How Commonly Are Men Beaten Up By Intimate Partners?

In the comments of Chuck’s livejournal entry about the Male Privilege Checklist, Miss Fahrenheit wrote that “#42 just makes me angry because I know it’s wrong, but Google isn’t throwing up any helpful statistics I can scream about.”

Here’s what #42 says: “If I am heterosexual, it’s incredibly unlikely that I’ll ever be beaten up by a spouse or lover.”

I based #42 on the Centers for Disease Control’s report on intimate violence, which is (as far as I know) the largest and best-conducted study of intimate violence done in the US to date. According to this study, women are 14 times as likely to have been beaten up by an intimate partner at some point in their lives than men (8.5% versus 0.6%).

The study asked about many kinds of violence, ranging from being shoved to being attacked with a gun. In all categories, women were more likely to have been attacked by an intimate partner than men, and the discrepancies got larger as the violence became more serious. I focused on “beat up” because, unlike items like “threw something” or “pushed” (is a push a bone-jarring crash into a wall, or a painless, flirting push on the shoulder? What if someone pushed only in self-defense, or to escape?), “beat up” has little ambiguity, and implicitly contains a negative outcome.

They also found that men who had cohabited with a male partner were three times as likely to report having been assaulted by a partner as men who had only lived with opposite-sex partners.

Other studies have suggested that men and women are equal victims of intimate violence, but none of those studies are as large or well-conducted as the CDC’s study. Please see this past post for a much more in-depth discussion of “husband-battering” and intimate violence statistics.

(This is one of a number of posts responding to Chuck’s critique. You can use the category archive to see all posts related to the Male Privilege Checklist.)

* * *PLEASE NOTE* * *
Discussion on this post is reserved for feminists and pro-feminists only. If you don’t thinik you’d be considered a feminist by Amp, you’d probably be better off posting comments on the same post at Creative Destruction.

This entry posted in Rape, intimate violence, & related issues, The Male Privilege Checklist. Bookmark the permalink. 

39 Responses to How Commonly Are Men Beaten Up By Intimate Partners?

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  9. 9
    Nathaniel says:

    Only female interviewers surveyed female respondents. For male respondents, approximately half of the interviews were conducted by female interviewers and half by male interviewers.

    Nice methodology.

  10. 10
    B says:

    Well Nathaniel, It might actually have been better if all interviewers were women since, as far as I’m aware, men actually find it easier to be vulnerable in front of a woman than in front of a man.

    I believe this is one of the disadvantages of our gender-roles that men have – that speaking about emotions and open up to others, especially other men, isn’t “manly”.

  11. 11
    Spicy says:

    It might actually have been better if all interviewers were women since, as far as I’m aware, men actually find it easier to be vulnerable in front of a woman than in front of a man.

    My experience with domestic violence services which serve both men and women is that abused men almost universally opt to speak to a woman when offered the choice.

    The other way around, however, women tend to choose a man around a third of the time.

  12. 12
    FurryCatHerder says:

    So, this is from the CDC report —

    Women experience significantly more partner violence than men do: 25 percent of surveyed women, compared with 8 percent of surveyed men, said they were raped and/or physically assaulted by a current or former spouse, cohabiting partner, or date in their lifetime; 1.5 percent of surveyed women and 0.9 percent of surveyed men said they were raped and/or physically assaulted by such a perpetrator in the previous 12 months. According to survey estimates, approximately 1.5 million women and 834,700 men are raped and/or physically assaulted by an intimate partner annually in the United States. Because women are
    also more likely to be injured by intimate partners, research aimed at understanding and preventing partner violence against women should be stressed.

  13. 13
    Nathaniel says:

    I agree 100%, B. I’m just pointing out what seems to be a pretty huge flaw in methodology.

    FWIW, I too have chosen females when dealing with any sort of personal disclosure. I would guess men are probably more sensitive to the sex of the person they’re disclosing to than women are, yet only the women seem to have been given any consideration in this regards in the research. Ideally the respondant would be given the option at the beginning of the survey.

  14. 14
    Ampersand says:

    It wasn’t a flaw in methodology; it was an well-designed attempt to address the question of if interviewer sex makes a difference in results in surveys such as this when interviewing male subjects. (They didn’t do a similar test for female subjects because there’s a consensus that female interviewers are in general better for female subjects).

    They published the results somewhere, but I can’t locate it right now; iirc they found that there wasn’t a statistically significant difference between the results based on the sex of the interviewer.

  15. 15
    Nancy Lebovitz says:

    A different nitpick. I’d call .6 percent (a smidge more than one chance in twenty) very unlikely rather than incredibly unlikely. It’s more like being in a serious car accident than being struck by lightning/

  16. 16
    Robert says:

    .6 percent is a smidge more than 1 chance in 200.

  17. 18
    Ampersand says:

    I wrote:

    iirc they found that there wasn’t a statistically significant difference between the results based on the sex of the interviewer.

    My mistake – as it turns out, I didn’t “rc.” As Daran writes in the comments of Creative Destruction:

    In fact they “found a few small but statistically significant gender effects.” (See footnote 2 to chapter 2 of the full report (PDF).

    This is a nitpick, because ‘statistically significant’ means that the differences are of a magnitude which is unlikely to be the result of chance. It does not mean that the difference is significant from the point of view of interpretting the results.

    My sincere thanks to Daran for the correction.

  18. 19
    Curious says:

    I would like to point out the matter of choice here. Women are more likely to be physically attacked by a partner, and here is one factor that causes it.

    Their choice! Sad, but scientifically true in case of heterosexual women. For lesbians, the rate counts towards women no matter who assaults whom. For gays, I dont know, but if I were to guess its not as high as heterosexual males.

    Coming back to heterosexual men and women, the choice factors that women actually consider males as potential factors, the most prominent and prevalent is looks. True for men too, but, men dont have the ability to choose, men can pursue all they want, the choice of men depends on women. Biologically, men with higher testosterone will have more attractive appearance. The testosterone will demonstrate its bad side at some point of time causing the man to assault anyone close given the right circumstances. Most of the times that means it will be the woman and though society discourages such acts, the woman will be hurt.

  19. 20
    Mel says:

    Curious: Back up with statistics, please. You’re not making much sense.

    Are you *really* suggesting that women never ever get turned down by men, and men can’t ever turn down women? Of course men can choose between willing romantic partners, just like women.

    And I’d love to see your statistics supporting the assertion that women choose men based primarily on looks (if that’s what you’re saying; it’s hard to tell). The correlation between testosterone and “attractiveness” is pretty iffy, and has more to do with pheromones than physical appearance, anyway.

    Your comment looks an awful lot like “It’s the women’s fault for being shallow and choosing men who just can’t help beating them up because of their high testosterone levels!” How “feminist” of you.

  20. 21
    Nick McDaniel says:

    Sadly, many abused males never tell anyone about abuse, especially if the perpetrator is female. The ideas of what is acceptable in terms of masculinity make the manliness of men who exhibit vulnerability (such as admiting to being abused) to be called into question. Also there are very few resources for men who have been abused. I am part of a male survivor group to which one member flies hundreds of miles across California to attend it because there is nothing near his residence.

    As a male & a feminist, I can see how many of the “privileges” listed in the list can be seen as privileges; however, to me, many of those things are not applicable because I value my sensitivity, not the things society tells me I should (such as high-paying jobs, money, career, et cetera). For me, many things listed on the list feel like oppression. Society tells me I am not entitled to my emotions, to be an abuse survivor, to deal with issues without the use of alcohol/being hypersexual/aggression (none of which work for my personal make-up). This is not to say that the fact that the vast majority of those things on that list are what does happen is right; it isn’t. I hate that any double standard based on gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, ableness, age, or any myraid of identities exists. I wish people were judged on actions, not identities. Just that for me, nearly every item on that list are things I, personally, do not value nor see as a benefit but as an oppressive straitjacket that constrict my ability to display my sensitivity proudly, the reason that nice guys finish last.

  21. 22
    Petar says:

    Speaking just from personal experience, I find the results of this study puzzling. I have hit a woman once in my life – I was about 18, and my teenage sister did
    something which annoyed me enough to slap her thigh with an open hand. It left a bruise, I regret it a lot, and twenty years later, she claims she does not remember the accident. I have been hit by three women with whom I had a lasting relationship. One broke my nose twice, gave me a concussion by hitting me repeatedly in the head, threw things at me, and cut my forearm with a knife – she was not particularly in control of herself. The second slapped me once when she thought, mistakenly, that I was making a crude and cruel joke. The last one slapped me once for ‘being stupid’, and once nearly took my eye off with a shirt, because I had stayed too long on the phone while she was waiting for me.

    In addition to this, I have seen a man beating up a woman twice. In both cases I have successfully intervened to stop it, and in both cases, I was not the only one. I have seen a woman hit a man more times than I can count. In most cases, these were slaps, but sometimes, it was punches, or blows with objects. Once a woman intervened. In all other cases, everyone looked the other way.

    As far as I am concerned, women engage in more ‘low level’ violence than men. At least for me, losing one’s temper is a weakness more tolerated in women than in men. As for serious beatings, I think the reason that men hurt women a lot more often is very simple – men are, on average, stronger.

    The only time where I think that culture is to blame is when it comes to murders. I believe that a woman will kill a man if she feels that she has to get rid of him. A man can kill a woman because he has come to think of her as property, and cannot stand to lose his hold on her. I looked for some statistics, and it seems that the only thing they all agree is that among domestic partners, woman on man murders have fallen sharply with the increase in divorce. Now a woman can escape the man without killing him, so they do not do it as often.

    In any case, I think the ratio of women to men that reported being beaten-up is not due to big bad society, but to the difference in strenght, and the unwillingness of men to admit being beaten. And no, that first girlfriend never beat me up. I just let her hit me repeatedly because I could not think of anything better to do. The one time I blocked her blows she went into a seizure, and from then on I just let her wind herself down.

  22. 23
    Ariel says:

    Partner abuse or domestic violence can happen to anyone, not just straight, gender-congruent women. It cuts across all communities. Try thinking about abuse through the lens of oppression as a larger concept than sexism.
    Curious, and others, the same rate of partner abuse in straight communities (1 in 4) is seen in LGBT communities.
    Check out
    The Network/La Red is a social justice organization dedicated to ending partner abuse in LGBT communities.
    Take care!

  23. 24
    Ariel says:

    Also: Partner abuse is not just about being ‘beaten up’. If the only kind of partner abuse/domestic violence you’re willing to talk about is physical violence then you are turning your back on hundreds of thousands of people who have been through emotional, financial, sexual and cultural identity abuse. It’s not just about who’s getting beaten up!

  24. 25
    Steve says:

    Abuse of a man by a woman in an intmate environment is a very shaming thing. The More proffesional an interviewer comes off (Clinical detached) The Less a man or woman will be likely to reveal this type of abuse. The worst case is Professional male interviewing male but all are bad.

    If you want the truth, hook the interviewees up to brain wave (EEG) devices and watch reaction to images of Woman on Man violence images. Those who turn positive can be interviewd in depth by female only professionals in specifically non clinical environments.

    This behaviour is of such ashaming nature that role play may be needed to break the shell. This could be a Female psycologist role playing as an intimate abuser. This IMO is the only way to real truth on the matter.

  25. 26
    belledame222 says:

    Ariel’s quite right.

    I know of at least a couple men who’ve experienced terrible abuse at the hands of female partners, including physical in one case. as you say, though, it often doesn’t manifest the same way.

    So perhaps less likely to actually put the guy in the hospital, you know;

    but: throwing things, screaming for hours on end, hitting, biting, that sort of thing.

    also what’s not talked about: women abuse kids. Including boychildren. Quite a bit. Sometimes of their own volition (or, well, as much as anyone ever does; but directly instigated by Dad, is the point here; sometimes Dad is the silent enabler).

    Important here because:

    1) Boychildren grow up into men, and guess what kind of relationships they tend to have with women?

    2) a really nasty power move abusive women in a traditional family set-up–or really any one with children i suppose: abuse the kids as a way to get to Dad.

    Of course the reverse of that (dad abuses kids to get to mom) happens a fuck of a lot as well.

    yeah. people. i dunno.

  26. 27
    ugk says:

    Domestic violence? Personally the number of times i have seen women hitting men, punching men, kicking them in the balls whilst people laugh thinking its funny! Then when a man hits a woman..’OH MY GOD!!! TELL THE POLICE!! DOMESTIC VIOLENCE BLAH BLAH BLAH!!!!!’
    There are even academies all over western countries (especially USA) where women are trained to hurt men by attacking their genitals. There are even websites that show women beating up males. The fact is that these men just stand there like dummies for fear that if they retaliate they will GET INTO BIG TROUBLE! Which is correct because 10/10 if an incident goes to court, THE MAN WILL BE PROSECUTED regardless of what the woman did.
    These feminist bithches are twisting the law around their fingers and its time men woke up and realised how ridiculous this situation is.

  27. 28
    Ampersand says:

    Ugk, thanks for that stirring and useful contribution to reasonsed discussion. You’ve been banned.

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  32. 29
    Brandy V. says:

    I don’t know. I do remember some famous woman boxer that was on the “E” network, who was supposed to be on American Gladiator. But you can’t find her on their website because of a recent scandal in which she beat the shit out of her husband. And then I know my friend’s mom, who was a wrestler, she knocked her husband’s teeth out, and another lady down the street who pulled out chunks of her man’s hair (dreads, must have really hurt)…

    I’m gunna have to say it’s more common then you think. :/ Women have rage issues, too, and not all of us can be delicate flowers. Nor can all our husbands be big strong men who can hold us back. But overwhelmingly, it is men beating women, in the same way that men overwhelmingly out perform women at athletics and such. But do consider that it happens more often than you think–and men are less likely to report, because you know, the whole stigma attached to being beaten up by a girl… So stupid, but sad for those poor guys.

  33. 30
    Brian says:

    It’s not obvious to me that everyone responding here fits the caveat for commenters. Nonetheless.

    I’m better at finding Canadian statistics than American ones. There are some good ones here: One needs to be a little careful, a few of figures present the comparison a little funny, the “types of assault” is presented to show whether men/women experienced that kind of assault (for instance, slapped, bitten, threatened with a weapon) as part of their assault. Overall, women experience between one and two times the assault rate that men do (in Canada), and the chance of the assault including “the most serious forms of violence, such as being beaten, choked, threatened with a gun or knife, and sexually assaulted” are between two and three times as likely for women as men. (For instance, 254 000 women and 89 000 men experience such an assault in 2004). (There are unfortunately no lifetime statistics that I can find. Because of the nature of abuse, there are a lot of repeat victims, and you can’t simply multiply by a lifetspan and divide by the population)

    While this is certainly different, “incredibly unlikely” does seem like an extreme qualifier. Of course, “incredibly unlikely” is entirely subjective, and can’t be judged as right or wrong. As well, “beat up” seems to be a pretty vague statement to me, I’m surprised the original poster of this thinks otherwise. (Beat up is certainly stronger than assaulted at all, but I’m not sure how much.)

    It’s worth noting that although Canada and the United States are culturally similar, we ain’t identical, and as such some caveats apply to trying to apply data across the board.

    And so long as I’m yabbering, it’s worth noting the point here about threat and size is almost certainly right, small-statured men probably don’t experience this, at least the way large men do. Which I say as a 6’3″, 250 lbs. man. I’ve had one partner I’m fairly confident would’ve been quite abusive if she could’ve been, but at nine inches shorter and seventy-five pounds lighter, it simply wasn’t an option for her. (Personal is political/vice versa)

  34. 31
    Chained Divinity says:

    I have a bit of a theory about this that really doesn’t have men having it nice here…

    While yes, it’s true that men are more directly, physically abusive to women than women are directly, physically abusive to men, you can do some really awful things to someone–up to and including physical harm–without directly hurting them yourself.

    Since women are already socialized to be more verbal than physical–or at least act that way, from the admittedly not-quite-statistical evidences of some people doing school researches of female bullying–they just have found a different sort of way to abuse people. And one that I think is quite a lot worse. So…:/

  35. 32
    Sebastian says:

    All I can speak about is my personal experience. Since I came to the US, I have never _known_ a woman who got abused by a man.

    Back at MIT, I was well aware of two ‘suspicious’ relationships. One was a lesbian couple at my dorm, and the whole floor knew about it. One would pinch the other, leaving horrible marks. In the beginning, the other would make up stories, afterwards, she ‘admitted’ that she was actually ‘savoring’ the pain. I did not know whether she was honest or not, but I do know that one evening she was scared out of her head, and asked to spend the night in my room. I asked her why she did not go to MIT’s shelter room, and she said something in the sense “it does not keep women out’.

    The other case involved my best friend. He was involved with a weird girl. I have seen her punch him in the head at two occasions, one time, it was more than ten punches. He just stood and took it, and that drew her crazy, until another girl intervened and made her stop. This was happened while a dozen people were watching Ren and Stimpy in a dorm room. There’s no way that anyone failed to notice, but no one but Christine showed that they had.

    He had ’embarrassed her, by paying a debt that she had incurred, but had gotten the money count wrong. Notice that no one possibly thought that the mistake was intentional – he counted in a dark room.

    Later my friend got a nasty cut on his forearm. It was courtesy of the same girl, and his explanation was that she was telling him of a near rape of hers and then she sorta forgot whom she was talking to. (She had a ton of near and not so near rapes, which was her excuse every time he found out she had cheated on him.)

    Please note that this guy was an former law enforcement officer (fired as the commies lost power) and had gotten in trouble in his first year at MIT for disarming an undercover Boston cop who failed to ID himself before drawing. He could have broken her in half… but he never, ever blamed her for anything. He ended up ‘rescuing’ that girl again, and again, until she moved out of the country.

    All of this, to say that abuse perpetrated by females is probably very under-reported, both because many men can endure the abuse without much harm, and because men are unwilling to lose face. It was not until my friend met his not-then-wife that he started seeing what a piece of work his ex was. Our wives are friends as well (we all met at the University) and I know that his wife considers herself a hero for rebuilding the mess his ex left him.

    Oh, yeah, and it goes without saying. I have never, and could have never been abused. The very idea!

  36. 33
    Broom Hilda says:

    Not that a woman ever raising her hands to a man is okay…but…I know that if I were to ball up a fist and with all my might, reach back and gather all the momentum I possibly could, and slammed it into the jaw of a man hoping to send him into the next world, he would probably stumble back a couple of steps and rub his face in humiliation. On the other hand, a half-hearted blow by most men on the cheek of most women is strong enough to send her across the room and leave a mark if not a broken bone. All through human history men have maximized their use of this advantage.

    In my observation…high levels of testosterone gives the man a much grander view of his own attractiveness. Is it possible that testosterone effects a man’s behavior in a way that he will figuratively beat his chest in proclaimation that he has the ability to provide and protect? His behavior is advertisement to women seeking a mate…but in some ways it is a ruse, is it not? She’s looking for someone to be her protector, but who’s going to protect her from “him”.

    Confession: I am one of those statisical women who have chosen abusive men over and over again throughout life. I grew up looking for love and approval from my father, (yada, yada, yada) and went on in life seeking out men who would cherish and protect me only to find men who would dominate, control and send me to the hospital. I served 20 years in the military and can count on one hand (maybe) the number of military women I’ve met who weren’t at one time abused, sexually harrassed or raped by a man. Now I realize that “military women” is whole other topic, but my comment is ment to drive home that in an environment where men out-number women, women are often times little more than punching bags.

    I know that almost everyone knows a “psycho girl” that acts crazy, and always wigs out on the poor, defenceless bloke she’s currently hooked up with. True. I’ve met several. But in general…in general….during my life experience I notice that when a women gets physical it is in defense either from bodily harm or emotional torment. Men on the other hand, will get physical for any infraction that falls under the category of “irritating”.

  37. 34
    Rick says:

    Sure women beat on men plenty, and men are shamed for seeking help. I had a girlfriend once that did some crazy stuff to me. Attacked me for real a number of times, was pretty scary. The thing is, if you disagree that men are privleged, did you read the rest of the list? Much easier for us to get out of abusive relationships because of the advantages listed there. For every social disadvantage to being male you can find a dozen or more for females.

  38. 35
    Andreas says:

    The only times Ive hit a girl is when she went after me with something that could really hurt me, like a heavy object, or something from the stove that was hot.

    A grand issue for guys I think is we are raised to never hit a woman. And if we do in self-defence, we both feel like the perpetrator anyways for going against a taboo of sorts, and we wont rapport the incident, because we know the woman would win. And if shed win the court proceedings, wich is extremely likely no matter who instigated the violence, the man will lose his kids.

    Ofcourse you dont talk as a man. Society doesent believe you, so you might as well rationalize that you never get hit- to keep your sanity.