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Recognizing Male Victim-Survivors

Men can be victims of domestic violence. Domestic violence can happen to anyone.

Media and socialization may lead you to believe otherwise but the truth is men, and people of all genders, can be and are victims of domestic violence.

Abuse against men can start at a very young age and the effect carries on with them into adulthood. When it comes to sexual violence, domestic violence, and dating violence, men who reported abuse have indicated that not only were they sexually assaulted both as a child and as an adult, but also their struggles with intimate partner violence continues indefinitely as victims and/or perpetrators.

Increased Rates of Violence in Indian Country

According to the recent National Institute of Justice report, statistics show that there is an increased rate of violence among intimate partners in Indian Country. In the male category alone, four out of five men have experienced violence in their lifetime; one in four has experienced sexual violence; one in three has endured physical violence by an intimate partner and nearly three in four have experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner. Fortunately, there is work being done to reduce this rate of violence.

“There isn’t a lot of research out there especially when it comes to Native American men,” said Lenny Hayes, MA, Executive Director of Tate Topa Consulting, explaining that even the highest rates of violence recorded are most likely underestimated due to the stigma associated with men and boys being sexually abused. “I feel that within the Native community, we haven’t even begun to acknowledge or create a safe space for Native men to heal.”

Eliminating Barriers

As a mental health therapist, Hayes works with children, adults, Native people, Two-Spirt and LGBTQ individuals. He remains adamant that males need to break down the barriers of silence and the stigma of being a victim of sexual violence. Regardless of gender, all victims need to be acknowledged, supported and have resources available to them.

“If men weren’t brought up in a healthy environment, they don’t know how to have a healthy relationship in adulthood. We need to create a safe space for men in our communities to heal,” says Hayes.

Hayes is encouraged by Native men who have thanked him after they told him about their own personal experiences. “My response is to acknowledge [them] and express that I believed [them],” said Hayes explaining that acknowledgment is an important first step to finding the help they need.

Moving Forward

Understanding that males are victims of sexual, domestic violence, and dating violence includes breaking the silence and breaking down barriers. Being a victim is not a sign of weakness. Acknowledging a need to heal is a measure of a victim’s strength and ability to survive.

Here are a few ideas to help men affected by domestic violence:

  • Believe victim-survivors: One of the most important things that we can do to support male victim-survivors is to simply believe. Listen without questioning the victim’s experience.
  • Document the abuse: Suggest that they keep track of the abuse. They can take pictures, keep a calendar or start journaling as a way to document the abuse. Documenting the abuse can help in two ways: It can be a cathartic way to deal with negative emotions and it may also help the victim to obtain legal aid later on. Remind them that if they decide to document the abuse, to keep their document secure so their partner can’t destroy the evidence and so they can remain safe while they figure out the next steps in the relationship.
  • Find a support system: Perhaps there’s a good friend or relative that they can confide in when talking about what they are experiencing. Having a strong support system could be vital to their emotional well-being. Creating and nurturing healthy relationships can help heal some of the mental trauma from abuse.
  • Encourage them to take a proactive approach to their own safety: Keeping their mental, emotional and physical sanity in check are great ways for them to remain grounded during and after a situation of abuse.
  • Encourage them to do things that make them happy and feel good about themselves. Perhaps they like to play basketball, create art or read.
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More Articles About male victims

For Native male victim-survivors, there can be an added layer of silence and stigma in seeking help.

There are many myths around intimate partner violence, particularly around victims who identify as men