Seattle, WA–An interesting new study from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the Group Health Center for Health Studies on male victims of domestic violence. In the study, “The researchers defined domestic violence to include nonphysical abuse–threats, chronic disparaging remarks, or controlling behavior–as well as physical abuse: slapping, hitting, kicking, or forced sex.” I think the results would be more meaningful had the researchers separated the two, or only counted physical violence.
Still, the researchers’ press release cited five “myths” about male victims of domestic violence, including “Few men experience domestic violence,” “Abuse of men has no serious effects,” and “Abused men don’t stay, because they’re free to leave.”
SEATTLE–Domestic violence can happen to men, not only to women, according to Group Health research in the June American Journal of Preventive Medicine. “Domestic violence in men is under-studied and often hidden–much as it was in women 10 years ago,” said study leader Robert J. Reid, MD, PhD, an associate investigator at the Group Health Center for Health Studies. “We want abused men to know they’re not alone.” His findings confirm some common beliefs but also debunk five myths about abuse in men:
Myth 1: Few men experience domestic violence. Many do. In-depth phone interviews with over 400 randomly sampled adult male Group Health patients surprised Dr. Reid and his colleagues: 5% had experienced domestic violence in the past year, 10% in the past five years, and 29% over their lifetimes. The researchers defined domestic violence to include nonphysical abuse–threats, chronic disparaging remarks, or controlling behavior–as well as physical abuse: slapping, hitting, kicking, or forced sex.
Myth 2: Abuse of men has no serious effects. The researchers found domestic violence is associated with serious, long-term effects on men’s mental health. Women are more likely than men to experience more severe physical abuse, said Dr. Reid. “But even nonphysical abuse—-can do lasting damage.” Depressive symptoms were nearly three times as common in older men who had experienced abuse than in those who hadn’t, with much more severe depression in the men who had been abused physically.
Myth 3: Abused men don’t stay, because they’re free to leave. In fact, men may stay for years with their abusive partners. “We know that many women may have trouble leaving abusive relationships, especially if they’re caring for young children and not working outside the home,” said Dr. Reid. “We were surprised to find that most men in abusive relationships also stay, through multiple episodes, for years.”
Myth 4: Domestic violence affects only poor people. The study actually showed it to be an equal-opportunity scourge. “As we found in our previous research with women experiencing domestic violence, this is a common problem affecting people in all walks of life,” said Dr. Reid. “Our patients at Group Health have health insurance and easy access to health care, and their employment rate and average income, education level, and age are higher than those of the rest of the U.S. population.”
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|[Note: If you or someone you love is being abused, the Domestic Abuse Helpline for Men and Women provides crisis intervention and support services to victims of domestic violence and their families.]|