Abuse Hides in the Dark. Turn on Your Light.

Why Does Gender Bias Exist When Talking About Domestic Abuse?

Man looking rough with dark circles under his eyes, having trouble finding someone to help him out of his abusive relationship.

Gender bias in the pronouns we choose to describe abusers will be a gender issue, a violence against women issue, until more abused men speak up and report their abuser. Currently, the data shows that women’s reports of abuse outweigh men’s reports of abuse at a ratio of 17:3. Abused men are important too. But when people write for abuse victims, I believe you can see why the assumed audience is female. This is changing as the data changes. New data includes:

“1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men aged 18 and older in the United States have been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.” 1

“Nearly half of all women and men in the United States have experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner in their lifetime (48.4% and 48.8%, respectively).” National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey Summary, 2010 2

When Gender Bias Does Not Exist in Domestic Violence

If you want to change the gender bias in domestic abuse conversations, report your abuse to the authorities. No, it won’t be easy. Yes, you will probably run into someone who makes fun of you or looks at you cross-eyed. And no, verbal and emotional abuse is not punishable by law (see 1st Amendment). Those are problems we all face when reporting abuse. No gender bias there! But remember, by reporting your partner to the authorities, you will make it easier for our sons when they get tricked into entering a relationship with an abusive woman.

Another problem that is not due to gender bias is authority figures ignoring or laughing about domestic violence. Did you know that abusers seek out service-oriented jobs? Being in an authority position, such as a police officer, social worker, clergy or other service-oriented occupation gives an abusive person an automatic adoring audience. We look to them as people we can trust when we’re at our most vulnerable. And in some domestic violence complaints, we shouldn’t trust the police at all (The Professions of the Narcissist is interesting, but only some abusers experience mental illness). The chance that a man who reports abuse will run into a jerk is the same as the chance a woman has. It’s not easier for women to report. It’s hard for all of us.

We Shouldn’t Have to Talk About Gender Bias or How I Use Pronouns

Personally, but without research to back up my opinion, I believe women abuse their partners at the same rate as men abuse theirs. I think it’s 50/50, for most types of abuse. However, I cannot ignore the fact that men murder many more women as a result of domestic violence than women murder men.

“1,509: The number of women murdered by men they knew in 2011. Of the 1,509 women, 926 were killed by an intimate partner and 264 of those were killed by an intimate partner during an argument.” 3

Chances that a man’s abusive female partner will murder him are slim. However, statistics on violence toward gay or bisexual men show that abused men in the LGBTQ community are in significant danger of physical violence.

2 in 5: The number of gay or bisexual men who will experience intimate partner violence in their lifetimes.” 4

And back to women abuse victims for a moment:

“From 1994 to 2010, about 4 in 5 victims of intimate partner violence were female.” 5

So, the fact is that most literature on domestic violence will continue to use pronouns that show men as abusers and women as abused. Despite the statistics on homosexual and bisexual abused men, the research shows women are abused more often. Is acknowledging that face in pronoun use really gender biased? Or is it gender reflective?

Domestic Abuse and the Use of Gender Biased Pronouns

If you’re on this page, you might have commented somewhere on this website about pronoun usage and gender bias. I feel for you, I really do. It is uncomfortable for me as a woman to accept that the official generic pronouns in use are he and his. That the word mankind includes me. I look around me and respected, powerful women are rather difficult to find (but not nearly as hard to find as we were two generations ago). I doubt I’ll ever see she or her substituted for male pronouns unless the author is speaking of abuse. In my opinion, that’s pretty sad.

And as a writer, I often run into the gender bias pronoun problem: how to include everyone while offending no one. Frankly, it’s difficult to do. I have disclaimers on my work saying that my pronoun choice is not meant to diminish the fact that women abuse men too. It doesn’t help. I still get complaints, some from women. But women who are abused or left an abusive relationship typically support my articles that use he as a victim of abuse. Once you are an abuse victim, you see how damaging it is to your soul. We know that what kills the goose can also kill the gander. And I don’t want anyone to suffer in an abusive relationship, male or female.

Remedy for Stigma and Gender Bias in Conversations About Domestic Abuse

Simply put, society must hear from abused men more often. More men must talk about the violence and abuse and do so more often, more openly. And unfortunately, men must be patiently adamant as society turns. History shows that society turns faster the second time around, so I forecast a quicker acceptance of men as abuse victims than it was to overturn the belief that women should know their place, accept their punishment and shut up. However, society is not quite done turning for abused women, either.

The stigma attached to us women is that it’s our fault we stayed, we deserve what we get for being dumb enough to take it. And despite the shelters and programs available to women, using them is a different story. If the 10
beds are full, the 11th abused woman must hit the street to find somewhere else to stay. But would she really be at a shelter if she had a friend or family member to take her in? Most return home, to the abuse, thinking they’ll try another day.

Gender Bias and Domestic Violence Stigma

Additionally, it was easier to convince a patriarchal society that women need protection than it is to convince it that men need protection. It’s a stigma. A bias. It discriminates based on gender. It isn’t fair. I’m sorry. You had no part in creating the idea that emotional weakness makes one an abuse victim. Nor did you come up with the idea that women are too weak to abuse men. But that’s what we’ve got – for now.

Society will take abuse of men seriously when the stigmas related to abuse of any type is gone. To make that happen, more abused men should stand up and be counted among the battered and emotionally bloodied. And men who do not abuse anyone must stand up beside their battered and emotionally abused friends. Whoever thought it was a great idea to make fun or expect their friends to “be a man about it” when it is often life-threatening?

If you look around, you can find women who believe you whole-heartedly. Who want to help you. Who will be there for you during your fight. There’s a shit-load of us out here who don’t want to see any soul experience abuse, stigma, discrimination or ridicule. I’m one of them.

But I won’t go back to my old pages and change the pronouns I used. I do watch my pronoun usage closely now that I’m not keeping a journal about my abuse. I try not to alienate anyone. Google analytics tells me that 90% of my audience is female. Even so, I am not blind to this one last statistic from the National Domestic Violence Hotline:

“…One in seven men age 18+ in the U.S. has been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in his lifetime. One in 10 men has experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner. In 2013, 13% of documented contacts to the Hotline identified themselves as male victims.” 6

Those numbers are too high. No one should experience abuse. Not men, not women, not children. Instead of fighting amongst ourselves about which gender society treats most unfairly, let’s band together and be a strong force. Divided as we are, no unabused people can take our complaints 100% seriously.

I imagine the unabused saying, “The allegedly abused…look at them! There must be something wrong with the victims because they can’t even get along with each other! They’re all a bunch of man-haters, of women-haters.” That scenario is my imagination. No proof or factual quote for it. But come on. I think we have more to worry about than gender-biased pronouns.

Websites Lacking Gender Bias for Abused Men Exist

And in case you simply cannot tolerate my pronoun choices, there are several websites available. Good ones that don’t promote hatred of all women, the conspiracy of feminists to keep abused men hidden or warped statistics meant to incite men over the unfairness of it all. In other words, legitimate, healthy, trustworthy websites for men.

Here’s a list of sites I recommend:

Remember, the NDVH is there for men, too. Their website states:

“…Our advocates … can also help brainstorm alternative options if local programs are not meeting the requirements for male victims, including who a caller may be able to contact if they believe they have experienced discrimination.”

And finally, when you get to a place of peace after leaving your abusive relationship, I desperately need male mentors. You can apply here to be a mentor when you’re ready.

See Also:


1 The CDC’s ‘Intimate Partner Violence’

2 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey Summary 2010

3,4 The Huffington Post Online’s ’30 Shocking Domestic Violence Statistics That Remind Us It’s An Epidemic’

5 Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Crime Victimization Survey

6 National Domestic Violence Hotline’s ‘Men Can Be Victims of Abuse, Too’

Featured photo by Mubariz Mehdizadeh