Female on Male Domestic Violence

A study of one man’s experience at the hands of his abusive wife showed that the most prominent feature of under reporting is the fear many men have of ridicule and disbelief – Mandy Carey, 2010.

Domestic violence covers a wide range of abusive behaviours occurring as part of a process in intimate adult relationships. In Ireland domestic and gender-based violence, whether mental, physical, emotional or otherwise, has traditionally been framed exclusively in terms of male perpetrators and female victims. Indeed, the term ‘domestic violence’ is almost synonymous with male on female violence.

However, while the impact and severity of abuse experience by woman is undoubtedly greater than the violence suffered by men, it is now widely accepted that both men and women can be both victims and perpetrators of domestic violence.

Differing societal norms and expectations present singular difficulties for male victims of domestic violence. Subsequent to violence from their partner is the fear of further victimised for failing macho stereotypes and for not protecting themselves and/or their children. Men may respond by seeking to conceal the abuse, seeing humiliation as the worse alternative. Further, men are reportedly less likely to view their victimisation as reaching a threshold sufficient to constitute domestic violence or indeed a criminal offence.

Though exact figures are believed to be grossly under-reported, support services for male victims of domestic violence have consistently reported increases in demand for their services over recent years. According to AMEN, 2012 was the busiest year of the service’s 15 years in operation, due possibility to the added financial pressure on families. January and October are reportedly the busiest months. In 2011, 38% of those who came forward said they were suffering psychological abuse, while 36.5% said they suffered regular verbal abuse.

Some of these trends may in part be attributable to an increased awareness of support and willingness to avail of same.

According to research carried out by Watson and Parsons (2005) for the National Crime Council found that:

  • 6% of men suffer severe domestic abuse, compared to 15% of women;
  • 26% of men suffer domestic abuse including severe abuse and minor incidents, compared to 29% of women;
  • 13% of men and 13% of women suffer physical abuse or minor physical incidents; and,
  • 29% of women (1 in 3) and only 5% of men (1 in 20) report to the Gardaí.

The study also reported that circa 88,000 men have been severely abused by a partner in Ireland at some point. These findings are buttressed by research spanning 40 years which indicates that men and women self-report perpetrating domestic violence at similar rates.

Man have the same rights as women as regards bodily integrity and safety in the home. The same legislative provisions, such as the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997 (governing, inter alia, offences such as harassment, coercion, assault and threats to kill), and domestic violence legislation (providing for safety, barring and protection orders).

Unlike their male counterparts, female perpetrators of domestic violence will often continue to enjoy the legal presumption that any children the couple may have are better off in the care and custody of their mother. Male victims can thus be presented with the option of continuing to live with abuse and remain with their children, or to leave behind the home and the violence, along with their children.

Female on male domestic violence does not get much attention from policymakers or, apart from the odd article, the media. Absent is  a willingness to develop a greater understanding and study of the phenomenon, critical thinking about resourcing of support services, and awareness among emergency services and frontline staff.

Support Services

Men experiencing domestic violence who need emergency assistance should contact the Gardaí on 999 or 112


Address: St. Anne’s Resource Centre, Railway Street, Navan, Co. Meath

Helpline: 046 9023 718 (9am – 5pm Monday to Friday)

If you need help outside these hours please call: 086 194 7270.

email: info@amen.ie

Rape Crisis Centres

National helpline: 1800 778 888

Address: Rape Crisis Network Ireland, The Halls, Quay Street, Galway, Ireland

email: info@rcni.ie

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