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Battered Man Syndrome: a feminist perspective on male victims of domestic violence

Battered Man Syndrome: a feminist perspective on male victims of domestic violence

Domestic violence happens to men too.

I am presently reading the Autobiography of Malcolm X. I’m on page 302. I’ve always told myself that I would read this book simply because everyone I’ve ever met who has, encouraged me to do so. I see why. Starting at page 3, Malcolm (because I know him lol) describes the hatred his mother had for her white father and recalled her saying that she was “glad she had never met him.” She resented Malcolm for being lighter than the rest of his brothers and sisters and treated him harsher because of it.

I cannot help but to think to myself how untrustworthy Malcolm found his Muslim sisters, and women in general. On page 267 he talks about how his new-found wife had “got” him, and how he knew women could turn the spirit of a black man into coal; his proof came from the mouths of prostitutes. This distrust that men experience for women runs deep, especially into childhood.

I’ve seen sons who have mothers that choose their boyfriends over them, allowing “her man” to inappropriately beat their son. Or she yells and resents the “little nigga” for being just like his “sorry ass father.” She hates her son’s father because he doesn’t want to stay with her, be faithful to her, or take care of her son. Or sometimes mommy was simply too immature to have children to begin with and can’t let her single life go. These young boys sometimes grow up to mistreat and/or hate women, a hate that is lived, not said.

Verbal abuse is something you can’t truly understand the effects of until you’ve experienced it or seen it up close. It’s continuously tormenting and harder to detect. But what’s even more jarring to me is the physical spousal abuse of male victims of domestic violence. I have encountered men who have been hit often by their exes, and are sensitive to a little play fight. To be specific, I grabbed this one guy by the chin in a joking manner and he got really serious. I told him I was just being playful, but it was obviously some emotional baggage there.  He held that grudge for 3 weeks despite my apology and explanation!

What is there to be said about men who are silenced because of their shame for being beaten by a woman? Even more so, what does it mean for men to never hit women and to what degree does that allow self-defense? What about the women who take their frustrations out on men because they know he won’t hit her back? Murray Straus, family violence researcher, reports that, “…the probability of a woman assaulting her partner is strongly influenced by what she thinks she can get away with.”

In same sex couples, the sometimes less dominating male (for lack of a better word) is hit.  Sometimes the less dominating one hits more because he thinks that’s “feminine”.

Battered man syndrome is a post-traumatic stress disorder that doesn’t get the attention it deserves. I think that’s what Malcolm was trying to get at. He saw men seeking love, support and romance from prostitutes who heard the woes of spousal abuse for years.



-x, Malcolm.  The Autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley[1973]

-Mendal, Parynik Matthew.  The Male Survivor: the impact of sexual abuse.[1991]


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