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Domestic Violence and the Male Victim
April 22, 2003
by George Rolph

Studies carried out on male and female bullies in schools and my own observations of abusers show a startling similarity between the two. This has led me to the conclusion that an abuser, whether male or female, is simply a bully who never grew out of it.

As I am here to speak about female abuse I will concentrate most of my remarks in this area. I am aware that many of the techniques I am describing here can apply to both male and female abusers however, there are techniques that are almost exclusively female and I would like to begin by examining these.

What are the differences between male and female perpetrators that we all need to be aware of if we are to make any serious attempt to understand domestic violence for all people?

While there are exceptions to every rule, the following can be useful as a guideline.

Male perpetrators will tend to try and isolate their victims by driving off friends and family.

Female perpetrators will tend do the exact opposite. She will gather supporters around her and manipulate them into taking part in her abuse. Her supporters and Co-abusers may be friends, family members, authorities, or even her own children. Her techniques will include:

The destruction of the reputations of her victims. This is usually done in the first instance by carrying out a whispering campaign of false and malicious allegations amongst close friends of the perpetrator. This campaign is then broadened to friends of the victim. This has the effects of destroying the victims credibility and making the victim feel surrounded by hostility. The abuser has gathered a "gang" of supporters. The manipulation of the gang is often through seeking sympathy for some false charge against the abuser or, by telling gang members the victim has/or is planning, to do something against one or more members of the gang. Another technique is to discover what the victim loves to do and set out to destroy it. In the case of where the victim enjoys making or collecting things, for example. Personal damage to property is very common, or turning others against the victim so the victim can no longer participate in their chosen hobby or activity.

Vocal attacks. Having set the scene with the whispering campaign, the abuser and those she has manipulated now begin to vocalise their accusations. Often the stream of accusations will be deeply personal and tailored to create maximum fear in the victim. A male victim of this attack, for example, may be accused of being a child molester or rapist. He may be accused of attempting to start an affair with someone else's partner. Getting him fired from his job is another technique reported by victims. Even personal family members can be duped by female abusers into believing the "real" abuser is the victim.

Violent attacks. The female abuser will use violence in several different ways. She will often manipulate others to attack the victim on her behalf. This may involve angering other males with false allegations ( "He [the victim] said he wants to have sex with your little daughter. He said he is going to attack you one night when you come home from work. He said you are a homosexual," etc..). It may take the form of personal physical attacks on the victim; trying to goad him into hitting her so that charges will be brought. It may take the form of a false allegation to the police such as a rape allegation, child molestation allegation, etc.. Though not physically violent, these allegations, where they are false, are certainly violent in nature and are calculated to bring maximum fear and distress to the victim. Paying others to hurt her victim is also a means by which female abusers attack their partners, as is the administration of toxic or poisonous substances. Spitting into food is very common. One abusive female told me how she bought a can of dog meat, made a pie and served it to her husband because, "I hated the bastard."

Victims report commonly that they are ambushed by their abusers. Men are often violently attacked when they are sleeping, sitting on the toilet, have their backs turned to the victim, have children in their arms and are thus rendered powerless to defend themselves. The throwing of hot liquids such as fat, boiling water, coffee and tea etc.., are also reported often. Other weapons include; baseball bats, knives, forks, garden implements, pieces of wood or metal, household furniture items, car jack handles, plates and cups being thrown, etc.. Sexual abuse of their victim are also more common than people believe and I have suffered personally from this kind of abuse.

Using children to abuse males. This is by far one of the most common and disgusting forms of abuse there is and it is an almost exclusively female form of abuse. Though there are always exceptions to every rule, the exceptions in this case are rare indeed.

All abusers, irrespective of gender, seek control over their victims. They actively look for things in the lives of their victims that are vulnerable to attack. For female abusers, the bond between a father and his children is a natural target for abuse. It is the one target that can reduce a man to a shadow of his former self within weeks. It can cement the abusers need for domination over her victim so solidly and so completely that he will do anything she desires of him and, if he is unable to satisfy her, it may even lead to murder or suicide. When I read stories in the press or see television reports of a man who has suddenly snapped and killed himself, his ex wife/partner and/or the children I am often struck by the comments of those who knew the man in question. Let me quote here from a recent report in the Guardian Newspaper.

"The Guardian

Friends and relatives were last night comforting a mother whose estranged husband killed himself and their four young sons in a fume-filled car on a Welsh mountain pass early yesterday.

Keith Young, a 38-year-old builder, collected the boys, all under eight, on an access visit from the family home in Winsford, Cheshire. He drove to the Horseshoe Pass, near Llangollen, where he appears to have used a petrol-driven lawnmower to fill his Mitsubishi Shogun with carbon monoxide fumes."

On the face of it this is a terrible story of a heartless murdering father. I have little doubt that some sections of the domestic violence industry will joyfully point to it as a good reason to prevent all men ever getting access to children. However, lets read on and look a little closer at this tragic story. I have taken the liberty of re arranging the story for the purposes of this talk but I have printed a copy of the original for you all if you need it.

"Mr Young's wife, Samantha, called the police just after midnight after he phoned her and threatened to harm himself and his sons, Joshua, seven, Thomas, six, Callum, five, and David, three."

The report goes on:

"Friends and neighbours in the cul-de-sac where the boys and their mother lived remembered Mr Young as a devoted father.

"Keith idolised those children - he used to take them around the fields on his tractor while he was at work," said Tom Challoner, a family friend. "He was a kind and loving father. But he took the break-up of his marriage really hard and it changed him.

"He sank into a fog of depression. He loved his kids so much and couldn't cope not seeing them every day.

"They were really, really polite and friendly boys. I would see them most days playing in the street and they would always say hello. It's such a tragedy and has really shocked everybody here. There is nothing that can be done to change anything but we'll all be here for Sam - she's going to be devastated..."

This is very interesting.

"Friends and neighbours in the cul-de-sac where the boys and their mother lived remembered Mr Young as a devoted father..." And,

"Keith idolised those children - he used to take them around the fields on his tractor while he was at work," said Tom Challoner, a family friend.

And, "He was a kind and loving father..."

And, "...He loved his kids so much..."

And, "...It's so not like him, he was a wonderful man."

These are not the descriptions of some lunatic man full of violence and hatred for women. Further into the report we read, "The elder boys attended Handley Hill primary school in Winsford. A young mother, who has a daughter attending the same school, said: "Keith and Sam seemed the perfect parents and they always appeared happy together at school functions such as plays and sports days."

What about the children themselves? Any evidence that they were brought up badly?

"They were really, really polite and friendly boys. I would see them most days playing in the street and they would always say hello..."

This was obviously, to all external appearances, a devoted father and family man. But something was very wrong in this marriage. Something was happening to him that drove him over the edge and sent a normal well balanced man into a tail spin that resulted in a very desperate act.

"I can't begin to imagine how the children's mother must be feeling," Said, "Bill Brereton, Deputy Chief Constable of the North Wales force..."

"Her whole life has been ripped away from her in one stroke. I can't understand why Keith would do this to her and himself..." said Tom Challoner, a neighbour. He went on, "There is nothing that can be done to change anything but we'll all be here for Sam - she's going to be devastated."

Another neighbour said, "I'll never be able to understand why Keith would do such a thing, but he has, and I'm very angry with him," she said. "How could he put poor Sam through this? He was always well-liked in Winsford and also well-known. This is just madness. It doesn't feel real - my heart really goes out to Samantha."

So, what drove a normal well balanced man to lose control so badly that he killed himself and his children? The answer is the terrible pain of separation from them. His friend, Tom Challoner put his finger on it when he said, "He was a kind and loving father. But he took the break-up of his marriage really hard and it changed him. He sank into a fog of depression. He loved his kids so much and couldn't cope not seeing them every day."

This is the kind of powerful bond a man can develop with his kids. It is identical to the bond a mother has with them. A mans wife and children can be his whole life. His whole reason for getting up in the morning and trudging to work. His whole reason for going off to war and putting his life on the line to defend them. Losing your wife or partner can be devastating for a man but, to then be ripped away from your children also can often be too much to bear.

There are no counselling services offered to parents who suddenly lose contact with their kids.

Abusers are well aware of this fatherly bond and the power of it. The bond is the perfect target and yes, they will often do all they can to destroy it. Just threatening to destroy it is often enough to guarantee a compliant victim. What is often even harder to bear is watching an abusive female turning the hearts of the children against the father. Is it any wonder that some men, isolated from help and support, having no place to go with the kids, snap and become violent, suicidal, or even murder?

Manipulation of the authorities.

A sobbing female who appears to be in great distress can have a powerful effect on police officers and judges etc.. Female abusers are very aware of this. They will change from aggressive abusers to helpless looking "victims" at the drop of a hat. Untrained police officers etc. will easily be taken in. Tragically, this can result in the victim being arrested and removed from the house while the children are left behind with a female abuser. This is why hostels for men to go to with their children while abuse allegations are investigated are so vital. Equally vital is the need to train policemen and women, social workers, battered wives hostel staff, doctors, council domestic violence officers, teachers in schools, hospital staff etc., to learn to recognise the techniques of female abusers and the typical injuries they often inflict upon their victims.

A woman I have met who claimed her husband tortured and beat her daily for over 5 years aroused my suspicions when I noted an absence of a fear response large enough to justify such horrific accusations. She should have exhibited huge symptoms of distress to accompany the allegations she claimed were less than six months old.

When I separated her from the children and questioned them alone, they all reported that they had never seen evidence of the abuse the woman claimed was taking place. I asked them if they had seen bruising, black eyes, heard their mother screaming at night etc.. Without a single exception the children reported that no such thing had ever been witnessed by them all. They all stated that they hated the ex husband but further questioning revealed that this was because they had been programmed to hate him by their mother. None of the children reported being abused by him and only one of them said the father had physically punished him after he had had a temper tantrum. Even so, this woman was granted custody almost as a matter of right.

Commonalties with abusers, both male and female, also appear.

Within abusive relationships men report that female abusers are incredibly skilled at emotional and mental destruction of their victims. Constant false or exaggerated accusations can leave the victim feeling disoriented, confused, angry, fearful and depressed. This is amplified when the abuser has manipulated others into joining in with this abuse. Another technique that has been observed is the abuser will constantly criticise everything the victim tries to do with respect to the home, children, personal habits, work related matters, handling of money, personal appearance, hobbies and interests, friends, sexual performance, D.I.Y, personal tastes such as art, movies, television programs and on and on. The list is almost endless.

Personal verbal attacks that are designed to rob the victim of confidence are also very common. The victim will told over and over again that he is useless at anything he tries to do. Phrases such as, "Men are all stupid." "Men are all bastards." "Men only want one thing." Become personalised into, "You are stupid." "You are a bastard." Etc. There is some anecdotal evidence to suggest that the abuser is picking up these phrases from television soap operas, magazine articles, etc.., and using them as ammunition to destroy her victim. It would seem that the abuser is justifying herself by thinking that if society tolerates these sexist remarks against men there must be validity in her using them. However, she fails to see that by personalising them in this way she is being abusive.

Constant lying and deceit is another common theme male victims report.

Destruction of personal property.

The abuser will empty a bank account or deliberately damage a vehicle so that it cannot be legally driven. Clothing will be destroyed. Spectacles are destroyed. All techniques to prevent the victim being able to escape, or continue working, or socialising. I have personally known a female abuser who once had a friend who ran a scrap yard, remove her husbands vehicle and crush it. She then had the cubed remains of the vehicle dumped in his garden as a warning not to defy her in future. She feels utterly safe in boasting about this behaviour. She claims her husband was abusive to her and thus "deserved" it. She also broke several of his bones by encouraging him to get drunk and then, as he slept, attacking him with a baseball bat before setting the house on fire. When the fire brigade turned up and asked if anyone else was in the house she replied, "Only the cat." Her feeling of utter safety in talking openly about these appalling incidents is a sad reflection of our legal systems utter refusal to act against these women or, when they do act, to believe everything they say and let them escape punishment. (The woman who broke her husbands bones and set the house alight was never investigated or charged.) In fact, in some cases, female violence of the most extreme nature has been openly and publicly rewarded by senior members of the government. This leaves male victims feeling even more isolated and fearful while at the same time encouraging female perpetrators of domestic violence to be ever more bold.

The destruction of personal documents such as birth certificates, passports, photographs of loved ones, heirlooms, drivers licences and medical prescriptions is very common.


A common theme that male victims report are when the abuser makes threats to involve them in legal fights that will bankrupt them and cause them to lose their business or home if they do not conform to the abusers wishes. These threats may be anything from blackmail to removing the children to another country. A common threat is to turn the victim out of the house by falsely reporting abusive behaviour to the police. Using children as weapons of abuse is extraordinarily common. Self harming, false rape allegations, simulating fear of the victim and then calling the police are also reported techniques. Again, I have personally witnessed this form of abuse.

A man who lives very close to me was subjected to a verbal attack that went on for at least 2.5 hours in my hearing. During which he was called, fat, stupid, lazy, thick, useless, crap in bed, a fucking wanker, etc.., etc.. His wife then told him she wanted him out of the house. (They have bought the house from the council). When he refused to leave she said to him, "Right. I will call the police and they will chuck you out!" He laughed and said, "They can't do that." She replied, "Just you wait and see." I then heard her call the police on her mobile phone and say, "It's my husband. I want him out. I just can't take anymore of him. There was a pause and she said, "Yes, he is abusive." After making the call, she then shouted at her husband, "Don't think you will see the kids every weekend either cos I will see to it you never fucking see them!" In due course two police cars arrived. She then began crying and told the police officers she was frightened of her husband. They ordered him to pack a suitcase and leave the home. He did so quietly. While he was packing his case I managed to slip a note to one of the officers that contained the truth of what had taken place. The officer read the note but made no effort to stop proceedings and the husband was removed from his home and child. The whole argument was over the man asking his wife to return five pounds she had borrowed from him a week earlier. In a very real sense this unfortunate man was abused twice. Once by his wife and then again, by the police. The man in question is now back with his wife but he has learned not to answer back when she gets upset. She now has what all abusers want, total control over the victim. He knows, almost instinctively, that he is powerless and no one will listen to him.

Men's failure to report their abuse.

Most men never report the abuse they are suffering to the police or anyone else in authority and why would they? Those who have tried it before them find themselves subject to a wall of disbelief, incredulity or even, disparaging remarks from whoever answers the telephone at the police station or social services department. Some men, unable to find anything in the telephone directory in the form of help lines for male victims, have called Women's Aid organisations or hostels and been told, "We don't help men." Sometimes other male friends will laugh at them and call them wimps if they tell them about their experiences.. Hitting her would almost certainly call at least a temporary halt to her abuse but it may also result in arrest, loss of the home and all contact with the children. It may even cost him his livelihood. Furthermore, abusive females are noted for their sense of revenge. It may even cost him his life.

If he leaves the home and takes any children he may have with him, he could easily find himself on the end of a kidnapping charge and see his face splashed over the national press.

Everyone from doctors to politicians, policemen to social workers, often appear deaf to male victims in almost all cases. When I reported my incredibly painful and humiliating sexual abuse to my female doctor she shrugged her shoulders and replied, "Why are you telling me this?" Her dismissive tone left me in doubt that she did not care in the slightest. Had I been a female reporting the same abuse I would be willing to wager she would have reached for the telephone and immediately called the police.

As a further example of bias in the official caring agencies let me speak about an ongoing case.

I am currently trying to help a father in Liverpool. His wife has been tried and convicted for assaulting him. His wife's mother has been convicted of harassment. He has received over 100 abusive text messages. Hundreds of threatening and abusive telephone calls which have all been logged by BT and taped by him. His children have suffered nightmares and constantly tell their father they are frightened of going to stay with their mother. His ex wife has beaten the male child so badly that he had to have medical attention. He is 6 years old. She has taunted the 11 year old vegetarian daughter by throwing fur coats at her and telling her to put them on. The little girl has been forced to eat meat against her will. His ex wife had told the father she wants to, "have him killed." And he has the threat on tape. Despite all of this, the local social services department, led by a female social worker, are doing everything they can to have the children removed from the father and handed over to the abusive mother through the courts because, "A child belongs with its mother." The incident of the child being beaten was downplayed, and re-described as, "inappropriate punishment" in the court welfare report. Would you report your abuser if you faced this kind of institutional sexism and, frankly, abusive behaviour by the organisation that is supposed to protect the interests of your kids?

The literature that spills out of government organisations talking about domestic violence is often slanted towards the female victim only. It is filled with helpful advice, telephone numbers of support organisations and practical things to be done to help women and children to escape the abuse. Nothing will be written that is aimed at men or addresses their needs. Though the text of the document may appear to be gender neutral -- and this is by no means certain -- the advice and contact section will leave no doubt that it is not for men.

Local council web sites are often just as bad.

Government spokesmen such as Jack Straw constantly make statements that are deeply offensive to male victims such as, "Domestic violence is men hitting women."

The actual numbers of male victims as revealed in scientific surveys carried out over a thirty year period show, again and again, that there is near parity between males and females in the numbers of abuse victims. Yet every possible effort is made by women's groups, politicians and the police in some cases, local council officials and on and on, to down play the importance of the studies and their findings. In fact, even the authors of the studies have come under threats of both a personal and professional nature just for having the nerve to publish them. The manner in which the studies have been carried out has been attacked. When the researchers changed the way they gathered the information the new way was attacked. Yet these same people will believe, without question, every single statistic pumped out by every women's group on the amount of female victims there are. Despite the fact that these statistics are often utterly false and at best misleading, on the basis of them, millions of pounds are poured into improving services for female victims while men and the elderly are virtually ignored.

Author and campaigner Erin Pizzey who opened the worlds first domestic violence shelter for women, also opened one for men. Funds poured into the female shelter, the men's hostel got nothing. When she wrote a book entitled, "Prone To Violence" that explores the fact that females can be violent too, she was threatened so seriously that her mail had to be opened by the bomb squad. She had to have a police escort when she gave talks and finally, she was forced to flee the country. Book stores were warned by anonymous callers not to put her book on the shelf or they would be burned down. In America, where she carried on her work, she suffered the same persecution for daring to suggest that women are violent too and, when her dog was shot and left on her doorstep on Christmas morning as a warning to keep silent, she returned to England. All of this was done by caring, sharing, female domestic violence workers and women's organisations who say that females are not violent!

None of this is conducive to giving male victims the confidence to report their abusers.

Abusive females, as we have already seen, often know the law as well as anyone. If the victim leaves the home she only has to make one allegation and he will be hunted down. To the male victim, it feels as if society has declared open season on men and he is utterly isolated and alone. He knows that if he gets his abuser to leave and his abuser contests custody of the children, there is a 98% chance she will get custody in the family courts. The family courts regularly hand children over to abusive women because they believe that the child being with the mother is in the best interests of the child. This is despite the fact that they also know that 62% of all child abuse is carried out by mothers!

Men are not stupid. They read these things in the press and on the Internet and they know that reporting abusers is a waste of time. They will not be believed and, even if they are believed by the police on the spot, somewhere down the line another official will take the kids and hand them to the abuser. Some men report, as alluded to before, that when they called the police about their abusive spouse they themselves were arrested and thrown out of the home. That is also abuse!

A constant tactic of female abusers is to throw the man out of the family home. In my own relationship I was thrown out of the home by my partner 34 times in three years. Sometimes twice in one day. There was no official way that I could have received any help. Had I not been able to return to my own council house I would have been homeless as I have no family. That could not happen in the case of a female victim. Men know this. The way the system is set up at the moment, male victims have no recourse what so ever and, if there are children involved, things are even worse.

There is huge personal shame involved for all abuse victims but for men, it is often almost impossible to tell others that your wife or girlfriend is beating you up. Men are known to lie to hospital staff about how they got their injuries because they cannot bring themselves to admit, "the little woman" caused them. They will also often self treat their injuries at home as I did mine. Shame is primarily why most men do not speak out about their abuse until they simply cannot bare it any more and are forced to.

We must impose a criminal standard of proof when allegations are made by anyone claiming abuse. We must prosecute abusers who make false and malicious allegations, often under oath in court rooms, to the fullest extent of the law as a signal that we will not tolerate it anymore. We must make abuse in the home a criminal offence and prosecute abusers rigorously. Thus removing the need for judges in the civil family courts to make decisions based on what is often little more than hearsay evidence. We must help men to speak out. We must find ways to tear down the barriers to speaking out. We must believe men when they do speak out and then investigate the claims made to prove their validity. We must channel resources into caring for them when they speak out. We must give them safe places to run to with their kids.

We can help men to speak out by speaking to them about their experiences. By acknowledging them as valid and important. By being prepared to listen, we can change the lives of many, many people; because a victim is a victim no matter what their race, gender or creed. Most importantly, and before any of this is done, we must challenge or own anti male prejudices.

Finally, we must educate ourselves about female perpetrators. Then, we must educate the public.

All of these are the aims of ManKind, the men's charity I am here to represent today. Give us your support. Work with us. Listen to us. Help us to help you make a real difference to all victims of domestic violence, irrespective of their age, colour, creed or gender.

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