That’s Men: How men should respond to violence by women in the home

Abused men often cover up for their partners in the hope that the abuse will end and they do not want to leave the kids with a violent mother, says Padraig O’Morain

In 2013, more than 2,000 men reported almost 8,000 incidents of domestic abuse to the organisation Amen

In 2013, more than 2,000 men reported almost 8,000 incidents of domestic abuse to the organisation Amen


To walk into a Garda station and report that you have been beaten up by your wife or female partner must be one of the hardest things a man can do.

Yet by the time you read this the best part of 700 incidents of domestic abuse by women against men will have occurred this year.

And these are just the incidents that are reported to the Amen ( organisation, established nearly two decades ago to help men who suffer domestic violence.

The awareness that women can perpetrate domestic violence emerged relatively recently. I recall how surprised I was, back in 2001, when a research team led by Dr Kieran McKeown reported that women were more likely than men to perpetrate domestic violence.

The domestic violence issue was just part of a broader report on the value of marriage counselling which the researchers did for what is now Relationships Ireland and was then Marriage and Relationship Counselling Services.

But that’s what got the headlines, so surprising was it. While the authors pointed out that “the outcomes of domestic violence in terms of physical and psychological injuries tend to be considerably more negative for female victims than for male”, the finding was still startling.

And if you look at some of the reports on the Amen website you will see that some women are capable of perpetrating quite vicious physical violence, including kicking and hitting with an iron or a coal shovel.

In 2013, more than 2,000 men reported almost 8,000 incidents of domestic abuse to the organisation. More than 2,000 incidents involved physical abuse while the remainder were divided fairly equally between verbal and psychological abuse. Very often, of course, all three forms of abuse go together.

According to Amen, abused men often suffer in silence and even cover up for their partners in the hope that the abuse will end and because they do not want to leave the children with a violent mother. “What [men] fail to do is record the incidents, injuries or pattern of events. They fail to tell any family members of the situation, and make excuses for their injuries even when they attend the hospital or the doctor. They fear the humiliation and stigma of disclosure even when the abuse is life-threatening,” says Amen.

As with abused women, abused men are left with a sense of worthlessness and with little or no confidence. We often fail to realise the ease with which a person’s emotional strength and psychological health can be broken down by a partner telling them relentlessly how useless and worthless they are.

“When I came through the doors of Amen I was a broken man, I could see no future or happiness or light at the end of the tunnel,” said one man’s account on the Amen website.

“I was in a bad way. I had no confidence and felt worthless, afraid to stay and most of all afraid to leave my children,” said another.

Amen’s advice to abused men includes:

l Do not leave the family home unless you and your children are in danger.

l Keep a record of dates and times of incidents.

l Always report the violence to the GP and to the Garda.

l Always seek medical treatment for injuries and tell the truth about how they occurred.

l Always get legal advice.

l Tell family and friends what’s going on.

l Do not be provoked into retaliating.

Nothing about this is easy. Everything about it is hard. Knowing that the odds are stacked against you when it comes to access to the children if and when you leave makes it all the harder, I should think.

And that first step into a Garda station, up to that public counter to make the first report of domestic violence must, as I said at the start, be desperately hard to take. That’s why I think it’s really good to get legal advice, to seek support from family and friends and to talk to the people in Amen.

Helpline number 046-9023718.

Padraig O’Morain is a counsellor accredited by the Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy. His latest book is Mindfulness on the Go. His mindfulness newsletter is free by email.