Domestic violence. It’s all around us. It’s the cashier at the grocery story who says, “It was just an accident and he’ll never do it again.” It’s your coworker who says, “No, he’s right. I am stupid.” But it also might be the man next to you on the bus, with the bruises on him, and a sense of worthlessness. Domestic violence has been called one of the number one health issues in the US for women, according to Former Surgeon General, Dr. C Everett Koop. However, according to Denis Campbell, about 40 percent of domestic violence victims are male. Many people wonder if the injuries inflicted on men are as severe as they are for women. Perhaps some men are more ashamed that a female is attacking them, and they are afraid to report the abuse. It is a real issue facing men in our society, even if the numbers aren’t as big as domestic violence on females. If we ever want to truly be equal among genders, we have to hold everyone accountable for their actions. Through this paper, I will discuss the differences in domestic violence between men and women, the long-term effects on men from domestic violence, and the theory about testosterone-driven violence, while also giving insight into women who have committed domestic violence.
When women are victims of domestic violence, the chances of someone not believing them are very slim. They tend to wait to report the violence out of fear of angering their abuser, a sense of still needing their abuser, whether it is a place to live or financial security, and because they have convinced themselves it’s not as bad as it seems. Despite these cases, women are still 7 to 14 times more likely to report their abuse than men. When men do report their domestic violence, the police are less likely to believe them. According to Denis Campbell, men are treated as “second-class victims.” The issue is largely overlooked by police and the media, and the actual numbers are vastly underreported. This is due to a fear of appearing weak and unmanly. Our society places expectations on each gender. Men are stereotyped to be strong, and unaffected by the physical actions or words of women. Women are stereotyped as being soft and incapable of violence. If we do become physically violent, it’s considered unladylike, but even verbal and emotional abuse still has a lasting effect. Constant name-calling, isolating the victim from his family and friends, threatening them, or making irrational accusations are all signs that someone might be a victim of domestic abuse (Plus Media Solutions, 2016). As a result of domestic violence, men often develop high levels of anxiety and depression. They feel they can’t come forward about any of their issues. Just as in the case of domestic violence, men’s resulting mental illness is often not taken seriously and goes untreated.
One case of domestic violence is the story of Thomas Parker. He said before the abuse he was never considered a depressed or angry person, but the things his girlfriend said and did to him ruined him. Parker said he came home and found out his girlfriend had cheated on him. When he finally came out of the bedroom after collecting his thoughts, she began hitting him and threatening him with a pair of scissors. According to TIME, female abusers are often not as strong as male abusers but are more likely to resort to using a weapon. Parker said he tried to escape, and even tried to break the bedroom window, but fell to the floor, having an anxiety attack. Parker went 11 months being beaten by his girlfriend, unaware that any services for male victims existed. Some people encouraged him to fight back, but he was taught to never hit women. Parker said his girlfriend’s violence came out of nowhere.
One of the biggest questions regarding the study of domestic violence is how people become violent. Are they born that way, is there a mental reason, or did they one day just snap? Female victims often say their abusers were never violent before. They often blame themselves for what happened to them because of this. Some theories say men are naturally born violent because of their high levels of testosterone. It is believed that this is why men commit 90 percent of all homicides, and 20-25 percent of all men have admitted to committing a sexual assault or rape. Most cases of female crime are petty things, such as theft. When females are violent, they are usually violent toward an intimate partner or relative. According to Medical Daily, a study done shows women are more likely to commit intimate partner violence or IPV. These women have become known as intimate terrorists, and they are more likely to be psychologically damaging than men. The study showed that women have more of a desire to control their partners, and are therefore more likely to be physically and verbally abusive, while men are more likely to be sexually abusive. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 48.8 percent of men have experienced at least one psychologically aggressive behavior. Four in 10 men have experienced some form of coercive control, such as manipulation, threats, or exploitation.
One example of a spontaneous female violent outburst is in the case of Olympic Gold Medalist, Hope Solo. According to a TIME magazine article, she attacked her sister and 17-year-old nephew in a violent, drunken outburst. Solo fought against a push to get her off the Olympic soccer team by saying if NFL players with a history of violence are still allowed to play, she should be allowed to continue her sport as well. The TIME article argues that random acts of violence are a result of misogyny. Women are essentially, fighting back more than ever before, but more often than not, violence from both genders is not directed at each other, but rather at a family member. A 1975 sociological study by Murray Straus and Richard Gelles shows that women reported hitting a spouse just as much as men, and men reported being hit just as often. They initially thought the women were defending themselves, but when asked who struck who first, women had thrown the first hit just as often as men. Same-sex couples also report female violence. A February CDC study found that 44 percent of lesbian couples have experienced violence from a partner during their lifetime, compared to 35 percent of straight women, 26 percent of gay men, and 29 percent of straight men. These statistics show that women are more than capable of becoming violent to a family member or partner, but is it a reaction to misogyny, or is violence caused by biology? According to another article from “The Doctor Weighs In,” the average level of testosterone in men is 20-200 percent, and men with levels over 400 percent are more likely to commit a violent act.
This takes me to the case of Aileen Wuornos, a famed serial killer, and the 10th woman in the United States to be put to death. She was executed by lethal injection in Florida for murdering seven men. All of her victims had either raped or attempted to rape her. Wuornos was found to have extremely increased levels of testosterone, noted by her prominent brow and blood tests. She was found to have higher levels than most adolescent boys. Aileen was described as unpredictable and easily angered. She had a blatant disregard for human emotions and often faced legal charges for substance abuse and violent rages. She is one of 16 women who was executed by lethal injection in the United States since 1976, all of which were executed for murdering men. Another woman who was executed, Judy Welty, was also found to have high levels of testosterone at the time of her execution.
To summarize, men make up about 40 percent of all domestic violence victims, but other studies show women are just as likely as men to commit an act of violence against a loved one or intimate partner, and in fact are more likely to seek psychological control over their partner. It is unclear whether it is biological or sociological reasons that cause females to become violent, but just like with men, some women have become randomly violent. Women such as Aileen Wuornos and Judy Welty had a history of violent outbursts and were found to have increased levels of testosterone at the time of execution. Whatever the reason for violence, it affects both males and females, and both genders should be taught that it is okay to come forward. In the fight to be recognized as equal, we need to recognize we are equally capable of committing violent acts, being victims, and being voices for domestic violence.