While many people still think of domestic violence as a women’s issue, there are many instances in which the victim of intimate partner violence is male. This is the case in both heterosexual and same-sex relationships. While it is common for all domestic violence cases to go unreported, this can be especially true for cases in which the victim is male, as stigma often perpetuates the false ideas that men cannot be victims or should be able to handle it.
For this reason, it is especially important that male victims are validated when they do come forward about experiencing domestic violence. As we discuss in our complete Intimate Partner Violence resource, “[medical] provider responses tend to shape the patient’s future disclosure of sensitive information and impact that person’s ability to develop a therapeutic relationship regarding violence issues.” Since social conventions may discourage men from seeking help, the provider’s response may be extra vital in these cases.
According to Intimate Partner Violence, there are many factors that are important to consider when a patient, especially a male patient, discloses domestic violence.
As always, it is important to listen in a nonjudgmental manner. Do not reinforce harmful stereotypes that men cannot experience domestic violence, or that it makes him weak. Acknowledge and validate the patient’s experiences and encourage further disclosure.
As with female patients, it is equally important to document the specific details of each instance of abuse reported, including dates and times when possible. Anywhere possible, directly quote the patient in records.
It is also crucial to assess the risk for future abusive events and provide safety planning for the victim. We have chapters on Safety Planning in Intimate Partner Violence and Violence Against Women. Both of these books include details on intimate partner violence against men as well as women.
Safety assessments are especially important in all domestic violence situations, but are often neglected due to time constraints or concerns from the doctor that he or she is not qualified to make a safety assessment. For this reason, it is crucial for medical professionals to feel confident in their knowledge of safety assessments.
At the very minimum, safety assessments should include frequency of instances of violence, accessibility of weapons in the home, abuse of drugs or alcohol, stalking behaviors, and prior legal record.