The myth called masculinity: Can men also be victims of domestic abuse?

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Mary Ndu, Ph.D. Candidate, Health and Rehabilitation Sciences (Health Promotion)


“Men know from [the] experience of other men and maybe from some previous contact with the criminal justice system or any help agencies that they will not be trusted. They will not be believed. They will be laughed at.” —Alexandra Lysova.


In the past few weeks, the world has watched in awe as Amber Heard and Johnny Depp share intimate details and the violence in their marriage. From the stories and evidence shown in court, Amber was perceived as an instigator, trying to grasp fame using the #MeToo movement. I have to say that I am neither a fan of Amber Heard nor Johnny Depp, but the verdict, like the trial, is a litmus test on feminist ideals. It does not only force us to rethink our position on men as victims of domestic abuse but also as perpetrators. The verdict opens the door for the voices of men who, until today, were too scared to speak up because of toxic masculinity. It also highlights the many stories we read and watch in the media. For instance, the story of Stanley Obi, the Nigerian-Australian killed by his ex and mother of his children and Dan Jones, who went to jail for six years for rape and domestic violence.  

I have read analyses and opinions on the trial and what it means for feminists and the #MeToo movement. In many of these articles, like the op-ed in The Star, the writers are alarmed at the potential impact it will have on domestic violence/intimate partner survivors. I have not heard one person question her actions or denounce the evidence against her. What does that mean? Do we stand behind every woman who commits a heinous crime in solidarity because we do not want the menfolks to think we are weak? My question really is, at what point do we begin to critically look at issues regardless of how it impacts us as feminists? Are we as feminists willing to admit that our sons, fathers, and brothers could also be victims of stalking and intimate partner violence?

My interest in reflecting on this is not to relegate women’s experiences. Instead, I want to highlight a dangerous trend that could mean new problems in the future if left unchecked.

In the Uk, more than 40% of domestic violence victims are male. 1 in 6-7 men will experience domestic violence in their lifetime compared to 1 in 4 women. About half of these men will not report their abusers, with about 11% considering suicide as a way out. The US CDC lists violence against men as a public health concern, with 1 in 10 men experiencing and reporting intimate partner violence once in their life. Statistics Canada found that more men than women experience intimate partner violence in Canada. In 2021 based on a 2019 study (Lysova, Dutton & Dim, 2019), Statistics Canada included a correction notice in the 2014 Family Violence in Canada Statistical profile report stating that;

On December 7, 2021, findings that indicated equal prevalence of males and females who experienced violence committed by a current or former spouse or common-law partner were corrected to reflect that they were, in fact, different to a statistically significant degree: males = 4.2% and females = 3.5%.” --Statistics Canada

I come from a highly patriarchal society, and many cultures are patriarchal. I know the natural position of society is that women are weak, men are strong, women are nurturers and caretakers, and men are providers. Historically, society has formalized these positions, resulting in the persistent need to control women’s bodies and choices. As such, it will be amiss to dismiss the multitude of women who have experienced one form of violence or the other in the hands of men. Global evidence shows that women are still disproportionately affected by many social and health issues. Acknowledging the problems affecting men does not negate this truth. However, achieving true equality requires a collaborative effort on multiple fronts. Slater (2019) notes “that the detoxification of masculinity is an essential pathway to gender equality.” I have always stood for involving men in gendered issues not as perpetrators alone but as survivors. Only in demystifying the man as alpha, solid and infallible can we address many of the social issues facing women. The feminist dominant discourse that all women are victims and all men perpetrators need to change. The danger of a single story is that it becomes difficult to see anything else once one focuses on it. This singular narrative is why many boys get sexually abused and refuse to tell; why men refuse to report domestic violence, with many ending in death.

As feminists, we talk about taking an intersectional lens on issues. As proud as I am to identify as a black feminist, I know it is slippery. I know I have disadvantages stacked against me. However, I also know that to make the kind of change I want to see for women and girls requires recognizing men, not just as allies. We need to open up the space for safe conversations or somewhat contradictory discussions that might not support decades of focus on women as the only victims of domestic violence. We have to be ready for challenging conversations and not continue to go on the defensive when a problem does not favour the feminist narrative. It cannot always be anti-feminist or retrogressive when contrary discourse exists. Maybe sometimes it is just what it is, an issue that needs a solution not an attack on women or women’s rights.

As a woman who could have daughters and sons someday, I would raise sons that are feminists, respectful, mindful of their privileges in society, and strong enough to be vulnerable. I would raise women who are strong, pacesetters, equipped with the knowledge to navigate a society that tricked them into believing they are not worth more, but with the compassion to understand that society also tricked men into believing in the “fixed characteristics of manhood” (deGay et al., 2017).

We are raising men who are feminists, but what are we raising our feminist daughters to be?





Atwood, B. (2020) Male victims are being left out of the domestic violence conversation


deGay, J., Breckin, T., and Reus, A. (2017). Virginia Woolf and Heritage. Liverpool University Press.

Slater, M. (2019) The Problem With a Fight Against Toxic Masculinity. The Atlantic Online. Accessed June 5, 20222


Lysova, A., Dim, E. E., and Dutton, D. (2019). Prevalence and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence in Canada as Measured by the National Victimization Survey. Partner Abuse, 10(2), 199–221.


Slater, M. (2019) The Problem With a Fight Against Toxic Masculinity. The Atlantic Online. Accessed June 5, 20222


Statistics on Male Victims of Domestic Abuse Accessed May 28, 2022



Photo by Stefano Pollio on Unsplash