Violence has no gender?

by Anne-Sophie Rebner on March 24, 2015 - 10:33am

Domestic violence against men has been starting to be discussed on a broad level in the last years. The research on the subject is still meagre but conscience is slowly rising. Men as victims are starting to get noticed and women are said to adapt their violence behaviour to men because societal roles are changing.

What portion does domestic violence against men take up and in what forms does it appear? Is the violence that men experience by their partners really the same as women’s? And what can be done about it? I will try to paint a full picture.

Domestic violence can be physical, psychological or sexualised and is defined as the act of violence of an intimate partner which includes split up partners or partners not living together and also adult family members. It reaches from insulting or intimidating the partner or controlling where they go to hurting or killing them.

The numbers about this violence against men vary substantially, it is quite hard to get a definite picture. But I found some interesting statistics. A professor from the University of Central Lancashire talks about men making up 50 per cent of people being assaulted, 30 per cent of being injured and 25 per cent of being killed by an intimate partner. According to the police statistic of crime in Berlin 2013, 23.8% of suspects in cases of domestic violence were women. Of the cases of grievous bodily harm, even 32.7% was by females. Of course this includes female victims and male relatives besides male partners. Still, the woman as perpetrator is a significant reality. The different numbers stem firstly from different definitions of violence (are small acts of violence like to shove someone included or not?) and from different ways of data acquisition.

A German study of 2004 shows that one in four men have experienced physical violence from the current or previous partner at least once. So is domestic violence against men really the same as violence against women? Can you talk about a subject that is detached from gender and do men need the same help as women?

All in all it can be said: women still suffer more from domestic violence than men. To say that domestic violence is not a gendered topic would be false because both the quantity, the forms and arguably the reasons are different for men and women. In a British study of 2001 this is illustrated. “Women are the overwhelming majority of the most heavily abused group. Among people subject to four or more incidents of domestic violence from the perpetrator of the worst incident (since age 16), 89 per cent were women. Thirty-two per cent of women had experienced domestic violence from this person four or more times compared with only 11 per cent of men.” Women are hurt and killed a lot more often due to domestic violence, sexual violence is also very marginal for men. For men, the set of problems is a different one.

For every refuge house for battered men in Germany, three in total, there are 145 battered women’s houses. Although the conscience for the subject is rising, there are still less men who even want to get help and the estimated number of unreported cases is very high. Men are still seen as the perpetrator and it is not common for them to see themselves as victims. Some forms like bar fights are sometimes seen as “normal”. The threshold is much higher for them even to admit to themselves that they are experiencing unjustified violence. Arguably, the male role in society has not changed as much in the past decades as the female and violence of women against men is still a taboo theme.. The feeling that they should put these things away because they’re a man is still widespread. Some forms like sexual violence when the victim is still a minor or when it is carried out by a woman are so stigmatised that men rarely ask for help or speak about it.

The cases of non-severe violence like shoving or scratching are higher when the perpetrator is female but women do hurt men as well. They make use of objects more often, like throwing things. Also, studies have shown, psychological violence, insulting, belittlement or humiliation, is very common. Many men report of excessive control over social contacts, where they went and when they came home.

So what is done about it? Some countries like the UK have recently funded more help for men suffering from domestic violence. There are also projects by individual cities like Stuttgart that focus on the subject and want to raise awareness. Psychological help and counselling is given to men and there are three apartments as a safe shelter for them.

The subject stays complex. Since the British law, there have been complaints by women’s support organizations which have been obligated to cut the help for women because of the obligation to build an infrastructure for men. Despite the awareness campaigns, men do not seek help as much as women though. The centres have to turn people away while there are unused resources on the other end. They argue that help should be distributed by need and that statistics claiming that men are as affected by domestic violence are misleading. 

For me, there are some conclusions to this. As men and women struggle with different gender stereotypes, the problems stemming from domestic violence are also differentiated. And the subject must be handled senstitively and differentiatedely. There has to be tailored help as well as awareness raising for the different needs of a victim. This is the most important thing. Because domestic violence, caused by men or women, with a female or male victim can cause deep harm, physical and psychological.





Female violence:


Domestic violence against men:


Statistics of crime, Police Berlin, 2013:


German study by the ministry of family, 2006, violence against men, short version:,did=20526.html


German study by the Robert-Koch-Institute, Violence against men and women, 2013:


Stuttgart’s initiative against domestic violence against men:


British Study, 2001:


Gender neutral domestic violence services?:





I found this article very interesting. The title was particularly inviting and the article did a good job of presenting the facts. I think it was an interesting example of the impact "gendering" an issue can have. This means looking at it from a gendered perspective, which has been one of the goals of gender studies. Domestic violence has been considered from a gendered perspective already for a long time but this has meant ignoring the male victims and possibly the female perpetrators. In this case, however, having a gendered perspective might be important. The question here is: is it possible to look at domestic violence without the gendered perspective? Is it necessary even in the case of men? I also thought the comment about bar fights was particularly relevent. Men are victims of violence in those types of contexts far more than women but it is not seen as a gendered issue. It could be worth considering whether the gendered perspective stigmatises the issue, making it harder for men who suffer from violence at all because of the "victim" label associated with it. However, not taking gender into account would be missing an important issue. The balance seems like a difficult one to strike, as the article highlights

Dear Anne Sophie,
I find your article very interesting, first because it is an “unusual” subject, still very few publicized, and I’ve learned a lot thanks to it. It is difficult to measure the size of this problem because no one talks about it. As a women, and as a young citizen, I’ve been sensitized about domestic violence perpetrated by men on women, but never the contrary, and I confess that it is a bit difficult to imagine it, because of the very fact that women are most of the time physically weaker than men. Furthermore, this situation has been unthinkable for a long time because of the scheme of the family: the man earns money and conducts the family and the woman is submitted to him. Nowadays, with the evolution of the society, I think that this issue is more visible both because men and women in a couple are increasingly “equal” and that men have more opportunities to talk about this problem. But as you said, it is still hard to gauge at what point men are also victims of domestic violence, and I particularly agree with two reasons you evoke: first the violence perpetrated by women on men are different and less detectable, less physical and more psychological, and secondly because for a man, it’s probably even more difficult than for a women to confess being a victim, I think that a lot of men who suffer from this prefer remaining silent than being humiliated. Furthermore, they take the risk to not be taken seriously (even me, at the beginning of my comment, told that it was unusual!). So once again, thanks for writing an article about this topic because people have to be aware that this problem exists.

Dear Louise,
thank you for your comment! I was feeling the same as you when I started writing the article. It really is quite difficult to think of women as perpetrators because of the social assumptions we all make. It is more like a joke, people don't take it as seriously.
Nowadays, power dynamics are often the other way around and the female is the dominant part, which does not always mean more harmony in the relationship. All in all, in my research I found the consensus that generally, more equal relationships lead to less violence, against women and against men. I think, this is interesting to think about, if you imagine an equal relationship, it has to do something with and equalised power dynamic as well.

I found your post thoroughly written. You seem to have reflected a lot on the topic, you did lots of research and had structured your article pertinently. It was great to read. A French writer, Sophie Torrent wrote a book about it: "the beaten man: a taboo in the heart of the taboo”, a book that I didn't read it yet but that I kept in mind for a while. The author draws on mens testimonies who recognize have been abused. They explain why it is so hard to talk about it, the consequences that this entails on male identity, the strategies put in place to limit the physical violence. This is indeed the dignity of man that it is question in this book. Also, always on this topic, I realized this semester a lecture on the aggressive behavior by gender. The concept of aggression is complex, refers to several realities. We can distinguish different forms of violence (verbal, psychological, physical impairment, physical) and various factors (genetic and environmental). What's more, culture has a big influence on aggressive behavior of individuals, as well as social events such as provocation, stereotypes, prejudices and “expected” behavior dictated by societal norms. The most important is to be careful to not make hasty generalizations : men like women can be very aggressive as well as not at all.

About the author

Hi, my name is Anne and I study sociology at the university of Potsdam. I love languages, to read and to travel.