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Health & Balance

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Help for Battered Men

Domestic violence befalls mostly women, but men are victims, too.

Distinguishing Factors

That is a distinguishing factor between battered women and battered men, explains Brown: Men -- like this one -- are more likely to be embarrassed by their abuse, making them less likely to report it, according to the Domestic Abuse Helpline for Men web site, which states men often worry, "What will people think if they knew I let a woman beat up on me?" and "I don't want to be laughed at; no one would believe me."

Another distinguishing factor is that while women who are abused are more likely to be pushed or shoved, beat up, or threatened with a gun, the women who do the abusing are more likely to throw something, kick or bite, hit with an object, threaten with a knife, or actually use a knife, according to the National Violence Against Women Survey.

And perhaps the most important difference is that women who batter may have a greater ability to use the "system" to their advantage.

"Systemic abuse can occur when a woman who is abusing her husband or boyfriend threatens that he will never see his children again if he leaves or reports the abuse," says Philip Cook, program director of Stop Abuse for Everyone. "A man caught in this situation believes that no matter what his wife or girlfriend does, the court is going to give her custody, and this greatly limits his ability to leave. While this can occur when a woman is being abused, it is more likely to happen when a woman is abusing."

Women, explains Cook, who is author of Abused Men: The Hidden Side of Domestic Violence, may also be able to use the system to their advantage in that they are less likely to be arrested if police are called as a result of a domestic dispute.

"There is no national data on average arrest rates for women in domestic disputes," says Cook. "My best guess is that it's about 20%. But we do know anecdotally that there are many men who, when the police arrive, clearly have the most serious injury, clearly when interviewed separately indicate the female started it, and nonetheless, the man gets arrested. This does indeed happen."

So where can men who are being abused turn for support, and what steps should they take to get out of dangerous situations?

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