Domestic Violence Against Men: Challenges and Solutions

Modified: 27th Jul 2021
Wordcount: 3471 words

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When we talk about domestic violence, it is common that we will think that the abuser is man and the abused one must be woman, but is it the only pattern in reality? Is there any chance for men abused by their partners or family? In fact, there are some news reports that the men victim in domestic violence in Hong Kong has been risen, however, there are limit service provided for them and there are no any confidential accommodation e.g. refugees, to protect their safety.

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Contrast to men’s situation, in Hong Kong, there are four woman refugee (organized by Po Leung Kuk, Christian Family Service Centre and Harmony house), one family crisis support center by Caritas and one family crisis intervention center (CEASE) by Tung Wah Group of hospitals provided vacancy for abused woman and their child, only two of which provide vacancy for male victims, but none of which are for male only, the one organized by Caritas is public in address, all people can find out their details though website or SWD, so it may have the chance that abuser will come to find the victims and not safety at all.

The other one (CEASE) which is a shelter that for different type of people, including abused man and woman. So, in Hong Kong there is no specific shelter or refuge design for men only to provide a confidential short-term accommodation for them and focus on men victim’s needs. If you are men who were abused by your partners or family, where can you go and what social service that Hong Kong can provide to you? In this paper, we will have a look on abused man in Hong Kong and is there any need to have a refuge for them will be discussed.

What is domestic violence?

Domestic violence is violence that takes place within an intimate relationship and family members. Mostly abuser see themselves as the superior one and they will using their power to control other family members or intimate. There are different medium to abuse others, commonly is physical abuse, besides, there are psychological, sexual, financial control, social isolation and emotional abuse. (Po Leung Kuk, Woman Refugee)

In 2010, our government had revised the law to “Domestic and Cohabitation Relationships Violence Ordinance” which provides civil remedies for victims of family violence. The law stated that

Spouses or former spouses, heterosexual cohabitants or former heterosexual cohabitants, same-sex cohabitants or former same-sex cohabitants, and other immediate and extended family members can apply to the court for an order against molestation by the other party.”

Thus, domestic violence can be appear in both men and women and it is a criminal offence and offenders may be prosecuted.

Study of Men and Women using violence

It is common that when we discuss domestic violence, we will pop up the image a “strong” men beaten a “weak” women, however from the study by Steinmetz (1997a,b,c) found that both men and women may use physical to abuse each other’s in martial conflict, and the percentage was similar, details were below:

Study of 54 couples




Thrown objects



Pushed or shoved their partners



Hit their partners



Hit others with an object



Study of 52 Canadian college students




Thrown objects



Pushed or shoved their partners



Hit their partners



Hit others with an object



Study of 94 randomly selected people




Thrown objects



Pushed or shoved their partners



Hit their partners



Hit others with an object



From the three study take part in different place and people, we can see that both men and women react similar to use violence in solving their conflict in marital, especially in the part of “hit their partners and using object to hit others”, therefore woman also have potential to commit acts of violence in certain circumstances.

The study from Steinmetz mainly focused on the medium of using physical to abuse, however, as mentioned before, medium of abused not only in physical but also others types.

Current situation in Hong Kong and Others Countries

Hong Kong

The report of Harmony House state that in recent year, there are risen of abused men case, most of them aged between twenty to twenty four which is 30% of the total case and it rise almost 60% in one year (Oriental Daily, 2013). From their experience, most of their call said that their wives or girlfriend not only physical abuse them, such as kick them and using fingernail to scratches them, women also using psychological abuse towards men, such as ignore their feeling, do not talk with him, using some foul language to abuse him and lower their value at home, sometimes they may urge their husband to watch lust film and make sex to prevent him go out to find the other girls, moreover they may ask for prohibit male to go out with friends and ask him to call home every 5 minutes. Even worst, woman may use the child to threaten the man. Some of the abused men (Apple daily, 2014) (ShingPao, 2014)

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In addition, social worker Wu Yi Ling from Harmony House said that in the statistic from police between 2011 to 2012, there are 500 married man were experienced in domestic violence, also, statistic from SWD in 2013 also show that there are 692 men were experienced in domestic violence which take 2% of the total domestic violence in Hong Kong, compare to 2012, it increased about 60%.

Ms Wu also guess that this is only a few of abused men in Hong Kong since most of them have many hesitation to speak out, seek help and their awareness of domestic violence are weak that they do not think they were abused by their wives or girlfriends. Moreover, from their hotline experience, some cases do not ask for help because they want to maintain the complete family for their child and do not want their child get harm. It shows that men may have some fear from their wife but they can’t find anyplace that can provide them a safety environment to let them take care their children and avoid found by their wife.

Actually in the past there is one men refuge in Hong Kong, however in 2005 it was closed. According to the news from oriental daily (2005), the only men refugee in Hong Kong cannot sustain their service since government stop renting the hostel to the organization and they need to use some container located at the farms for chicken as a temp address of the refugees, however the hygiene condition was not satisfy, so the 16 clients should be discharge and some of them may become homeless. Moreover, they criticized that government have gender stereotype in building refugee.

From the above discussion, we can see that more and more cases of men suffer in domestic violence were discovered but it is common that they don’t seek help themselves. Although there are some Men’s hotlines provides by SWD, Caritas, Po Leung Kuk and Harmony House and even some group for them but there are no short-term confidential accommodation for them to had protect and men focused counseling service which they may need.

Others Countries

Similar to Hong Kong, according to the news from the Observer (2010), About two in five of all victims of domestic violence are men, contradicting the widespread impression that it is almost always women who are left battered and bruised. The charity’s analysis of statistics on domestic violence shows the number of men attacked by wives or girlfriends is much higher than thought. Its report, Domestic violence mostly sees as a female victim or male perpetrator problem, but from the statistic by Parity show that this is not true. They also said that that men assaulted by their partners are are almost invisible to the authorities such as the police and being ignored, since there are fewer refuges to flee men than women. Moreover, it is largely overlooked by the public or media, in official reports and in government policy, for example in the provision of refuge places in England and Wales are 7,500 for females but only 60 for men. Palmatier (2013) also stated that in the United States, there is only one shelter for male victims while approximately 1,800 shelters to women and their children. In Canada, there also a domestic violence shelter for men that was run by the late Earl Silverman.

It seems that not only Hong Kong, but also others country underestimate the problems of abused men. The reason that the public does not aware the problems and the men do not recognize it may have different reason.

Reason that Men doesn’t seek help by social constructs theory

The basic assumptions of social constructionism, as described by Crawford & Popp (2004) are:

  1. Social constructionist focuses on how meaning is created. They suggest that knowledge is an “account of reality produced collaboratively by a community of knower; knowledge is not only a social product, but a product of a specifically situated society
  2. Social construct the power and hierarchy in the society, it shows the result that how one’s differ in status, entitlement, efficacy, self-respect and other traits based on the interactions one is involved in and subjected to.
  3. Social construction is a dynamic process. Social constructionists emphasize the complexity of how knowledge is created in social interactions. Knowledge and meanings are not stable or constant; they are co-constructed in interactions with others, negotiated, modified and shifted. People are active in their perception, understanding and sharing of knowledge acquired from their social milieu. It is prudent therefore to consider this process when explaining the social construction of knowledge, including knowledge concerning gender.
  4. The individual and society are indissoluble. Social constructionists believed that individuals can create meaning only in relation to what they are exposed to their environment. Paradoxically, the same individuals co-create the meanings that are available in this environment.

From the perspective of social construct theory, an individual belief and knowledge are constructed by the social, thus the gender identity is a socially constructed any may vary over time for an individual, it is not a stable, fixed trait. For example, me, I had a belief that I am a girl, and I behave like a “girl should be” to match the society mainstream value, if not I may be the one that violate the mainstream value and may not accept by the others. Therefore, our gender role are social construct female and male to femininity and masculinity.

Each society has a set of expectations, stereotypes and assumptions about what it is to be a man. These can be taken as forming a set of standards regarding what one needs to be and do in order to be a man. For the men situation in Hong Kong, since we are a traditional Chinese society, we belief in some tradition Chinese concept that “Men are breadwinners while women are housewives” “Men don’t cry easily” ” not airing one’s dirty laundry in public”, those traditional theory construct that the image of men should be strong, cannot ask for help easily and they always as the autonomy role in a family. As we can judged by what we do as a man or as a woman, so that it is common that men believed in those value and do what the gender should be, act to conform to stereotypical gender roles and it is the active engagement in any behavior that is gendered, or behavior that may be evaluated as gendered, for example, when they abused by their wives or girlfriend, they may not recognize it is a problem, even they recognize it, to avoid violate the mainstream value and being isolated, they may shame to share with others and only tolerate it.

Not only the abused men social constructed their gender role, the public also encourage them to performance in certain way and they should behave like this. For example, daily TV programs, the mainstream media report, advertisement, etc. From the news report by Observer (2010) Men’s rights campaign group Parity’s staff Mays said that

“Culturally it’s difficult for men to bring these incidents to the attention of the authorities. Men are reluctant to say that they’ve been abused by women, because it’s seen as unmanly and weak.”

Alex Neil from The housing and communities’ minister in the Scottish parliament also said that

“Both men and women can be victims and we know that men feel under immense pressure to keep up the pretense that everything is OK,” “Domestic abuse against a man is just as abhorrent as when a woman is the victim.”

There is common experience share by abused men, and it may the reason that why men have hesitation to seek help from others.

Limitation to having a men refuge

Although the abused men cases had risen and it is a need to have a men refuge for them, however there are some limitation to urge the men to seek help since they accept the social norms constructed by social and they don’t dare to break the norms so that it is hard for the organization encourage them to be initiative to seek support in the public, for example, Miss Hardie (Daily Mail Report, 2009) said

“There is still a very strong stigma attached to men who say they have been the victims of domestic violence. Most of our referrals will only have decided to come forward after being taken to hospital.”

The situation may be similar in Hong Kong, since there are limit case were found in public and the stigma to men were strong too. It may take several years to educate the public and arise their awareness on men’s victim in domestic violence.


To conclude, research focused on abused men is limit, it seems that it is not a controversial topic over the world, however, the cases of abused men in Hong Kong or others countries has risen in recent years, it may be a signal for us to pay attention the need of them and arise the public awareness to the problems of men victim in domestic violence. Although there are some limitation that men may not take initial to use the service of refuge immediately, but similar to women refuge, though education and promote a new value to public via media or government promotion though the value of “gender mainstreaming” in their advertisement or on policy to strive for gender equality may reduce the stigma attached to men, and therefore may have a new social constructed gender role to men. So I think whatever the usage rate of the refugee, there is a need to provide a place and focused counseling service for male victim in domestic violence.


Campbell, Denis (2010, Sep 5). More than 40% of domestic violence victims are male, report reveals. The Observer. Retrieved from 

First refuges for battered husbands offer support to male victims (2009, Feb 16). Daily Mail Reporter. Retrieved form 

Gender equality, Wife battered men more than 500 cases a year, estimate that is just a tip of the iceberg (2014, Feb 17). Apple Daily. Retrieved from

Hong Kong Ordinances. (2009). CAP 189 Domestic and cohabitation relationships violence ordinance. Retrieved from

Marecek, J., Crawford, M., & Popp, D. (2004). On the Construction of Gender, Sex, and Sexualities. In A.H. Eagly, A.E. Beall, & R.J. Sternberg (Eds.), The Psychology of Gender (pp. 192-216). New York: Guilford Press.

Men refuge will close today (2005, May 5). Oriental Daily. Retrieved from

Palmatier, Tara J. (2013, Oct 1). Domestic Violence Awareness Month: The Invisible Victims. A Voice for Retrieved from

Searchlights: Aggressive, Jealous, Out of Control, Male cannot do anything (2013, Nov 5). Oriental Daily. Retrieved from

See-Fung, Liu (2014, July 13). Men also battered by women, abused not only for female. Singpao. Retrieved from

Steinmetz, Suzanne K. (1977a). Cycle of Violence: Assertive, Aggressive and Abusive Family Interactions. New York: Praeger.

Steinmetz, Suzanne K. (1977b). The Battered Husband Syndrome. Vol. 2 (3-4), pp. 501–503. USA.

Steinmetz, Suzanne K. (1977c). The Use of Force for Resolving Family Conflict: The Training Ground for Abuse. The Family Coordinator. Vol. 26 (1), pp. 19–26. doi:10.2307/581856.

Yuen-Nam, Chan (2013, Nov 5). Searchlights: Hong Kong female abuse male partner getting younger. Oriental Daily. Retrieved from


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