Male victims of domestic violence – there’s no shame in speaking out

Just three months after the death of popular British television writer, actress and comedian Caroline Aherne from cancer, her former husband, musician Peter Hook (of Joy Division and New Order), has claimed he was a victim of domestic violence during their three-year marriage.

Writing in his new autobiography, Hook says he was attacked with knives, bottles and chairs by the actress during their marriage in the 1990s. And while many people have questioned the timing of the revelations, the reaction has brought attitudes to male domestic violence victims to the forefront in a truly unpleasant manner.

More than a number

Statistics released by male domestic violence charity the ManKind Initiative in March 2016 revealed that 13.2 per cent of men have been the victim of domestic abuse at some point during the time since they were 16. And, according to the charity, one-in-six men will suffer from domestic abuse during their lifetime, compared to one-in-four women.

While the figures revealed that there are more female victims of domestic violence in the UK, a recent report has pointed to an increase in the number of females convicted of domestic violence. Data released by the Crown Prosecution Service to Parliament following a question submitted by Conservative MP Philip Davies revealed that 1,850 women were convicted of perpetrating the offence in 2006, a figure that rose to 5,641 in 2015.

The data did not specify whether the women’s victims were male or female, or if the abuse occurred between spouses or partners, or family relatives. However, the data acts as an important reminder that while the majority of domestic violence perpetrators are male, women also commit serious abuse and their victims should be offered support.

Under UK law, domestic violence and abuse is defined as “incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between people who are or have been intimate partners or family members”. The abuse can be psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional, and can occur between partners, spouses, parents, children or siblings. Female abusers could include women abusing male or female romantic partners, parents, children or siblings.

The study’s findings uncover the worrying reality that male victims of abuse may be afraid to ask for help due to the idea that domestic violence is perceived as a problem that only happens to women, therefore their case may be dismissed. What’s more, sexist stereotypes that exist, painting women as “passive”, while displaying men as more aggressive can put a stigma on the male victims of female abusers. Further to this, gay or bisexual men in same-sex relationships face homophobic or biphobic attitudes from police when discussing their experiences.

A wider issue

Male victims of any type of violence are often less likely to be taken seriously, and many are not given access to the help they need, particularly if they suffer from any form of intimate violence, such as sexual abuse or the type of physical and mental abuse that Hook has discussed in reports this week. Hook claims to have spiralled into clinical depression as a result of his former wife’s violent behaviour, and has since said he felt “embarrassed and ashamed” by the abuse.

The troubling question is, at a time when men are being urged to “open up” more and talk about their feelings – including discussing mental health issues such as anxiety and depression – is society doing all it can to actually listen to what men say when they speak up about their experiences? Unfortunately, Peter Hook’s claims have been met with considerable criticism. While many individuals have criticised the timing of the revelations, including the late Aherne’s brother, who labelled him an “excuse of a man”, Hook’s claims have been welcomed by campaigners, who believe that someone of his stature could signal change and give men the confidence to come forward if they have been a victim of abuse.

Any victim of domestic violence is likely to feel isolated and alone, and it is true that more needs to be done to encourage these individuals to speak up, therefore receiving the help they need to escape their current situation. However, due to the continued stigma, and pre-existing issues that make men less likely to discuss their vulnerabilities, this means that it is high time action was taken to change these dangerous perceptions.

Finding a solution

Men who are in an abusive relationship are urged to keep a record of dates and times of any incidents that take place, and seek medical attention from A&E or a GP, who will make a note of the injuries sustained. It is essential for victims of domestic violence to keep a fully charged phone with them at all times to ensure emergency calls can always be made. Confiding in someone, whether it be a friend, relative or employer, is another way in which victims of domestic violence can start to get the help they require, and while this may be the most difficult thing to do, there is no need to feel ashamed.

Perhaps the biggest worry among many male domestic violence victims is the shame they feel at being in this situation. However, victims of abuse are not alone and support is available for men and women. Taking the first step to find this help is the most important, and yet the most daunting, however, it is important to remember that the support is out there.

Helen Thewlis

Helen Thewlis

Head of Family Law at Ramsdens Solicitors

Email: [email protected]
Tel: +44 (0) 1484 821543

Helen Thewlis is Head of Family Law at Ramsdens Solicitors and has over 15 years experience of practicing in this area. The firm frequently handles complex, sensitive cases involving domestic violence, helping families to reach a safe and practical solution.


About Helen Thewlis

Email: [email protected]
Tel: +44 (0) 1484 821543
Helen Thewlis is Head of Family Law at Ramsdens Solicitors and has over 15 years experience of practicing in this area. The firm frequently handles complex, sensitive cases involving domestic violence, helping families to reach a safe and practical solution.