Violence and abuse in an intimate relationship can occur without the use or threat of personal violence, although these behaviours are usually the most obvious signs. Violence and abuse can take many forms but the most common include physical violence and threats, emotional abuse, social and financial control, and persistent demeaning comments.
Violence and abuse in intimate relationships includes:
- Physical assault – slapping, hitting, scratching
- Emotional and psychological abuse – belittling remarks, yelling, screaming, put-downs, being ignored, constant criticism
- Limited decision making – having all decisions relating to finances, purchases, lifestyle and living arrangements made for you
- Social isolation – being unreasonably restricted from your family or friends
- Dominating behaviour – behaviour designed to deliberately frighten, harm or control you e.g., threatening to harm you, themselves or someone else.
Questions to ask yourself
- Do you feel safe in your current relationship?
- Are you insulted, demeaned or criticised in public by your partner?
- Is living with your partner like ‘walking on eggshells’?
- Does your partner prevent you from doing things that are important to you? e.g. seeing family or friends
- Does your partner threaten you?
- Do you feel like you are in an abusive relationship?
- Are your partner’s needs the only ones allowed to be met in the relationship?
Even experiencing violence and abuse over a short time can lead to long-standing changes in a person, including:
Impact of violence and abuse
- Feelings of helplessness, depression, worthlessness, powerlessness and isolation
- Feelings of shame, guilt and despair
- Chronic health problems (including psychological problems), physical injury and shortened lifespan
- Difficulty in functioning in other parts of your life – in particular at work, but also among your friends and social group.
Will I be believed?
- Men, like everyone, are entitled to the full protection of the law
- If you are at risk of injury, it is better to report it to the police than do nothing or act out physically
- You are also entitled to be treated with respect. If you are not satisfied appropriate action is being taken to protect you, report it again until your situation is understood and your safety is being addressed.
What can I do?
Get support – It is important that you find someone you can confide in about your situation. Talking about what is happening is very important and can undo some of the feelings of isolation and helplessness that are common in men who are the victims of violence and abuse. This person can have specialist skills such as counselling, but that is not essential; it needs to be someone who will listen to you carefully and be available as you move through the process of working out how to manage the situation.
Call MensLine Australia on 1300 78 99 78 for support and to discuss your options.
Develop a safety plan – Develop a safety plan if you believe your safety, or the safety of others, could be at risk. The safety plan is a predetermined course of action to use when you decide there is an imminent risk of violence or psychological harm (children can be harmed psychologically when witnessing repeated abuse). The safety plan is designed to create distance and remove the likelihood of an incident happening, and may include things such as:
- Under what circumstances will you leave the family home? Where will you go that is safe? What is your long term plan?
- Will you take the children with you? Do you have the right to take the children with you?
- Who needs to know that you have activated your safety plan?
Will your partner change?
- Your partner may feel remorse after an abusive incident, but the abuse is unlikely to stop unless they seek help or you remove yourself from the situation.
- The decision to stay or leave a relationship is yours alone. However, talk through your decision with trusted others beforehand.
- Understand what you lose or gain from staying in a relationship, or from leaving.
- Contact MensLine Australia for professional support around men family and relationship concerns on 1300 78 99 78.
- Visit oneinthree.com.au – this website raises public awareness of the existence and needs of male victims of family violence and abuse.
- Read Breaking the Silence: A practical guide for male victims of domestic abuse, Dr Elizabeth Celi for practical information about men as victims.
- Visit heart-2-heart.ca/men - a support network and self help data base for men in violent and abusive relationships