Men Abused by Women

Even though it is rarely discussed, men can be abused by women verbally, physically, psychologically and/or sexually. Here is extensive information to help you identify and deal with this situation.

What is abuse?
A pattern of controlling behavior
Abuse in intimate relationships is a pattern of behaviour where one partner dominates, belittles or humiliates the other over months and years. Abuse of men by their partners happens when the partner uses emotional, physical, sexual or intimidation tactics. She does it to control the man, get her own way and prevent him from leaving the relationship. The abused man is always adapting his behaviour to do what his partner wants, in the hopes of preventing further abuse.

The primary motive for abuse is to

establish and maintain power and control over a partner. The abused partner resists the attempts to control him. In turn, the abusive woman takes additional steps to regain control over her partner. Abuse in intimate relationships is not an isolated incident. Abuse happens over time. Typically, if abuse is allowed to continue, it becomes more frequent and more severe.

Abuse is a choice. Whatever people’s background or experience, they must take responsibility for their actions. No one has the right to abuse someone else, and no one deserves abuse.

Control tactics: four kinds of abuse
Often when people think about abuse, they think of emotional abuse, physical abuse,or sexual abuse. Abuse may also include intimidation tactics.

    EMOTIONAL ABUSE TACTICS can happen without other abuse tactics involved. But when other abuse happens, emotional abuse is almost always present. Some men say it is harder to deal with emotional abuse than physical abuse. Emotional abuse includes:


      • Insults or humiliates her partner at home or in public
      • Blames him
      • Lies to him

      Controlling finances:

      • Withholds financial information from her partner
      • Steals money from him
      • Makes financial decisions that affect him without asking or telling him

      Isolating her partner and restricting his freedoms:

      • Controls her partner’s contact with friends and family
      • Isolates him from friends and family
      • Treats him like a servant
      • Monitors his phone calls
      • Restricts his ability to get around
      • Controls access to information or participation in organizations and groups


    • Ridicules or insults her partner’s spiritual beliefs
    • Makes it difficult for the partner to be with others in his spiritual community

    PHYSICAL ABUSE TACTICS include any activity that can cause physical pain or injury. In an intimate relationship, physical abuse happens when the abusive person:

    • Shoves, slaps, hits, kicks or bites
    • Throws things
    • Uses a weapon
    • Intentionally interferes with basic daily requirements for food, shelter, medicine
      and sleep

    About eight per cent of women and seven per cent
    of men said their heterosexual partners had abused them in the past five years. Women who are abused are more likely to be beaten, choked or threatened with a weapon. Men who are abused are more likely to be slapped, kicked, bitten or hit, or have something thrown at them.2

    Thirteen per cent of men abused by their female partners say the violence caused physical
    injury. Seven per cent of men who experienced violence feared for their lives.


    • Uses force or pressure to get her partner to have sex in a way he does not want
    • Ridicules or criticizes his performance
    • Withholds affection and sex to punish him for violating her rules

INTIMIDATION TACTICS are any words or actions the abusive partner uses to scare her partner. For example:

    Destroy property

  • Throw or smash things
  • Trash his clothes or other possessions
  • Destroy keepsakes
  • Break furniture or windows


  • Threaten to harm or kill him
  • Threaten to harm or kill herself or children, family, friends or pets
  • Threaten to lie to authorities to put his child custody or legal status at risk
  • Create a sense that punishment is just around the corner

    Stalk or harass

  • Follow him after they have separated
  • Show up at his workplace
  • Go to his house and park outside
  • Phone or send him mail repeatedly
  • Phone or send mail to his family, friends or colleagues

Changing or leaving an abusive relationship: it’s not that simple

    Why stay in an abusive relationship?
    Whether or not there are children involved, a man may stay in an abusive situation because:

  • He feels afraid or guilty
  • He feels he is financially insecure
  • He feels a sense of obligation to his female partner
  • He wants to honor his religious convictions or cultural expectations
  • His partner reminds him of religious convictions or cultural expectations

    A man with children may stay in the relationship because:

  • He doesn’t want to lose access to his children
  • He doesn’t want to leave the children with his abusive partner
  • He may not trust the courts to handle child custody fairly
  • He doesn’t want to be the one that “breaks up” the family

Society’s attitudes can make it harder
Society is slowly starting to recognize and study the abuse of men by their partners.

Society’s beliefs and attitudes about men have kept this kind of abuse hidden. For example:

  • Men are supposed to protect women
  • Men don’t get pushed around by women
  • Men are not supposed to hit back even when a woman is hitting them
  • Men should be able to “handle” their women

    Because of these beliefs, men who are abused by female partners may be slow to admit it. They may not want to tell anyone. Additionally, sometimes police and other professionals may not take the abuse seriously.

As a result, a man in an abusive relationship may have some of these feelings:

  • Afraid to tell anyone
  • Depressed or humiliated
  • Afraid he has failed as a lover and partner
  • Guilty about leaving her or scared of coping alone
  • Furious she could do or say the things she did
  • Confused because sometimes she acts loving and kind
  • Frustrated and sad because he has tried everything
  • Afraid of continued violence or harassment if he leaves
  • Panicked he may lose his male identity if people know what has been going on
  • Worried about his financial security
  • Made to believe he deserved it

Changing or leaving is a process, not an event
It takes time to realize your relationship is abusive. It takes time to admit a person you love, someone you thought loved you, is willing to say and do things that harm you.

It takes time to find out if it is possible to keep the relationship but stop the abuse. If there are children involved, it may take time to figure out how to create a healthy, stable and loving environment for them.

It can be messy and slow to recognize, change or leave an abusive relationship. It seems like taking two steps forward and one step back. But many people have been able to move past abuse. They say it has been worth the effort to get their lives back. An abusive environment harms children now and in their future.

If there are children in your household, take responsibility for their safety and well-being. Do this even if you are not their biological parent. The children did not choose the adults in their home. They deserve a healthy and safe environment, so they can grow to become healthy and flourishing adults.

Unhealthy or abusive?
Look at this chart. For each relationship factor, think about your relationship. Then ask yourself this question: Is my relationship most like the healthy, unhealthy or abusive relationship?

Nine things you can do if you are being abused by your partner
1. First, make sure you and the children are physically safe.

    1. If you are in immediate danger, call 911
    2. Know you are not responsible for the abuse. The abuse is the responsibility of the person who is abusive. You did not cause the abuse even if she would like you to think so.
    3. Understand that the abuse and violence are not likely to stop. In fact, abuse and violence
    usually become more frequent and more severe over time. When you are thinking about your options, be as realistic as you can in assessing what the risks are in your situation.
    4. Tell someone you trust about the abuse. Choose someone who will believe you. Secrecy gives the abuse more power. When you tell another person, you reduce the power of secrecy and gain some power to make the situation better. If the first person you tell does not seem to take you seriously, talk to someone else. Do not give up.
    5. Find out more about abuse in relationships. You are not alone. About seven per cent of men are abused by female partners. Other men have had this experience and lived through it. Eventually they created new and healthy lives for themselves. Once you start looking for help, you will meet people who understand your situation.
    6. Find out what help is available in or near your community. You do not have to do this alone.
    7. Get professional help from a qualified counselor. Make sure the person understands what it is like for men to be abused by their partners. If the first counselor is not a good fit for you, try someone else. People who work in the area of family violence may be able to help find an appropriate counselor.
    8. Look after yourself. You are in a difficult situation that takes energy and strength. Make time to do some things that feel good. Half an hour of an activity you enjoy will give you energy to get through another day. Then you will find the strength to do what is necessary to protect yourself and your children.
    9. Spend time with healthy people. Even if they cannot help you directly, being with healthy people will remind you that most people are kind to one another and that many people have healthy and rewarding relationships. You can too.

Six things to do if there are children in your household
1. Think of the safety and best interests of the children first.
2. Get legal advice about custody, access and maintenance issues.
3. Tell the children that even though the adults in their home do not get along, the children are not to blame and the abuse is not their fault.
4. Do everything in your power to expose the children to healthy relationships, and to environments that are safe, predictable and loving. Children need to know most adults are kind to one another and most homes are safe places.
5. Help the children connect with healthy adults outside the immediate household. Find adults who care about the children’s well-being and whom the children can count on to be stable and predictable.
6. Help the children find ways to succeed. Children who know they are good at something are stronger in themselves, even when they are in abusive environments.

Only you can decide what to do about your relationship. Whether you stay or leave is your decision. However, you do not have to do this alone. Whatever you decide to do, get the help you need.

Consider if there have been changes.
For example:

  • Has the person stopped coming to events he used to attend regularly?
  • Is the person withdrawing from friends and family?
  • Do you notice changes in his personality (for example, is he quieter, grouchier, more distracted or less energetic than usual)?
  • Is he on medication? (He may be depressed as a result of feeling helpless)
  • Are there any bruises or other physical injuries that do not match up with the story he tells about how he got the injuries?

Any of these conditions might show that the person is dealing with abuse.

How you can help
If you suspect that a man you know is in an abusive relationship

    1. Understand that he may not understand this is abuse or may not want to talk about it. If he appears to be “in denial,” give him all the information you can about abuse in intimate relationships. Remember that many abused men do not realize that the behaviour they are living with is abuse. It may take time before they even begin to understand that their relationship is abusive. Their increase in awareness and understanding is a process, not an event.
    2. Find the right words to open the door for conversation.

    Here are some examples of things that abused men said were helpful to them:

    • A supervisor took an employee aside and said, “I don’t know what’s going on with you at home, but I just want you to know that it isn’t all your fault, no matter what someone might be trying to tell you.”
    • A male friend said, “I know you spend a lot of time trying to second guess and look after what your partner needs. How are you doing?”
    • A female friend said, “I’ve been in an abusive situation, and I recognize the signs. (Say this only if it’s true.) Here are some things that I see and hear, that tell me you’re dealing with power and control tactics from your partner. (List what you see and hear) I know it can take a long time to figure out what to do, but I can tell you that you don’t
      deserve to be abused.”

    • A man’s adult son said, “I know you’re my dad, but I don’t like what I’m seeing here. This is not right. What can I do to help?”

    3. Offer to assist him in finding help.Once the abused man understands he is in an abusive relationship, encourage him to learn more. Support him in contacting community agencies. People in these organizations can help him assess the situation he faces. They can help him with safety planning and with finding other resources.

If a man tells you he is in an abusive relationship:
Six things you can do

If someone tells you that he is being abused, the following responses are helpful.

    1. Listen fully. Listen quietly. Do not interrupt. Tell him you believe him.
    2. Tell him the abuse is not his fault and he does not deserve to be abused.
    3. Privately express your concern and ask, “How can I help?”
    4. Respect his confidentiality.
    5. Encourage him to make a safety plan.
    6. Help him to find resources (if he wants help). If the man does not want to leave his abusive partner, be patient. Understand that changing or leaving an abusive situation is not easy. Let the man know that you will be there no matter what he decides to do.

Three things not to do
1. Do not over-react. If you act too horrified or shocked, the man may stop talking.
2. Do not criticize or blame his abusive partner. If you do, he may feel forced to defend her. He may feel stupid for being in a relationship with her.
3. Do not give advice or suggest what the man should do. He may stop talking to you, especially if he does not want to take your suggestions.

If you know a woman who abuses family members
If you have any concern at all about talking to an abusive person, then don’t do it. Trust your instincts. Confronting an abusive or violent person is dangerous. Be aware of the risks, and do not leave yourself open to harm.

However, if you know someone who acknowledges that she is abusive to her partner or children, and if she says she wants to change, here are some things you could say.

Abusive behaviour is learned
You could let her know that abusive behaviour is learned. It is not “automatic.” No matter what the circumstances, abusive behaviour is a choice. Some other women who have abused their partners or other family members have learned to change. She can too. If she wishes to make a choice to stop the abuse, she will have to make a commitment to change her behaviour.

Help is available
Encourage and support her in getting help or finding resources to stop the abusive behavior.

Hold the abusive person accountable
Abusive behaviour is not caused by the partner, by stress, by addictions, by financial or work pressure, by health problems or by any other life issue. The abusive person makes a choice to belittle, control or dominate. She alone is responsible for these choices. The abusive person needs to understand this so she can make the mental shift to end abusive behavior.

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Alberta Children’s Services
Prevention of Family Violence and Bullying
6th Floor, Sterling Place
9940 – 106 Street
Edmonton, AB T5K 2N2