Men too may suffer from domestic violence

NEW YORK Tue May 20, 2008 8:56am EDT

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NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Nearly three in 10 men have experienced violence at the hands of an intimate partner during their lifetimes, according to one of the few studies to look at domestic violence and health among men.

"Many men actually do experience domestic violence, although we don't hear about it often," Dr. Robert J. Reid of the Group Health Cooperative Center for Health Studies in Seattle, Washington, one of the study's authors, told Reuters Health. "They often don't tell and we don't ask. We want to get the message out to men who do experience domestic violence that they are not alone and there are resources available to them."

Reid and his team had previously looked at the prevalence and health consequences of intimate partner violence among women belonging to a large health plan. In the current study, reported in the June issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, they looked at a sample of 420 men enrolled in the same plan.

The researchers asked study participants about physical abuse and non-physical abuse, such as threats that made them fear for their safety, controlling behavior (for example being told who they could associate with and where they could go), and constant name-calling. "We're really not talking about minor spats and disagreements," Reid explained.

Among men 18 to 54 years old, 14.2 percent said they had experienced intimate partner violence in the past five years, while 6.1 percent reported domestic violence in the previous year.

Rates were lower for men 55 and older, with 5.3 percent reporting violence in the past five years and 2.4 percent having experienced it in the past 12 months.

Overall, 30.5 percent of men younger than 55 and 26.5 percent of older men said they had been victims of domestic violence at some point in their lives. About half of the violence the men experienced was physical.

However, the physical violence men reported wasn't as harsh as that suffered by women in the previous study; 20 percent to 40 percent of the men rated it as severe, compared to 61 percent of women.

Men typically did not leave the relationship after one violent incident; most who had experienced non-physical violence had done so on multiple occasions, often over several years, with the same partner. However, physical violence in most cases lasted less than a year.

Men who reported experiencing domestic violence had more emotional and mental health problems than those who had not, especially older men, the researchers found.

In an interview with Reuters Health, Reid said that it was possible some of the violence men reported was a consequence of their own violent acts, but his study wasn't able to answer this question.

The study is in no way intended to downplay domestic violence against women, the researcher added. "We still need a lot of attention on violence against women, but violence spreads out in many directions -- against women, against children, and against men, and we're interested in stopping violence in all its forms."

Anybody who is experiencing domestic violence, including men, should speak with their health care provider or contact 1-800-799-SAFE, a national domestic violence hotline that is open to both men and women, Reid advised.

SOURCE: American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 2008.

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