abusive Relationships than You Think

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When you think about domestic violence you probably think of women being battered by their husband, boyfriend or other intimate partner. But every year in the U.S., about 3.2 million men are the victims of an assault by an intimate partner. Most assaults are of a relatively minor nature such as pushing, shoving, slapping or hitting, though many are more serious — and some end in homicide.

How to Recognize Intimate Partner Violence

Intimate partner violence (IPV) is violence that occurs between a victim and perpetrator who are current or former spouses or partners.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, there are four main types of IPV (although some databases also include stalking). Intimate partner violence does not require sexual intimacy to meet the definition. IPV is defined as:

  • Physical violence: The intentional use of physical force with the potential for causing death, disability, injury, or harm.
  • Threats of physical or sexual violence: Using words, gestures, or weapons to communicate the intent to cause death, disability, injury or physical harm.
  • Psychological/emotional violence: Involves trauma to the victim caused by violent acts, threats of violent acts or coercive tactics.
  • Sexual violence: The use of physical force to compel a person to engage in a sexual act against his or her will, whether or not the act is completed; the attempted or completed sex act involving a person who is unable to understand the nature or condition of the act, to decline participation, or to communicate unwillingness to engage in the sexual act, (for instance when the victim is disabled or under the influence of alcohol or drugs) or because of intimidation or pressure; and abusive sexual contact.

    Intimate Partner Violence Statistics

    There are a number of difficulties in the collection of statistical data about IPV, mainly due to under-reporting. The major problem is that the true size of IPV is unknown because of under-reporting. This is particularly marked in the case of men, probably because of the stigma and embarrassment men may feel as victims of domestic violence.

    It is universally recognized that women are more likely than men to be the victims of IPV. In 2002, 24 percent of U.S. homicides that were as a result of IPV were men, compared with 76 percent involving women as victims. The National Crime Victimization Survey reported in 2003 that 85 percent of IPV victims were women and that firearms were the weapons of choice in many homicides that occurred between 1981 and 1998. Research found that 22 percent of men (and 29 percent of women) experienced physical, sexual, or psychological IPV during their lifetime.

    Why Men Do Not Report Abuse

    The level of violence inflicted on men by women is generally less serious than that inflicted on women, but IPV abuse is still a significant men's health problem.

    One reason men do not report abuse is that they feel people will not believe them. Arguably, IPV towards women had been ignored for so long, society now finds the concept of violence towards men difficult to grasp and consequently has been slow to address it as a serious issue.

    In addition, men are often not physically abused, but emotionally abused. Being belittled and humiliated by an intimate partner can have a devastating effect and sustains a relationship in which power rests unfairly with the abuser.

    Regular, repeated psychological and emotional abuse undermines confidence. Men begin to believe that they deserve the abuse they are getting, and often feel less self worth as a result. It is a difficult belief to turn around if it has gone on for a long time, and it is one of the major reasons why people remain in abusive relationships.

    Violence in Homosexual Relationships

    Gay men are just as susceptible to domestic violence as any other member of society, and violence within homos relationships is a recognized health problem. There are some differences though. For example, gay men often feel they cannot seek help from agencies that mostly offer help and advice to heterosexual couples.

    Gay men are more reluctant to expose their sexuality to health care professionals. In addition, the victim may have the same friends as the abuser, and can be worried about losing the support from his partner and mutual friends.

    Getting Help

    Domestic violence should never be ignored or put up with. If you or someone you know is the victim or survivor of IPV and needs help, contact local authorities or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE (7233), 800-787-3224 TYY. You can also use their online chat feature. Information is also available online from the National Domestic Violence Hotline.


    Intimate Partner Violence: Fact Sheet. Updated 2 oct CDC National center for Injury Prevention and Control.

    Tjaden P, Thoennes N. Extent, nature, and consequences of intimate partner violence: findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey. Washington (DC) Department of Justice (US) 2000a. Publication No. NCJ 181867.