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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2022  |  Volume : 6  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 1-3

Domestic violence against men: A lesser explored phenomenon

Consultant Psychiatrist, Desousa Foundation, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Date of Submission24-Mar-2022
Date of Decision25-Mar-2022
Date of Acceptance25-Mar-2022
Date of Web Publication29-Apr-2022

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Avinash De Sousa
Desousa Foundation, Mumbai, Maharashtra
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/aip.aip_48_22

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How to cite this article:
Sousa AD. Domestic violence against men: A lesser explored phenomenon. Ann Indian Psychiatry 2022;6:1-3

How to cite this URL:
Sousa AD. Domestic violence against men: A lesser explored phenomenon. Ann Indian Psychiatry [serial online] 2022 [cited 2023 Apr 1];6:1-3. Available from: https://www.anip.co.in/text.asp?2022/6/1/1/344424

Violence against men is a less researched and relatively less addressed area of concern. This editorial explores to understand the nature of violence against men and their sociocultural and psychological aspects that impacts men and also looks at men under the lens of victimization and brings to fore the realities of how men also suffer and need support for their well-being.

Patriarchy has been embedded in history at multiple layers across global societies. Although the primal understanding of patriarchy puts men on a one-up and women on a one-down position, no one really benefits from patriarchy. For the word patriarchy reflects “man-dominance,” it is quite easy to extricate its defeatist impact on men. In addition, when we hear words like ”violence” or ”abuse,” the immediate presumption is to see women as victims and men as perpetrators. Debunking this stereotype, it is important to bring to light that men are also at the receiving end of violence and abuse. A recent study conducted in 2019 reveals that approximately 52% of men report having experienced violence from the intimate partner/spouse at least once in their lifetime. A pan-India study reported that 98% of the Indian men had suffered domestic violence more than once in their lives. However, factually, almost 95% of men and women experience violence from a male perpetrator.[1]

Violence is an act involving intentional aggression and harm directed toward oneself or others. Speaking of violence in the context of this article, violence refers to domestic violence. The term ”domestic violence” encompasses a broad range of violent acts committed by one member of a family or household against another. It often refers to the mistreatment of a child or spouse. The key difference is the relationship that the abuser has to victim. Domestic violence entails not only physical harm but also threats, verbal, emotional, psychological, and sexual abuse. Violence against men is often not taken seriously, is reported less and does not have formal legal recognition, in this realm. Unfortunately, this is largely resultant of the social attitudes and perceptions that people have toward the gender of the victim and perpetrator.

Most often, men are colored as the perpetrators although this may be true for a proportion of the perpetrators of violence, it evades the seriousness needed to be directed at male victims of violence. India records the highest prevalence of violence against men as compared to other countries.[2]

Men are also less likely to report violence directed at them, especially when violence is experienced at home and/or by a partner. There are several social and culturally driven norms that support violence (of all forms). Although most of these norms go against women surging the rates and frequency of violence perpetrated against, some of them hold true for the violence directed toward men as well, and they are as follows:[3]

  1. Intimate partner violence is a taboo subject and reporting abuse is disrespectful
  2. Sex and sexuality are taboo subjects
  3. Violence is an acceptable way of resolving conflicts
  4. Individuals in different social groups within society are not tolerated – e.g., homosexuals
  5. Mental health problems are embarrassing and shameful, deterring individuals from seeking help.

Patriarchal standards have laid grounds for several difficulties for men as well and it affects them in some of the following ways:

  1. Men have to be the earning member of the house which places the burden of financial responsibility entirely on them
  2. Men are not taught to be expressive of what/how they feel because they are only taught how to be “strong” and “not sissy” all the time
  3. Emotional vulnerability is never taught to men which compartmentalizes their emotions and affects their mental health
  4. One is not man enough if they are not the decision-making authorities in their house
  5. Men are looked down upon for being emotional and sensitive because those are feminine qualities
  6. Patriarchal teachings have also created distant discrepancies and warped notions about how men treat women
  7. Men are never taught how to handle failure or rejection well
  8. There is shame associated with homosexual orientation
  9. Men are constantly expected to “man up” even if it is at the cost of their and others' well-being
  10. One is not man enough if they do not express physical aggression or abuse verbally.

  Nature of Domestic Violence Against Men Top

Any form of violence, thus, including domestic violence is against humanity and a violation of basic human rights, a punishable offense. Most frequently experienced violence in intimate partner violence and domestic violence is emotional abuse/violence-most often not reported by people. Global reports on domestic violence have recognized it to be a form of violence that affects a person's life in all spheres-physically, mentally, emotionally, and psychologically.[2]

Physical abuse directed at men includes slapping; pushing; hitting by wife/her parents/relatives; or throwing objects such as utensils, cell phones, and crockery at the husband. The most common form of physical abuse identified is slapping which is reported in 98.3% and the least common was being beaten by weapon that accounted for 3.3% of the cases. Only in one-tenth of the cases, men reported that physical assaults were severe.[4]

Psychological and/or emotional abuse against men encompasses criticism being reported against men (85%), were insulted publicly or in front of someone (29.7%) and 3.5% were threatened or hurt. It can also be in the form of mental abuse such as constant threats to the husband and his family. One of the most traumatic experiences that men report is a false allegation of IPC section 498 of dowry and domestic violence.

Sexual abuse has been reported to be experienced by a small proportion of 0.4% of men, which is usually when the man denies having sex.

  Nature of Abuse Against Men Top

There are several scenarios and several types of violence that men are also subjected to. Although sexual abuse/violence/crime against men is often not a common thought and is also less reported, it does not mean that it is nonexistent. More often, men are also subjected to unwilful sexual activities to gain rewards or promotion or avoid slack at work or to be in the pleasing books of the wife. Several men have also reported being sexually abused and/or molested as children or young adults by men and women who are either their family members or (molested) in public. Often, this is not taken seriously and also is attached with being “not man enough” which results in lesser reporting of the same. Men also report being made fun of, ridiculed, and abused by their partners if they are unable to perform. A lot of men also engage in several distressing sexual activities out of the pressure of pleasing and satisfying their partners irrespective of them enjoying the act. Another crucial and commonly reported phenomenon is that of having performing anxiety and one is not considered machismo should they fail to perform or sustain the act long enough, then such a blame is directly misconstrued on the inability of the man to perform rather than being more sensitive to address various factors among couple.

Another aspect that is challenging for men is that men are always assumed to demand and want sexual interests from their partners. This largely devoid men from the platonic touch that is conducive to building warmer relationships and equally important for their well-being.

In India, several young men with good qualifications and good income are abducted and forced to marry without their consent. Oft encountered are also allegation of complaints of false rape and other charges such as false molestation, dowry, and domestic violence. This is seen resulting due to the prejudiced worldview of the law and society that always traditionally favor females as the weaker sex. Apart from that, several female spouses also indulge in extramarital affairs, compromising their existing marital relationship.

Considering the emotional angle of abuse, men's emotional well-being and psychological sanity are conveniently ignored by their partners and sometimes by the family at large as well. Should the mere expectation of financial stability not be met, it leads to hurling accusations of incapability toward men. There are few women who would stand up to support men in such situations and have an understanding approach about the same. Very often, the emotional stress that men have due to their work, of running the house, paying bills, and loans is left unaddressed and the stress gets further added with complaints of not being available for the family. It also becomes a ground for divorce in some situations. It must be kept in mind that apart from the social conditioning of patriarchy that keeps men at bay from being expressive, they are also hardwired to be socially relatively less engaged. However, this can be changed. Spouses often expect men to read in-between the lines but many of them may not have the ability to do so.

Many a times, aggression has been an issue in women as well. Their aggressive nature disrupts the inter-spousal relationship and some men fail to express their discomfort with the same. Often the frustration that working women face at the workplace and of handling the home situations is vented on husbands and is expected to be normative. Often, in such situations, men are expected to understand and let go of it-what gets overlooked is that the relationship suffers in the long run. In some instances, women are dominating as persons as well which suppresses men to freely express their needs and wants from that relationship.

On a familial level, a man is not a good husband or a good father if he has not been able to give them luxurious happiness, vacations, dinners, and outings. This may be an unrealistic and difficult expectation for many men. Often what men prefer an idea of holidaying or relaxing remains concealed. The expectation from a man is to constantly be that ”good” husband/son/father.

  Psychological Impact of Violence on Men Top

Although there are physical impacts of violence against men in the form of injuries, severe assaultive injuries, and lethality in rare situations, the psychological impacts are greater. Studies have revealed a myriad of psychological effects of violence against men. Some of them include where men report feeling anger, revengeful, shameful, fear, emotionally hurt, unloved, and helpless.[5] The higher the level of violence experienced, the greater the chance of experiencing the severity of depression, stress, and psychosomatic complaints. Some studies have also found that when compared to men who have not experienced violence, psychological distress, and depression were found to be higher in men who were at the receiving end of violence. These internalized feelings should be read, while not forgetting that these are also experienced by women almost 2–3 folds higher in the overall population. It may also increase the risk of suicide.

  Psychological Intervention and Stigma in Men that Face Violence Top

Men who have faced violence and abuse rarely seek psychological help for their problems. One of the main reasons is that men regard it as being shameful to seek help as being men, and it is very demeaning for them to be abused at the hands of woman. The stigma of not being a man and standing up to the abuse as well as not being able to manage the abuse on his own are other reasons why the man feels shame. The fear of being laughed at and ridiculed at is another factor. Furthermore, most organizations in India that work with domestic violence are women centric and have more women staff, female psychologists, and female counselors. Many such organizations may also have staff who are trained but have been victims of domestic violence themselves as women. The training imparted most of the time is in the realm of domestic violence against women. The approach to handling domestic violence against men may differ as to the person who has been abused also differs from women. The fear of being ridiculed by the police and law also thwarts them from seeking help from that pathway. There is a need for sensitization of organizations toward violence against men and making them understand that this is a problem that genuinely exists.

  Conclusions Top

In a system that largely remains patriarchal, it is necessary to understand that although men are often perpetrators of the patriarchal wreck, there are some men who are victimized by the violence as well. What is most important to understand is that the reason why men and women are different is to strike a balance and fill the void in relationships-one must not have an expectation from men to be like women or women to be like men. Qualities that are lack in men and women can be learned with practice and time. Equality is about accepting, celebrating, and balancing differences. There is a need to break the shackles of patriarchal hold to benefit society at large. There is a need for us to also cater to the needs of mental well-being of men and outgrow the water-tight definition of masculinity.

  References Top

Malik JS, Nadda A. A cross-sectional study of gender-based violence against men in the rural area of Haryana, India. Indian J Community Med 2019;44:35-8.  Back to cited text no. 1
[PUBMED]  [Full text]  
Deshpande S. Sociocultural and legal aspects of violence against men. J Psychosexual Health 2019;1:246-9.  Back to cited text no. 2
World Health Organization. Changing Cultural and Social Norms that Support Violence. Geneva: WHO; 2009.  Back to cited text no. 3
Sarkar S, Dsouza R, Dasgupta A. Domestic Violence against Men: A Study Report by Save Family Foundation. New Delhi, India: Save Family Foundation; 2007.  Back to cited text no. 4
Hines DA, Malley-Morrison K. Psychological effects of partner abuse against men: A neglected research area. Psychol Men Maculinity 2001;2:75-81.  Back to cited text no. 5


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