Men, like women, can be victims of intimate partner abuse, but they often keep silent about domestic violence out of shame. They’re afraid no one will believe them, or they’ll be ridiculed: how could a man be so “weak” that he lets a woman beat him up? Sometimes they don’t recognize that abuse doesn’t always involve kicks and punches. Name-calling, putdowns, mind-games, and manipulation are trademarks of psychological abuse, which can be more insidious than physical abuse because it doesn’t leave marks.
Abusers are equal-opportunity offenders. Whether male or female, they tend to share personality traits. They are often charming in the beginning of a relationship, focusing all their attention on you and making you feel special and important. But that quickly changes once the relationship is established. What was once flattering attention morphs into control and manipulation that may or may not turn physical. These examples may help you to recognize the signs of spousal abuse in men:
Gina uses the children to control Paul, who is a wealthy businessman. When he wanted to have kids, she refused to go off birth control until he bought her a house in an exclusive neighborhood. When their first child was born, she became possessive, inserting herself into every interaction between father and son and criticizing Paul’s parenting. When Paul does something she doesn’t like, she badmouths him to the kids. Paul stays in the marriage because Gina threatens to sue for full custody of their two children and “make sure they never see you again.”
Stalking and Harassment
Convinced that Jake is having an affair, Courtney compulsively checks his cell phone call history and reads his texts. She shows up at his office to see if he’s flirting with his attractive female colleagues. When he breaks up with her, she drives by his house every night thinking she’ll catch him with another woman. She calls and texts him multiple times a day, alternately accusing him of sleeping with “whores” and begging her to take him back.
A successful attorney, Melanie is the primary breadwinner while Steve is a stay-at-home dad. She came into the marriage with considerable separate property and keeps most of her income in a solo account, putting just enough to cover household expenses in a joint checking account. Steve is afraid to leave Melanie because she has threatened to use her vast resources to finance endless litigation that would leave him destitute.
David never knows what to expect from Claire. She bombards him with love and attention one day, then sends him invective-laden e-mails the next. She screams at him in front of the children. When she gets angry she throws objects at him and just recently punched him in the nose. David told his friends he smashed his face against a coffee table leg while rolling around on the floor with the couple’s toddler: he was embarrassed to admit that he couldn’t defend himself against his 120-pound wife.
What Male Victims of Domestic Violence Should Know:
It will not get better. The honeymoon periods will get shorter and the violence and manipulation will grow more extreme. You may be afraid of divorce because your spouse has threatened to take the children or turn them against you, but your kids will suffer more being exposed to domestic violence than they will growing up in separate homes.
Be wary of couples counseling if physical abuse is present. New Jersey mental health professionals are mandated to report suspected child and elder/disabled abuse, but not spousal abuse. Couples counseling can actually heighten the risk of abuse because issues that are not resolved in the therapist’s office can lead to violence when the couple returns home. You may want to strongly consider seeking individual counseling first.
How To Get Help
Help is available in New Jersey for male victims of domestic abuse. To find a local safe house or shelter that works with men, call the New Jersey Statewide Domestic Violence Hotline, 1 (800) 572-SAFE (7233), a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week confidential hotline for domestic violence victims and others seeking crisis intervention, information and/or referral services.
As a legal measure, you may be able to obtain a TRO (temporary restraining order). TROs are granted when the abuse falls in one or more of the following categories:
– Terroristic Threats
– Criminal restraint
– False imprisonment
– Sexual assault
– Criminal sexual contact
– Criminal mischief
– Criminal trespass
If you have children, and you believe they’re in danger, you can request a temporary child custody order be put in place restricting contact with the abusive parent. You will need to include the children in your TRO, as well as a risk assessment. You will also need to explain why it’s dangerous for your children to have visitation with the abuser.
If your abuser is employed, the court can order emergency child support that can be paid through wage garnishment (learn more about child support calculations). All temporary orders can be granted without the defendant being present and will become final at a full hearing on a Final Restraining Order scheduled within ten days.
Men who are victims of domestic violence or spousal abuse need to realize they’re not alone, and that help is available. Protecting yourself and your children far outweighs any perceived stigma you may feel in coming forward. Do you need help filing for a restraining order or temporary orders for child custody or child support? Please contact us to schedule your free, confidential attorney consultation.