Women Abuse Too: A Man’s Experience with Abuse

Domestic violence is finally stepping into the spotlight it has always deserved and while I am thrilled about the prospect of empowering women to identify abusive males, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the other half of abusers: the females.

It’s difficult to understand abuse when you look at it solely through the eyes of gender roles. It is hard for some people to understand how a woman, generally portrayed as small and weak, can abuse a man, generally portrayed as large and unmovable. It is extremely important to view each situation not in terms of gender roles, but in terms of a relationship with two people participating. A person’s physical stature cannot determine whether they are capable of abuse because one would be making assumptions about what a person is capable of. Although domestic violence often culminates in physical abuse: there are many other types of abuse happening simultaneously that break down a person’s mental and physical wellbeing (see: gaslighting, financial abuse, and isolation).
The reality is abusive personalities know no gender, race or socioeconomic status. Anyone can be an abuser.

There have been men in my life who have shared their stories of abusive females. I am sharing each of them in a two-part post to contextualize the two types of abuse: relationship and familial.

Experience A: The relationship

The man in this example had no experience with domestic violence until he was 23. He admits now that he did struggle with what a healthy relationship looked like as he had very few examples to learn from growing up. Most of the adults in his life ending up divorcing after 18 years of strained, awkward interactions that were the essence of relationships. There was little communication, physical discomfort and frequent degradation of one or both parents, generally in the presence of the children. So when a relationship came along that was fun, affectionate, positive and exciting, he thought he had hit the jackpot. He was not aware that his limited experiences had set him up to be a perfect candidate for love-bombing: a strategy abusers use to win over their significant others in a short amount of time.

He had been dating a woman and things had been going well for several months when they decided to move in together. Almost immediately things began to change. She became withdrawn and cold, often refusing affection, physical touch or acknowledgment for no given reason. If she was angry, she would remain silent for days, refusing to acknowledge he was even home. Soon after this form of gaslighting started, the controlling behavior began. She called him frequently while he was at work, checking up on him, making sure he was “where he was supposed to be”. He found himself leaving work at exactly 5:00 despite repercussions he would receive for his job not being entirely complete (he was salaried after all). On his way home he was hypervigilant and nervous, constantly calculating how long it would take him to get home. In the even that there was a delay he would start to panic, even if the delay was normal (i.e. a wreck, traffic, weather). He knew what would happen if he did not arrive at the exact minute she expected him. Her behavior would escalate into near hysterics by the time he arrived home. One such argument ended with a can of Pledge being thrown at his face and busting open his eye. She immediately calmed and apologized profusely for that incident. He thought that was as out of control as things would get and surely, she would not let it escalate that far again.

As Thanksgiving approached, they made plans to attend family gatherings. The relationship had not even been established for a year at this point. The two families held separate gatherings. As it turned out each family had scheduled their gathering on the same day. The families were approximately 3 hours, one direction, from each other so it wasn’t plausible to visit both. He decided he wanted to go to his family while she visited hers. This decision caused another argument and she flat out refused to “allow” him to visit his family for the holiday. She did not want him going anywhere alone, even if he would be with family. She was convinced he would use this time to cheat on her, despite there being no evidence or suspicion that he had cheated at any point. This argument escalated and she once again threw a glass at him, this time narrowly missing his face and smashing into the wall. He told her he was leaving and he went to his family, spending a few days with them while he thought about what he should do. While he was gone, she engaged in sexual relations with another man. Despite the hurt this caused, the couple reconciled as she promised to get help for herself and make an honest effort in their relationship. Two weeks later, the phone calls at work and screaming matches at home began again. One day, while she was at work, he called a moving company, packed up his belongings and moved out. He called her at work and let her know he was leaving. She was hysterical and asked him to come over so they could talk. He obliged, visiting her a couple of times in the evening. He felt bad for having left and she was visibly upset. Just as he thought maybe he had made the wrong choice, the red flags appeared. After the second visit, the accusations, name calling and screaming began again. Repeated phone calls and inquiries about where he was at, even though they were no longer a couple. It was then that he realized things would never change. He cut off all contact with her, blocking her number and moving into an unknown address. She never saw him again.

This relationship is a vivid example of emotional abuse that escalated into a few physical encounters. Although this man never felt that his life was in danger, he did recognize the recurring red flags and the negative physical and mental effect the relationship was having on him. Looking back on the relationship helped him identify more red flags that he hadn’t seen in the beginning: clingy, possessive behavior in their early weeks of dating, a fast move into a committed relationship by living together and sharing finances, as well as her perpetual unhappiness about generally everything in her life. Despite coming from a wealthy family and having lots of resources at her disposal she refused to get help for her behavior. She refused to take accountability for her behavior unless he threatened to leave. And she repeatedly engaged in cycles of blaming, control and harassment. She hated everyone and everything in her life, she was the victim in absolutely every story she had. At the end of the day she was an individual with deep personality and psychological issues. And as far as he knew, she never received help.


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