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Working with Men who have experienced Domestic Abuse Policy

Policy Objective

Domestic abuse is always unacceptable. Behind Closed Doors supports everyone affected by it, and we act to prevent it. The purpose of this Policy is to support the delivery of our frontline services in our work with men who have experienced domestic violence and sexual abuse. The abuse may have happened within an intimate relationship (a partner or ex-partner in heterosexual or same-sex relationships) or where there is personal connection to someone (e.g., family member such as son, mother, stepsister). The Policy includes information from the extensive research from Respect UK has undertaken and we acknowledge and thank them for their support in helping us develop this, Policy. The Policy also includes practice experience with a wide range of men Behind Closed Doors has supported in the delivery of our front-line services.

This policy is to be followed alongside the risk assessment procedures Behind Closed Doors has in place;

  • Appendix 1 – Worker Safety Risk Assessment
  • Appendix 2 – DASH Risk Assessment
  • Appendix 3 – Enhanced Assessment Tool


Section Title

  1. Men and Domestic Abuse
  2. Harmful Expressions of Masculinity
  3. Coercive Control
  4. Violence and Abuse Perpetrated by Females against Male Victims
  5. Male victims and diversity
  6. Identifying who is doing what and the harm caused
  7. Gay, Bisexual and Trans* (GBT) Men’s Experiences and Domestic Abuse
  8. Appendices

1. Men and Domestic Abuse

What do men tell us about their experiences of domestic abuse? This section describes things experienced by both heterosexual and gay or bisexual
men. There are also some additional experiences which are specific to gay and bisexual men which are expanded on in section 7. Men will experience many forms of abuse that women experiencing domestic abuse will also report, however this section looks to explore the additional experiences male victims have, a lot of which are underpinned by the understanding of harmful expressions of masculinities.

These experiences are examples of what victims tell us – but do not in themselves define being a victim. Some of these may be experienced from a partner who was using self-defence or as an act of violent resistance. Others may come about for other reasons.

Coercion, intimidation and threats

  • Threatening him with violence, if he doesn’t do what she wants him to do or if he does things, she doesn’t want him to do
  • Threatening him that they will call the police or children’s services and allege that the man is the person causing harm
  • Threatening him with other legal proceedings
  • Denying him access to medical care/medicine(s) etc
  • Intimidating him by giving him a threatening look or gesture
  • Destroying his personal items, family heirlooms, computer etc
  • Telling him that nobody will believe him because he is a man
  • Threatening him with knives and other objects as weapons
  • Telling him if he tries to leave, he will never see the children again
  • Depriving him of sleep by making noise, playing loud music, demanding to have conversations when he is trying to sleep etc.

Emotional abuse

  • Putting him down and humiliating him in front of others
  • Calling him names
  • Playing mind games on him, ‘gaslighting him’
  • Blaming him for the abuse
  • Giving him the ‘the silent treatment’, ignoring him
  • Telling him he is not the father of their child(ren)

Sexual abuse

  • Coercing him or threatening him overtly into sex
  • Coercing him into using objects or using objects on him during sex, against his wishes
  • Coercing and pressurising him to perform sexual acts that he does not want; or to have unsafe sex
  • Mocking his sexual behaviour in front of others
  • Threatening consequences unless he participates in sex
  • Coercing him to participate in sexual activities with others against his will
  • Rape and sexual violence

Physical abuse

  • Hitting, punching, slapping, kicking him
  • Using objects to hurt him, sometimes in the groin area
  • Using knives or other sharp objects to attack him
  • Pouring boiling water on him
  • Attacking him when he’s asleep

Using masculinity

  • Forcing him into specific responsibilities and activities based on strict traditional gender roles without any negotiation and threatening consequences if he doesn’t comply
  • Telling him he is not a real man if he does not do certain things or in a certain way

Restricting his independence and freedom

  • Controlling what he does, who he sees, what he reads, who he talks to
  • Restricting or stopping his social life, friends, hobbies
  • Accusing him of having affairs and demanding he doesn’t speak to other men/women
  • Using children
  • Sending him messages through the children
  • Excluding him from activities with children
  • Belittling him for attempts to look after the children, minimising, denial and blame
  • Telling him that the abuse didn’t happen or wasn’t that bad
  • Ignoring his injuries or emotional/mental distress
  • Telling him he was responsible for the abuse, that he deserved or caused it

2. Harmful expressions of masculinities

A gendered analysis of abuse does not exclude men, but it does recognise that women and girls are disproportionately affected by these particular forms of violence because of their gender. It also recognises the damaging effects that traditional gender roles have on men and boys, that the expectations on how they should behave encourage dangerous behaviours and shames men and boys into hiding their emotions. These behaviours and expectations are often referred to as “toxic masculinity”. This is not to say that being a man or masculine is bad, or that liking traditionally masculine things like sports, cars, the opposite sex, etc. is bad or shameful. It also does not mean that women cannot act violently or abusively, more that their behaviour is not supported by a culture that encourages them to be so. The term ‘toxic masculinity’ is interpreted by many as an accusation that all men behave in an abusive and aggressive way. To avoid being misunderstood and to make clear that there are many expressions of masculinities, we use the terms ‘harmful masculinities’ or ‘harmful expressions of masculinities.

These expressions of masculinities often adhere to the typical gendered expectations that men are aggressive, violent, unemotional and dominate their relationships with women and children. It identifies “feminine” traits such as compassion, empathy and the ability to express your emotions as weakness. A man or boy displaying these traits may be laughed at or encouraged to suppress their emotions, which may lead to higher rates of violence,risk-taking behaviour and suicide. Men and boys are often led to believe that being depressed, feeling emotional pain, being bullied, feeling suicidal, experiencing eating disorders, being abused are “feminine” issues and that “real men” do not have them. This can leave men suppressing their pain, lacking the ability and security to talk about their emotions, and to lash out in what they perceive “acceptable” masculine ways, such as substance abuse and violence. For instance, the biggest common denominator in acts of terrorism and mass killings is that almost all of these are carried out by men. Women suffer mental illness at roughly the same rate as men, but almost none commit large-scale violence. Similarly, the levels of suicide for men are much greater than for women, because of social pressure on men not to seek help to deal with their emotional problems.

The weaponisation of masculinity is the culture that shames men for emotional displays or displaying any form of feminised “weakness” and sets the stage for men to act violently towards others. As previously mentioned, men report experiencing many of the forms of abuse experienced by female victims of abuse, however an additional complexity is the weaponisation of masculinity in forms of abuse. By this we mean the use of somebody’s masculinity and undermining of the societal perception of men. People causing harm might use the expectation of gendered roles to abuse, this might take any of the following forms;

  • If you were a real man, you wouldn’t put up with this
  • If you were a real man you’d provide better for your family
  • If you were a real man, you would be able to satisfy me sexually

3. Coercive Control

Research indicates that coercion and control predominantly happens to women who have experienced domestic abuse, however, more men are now coming forward to discuss their experiences. It is a criminal offence in England and Wales for someone to subject you to coercive control. The introduction of coercive control shifts the focus of domestic abuse away from physical violence to consider the emotional and psychological impact of domestic abuse. Coercive control is when a person with whom you are personally connected, repeatedly behaves in a way which makes you feel controlled, dependent, isolated or scared. The following types of behaviour are common examples of coercive control:

  • Monitoring daily activity, including calls, texts and whereabouts
  • Monitoring chores or activities completed at home
  • Repeatedly putting you down, calling you names or telling you that you are
  • Controlling finances and how money is spent
  • Threats to harm you, pets or family
  • Isolating you from seeing friends and family
  • Stopping you from going to work
  • Forcing you to work more
  • Damaging or threatening to damage your property
  • Threatening to share sexual images or videos of you

Somebody using these forms of abuse are using coercive control if:

  1. They are personally connected to you, and
  2. Their behaviour has had a serious effect on you, and
  3. They knew or ought to have known that his behaviour would have a serious effect on you.

Their behaviour is considered to have a serious effect on you if:

  • on at least two occasions you have feared that violence will be used against you, or
  • you have felt serious alarm or distress, and it has had a substantial effect on your usual day to day activities.

If you have changed the way you live in order to keep you or your children safe from harm, it is possible that the behaviour you are experiencing is coercive control.

4. Violence and Abuse Perpetrated by Females against Male Victims

There are many forms of violence and abuse experienced by male victims that we also see experienced by female victims. Taken from Respect UK’s research, there are also other forms of abusive behaviours experienced by male victims perpetrated by female persons causing harm. When considering physical violence female persons causing harm are more likely to use accessible weapons rather than physical strength alone, this might include boiling water, mobile phones, knives and household objects. In other forms of abuse, we see the weaponisation of toxic masculinity, coercion, sexual abuse, intimidation & making threats, examples of these forms of abuse are outlined in Section 2.

5. Male victims and diversity


Gender is a significant risk factor for domestic violence in various ways. The most obvious is that most researchers (though not all) have concluded from the available evidence that most victims are female and the majority of persons causing harm are male. However, this also means that men in relationships with men are at increased risk. It also means that because male victims are in a minority, they are often invisible or overlooked by agencies or friends and family when they are victimised, or their experiences are trivialised.


Disability is a risk factor for domestic violence. Disabled people can be in some cases very vulnerable to abuse, unable to seek help independently and highly dependent on their carer, who, if they are also their abuser, will have additional power and ability to control them. On the other hand, someone who is being abused by a disabled person may find it difficult to be believed.


Young people in general are in the highest risk age group for domestic violence. There is also some emerging evidence that older men may be at increased risk. In some cases, this will be because of increased vulnerability and exacerbated by dependency on carers. In others there is the suggestion that men who have used abuse against a partner in the past are in turn abused by their victim if he becomes more vulnerable and she feels stronger than him. There is limited research on older men experiencing domestic abuse, and the Crime Survey England and Wales does not take into consideration those over the age of 59 so the data set is limited.


Men from specific cultural or linguistic groups may be abused in specific ways or face specific obstacles to seeking help. Different cultural groups have different ways of describing gender-based expectations, which will mean different justifications for abuse.

So-called ‘honour’-based abuse

Some men are abused by family members other than their intimate partner, such as in-laws or others who are forcing them to marry, or remain married to, someone against their will or for reasons of family so-called ‘honour’. Men who identify as Gay, Bisexual or Trans are more likely to experience this form of abuse.

Immigration status

Men with uncertain immigration status or who’s right to remain in the UK depends on remaining married can face difficulties in seeking help. They may have had passports removed or been told that no-one will help them. They may be additionally isolated due to lack of friends, family and language skills.

Sexual orientation

Some aspects of these experiences are the same regardless of gender and sexuality of the victim or the abuser. However, some are specific. Domestic violence affecting men who have sex with men, trans-gendered people, gay and bisexual men will have specific aspects and can often be overlooked by many agencies.

6. Identifying who is doing what and the harm caused

Behind Closed Doors Statement

Help and support for persons causing harm of Domestic and Sexual Violence and Abuse or those whose behaviour is causing harm in a relationship, is not offered through Behind Closed Doors. We recognise that some relationships can be more complex than what is initially presented, and we will make every effort to ensure our assessments are thorough and fair. If we feel that we cannot offer a person that support, we will signpost appropriately to specialist services who can support them more effectively.

Background and Context

It is not uncommon for specialist domestic abuse services offering help to male victims of domestic violence to be approached by people for help who are not victims of domestic abuse. There are many male victims of domestic abuse, and they deserve and have a right to our help and support. It is vital, in the interests of these men, that we ensure that we are prioritising our time to helping them.

In the delivery of our services, we will find that the person causing harm, perceive themselves to be the victims. This is a very common strategy (unconscious or conscious) for the person causing harm to use and one which they may use effectively if we don’t have ways of identifying who is doing what to whom and with what consequences.

The person causing harm whose partners have used some form of self-defence or violent resistance will identify themselves as primary victims in that moment but offer very little information on other dynamics within the relationship.

Behind Closed Doors has an Enhanced Assessment Tool in place where the referral and assessment form, DASH or Worker Safety Risk Assessment identifies behaviour that has caused harm in relationships.

This is something we do to make sure we are doing everything we can to protect victims, male and female, and not unwittingly helping the person causing harm, male or female. It’s also something we do because many people aren’t sure if they are victims or not and some aren’t – they are unhappy in their relationship perhaps but not being abused or abusing.

Historically we have assumed that the person causing harm accessed victim services, in order to find out what support their partner might be accessing, however, all the resources used are available on the internet. More commonly, the person causing harm present as victims because they feel wronged and entitled by the actions of their partner.

In summary, we don’t assess service users because we don’t believe them, we assess them because we want to meet their needs appropriately, because we want to increase safety and decrease risk. There are no definitive categories into which everyone can fit – there will always be some exceptions.

7. Gay, Bisexual and Trans* (GBT) Men’s Experiences and Domestic Abuse

Understanding additional issues when supporting GBT* service users. There’s no one proper acronym for the lesbian, gay, bi, and transgender community. Whether it’s LGBT*, LGBTQ or LGBTQIA, it’s all referring to the same people: the four listed above, plus two-spirited, queer, intersex, asexual, and many more. The asterisk belongs to Trans*. There are many groups who can be referred to as Trans*: transgender, transsexual, transvestite, genderqueer, drag queens and kings, non-binary, genderfluid, genderless, agender, non-gendered, third gender, two-spirit, bigender, trans men, and trans women.

There are currently no official ONS statistics reported about experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people with domestic abuse that would establish a UK-wide picture. However, research would suggest between 25% to 40% of LGB people report at least one incident of domestic abuse from a partner, a family member or someone close to them in their lifetimes. Trans individuals may be at even a higher risk; research suggests between 28% to 80% of trans people had at least one experience of domestic abuse from a partner or a family member. Despite high levels of domestic abuse taking place within the LGBT* communities it remains acutely underreported.

Internalised homophobia and oppression are something that may be experienced by gay, lesbian and bisexual people who have been taught that heterosexuality is the norm and ‘correct way to be’. Hearing and seeing negative depictions of LGBT* people can lead some to internalise these negative messages which can result in poor mental health, the impact of this can include:

  • Denial of your sexual orientation to yourself and others
  • Attempts to alter or change your sexual orientation through aversion therapy
  • Feelings of low self-worth and self esteem
  • Negative body image
  • Distancing from the LGBT* community by engaging in homophobic behaviours – ridicule, harassment, verbal or physical attacks on other people perceived to be LGB and/or T*
  • Continual self-monitoring of one’s behaviours and mannerisms
  • Substance misuse, including alcohol and drugs
  • Thoughts of self-harm, suicide or attempting suicide

8. Appendices

  • Appendix 1 – Worker Safety Risk Assessment
  • Appendix 2 – DASH Risk Assessment
  • Appendix 3 – Enhanced Assessment Tool
All resources