Embarrassment barrier for abused men

Men are suffering from domestic abuse, but embarrassment will usually stop them coming forward until it is extreme, police say.  

Men often wait until knives are pulled before seeking help, Detective Sergeant Alan McGlade from the Hamilton police Family Safety Team said.

Most reports of abuse against males were either of psychological or extreme physical violence, such as stabbings.

"If I think about women abusing men, some of the violence is quite serious," McGlade said.

"The men think, 'oh, she gives me a slap, I'm not going to tell anyone, but she stabs me, well...'"

A 30-year-long study beginning in 1977 by Professor David Fergusson, which sampled 1000 people in Christchurch, found levels of victimisation and perpetration of abuse were similar for both men and women.

Victimisation rates were slightly higher for men surveyed, with 6.7 per cent of men and 5.5 per cent of women admitting to minor violence against their partner, and 2.8 per cent of men and 3.2 per cent of women admitting more serious violence.

Psychologists say abuse against men exists, emotionally and physically, but is under-reported as men are usually too embarrassed to say anything. This can have severe outcomes.

Additionally, men find it difficult to approach friends or workmates for help, as people tend to underestimate the severity of the problem and may judge them for not being able to handle it.

McGlade said police have a tendency to side with the woman during a domestic abuse callout.

He said cases are difficult if the man has been abused, because it is often a matter of the woman acting in self defence.

A 22-year-old man who spoke to Fairfax Media, but wished to remain anonymous, said he suffered extreme physical abuse at the hands of his fiancee for about a year, and that he felt he could not call police for help.

"If we're having a fight, she bruised quite easily," he said.

"She'd often have bruises around her arms where I was holding her back. No matter what I said they'd probably take me to jail."

McGlade said that if police were called out to a domestic abuse incident and both people were harmed and said they were assaulted, they would both be arrested and charged.

"We are trying to get the training across that you've got to listen to both sides," he said.

"The victim is a victim regardless of whether they're male or female."

Adult Victim Advocate, Helen Heta, said: ''Even though a guy can look like he's the Hulk, there's still a psychological and emotional abuse that women can be very good at putting other men and women through."

She and McGlade both believed that there was little in the way of support programmes for male abuse victims.

''The more programmes that become available for men on men support, the more likely they are to come out," Heta said.

Women's Refuge reported that 84 per cent of arrests for domestic violence were men, and 16 per cent were women, and that an average of 14 women and six men where killed by a family member each year.

McGlade said more men are starting to come forward as victims.


If you're being abused or suspect somebody you know may be being abused, there are plenty of organisations out there ready to help men, women, and children deal with family violence.

Pai Ake Solutions: www.paiake.co.nz 0800 PAI AKE (0800 724 253)

Relationships Aotearoa: www.relationshipsaotearoa.org.nz 0800 735 283

Shine: www.2shine.org.nz 0508 744 633

Family Violence Information Line: areyouok.org.nz 0800 456 450

Women's Refuge: womensrefuge.org.nz 0800 REFUGE or 0800 733 843

Waikato Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse: survivor.org.nz 07 858 4112