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When a Husband is Abused

Updated on August 4, 2009

The other side of domestic abuse

Men who are being verbally abused by their spouses often make excuses - if they even recognize or talk about the abuse.

"It isn't that bad", "She didn't mean it", "She had a bad day".

Sound familiar? Females say the same things about their male abusers. If they are physically abused, men are more likely than women to deny, hide or refuse to report abuse by their partners. The primary reason for not reporting the abuse is shame.

This lens is an attempt to show information about the real problem of males abused by women. Too often this kind of abuse is dismissed as not important, non-existent or something deserved by the man who receives it. It is never a joke when a loved one is being verbally, emotionally or physically abused by someone.

Verbal abuse can lead to physical abuse. Children - sons and daughters - observe it and then learn how to behave within their own future families. They may become abusers or accept being abused.

After many years of work on the issue, female abuse is widely known and accepted as a problem. The truth of male abuse is less accepted - we do not want to know and men do not want to talk. Men who do report abuse can find themselves being doubted by police and family - or having their abuser report them as the abuser.

But abuse of men by women happens - and not as self defense (because then it's self defense).

The only way to begin to stop it is to admit that it is there.

According to

the Department of Justice report

on the National Violence Against Women Survey,

nearly 900,000 men

are victims of

physical violence

by a domestic partner.

I'll Change My Man

Reshaping someone

Why is it we assume that a woman's job is to reshape the man she chooses to marry, making him into the man of her dreams? Doing so with a man's consent - or a woman's consent - is one thing.

Constantly criticizing in a degrading way a person's appearance - especially aspects of it they cannot change without surgery (height, shape, nose, teeth) - their taste in clothes, style, likes -- is one type of verbal abuse men accept without seeming to realize what it is.

""Marry the man today -- and change his ways tomorrow!"

--Lyric from Broadway musical Guys & Dolls

Our culture excessively, irrationally accepts the "I'll Change Him" philosophy, where a woman selects and then "molds" a partner to her liking. " from Symptoms of Emotional Abuse from Lilac Lane

"Certainly, equal loving partners may decide to change their physical habits to please each other -- but a person should NOT be asked to change their lifestyle, personality, hobbies, or career choices.

If your partner asks you to be or become a different person, remind them that they originally selected you as yourself. If their preferences have now changed, then they should either attend counseling with you, or admit that the partnership has ended -- so that you will be free to find a new partner who loves you for who you are. from Your Relationship Rights on Heart 2 Heart.

Common Characteristics of Abusers (adapted) - from Symptoms of Emotional Abuse by Lilac Lane

* She was verbally abused as a child, witnessed it in her own family, or was verbally abused by a previous partner.

* She has low self-esteem.

* She has an intense temper, triggered by minor frustrations and arguments.

* Her sense of power or control depends on her partner's acquiescence and his performance per her demands. She feels "in control" only if her partner is totally passive and giving in to all of her preferences and decisions.

* She has rigid expectations or fantasies of marriage, partnership, or men, and will not compromise. She expects him to behave according to her expectations of what her partner should be like; perhaps the way her parents' marriage was, or its opposite. She demands that he change to accommodate her expectations.

* She projects the blame for all relationship difficulties onto her partner. She wouldn't get angry if only he would be who she wants him to be... She wouldn't drink if he didn't make her unhappy... She denies the need for counseling because there's "nothing wrong with her, only with him." She might not want him to get counseling because she's threatened by the threat of an outsider "taking sides" with him.

* Abusers are extremely possessive and jealous. They experience an intense desire to control their mates.

* Abusers often have superficial relationships with other people. Her primary, if not exclusive, relationship is with her husband/boyfriend.

* She may be described as having a dual personality -- she is either sweet or exceptionally cruel and sharp. She is selfish or generous depending on her mood.

* A major characteristic of abusers is their capacity to deceive others. She can be sweet, calm, charming and convincing.

* The mate is usually a symbol. The abuser doesn't relate to her partner as a person in his own right, but as a symbol of a significant other. This is especially true when she's angry. She assumes that he is thinking, feeling, or acting like that significant other -- often her father (or other family member or authority figure).

(go here for more )

A test to see how people react to a display of a woman abusing a man

Women may hesitate to call for help...

men are even less likely to seek assistance.

Books on the topic

Review on Abused Men

Cook is Right On!, July 5, 2009

By R. Martin (Corpus Christi TX) -

This is an excellent update to his 1997 work of the same title and a must read for any professional in the mental health field and others (e.g., police) who come in frequent contact with domestic abuse situations. Cook takes a hard look at the hidden side of family violence, that is thoroughly researched and referenced...

Another commentary on this book:

"Perhaps with this book, Philip Cook can accomplish what academics have for the past 25 years failed to do--to cut through the political rhetoric and finally present the case of abused men as a real social problem. Cook goes beyond the issue of battered males as he sheds incredible insight into the systemic problem of family violence. Perhaps now, couples experiencing violence in their relationships can be helped. His case material sadly brings to life the statistics researchers generate."-Reena Sommer, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, University of Manitoba, Family Counselor.

Also included are some other books that might be of interest ...though not direct to the topic.

Abused Men: The Hidden Side of Domestic Violence, 2nd Edition
Abused Men: The Hidden Side of Domestic Violence, 2nd Edition

"Mr. Cook argues persuasively that we may be looking at only half the problem, and we're neglecting the needs of male victims. It also seems clear that much of Mr. Cook's work applies equally to abused people of either gender, and he offers practical suggestions for the abused. His solutions would impact all cases of domestic violence and are well worth our consideration."-Rob Solomon Licensed Professional Counselor Author, Full-Esteem Ahead

Insult to Injury: Rethinking our Responses to Intimate Abuse
Insult to Injury: Rethinking our Responses to Intimate Abuse

More of an intellectual thesis about feminism's role in misunderstanding the whole picture of intimate abuse, this book is a cause for heated discussions.

Violent Partners: A Breakthrough Plan for Ending the Cycle of Abuse
Violent Partners: A Breakthrough Plan for Ending the Cycle of Abuse

Another book by the author of Insult to Injury - this one is (of course) focused on the victim as female but deals with the concept of finding sources and solutions to the violence within the family and resolving it, rather than heading right to divorce.

That Bitch: Protect Yourself Against Women With Malicious Intent
That Bitch: Protect Yourself Against Women With Malicious Intent

This book is about the women you just wish you had NEVER met; the small number of women with NO conscience who target innocent men and women with TOO MUCH conscience. These women see their victims as having a character flaw that is there to be exploited. The book explores the lying, cheating, conniving and manipulation of women with malicious intent. What are the everyday tricks of their tyrannical trade? How she claims to be the victim when she is the aggressor. And how this makes it far more difficult for genuine female victims to receive the help they need and deserve. The case studies in this book of how men are abused physically, financially, psychologically and even sexually, are truly shocking. Large numbers of men are stigmatised, ridiculed and disbelieved when they don t conform to society s male stereotype.

Domestic Violence: The 12 Things You Aren't Supposed to Know
Domestic Violence: The 12 Things You Aren't Supposed to Know

Is domestic violence strictly a male phenomenon? Is domestic violence strictly a male phenomenon? Are all women who abuse their partners acting in self-defense? Is domestic violence about male privilege, power and control? In this book, the author conducts a meticulous and thorough examination of the research on domestic violence, coming to the unsettling conclusion that virtually everything we think we know about domestic abuse is wrong. Exposing evidence of a deliberate governmental campaign to distort the truth and proliferate lies, Mr. James explains why honesty and candor are our only real hope for bringing an end to this enormous social problem.


Types of abuse

Abuse is about control, whether its done in an overt (clearly done) or covert (subtle and hidden) way. Covert abuse is hidden - it can make the victim of it feel crazy, doubtful as to whether or not something is happening.

Ambient or Stealth Abuse : Nobody may ever be physically hurt with this kind of abuse. Those who are the victims of it can take years to realize what's going on ...

This is the household that requires walking on eggshells, but nothing's really 'wrong'. Things must be done in a certain way, or tempers flare, affections are with held, shoulders are cold, doors might be slammed. In some cases, the "certain way" may change without explanation - it may be okay to put the spoons in the dishwasher facing up one day, but not the next.

Verbal Abuse

Comments may be made about the partner's behavior that sound like concern, but are a "dig" (John is always so forgetful). Criticism of appearance which is meant to "help" or is "just my opinion" but tears down self esteem - and the partner is then reported to friends to be "overly sensitive". Misinformation back to partner that "Nobody listens to you" or "Everybody thinks you are wrong about that". Taking over something the partner usually does, "You can't do that right, I will from now on - John can't balance a check book!"

Non Personal Violent Abuse

Someone who throws things and yells at you for the slightest upsets is an abuser

Does your spouse react with a violent rage to the slightest upset?

Power Abuse

Controlling your behavior by threatening to leave because you are dependent on the abuser for financial help or because she will take the children - especially if she lives in another state or country - is another form of abuse.

This might also include control of money - wherein allowances are dolled out and the receiver is expected to report back how much is spent, with verbal or financial repercussions for overspending.

She doesn't have to hit you. She uses your dependency as a threat.

Physical Abuse

Yes, women hit men. Some men don't hit back because they've been raised not to or because they are afraid of their strength or because they know that would result in their being arrested as an abuser, even if their spouse started it.

Women may not be as strong as men in general, but we have been trained in self defense. We can scratch, kick, pull hair, bite, gouge and knee. We also can throw things. Women can assault a man while he's laying down or sleeping. Women have run men over with cars.

A re-enactment of an actual incident

Just an example of how it can play out...often times, a man won't bother to call this abuse. It's just "a fight".

Signs that you're living with a verbal abuser..

From MenWeb Battered Men , a website that is highly recommended for anyone interested in this lens topic.

Here are some ideas from the book The Verbally Abusive Relationship by Patricia Evans, adjusted to reflect the fact that we're talking about abusive women

Signs that you're living with a verbal abuser.

* She seems irritated or angry with you several times a week or more although you hadn't meant to upset her. You are surprised each time. (She says she's not mad when you ask her what she's mad about, or she tells you in some way that it's your fault.)

* When you feel hurt or try to discuss your upset feelings with her, you don't feel as if the issue has been fully resolved, so you don't feel happy and relieved, nor do you have a feeling that you've "kissed and made up". (She says, "You're just trying to start an argument!" or in some other way expresses her refusal to discuss the situation.)

* You frequently feel perplexed and frustrated by her responses because you can't get her to understand your intentions.

* You are upset not so much about concrete issues -- how much time to spend with each other, where to go on vactaion, etc. -- as about the communication in the relationship: what she thinks you said and what you heard her say.

* You sometimes wonder, "What's wrong with me? I shouldn't feel so bad."

* She rarely, if ever, seems to want to share her thoughts or plans with you.

* She seems to take the opposite view from you on almost everything you mention, and her view is not qualified by "I think" or "I believe" or "I feel" -- as if your view were wrong and hers were right.

* You sometimes wonder if she perceives you as a separate person.

* You can't recall saying to her, "Cut it out!" or, "Stop it!"

* She is either angry or has "no idea of what you're talking about" when you try to discuss an issue with her.

If these signs seem familiar to you, it's a good bet you're being verbally abused. And that can be difficult to convince anyone else of, because some identifying traits of verbal abuse include:

* Mostly, it's done in secret. Your abuser usually doesn't do it where anyone else can witness it.

* It usually starts off with little stuff, then gets worse over time, so you get accustomed to it...and other people get accustomed to seeing you suffer it.

* It comes in many disguises.

* It consistently discounts your perceptions. No matter how cruel your partner is, she will deny that anything is wrong.

* Finally, physical abuse is always preceded by verbal abuse.

Verbal abuse is hurtful. Especially when it's denied.

Verbal abuse attacks your nature and abilities, usually so thoroughly that you begin to believe that there's something inherently wrong with you, or that your abilities are actually failings.

Verbal abuse may be overt (angry outbursts and namecalling) or covert (subtle stuff, like brainwashing).

Verbal abuse may be voiced in an extremely sincere and concerned way (like when she expresses her concern that you just aren't capable of understanding finances well enough to balance your checkbook).

Verbal abuse is manipulative and controlling.

Verbal abuse is insidious -- it destroys your self-esteem, it steals your self-confidence, it brainwashes you to try to change yourself to please your abuser, so she won't hurt you anymore.

Verbal abuse is unpredictable. No matter how intelligent, careful, or perceptive you are, she'll always find a way to hit a blind spot you didn't even know you had.

Verbal abuse is the issue in the relationship. In normal relationships, arguments are over concrete things that can be resolved. In a verbally abusive one, there is no specific conflict - the whole point of any argument is to make you suffer.

Verbal abuse expresses a double message. For example, she'll say something like "I love you", and then spend 4 hours raving about how love is worthless and all that matters is power; or she'll scream "I'm not mad!" in a rage-filled voice; or she'll suggest going out to dinner, and then treat you like a servant.

Verbal abuse usually escalates, increasing in intensity, frequency, and variety. For example, early in the relationship she may make jokes about you, and as time goes on she'll start "punishing" you by withholding affection, namecalling, accusing and blaming, undermining, maybe even escalating into face-slapping, kicking, biting, scratching, or even use of weapons.

Thanks for your input.

If you have a comment, this is the place to put it...

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    • cdgood profile image

      cdgood 5 years ago

      Great important topic.

    • Richmee profile image

      Richmee 8 years ago

      Nice lens for a very important topic 5*.

    • moneymaker1008 profile image

      moneymaker1008 8 years ago

      Five stars! This was really eye-opening and informing. I can see how it often goes unnoticed. But after reading this, I could see how verbal abuse might have easily taken place in Jon and Kate's (plus 8) relationship. Thank you for writing this, I'm sure it will be very helpful to many people!

    • mysticmama lm profile image

      Bambi Watson 8 years ago

      very interesting subject and it does happen, just read an article about a woman in her 80's who was recently arrested for beating on her hubby because he cheated on her 30 years ago...5*

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      This is such an important topic - SquidAngel Blessings to you.