Male Domestic Abuse: we need to talk!


Male Domestic Abuse: we need to talk!

When we hear about domestic abuse, we usually think of women. Most of us have read articles, heard news broadcasts or seen TV programmes about incidences of violence towards women. But men are exposed to it also.

Men experience domestic abuse, irrespective of age, sexuality, occupation, body type, social class, or race. It can happen to men from all cultures and all walks of life. A recent report by The Centre for Social Justice shows that 1 in 3 victims of domestic abuse are men, of which only 49% of men who reported their abuse had never told anyone before.

The UK government’s definition of ‘abuse’ is:

Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality.’

As a man, you might find it difficult to talk about your experiences for many reasons. You may…

  • Feel committed to your relationship or hold onto hope that your partner will change and things will get better, or back to how they once were. 
  • Be reluctant to report the abuse because you’re worried about the consequences or unaware of the support available to you.
  • Worry that accepting help is a sign of weakness; worse, you fear there’s no way out.  

Signs of domestic abuse against men

Abusive relationships don’t start being abusive – on the contrary! The perpetrator is usually charming, loving, affectionate, passionate, supportive, and enthusiastic about you,  your hobbies and interests. They can love bomb you in those early heady days of romance, leaving you feeling like you’ve met your soulmate.

Once the relationship settles, the abuse begins to leak. It usually starts with small acts that often go unnoticed or are ignored because life has been blissful until that point. For example, questioning you for arriving home ten minutes later than expected and checking your phone to find out whom you’ve been messaging. Accusing you of not loving them anymore because you’re meeting a friend for a drink; in their eyes, you’re choosing your friend(s) over them.

Gradually, the accusations increase, and the arguments intensify. You find yourself caught up in a cyclone of dysfunctional relating that leaves you questioning your behaviour.

Domestic abuse is when someone asserts power and control over you through manipulation and intimidation to strip away your independence, confidence, and freedom of choice. 

Abusive behaviour can be physical, psychological, sexual, financial or social. Here are some of the types of abuse that men might experience:


Physical abuse is the use or threat of physical violence to exert control. It can start as occasional subtle incidents and progress to more overtly violent episodes. Its unpredictability may leave you feeling scared or confused.

It can look like:

  • Using or threatening physical violence and bodily harm towards you, themselves, or your loved ones.
  • Restraining you or keeping you somewhere against your will. 
  • Denying medical treatment or equipment and misusing medications.
  • Restricting, forbidding or preventing you from fulfilling your basic needs, e.g. eating, sleeping, washing, etc.


Emotional or psychological abuse involves non-physical behaviours used to manipulate, silence, or upset someone. It can be subtle, but it’s just as serious as it can heavily impact your self-esteem and mental well-being. 92.6% of ManKind Initiative helpline callers reported experiencing emotional abuse.

It can look like:

  • Gaslighting that makes you question your perception, memory, and sanity.
  • Mocking you, in private or public, to humiliate or intimidate you. 
  • Twisting events and blaming you for instigating the arguments.
  • Love bombing you followed by sudden coldness or withdrawal of affection. 
  • Accusing you of flirting or having inappropriate relationships with others.
  • Preventing you from seeing family, friends or people they see as a threat.

[Read – How to spot and break free from coercive control in relationships]


Sexual abuse refers to any behaviour that forces or coerces someone into engaging in sexual activity without their consent. It can cause feelings of fear, shame, disgust and self-doubt for the recipient, and it’s a crime even if you’re in a relationship with the perpetrator. 

It can look like:

  • Pressuring you to have sex or engage in sexual acts with them or others without your consent.
  • Accusing you, without cause, of sexual assault, abuse, or rape.
  • Using sexually degrading language, hurting you during sex, or criticising your sexual performance. 
  • Forcing you to participate in the creation of pornography or distributing private sexual photographs and videos without your knowledge. 


Financial or economic abuse is when someone controls, threatens or degrades your financial situation. Without the freedom to control your finances, you may feel trapped or indebted in the relationship and anxious about the future.

It can look like:

  • Taking your money or selling treasured items against your will.
  • Racking up sizeable bills or debt in your name. 
  • Preventing you from working, training, or claiming benefits and making you rely on them financially. 
  • Controlling financial decisions, monitoring your spending, and refusing access to your money.


Social abuse describes behaviours designed to cut you off from your loved ones, wider support networks, and communities to increase your vulnerability and your reliance on the abuser. You may feel isolated, misunderstood, trapped or completely powerless. 

It can look like:

  • Isolating you from family and friends by creating conflict or limiting communication.
  • Controlling your social media usage and monitoring your emails, comments, and messages. 
  • Attempting to tarnish your reputation through baseless allegations, rumour spreading, or orchestrating events to make you look bad. 
  • Tracking your whereabouts via persistent communication or apps, or insisting on accompanying you. 

Discover more about the different types of abuse on The ManKind Initiative website. 

How to protect yourself as a man in an abusive relationship 


Abuse can have a serious impact on your physical and mental well-being. Knowing how to protect yourself and your family can offer some relief and help you find the confidence to speak out and seek help. 

Here are 10 steps you can take as a male domestic abuse victim to build your case, exercise your rights, and plan for a future without fear.

  • Acknowledge the abuse 

Recognising the signs of abuse and acknowledging that you’re in an abusive relationship is a massive first step, and it can feel difficult to get your head around at first.

It may help you to seek out stories from male survivors of domestic abuse, like those from ManKind and Men’s
Advice Line
or in Alex Keel’s documentary, ‘Abused By My Girlfriend’.

Andrew Pain’s article on How to Know if You’re in an Abusive Relationship may also be of interest as it explores the differences between healthy and abusive relationships from his lived experience.  

  • Set clear boundaries

Be clear about what you want to do, such as meeting a friend for a drink, visiting a parent, or taking your child to the play park.

Talk to your partner calmly as an adult without putting yourself in harm’s way. Remember, you are not asking for permission – you are not a child, and your partner is not your parent.

Controlling and manipulative partners will find many creative ways to stop you, including causing an argument. Some may encourage you to go ahead and enjoy yourself but afterwards will lash out verbally or physically for abandoning them or not considering their feelings.

You’re allowed to enjoy autonomy and independence even in a committed relationship. 

Maintaining small freedoms will help with your self-esteem, but it’s essential to do so in a way that doesn’t jeopardise your safety. If your boundaries always seem to be compromised or ignored, you need to take time to reflect. Ask yourself whether or not this person will ever respect your needs and take time to think about what you want from the relationship.

  • Don’t try to fix your partner 

Abusive, controlling and manipulative behaviour is often rooted in early childhood trauma and dysfunctional attachment to parents or primary caregivers. It comes from fear of not being good enough and rejection and abandonment. As the emotions intensify, so too does the fear, which can lead to the rollercoaster of emotionally unstable personality disorders.

No amount of love, affection or placating will fix or restore their emotional equilibrium. 

You are NOT responsible for your partner’s abusive actions, and nor can you fix them, stop them or make them change. Nothing you do will ever be right or good enough. The goalposts will forever move, and their behaviour is unlikely to change without intensive therapeutic intervention. 

You can empathise with your partner and the experiences that have informed their behaviour, but you can’t be the one to save them.

If they’re serious about changing themselves, they must first recognise their feelings and behaviour patterns and seek professional help. In most cases, they don’t see their behaviour as the cause of the problem and will find a way of twisting it and projecting it all onto you to the point where you will start questioning yourself.

  • Document the abuse 

It can be helpful to keep a detailed record of incidents. Note your feelings, the date and time, and any witnesses before, during or after the abuse. Document any injuries or damage to the room, take photographic evidence where possible, and
record what was said. 

Kulpa, Bright Sky and ONRECORD are apps where domestic abuse victims can securely store legally admissible evidence. Safely check in with the records if you start to doubt events. You can also file police reports and seek medical care from your GP or local hospital.

  • Don’t retaliate verbally or physically

Calmly advocate for yourself if you feel it’s safe to do so, but avoid retaliating verbally or physically. Abusers may try to goad you into aggressive behaviour so they can contact the police and get you in trouble. It’s best to remove yourself from
the situation.

Make a mental note of the things or incidents that typically trigger outbursts and leave the house or move to another room when you spot them.

  • Seek support from people you know

Find someone you know and trust – a friend, family member, co-worker, etc – who will listen without judgment. Share what’s been going on and how you’re feeling. Confiding in others may help you get clarity on the steps you could take in the future,
even if you don’t feel ready to make big decisions just yet.

You may want to give them a spare key, an exit bag, or copies of important documents to look after for when the time comes. You could also settle on a signal you’ll send them, any time of day or night, when you need assistance. 

  • Make a safety plan

There may come a time when you feel the only option is to leave your partner. It helps to have a safety plan you can call upon. The safety plan might include details of places you can stay, numbers you can call for immediate assistance, personal documents
or information on local services.

IDAS have a page on how to keep yourself safe, including advice on what to pack if you’re planning to leave your abusive partner. Be sure to keep your safety plan, exit bag, etc, in a safe place or with a trusted individual. 

  • Research resources, helplines and professional services

There are plenty of resources, helplines, and services for emotional support and practical
guidance, no matter your situation.

Research revealed that 89% of men stay in abusive relationships due to concerns about their children. Abusive households aren’t healthy environments, and sometimes, the safest, bravest thing you can do for your family is get professional help. 

Ease your anxieties by contacting solicitors, local housing officers, professional services and relevant legal support to exercise your parental rights, put injunctions in place and keep a roof over your head. You’ll find a selection of helplines and online webchats at the bottom of this post. 

Remember: Statutory services – including the police, CPS, housing departments, social services, and healthcare professionals – help anyone in need. Men are protected by the same domestic abuse laws as women, and anyone can be prosecuted regardless of gender.

  • Give yourself time, patience, and grace

Your confidence will most likely be at rock bottom. You’ve experienced things that no one ever should, and these experiences will have shaped your perceptions and behaviours. It’ll take time to rebuild your relationship with yourself and others and to calm
your body’s fight-or-flight responses. Treat yourself with extra kindness and understanding as you embrace the healing process. 

Healing comes from showing yourself love and care, perhaps by practising self-compassion, externally processing your emotions, or nourishing your mind and body with good food and fresh air.

  • Find a therapist 

Therapy offers a safe space to reflect and gain perspective on your emotions and experiences. Your therapist can gently guide you through what happened and why, before helping you to understand your triggers, destigmatise the abuse, and navigate
any lingering post-traumatic symptoms. 

The therapeutic process can also help you feel more empowered and prepared for future healthy relationships and identify possible red flags. 


Domestic abuse can leave you feeling as if there’s no way out and nowhere else to turn. No matter what you’re experiencing or how you currently feel, help is always available.  

Even if you can’t see it now, things can and will get better, and there will come a day when you’re able to talk about the abuse in the past tense and look forward to a happy, hopeful tomorrow. 



Help for male domestic abuse victims 

Don’t suffer in silence. Here’s a selection of confidential helplines and online
webchats you can contact for practical information, emotional support and
signposting to relevant services:

ManKind Initiative – 01823 334244

Sign Health (For deaf people) – 020 3947 2601 

Hourglass (For elderly people) – 0808 808 8141

Safeline (For those affected by or at risk of sexual violence) – 01926 402 498

Survivors UK (For male survivors of sexual abuse) – 020 3322 1860

Revenge Porn Helpline – 0345 6000 459

NCDV (For free legal injunctions) – 0800 970 2070

Money Advice Plus (For survivors of financial abuse) – 0808 196 8845 

National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Trans Domestic Violence –  0800 999 5428


I’m Carla Devereux, an experienced relationship psychotherapist helping couples and individuals explore challenging emotions, behaviours and deep-rooted issues with an integrated therapeutic approach. Book your therapy session by emailing or calling 0121 745 9044

Bookmark my blog, or follow me on LinkedIn, or Instagram for even more ways to reset your personal and professional relationships in 2024.

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