It started innocently enough as any of my guest appearance do. You turn on your mic and camera. You chat for an hour or less about a topic and then it gets published.
All of us that work in the fields of mental health awareness and advocacy of course hope that our work will be seen and helpful to people. But because mental health stigmas abound, especially with men, you just never know.
And this interview seemed like the others. Modest yet important. I had heard from many of my male listeners that experiencing abuse by a person who was emotionally manipulative and controlling was not just a woman problem. Well of course it isn't! And so I reached out to my friend and fellow podcaster, Andy Grant from the Real Men Feel show, to bring the topic up with his listeners, with idea that maybe we could spark the conversation and raise awareness.
Mission. Accomplished. A year or so after its air date, someone shared the YouTube video of our conversation on Reddit. And from there, in under a month, it took off! A nerve was struck and a much-needed door opened for many, MANY men to feel seen and validated by their experience of being in a toxic and abusive relationship with someone.
Watch the video
Men Can Be Victims Too
As strange as it seems that I have to make that a headline, it bears repeating. Women do not have the lock on being victims of domestic or relational abuse. In fact, according to the CDC's National Intimate Partner Violence Survey (NISVS) nearly 25% of men in the U.S. reported some form of contact sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner during their lifetime. And most of these first time victimizations occurred before the age of 25.
But that is only physical violence. What about psychological or emotional abuse? In a study published back in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine (2000), the researchers found that while women are significantly more likely to experience physical or sexual abuse, men were just as likely to experience emotional abuse as women. And overall, emotional abuse within intimate relationships is not only common but most likely the most pervasive form of partner mistreatment.
Stigmas Hurt Men
So, then it's little wonder that a video talking about how men can be victims of intimate partner violence could get so much impassioned attention. However, there are still stigmas in culture about men being emotionally vulnerable and asking for help. There is also bias in our culture, due largely to the misbehaviors of men themselves, to not believe stories from men as victims of abusive women. We can accept it more if a man tells us he's been abused by another man, but when it comes to the he said/she said debates, we tend to believe her over him.
But men have also been socialized to not appear "weak" or they have real difficulties with expressing that they are being treated badly or abused. If they have a history of trauma and abuse, especially from a parent, they may not even see their experience as abusive.
Unfortunately, however, emotional abuse has real consequences. There are numbers of studies that link emotional abuse with poor physical health, depression, and anxiety. And having someone believe your story does not lessen those outcomes. So, even if your experience is not validated, if you are a man in an abusive relationship, you still need to get help.
First, domestic violence hotlines like the National Domestic Violence Hotline, are gender-less and non-judging. When you contact them, they will point you in the direction of resources to help you in your area, discreetly. Federal funding for domestic violence is provided for all victims, so the Hotline can also help if you are being discriminated against.
Second, if you are employed with a company that has an EAP or Employee Assistance Program offered through your human resources department, you may likely be able to get free counseling and referrals to other services to help.
A few other organizations that I have connected with are The Good Men Project and the witty but very serious, ManTherapy.org. By the way, if you want to hear the story behind the creation of that last group, check out my episode from Season One, "Men Have Feelings too, Apparently" where I interviewed Dr. Nathaan Demers.
Finally, I'm a bit biased but a podcast like mine is great for getting information and encouragement to help take the steps to leave an abusive situations. In fact, it was from this community of listeners and followers that it was apparent that this topic is somewhat taboo and limited. But I'm not the only one doing something about that. There other men out there, with similar experiences that have created platforms for men to gather and connect with one another. Andy's show, for example, is one of those places. So, reach out - get help. You are not alone.