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MenWeb Online Journal ISSN: 1095-5240
May 2012

Battered Men - The Hidden Side of Domestic Violence

Latest Research Findings

The Legal System's Response to Domestic Violence Against Men

Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey

© 2001, 2012 by Bert H. Hoff, J.D. *
Adjunct Faculty, University of Phoenix School of Criminal Justice and Security
May be cited as: Hoff, B. H. (2012), The Legal System's Response to Domestic Violence Against Men: Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey. MenWeb on-line Journal 2(4)May, 2012 (ISSN: 1095-5240


The National Violence Against Women survey found that every year, 1,510,455 women and 834,732 men are victims of physical violence by an intimate. Because there's an average 3.5 victimizations per year per male victim and 3.4 per female victim, this amounts to 2.9 million male victims and 4.45 million female victims of domestic violence each year. How does the legal system handle domestic violence against men?

Research suggests that men are more reluctant to report the incident to police, and less likely to go to a domestic violence services program for help in obtaining a restraining order. Kelly (2003) cites studies that suggest that police share the accepted view that female violence doesn't exist, and that men rated police response lower than did women. (pp. 831-2) In the few studies done, many men report that hotline workers say they only help women, imply or state the men must be the instigators, ridicule them or refer them to batterers' programs. Police often will fail to respond, ridicule the man or arrest him. (Cook 2009; Douglas and Hines, 2011; George, 1994)

Douglas and Hines reported (p. 7) that a large proportion of men who sought help from DV agencies (49.9%), DV hotlines (63.9%), or online resources (42.9%) were told, "We only help women." Of the 132 men who sought help from a DV agency, 44.1% said that this resource was not at all helpful; further, 95.3% of those men said that they were given the impression that the agency was biased against men. Some of the men were accused of being the batterer in the relationship: This happened to men seeking help from DV agencies (40.2%), DV hotlines (32.2%) and online resources (18.9%). Over 25% of those using an online resource reported that they were referred to a batterer's program. Some 16.4% of the men who contacted a hotline reported that the staff made fun them, as did 15.2% of the men who contacted local DV agencies.(p. 7) When men called the police, they arrested the man as often as the violent partner (33.3% vs. 26.5%) (p. 8)

The 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey did not present data on reporting to police or obtaining restraining orders. But data from the National Violence Against Women survey can shed some light on the topic.

National Institute of Justice Centers for Disease Control

Below are facts, charts and graphs from the Extent, Nature and Consequences report of the National Violence Against Women survey.

National Violence Against Women Survey— Report
Extent, Nature and Consequences of Violence Against Women

For male victims: 13.5% reported the victimization to the police, in 1.6% of the cases the perepetrator was arrested. None were convicted, and none did jail time. The victim obtained a restraining order in 3.5% of the victimizations.
Average 3.5 victimizations per male victim, 3.4 per female victim.
The percentages above are calculated from the data on the table below.

Police take reports for female victims significantly more than for male victims. They do absolutely nothing for male victims significantly more than for female victims.
Domestic violence against women is significantly more likely to be reported to police in the first place.

Over six times as many male perpetrators as female perpetrators are prosecuted. Female perpetrators received no convictions and, obviously,no jail time.

Men get few restraining orders. When they do, women violate them more often.
About half the men, and over two-thirds of the women, violate restraining orders against them.

17.1% of women but only 3.5% of men get TROs
NVAW researchers say it's not because of barriers to men, but because men are less afraid and less injured. (at p. 52)

But NVAW reported that male victims were also severely assaulted. A re-analysis of the types of assaults against male and female victims (Hoff, 2001) found "When one combines the more serious forms of assault (hit with an object, beat up, threatened with a knife or gun, victim of a weapon) 96.8 percent of the women assaulted and 90.5 percent of the men assaulted experienced one of these dangerous forms of assault." So it is fair to conclude that a large portion of the difference found here is due to the criminal justice system's differential treatment of women.


Cook, P. W. (2009). Abused men: The hidden side of domestic violence (2nd ed.). Westport: Praeger.

Douglas, E.M. and Hines, D. (2011) "The helpseeking experiences of men who sustain intimate partner violence: An overlooked population and implications for practice." J. Fam. Vio. 2011 Aug;26(6):473-485 Published online 04 June 2011. National Institute of Mental Health Grant Number 5R21MH074590. Available at:

George, M. J. (1994). Riding the donkey backwards: Men as the unacceptable victims of marital violence. Journal of Men's Studies, 3, 137-159. See also:

Hoff, B.(2001). The Risk of Serious Physical Injury from Assault by a Woman Intimate: A Re-Examination of National Violence Against Women Survey Data on Type of Assault by an Intimate. MenWeb on-line Journal 1(1) (ISSN: 1095-5240

Kelly, L. (2003). Disabusing the definition of domestic abuse: How women batter men and the role of the feminist state Florida State University Law Review 30:791, pp. 801-2

Tjaden, P. G., & Thoennes, N. (2000). Full Report of Prevalence, Incidence and Consequences of Violence Against Women: Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey. U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice & Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Research Report, Nov. 2000. NCJ 183781

Download the National Violence Against Women Survey—Extent Report in .PDF format

Bert H. Hoff, J.D., is Adjunct Faculty at the University of Phoenix, where he teaches classes in criminal justice, management, political science and policy planning. He is formerly affiliated with the School of Social Policy at The American University and a former research scientist at the Battelle Human Affairs Research Centers, is publisher of Men's Voices quarterly. He is WebMaster of MenWeb, the only resource in Washington that offers public education and victim education/outreach for male victims of domestic violence. His prior research has been published in the Journal of the Association of Advancement of Psychiatry and the Law, University of Pennsylvania Law Review, Evaluation and Reseasrch, Journal of the Albert Einstein School of Medicine, and numerous government-funded research reports. Return to top


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