About one in ten men experience domestic violence in their lifetime. Although that number is much lower than the approximately one in four women who experience domestic violence, it is nevertheless a reality we should acknowledge and address during Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM). We may not immediately thing of college-aged students when we discuss domestic violence. However, the definition of domestic violence shared by the Office on Women’s Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services broadens the understanding of the term to encompass intimate partner violence, which includes “physical, sexual, or emotional abuse by a current or former intimate partner.”
The United Nations refers to domestic violence as domestic abuse or intimate partner violence, describing it as a pattern of behavior in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner. Thinking about domestic violence in this way makes it quite clear that many college students are at risk, including men. Of the men who are domestic violence survivors, more than half (56%) experienced violence before the age of 25—a period when many young adults are navigating life on a college campuses.
How domestic violence impacts male college students
Research from the American Psychological Associations shows men are just as likely as women to suffer from PTSD caused by psychological or physical abuse. Other research conducted in the United Kingdom (UK) has linked domestic violence, particularly physical assault against men, to physical injuries, loss of self-worth, suicide ideation, increased instances of binge drinking, and overall poor health. Some male survivors have also shared that their abuse had a “lasting impact of abuse on the successful formulation of future relationships, as they felt unable to trust future partners, or were overly fearful.”
Why do some men choose not to seek help?
Despite the well-documented impact of domestic violence on men, data collected by researchers at the University of Bristol in the UK has linked social constructs of masculinity, fear of not being believed or being accused as the perpetrator, embarrassment at talking about the abuse, and feeling “less of a man” as reasons men do not seek help. College is seen as a rite of passage for some men—especially for male students participating in sports or fraternal activities—so they may be less likely to report an incidence of violence for fear of ridicule or ostracization.
Some men expressed concern about the welfare of their partner or damaging their relationship if they opened up to someone outside their network of family and friends. Others cited a lack of confidence in seeking help due to the abuse, and when some men did seek help, they usually did so when their situation had reached a crisis point. Knowing this reluctance to report is an issue, college administrators and support staff should be able to recognize how the signs of potential abuse present in young men and be equipped to provide the appropriate support.
How can we better support male survivors?
All survivors, including men, need support and resources to mitigate domestic violence’s physical, mental, and emotional effects. College campuses should work to dispel the stigma associated with male victims and validate their experiences. Addressing bias and checking internalized beliefs about male gender norms is vital to the healing of male survivors. Reporting a domestic violence incidence should not emasculate men or make them feel less of themselves.
Organizations and helplines like The Domestic Abuse Helpline for Men, 1 in 6, and Men’s Rights offer resources and trained professionals who can counsel and support male victims. Campuses should promote awareness and ensure male survivors know resources are available and accessible. All survivors of domestic violence need support, especially those who may be away from home and relying on their college or university to provide a safe and stable environment. It is also important to shift the public perception on campus surrounding male victims, which may hinder awareness and support to men. College faculty and administrators must be at the forefront of this shift and create responsive and supportive channels for young men and women who may be experiencing domestic violence.
authored by Tasia Muse, Fahrenheit Creative Group