male domestic abuse caller

Highlighting the serious impact of domestic violence against men is an issue that we feel passionately about here at LGFL. LGFL Managing Director Rita Gupta attended the virtual Mankind Initiative Conference to discover the latest research and information, and to better help male clients who are victims of domestic abuse

The statistics of domestic violence against men always remind us of why it is such an important issue we need to be aware of and address with vigour:

  • One in three victims of domestic and partner abuse are male. That’s 800,000 men per year in the UK. (1)
  • One on four people who report domestic abuse to the police are men.


  • Almost half of male victims do not tell anyone about the abuse.
  • Under 5% of domestic abuse victims accessing local services are male.

This lack of reporting and usage of existing services could give the impression that domestic abuse against men is not as prevalent as it actually is. So, what are the barriers to men reporting abuse and accessing the local help they need?

The 2020 conference by the charity Mankind called on the latest research by two leading psychologists to share their findings.


Before you read further…

If you are experiencing domestic violence, the time to act is now.

  • Call 999 and if possible, get yourself and your children to a place of safety.
  • Call the ManKind confidential helpline on 01823 334244.
  • Once you’re safe, contact us for legal advice on how to proceed.

The impact of abuse on male victims

Dr Ben Hines of the University of West London shared his research into these key areas, including the impact of abuse on a male victim. This impact list was long:

  • Adverse affects on physical and mental health
  • Binge drinking
  • PTSD
  • Substance misuse
  • Long-lasting affects on their relationship with their children

Dr Hines saw this as a result of the stereotypical views of men in society: being strong, dealing with issues alone, and not expressing their emotions. As a result, men were much more likely to opt for external coping mechanisms (alcohol, drugs) whilst female victims would internalise their coping, resulting in anxiety and depression. Equally, male victims are far less likely to seek help, and when they do, it takes a lot longer.


Domestic abuse support: views from the frontline

Dr Hines’ research used data from call handlers and data from a domestic abuse against men helpline that showed the relationship between male stereotypes and recognising abuse against men.

The restrictive and outdated notions of masculinity and male behaviour in our society stops the victims themselves recognising their abuse as such. It goes against everything they have been taught to believe about masculinity. Many male victims think, “I cannot be a victim.”


Please believe me

Underlying this is the deep-rooted fear amongst male victims that they will not be believed. Sadly, this expectation was born out by the very moving testimonials of two male victims who spoke later in the conference (Robert and Paul).

Both has reported their abuse to the police, with Robert being arrested on more than one occasion as the perpetrator and not the victim due to the manipulation of the incident by his female abuser. Robert had been a military policeman himself, and said that in his days as an officer, he would not have recognised coercive control in action when called to a domestic incident.

Reach out

Many male victims reported how it had been family and friends who had voiced concerns. They had also checked out local sources of support to try and help the victim escape their situation, and protect them from harm. This external recognition of the abuse, and believing the male victim, was crucial.

One of the major reasons male victims cited for staying in abusive relationships was that they felt they could not afford to leave, financially. Their concerns included:

  • Costs of renting a new home
  • Financial implications and legal costs of divorce
  • Child maintenance and access
  • Losing their job if asked for help


Protecting children

For fathers with children (60% of the men who called the helpline) their primary reason for staying was to protect their children against the other abusive parent. In a society that “romanticises mother/child relationships”, and a traditional structure to court rulings, it is often assumed that children should “stay with their mother”. In cases of domestic abuse against fathers, the reverse could apply, with children at risk living with an abusive and/or violent parent in a toxic home atmosphere.

In his moving story, Paul described how he and his daughter endured ongoing abuse by the mother even after they left the family home, and how he worked hard to build “good memories” for his daughter during her childhood.

And as one helpline call handler noted about a male caller:

“His daughter convinced him to ring us. He said, 'I didn't want to believe that what I was experiencing was abusive behaviour.'”


Age and duration of abuse

The data from the helpline callers also revealed two statistics that both shocked and surprised even us:

  • The average age of a victim was 41 years old.
  • Most had been suffering abuse for at least six years before seeking help.

One caller had suffered for 40 years before he felt he could tell anyone. Most callers were still living with their abuser at the time of calling.

As one of the call handlers interviewed said regarding why it takes male victims so long to seek help:

“It's being worried about the response. Will they be believed? Will they be laughed at? A lot of this is to do with shame; this shouldn't be happening to a man.”

What made most male victims call (eventually) was the need for emotional support - to talk to someone and to be believed. Again, in a society that assumes men seek practical solutions, this emotional need was not necessarily met. As Dr Hines concluded:

“Domestic abuse is not a gendered crime but a crime heavily coloured by gender.”


Abuse post-separation

Dr Liz Bates, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Cumbria, expanded on this theme in detailing how men’s experience of abuse can continue post-separation. It also shed more light on how that impact is both viewed and affects their children too.

Whilst the physical violence usually stops after parents separate, the impact continues through coercive control, parental alienation, false allegations, and legal aggression, all of which children would be part of in some way. As Dr Bates said, children are not passive witnesses to domestic abuse, and their voices need to be heard too.

Dr Bates’ research using an anonymous survey technique of 130 male victims showed how coercive control and abuse manifested itself post-separation. These included:

  • Contact with children withheld
  • Manipulating children by undermining the parental relationship
  • Child contact and visits emotionalised (mother crying when they go to dad’s)
  • Women disappearing with children without trace for years
  • Mother booking children for activities during the father’s agreed contact time
  • Breaching of court orders
  • Father referred to by his first name, and new partner referred to as Dad
  • Stalking and harassment
  • Women manipulating systems to their advantage, such as courts and social services
  • Prolonged custody disputes and divorce proceedings
  • Intimidation at child hand-over times
  • Continued alienation from extended family and social groups

This is a serious problem, as 32% of male domestic abuse victims still experienced violence after separating. (2)


Abuse via the legal system

As the above list shows, female abusers can continue and prolong their coercive influence long after separation through the legal system. The timescales of court proceedings such as divorce, financial settlements or child arrangements can be extended through non-cooperation or compliance, causing additional stress and (sometimes) costs to the abuse victim.

It is therefore very important that legal practitioners such as ourselves understand the different issues facing men and women in abusive situations, and how to tailor their services accordingly. They also need to be sensitive to the different ways men and women might describe their abuse, and the way they deal with it as seen above.

That’s why at LGFL we have created a web page specifically for male victims of domestic abuse.

As a Legal 500 boutique family law firm, our clients are almost exactly split 50/50 male and female. We are always very careful to ensure that every client is treated as an individual with unique circumstances. As Dr Hines said in his presentation, “men” is such a general term to describe a very diverse group ranging across the entire socio-economic ranges and sexual identities.


Grieving for loss

Dr Bates suggested that what many fathers felt when separated from their children both physically and emotionally was akin to grief. They felt trapped in their situation and felt they had lost their children. Yet the light at the end of the tunnel was the same as Dr Hines found - someone to ask the question “Do you need some help?” Again, the recognition of the abuse and being believed enabled male victims to move forward and seek help.


Testimonials from victims

Following on from the presentations, the moving testimonies of two male victims (Robert and Paul as mentioned previously) were a powerful insight into domestic abuse against men in practice.

Robert’s work colleagues had noticed the abuse, to the point of asking him “What is it going to take for you to leave?” Paul’s colleagues however dismissed it, with one boss actually “chuckling” when he sought help.

Paul’s experienced with the authorities was positive, with his daughter’s school and social services working alongside the police to get them out of the situation. However, it was good friends who gave them a home for 4 days until his wife was arrested, and they could return to the family home.

Robert’s experiences were much less positive, being arrested several times and disbelieved by his work colleagues. The most serious physical attack on Robert happened after he had left the family home, but out of fear of losing access to his young daughter, he didn’t report it.

Paul’s experience with the courts was not quite what he expected. It took six months from proceedings to begin, during which time his ex-wife was living in the same town as him and his daughter. He had to sit in the same waiting room as his abusive wife, who represented herself and took the opportunity to make unsubstantiated allegations throughout the six-day case. His carefully prepared witness impact statement was not read out as he expected. Only the sentence of sixteen months for GBH and common assault allowed a “massive weight” to be lifted from his shoulders.

Both men were keen to encourage male victims to seek help, recognising the massive progress made in both awareness and support since their own experiences began. As Robert said:

“Reach out and talk to someone you trust. Don’t wait until your spirit is broken. Speak to a friend, a work colleague, someone you can trust… There is light at the end of the tunnel, so hang in there - life does get better.”


More about ManKind

As a family law practice, we are constantly impressed with the great work done by the ManKind Initiative charity to help men escape domestic abuse. Their confidential helpline is available for male victims of domestic abuse, and they support men suffering from domestic abuse from their current or former wife or partner (including same-sex partner).

As you would expect from their conference themes, their helpline provides crucial emotional support as well as practical information for male victims of domestic abuse across all age ranges and professions. The helpline also welcomes calls from mothers, sisters and friends of male victims seeking information.

For more information on ManKind Initiative, see their website at https://www.mankind.org.uk/.

To donate towards their work, go to their donate page.

If you are concerned for a male friend, relative or colleague who may be suffering domestic abuse, call the helpline on 01823 334244.


Act now

If you are a man suffering from any type of domestic violence, abuse or coercive control, act now:

  • Call 999 and if possible, get yourself and your children to a place of safety.
  • Call the ManKind confidential helpline on 01823 334244.
  • Once you’re safe, contact us for professional legal advice on how to proceed.

You’ll find more information on our Domestic Abuse Against Men page here.





(1) Office for National Statistics
(2) Hotton, 2001: