“Silent Suffering”

Sociology 300

Fall 2003

Domestic violence, family violence, interpersonal violence, abuse, battery… these are all terms used to describe violence toward or physical abuse of one\'s spouse or domestic partner. Prevalent through out history and society, ours and others, is the abuse and battery of domestic partners. Most often emphasis is put on the abuse of women by their husband or boyfriend, but there are other types of domestic abuse that are talked about less often than these because of the social stigma and pressure put on the victims to keep silent. There are men who are abused by their wives and girlfriends, as well as gay men and lesbian women who are abused by their partners. Often these abuse victims are not sympathized with as much as the typical battered woman is sympathized with; they are seen as not needing as much help as women. On the contrary, battered men and battered homosexuals in as much need as battered women and they are much less likely to find it.

In the text Society In Focus, the short paragraph contributed towards domestic violence talks almost solely about battered women and has only one sentence even referencing battered men, “A recent study found that domestic violence has ‘a more serious impact on women’s sense of well-being and control than it does on men in similar violent domestic relationships (Umberson et al., 1998:449).” According to Philip W. Cook , journalist, lecturer, and author of Abused Men: The Hidden Side of Domestic Violence, battered men are in just as much need, if not more, then battered women. Cooks points out that “male victims are stuck in a time warp; they find themselves in the same position women were in twenty years ago… their problem is viewed as of little consequence, or they are somehow seen to be at blame for it,” (Roleff 26). The lack of concern for battered men in the text Society In Focus as evidenced above just proves Cook’s point that the seriousness of violence against men by their domestic partners is not taken seriously.

Cook estimates that a man is severely (domestically) assaulted every 15 seconds, as opposed to every 18 seconds for a woman (Roleff 27). It is conceded in the article that most domestic violence is mutual with women openly admitting in sociological surveys that they initiate the abuse approximately half the time (Roleff 28). This leads to mutual combat between the couple with the woman hitting, biting, scratching, or otherwise generally assaulting the man, and the man assaulting the woman back. In general men tend to be more physically able to inflict more serious harm than a woman, so battered women would show more visible signs of domestic abuse than battered men.

Due to ridicule and isolation, men are much less likely than women to speak out when they are being abused. Battered men have no where to turn to when they need to get out of an abusive relationship, because there are no “Men’s Shelters” and when men attempted to involve the police or even their families they run the risk of being laughed at or even blamed for the abuse. Trapped by social stigma to be “manly” and the masculine macho attitude that society pressures males to conform to all contribute to the silence and oppression of battered men. In order to alleviate men’s suffering Cook suggests that expanding already existing abuse support programs to include battered men, instead of creating an entire new system, is not all that difficult of a goal to achieve. Cook also points out that “a big impediment to these small efforts [battered men’s shelters etc]… is the Federal Violence Against Women Act, which apparently prohibits funds from being used to serve male victims,” (Roleff 32). The seriousness of domestic violence should not be solely attributed to battered women, but should be extended to include all victims of domestic violence, regardless of gender or sexuality.

Domestic violence in same sex relationships is also a largely ignored and socially decriminalized issue. Steve Friess, writer for the Advocate, a homosexual newsmagazine, addresses the seriousness of domestic abuse among same sex couples in his article in Domestic Violence: Opposing Viewpoints. Battered gays and lesbians face a similar plight to that of battered heterosexual men. Friess tells the story