Carolyn Hax: Advice

Help available for abused husbands too

Carolyn Hax
Carolyn Hax

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Hi, Carolyn: I don’t know where to start with this one, so I appreciate your help. I have a male relative who’s being physically and verbally abused by his wife. It looks like he’s now ready to leave the situation (yay!) but we want to give him additional protections and support. Can you recommend reliable support groups for him pre- and post-leaving? And/or a “sponsor” possibly? He sees a psychologist on a regular basis, but I was thinking he might find more solace with others who are going through or have been through a similar situation.

We tried to find something a few years ago, but the only ones we found were for gay men, and they tried to be helpful and we appreciated it, but they didn’t have the resources. If it matters, the person is in New England. Thanks.

Supporting a Male Domestic Abuse Victim

The National Domestic Violence Hotline in recent years has improved its outreach to men. There are other groups that provide services specifically to men, but a lot of them are still local in their focus. As it is for women, the Hotline is still a quick way to figure out which of them is available in a given region. 1-800-799-SAFE.

If I read your letter correctly, you’ve stuck by your friend through this for a while – and good for you for doing so. What seems like a no-brainer from the outside can be extremely difficult to recognize, challenge and escape from within.

Re: Male Domestic Abuse Victims: I’d just like to show my support for this person. There is still a lot of stigma and lack of seriousness about male domestic abuse.

I was verbally and emotionally abused by my former fiancee for years and many people laughed it off when I talked about it. How can a man so much bigger than a woman be abused?

It’s not a laughing matter and it does happen, probably more frequently than people think. I’m thankful to the people who helped me get out of my situation and wish the best for this person, too.

Anonymous

Thank you for this. I agree that it happens a lot more than many realize.

In part the scoffing at men as victims is to blame, but also I think some blame goes to stereotypes of male-female relationships (or just couplehood in general). The she-nags, he-says-yes-dear trope often allows bystanders to write off controlling women as normal, when in fact a dynamic where one half of a couple exerts its will over the other half through pressure and threats is bad regardless of how the X’s and Y’s are distributed between them.

Anyone who tiptoes around a partner for fear of setting him or her off is being controlled by that person’s anger and volatility, and anyone being controlled is not being him- or herself. Period. Societal judgments about how things are supposed to be don’t help; they only further drown out a person’s inner voice on what he or she really needs.

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com or chat with her online at 10 a.m. Mountain time each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.

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