Although the majority of victims of domestic violence are women, seven percent are men. Since a desire for power and control is at the heart of domestic violence, according to the Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the behaviors cut across gender lines.
Emotional, verbal and mental abuse is a more common method of control perpetrated by female abusers, primarily due to socialization and differences in physical strength, according to studies done by the Domestic Violence Intervention Project.
Emotional abuse as defined by material from the Women's Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh, is any behavior that exploits another's vulnerability, insecurity, or character. Such behaviors include continuous degradation, intimidation, manipulation, brainwashing, or control of another to the detriment of the individual
Program Director at the Time Out Shelter, Gina Elliot, has facilitated groups for abused men.
"If she's calling you on your cell phone 20 times a day, asking where you are and getting angry when you aren't where you're supposed to be, that's abusive," Elliot said. "It works both ways."
Statistics on abused men may be skewed by a reluctance to talk about or report the abuse, according to Elliot.
"Men are less apt to reach out for help," Elliot said. "They may be less eager to talk about it."
Just like female victims, men may be embarrassed and think it's their fault or there is something wrong with them.
It is also important to note that domestic violence occurs in 25 to 30 percent of lesbian and gay relationships -- the same statistical frequency as heterosexual relationships, according to the ACADV.
(Due to his wish for anonymity since he is a Payson resident, the name David will be used)
David saw some warning signs, but ignored them and married Janet.
"Her abuse was manipulation," David said. "She had a set plan in mind for what she wanted for herself without any regard or consideration for my feelings. She was using me and taking advantage of me."
David recalls a chilling statement his former wife made to him one day.
"She looked me right in the eye and said, ‘As long as I get what I want, we'll be fine,'" he said.
David repeatedly tried to express his concerns, only to get cut off.
"Part of the abuse was that when I did express my feelings, it was thrown back at me -- I was ‘too sensitive,' I ‘talk too much,' ‘there was something wrong with me,'" David said. "I went to counseling and tried to set healthy boundaries. She would fight me the whole way. She never took responsibility for anything, never apologized, everything was my fault."
Janet used silence as a form of abuse.
"She'd punish me with four days of the silent treatment," David said. "And I didn't have a clue what I did wrong and she wouldn't tell me."
David said that Janet would often use the Bible to excuse her actions.
"She would quote Bible verses all the time," David said. "She ran up balances on the credit card and then said that God is a forgiving God and would somehow miraculously take away our debt."
Economic issues further exacerbated the marital strife.
"At one point, she said she could no longer work because she said she had anxiety attacks," David said. "But she continued to spend money and even an inheritance I got from my grandmother."
David decided to go to a counselor.
"I was really questioning myself and my actions," David said. "I had completely lost my sense of self."
David's counselor helped him realize that he was being emotionally and verbally abused by his wife.
David eventually decided to divorce his wife, but that was not the end of his struggle.
"It was a long road," David said. "I went to Co-dependents Anonymous Meetings. I found that there was a way out and most importantly, that I wasn't alone."
Elliot encourages men to reach out for help if they need to.
There are red flags to watch for that may indicate abusive behavior. The following are common behaviors of both abusive men and women as referred to in the book, The Verbally Abusive Relationship by Patricia Evans.
Warning signs of an abusive personality
- A push for quick involvement: Comes on very strong, claims "I've never felt loved like this by anyone."
- Jealousy: Excessively possessive, calls constantly or visits unexpectedly, prevents you from going to work or anywhere because you "might meet someone." Checks the mileage on your car.
- Controlling: Interrogates you intensely about who you talked to and where you were, insists you ask permission to go anywhere or do anything.
- Unrealistic expectations: Expects you to be the "perfect" man/woman and meet their every need.
- Isolation: Tries to cut you off from friends or family.
- Blames others for problems or mistakes: Things are always someone else's fault.
- Verbal abuse: Constantly criticizes, belittles, says blatantly cruel and hurtful things.
- Sudden mood swings: Switches from sweetly loving to explosively violent in a matter of minutes.
- The silent treatment: Withdraws, refuses to talk as punishment.
- Minimizing, denying: Ignoring or minimizing your feelings, denying they are real.
- Using the children: Uses children to make you feel guilty, to relay messages. Threatening to take away the children.
- Consistently disregarding, ignoring or neglecting your requests or needs.
- Name calling.
- Yelling, screaming, rampaging, terrorizing.
- Withholding affection as punishment.
- Controlling interpersonal communication: Block and divert techniques, getting angry, using tactics that prevent you from being able to express yourself.