PSHE: Violence against males

Written by: Karen Sullivan | Published:
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Much focus is rightly placed on domestic violence against women. But men can be victims too. Continuing her series, Karen Sullivan looks at this rarely discussed issue

In my last article, we discussed the fact that an increasing number of young people are in toxic relationships and the victims of domestic violence (Relationship violence, SecEd, September 2016:

While much research focuses on the impact of children witnessing domestic violence in their homes, there is no doubt that being subject to abuse has serious ramifications for both physical and emotional wellbeing.

Not long ago, I listened to a radio interview that left me very uneasy. A rugby-playing, well-built man had been beaten (nearly to death) by his five-foot wife, over a period of six years – the duration of their marriage – on an almost daily basis.

He’d never reported it. Their children never mentioned it. A one-off I thought? But no, according to the statistics, not at all.

So, do we educate boys to understand that they can be victims, too? That their experiences are every bit as terrifying, debilitating and real as those that affect female victims of domestic abuse, even if they are less prevalent?

Wouldn’t it be natural for most young men to keep it quiet and to suffer in silence – what we have spent a decade trying to ensure that abused women don’t do? Are we genuinely aware of how prevalent this actually is?

First and foremost, this is a serious problem. I am not in any way negating the damage wreaked by men on women (I have already tackled this in my previous article and will return to this next time as well), however there are far more support networks, refuges and institutions organised to help female victims than there are for men. England, for example, has 7,500 refuge places for women and 60 for men. And yet, this is an increasingly widespread issue.

In 2006, RB Felson found that while men are eight times more likely to commit overall violence than women, there is gender parity in partner violence.

Domestic violence statistics show that the number of women perpetrating domestic abuse against their partners has more than quadrupled in the past 10 years from 2005.

A 2014 British Crime Survey found this: “Of those that suffered partner abuse in 2014/15, a higher proportion of men suffered from force (37 per cent) than women (29 per cent). For emotional and psychological abuse the proportions were 61 and 63 per cent respectively. Of those that suffered from partner abuse in 2012/13, 29 per cent of men and 23 per cent of women suffered a physical injury.

“Thirty per cent of men who suffer partner abuse have emotional and mental problems (47 per cent women). Only 27 per cent of men sought medical advice while 73 per cent of women did.”

Another study found that 71 per cent of “non-reciprocal” partner violence (in other words, not in retaliation) is instigated by women.

And while the number of women killed through domestic violence is double that of men, in some parts of Britain it is the other way round. For example, in Cornwall, men made up four out of the five most recent victims.

I had a peek at the some of the current programmes designed for PSHE, and many were impressive. There are important discussions on types of violence, and some terrific teacher notes for helping not just to raise awareness but also to support victims.

The problem is that they are very female oriented – making the assumption that only women are victims.
There is little mention of boys or even same-sex abuse, and this needs to be changed. Some 18 per cent of boys have reported some form of physical violence, and that doesn’t even touch on the many other types of abuse.

Nor does it take into consideration that reporting is a big step for any victim, and perhaps more so for boys who respond differently to abuse and might not consider what they are experiencing to be domestic violence. Both genders need to recognise this as a problem, understand what constitutes abuse and that this type of behaviour is unacceptable in any relationship.

First, however, bring up this subject in your next PSHE session. Be prepared for sniggers, for just as misogyny prevented many female victims from being taken seriously over the centuries, there are many people who simply won’t believe that a man can be abused by a women, not a “real” man anyhow. This is the type of stereotype we need to erase, and providing some of the statistics should make sobering listening.

In my next article after half-term, I will continue this series by looking again at domestic violence and girls – and then I will move on to how we can put a stop to domestic abuse, and support the victims, no matter what their gender.

  • Karen Sullivan is a best-selling author, psychologist and childcare expert. Email To read her previous articles for SecEd, go to


  • Teenage Relationship Abuse: A teacher’s guide to violence and abuse in teenage relationships, the Home Office:
  • Starting in school: To end domestic violence, Refuge (including what young women understand about domestic violence):
  • Expect Respect: A toolkit for addressing teenage relationship abuse in key stage 3, 4, and 5, Home Office:


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