Patterns of male victimization in intimate relationships: a pilot comparison of academic and media reports.
Abstract: This paper compares the academic literature and media reports on male violent victimization in intimate relationships, an under-researched topic. In addition to existing scholarly studies, data for the media reports come from a student-generated purposive sample of 38 news reports on male victimization. A careful analysis of both resources reveals some convergent and divergent themes on male victimization as well as some new trends and patterns. Currently, media reports offer an excess of information than the scholarly literature. Overall, the media-academic partnership can be promising in providing a fuller understanding of male victimization in intimate relationships.

Keywords: male victimization, family violence, media reports, intimate partner violence, men as victims
Article Type: Report
Subject: Intimacy (Psychology) (Psychological aspects)
Intimacy (Psychology) (Demographic aspects)
Interpersonal relations (Psychological aspects)
Interpersonal relations (Demographic aspects)
Masculinity (Psychological aspects)
Author: Chaudhuri, Tanni
Pub Date: 01/01/2012
Publication: Name: The Journal of Men's Studies Publisher: Men's Studies Press Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Social sciences; Women's issues/gender studies Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2012 Men's Studies Press ISSN: 1060-8265
Issue: Date: Wntr, 2012 Source Volume: 20 Source Issue: 1
Geographic: Geographic Scope: United States Geographic Code: 1USA United States
Accession Number: 283455188
Full Text: The medieval Bengali literature from east India communicates a very intriguing pattern: the recurrent trend of women gathering in a wedding venue to discuss the worst about their respective husbands, including physical attributes. The appeal of the exaggerated bizarreness of the husband for one, captivated the attention of the distraught medieval audiences, and second, evoked laughter. Yet the whole context of ridicule could be situated within the social fabric where cruelty, lechery or even spend thrifts habits were overlooked: Women's lack of consent in dictating terms of her marriage found expression in criticism of the grotesque physical inadequacies of the husband instead (Smith, 1979).

Smith's (1979) descriptions allude to a long standing tradition of verbal abuse directed to male spouses, whether socially warranted or otherwise. Spousal abuse cannot be de-contextualized--analogous to interpreting pati ninda as the verbal respite of women in response to the repressive dictates of marriage, husband abuse within the periphery of the family also needs to be situated within a larger socio-cultural landscape.

A few hundred years later and within the cultural framework of a developed nation, a boarder characterization of violence towards the male significant is more directly referenced. Stephen Fitzgerald as the national organizer of the ManKind Initiative claims that in the era of political correctness an individual needs to be affiliated with the "disabled people, ethnic minorities, gay men, lesbians and women" to get help---men are often excluded from this list (2003). Fritzgerald adds that "Family abuse is not just a women's issue, it is a social issue affecting men, women and children and needs to be examined in this context," thus drawing attention to one of the under-examined tenets of the experience of intimate partner violence. To corroborate this argument, Sarantakos (1999) argues that the "invisibility" of husband abuse is concomitant to the "feminization" of domestic violence, irrespective of the prevalence of the phenomenon.

As a counterargument, Gelles (1997) believes irrespective of prevalence or occurrence of men as victims, women are ten times more likely to be struck by their intimate partners than men. Yet the emergent trend of husband abuse needs to be attended to--the findings of the Second National family Survey included data on violence towards husbands and reports that 4.4 percent of the respondents, reported and engaged in violence towards their husbands (Gelles). There is the possibility that given the wider proportion of incidence and prevalence of violence towards women, men's issues are sidelined. This popular disavowal, however, was mentioned from time to time in the media, including the killing of Nicole Simpson, when the issue of what constitutes violence came to the media preview (Gelles). In contrast, the subject has received less attention in the academia.

This paper bridges the gulf between the academia and the media reports on male victimization--an under-researched area--by comparing patterns found in the academic literature and identified from a sample of newspaper articles retrieved by students enrolled in a family violence class. In the process it seeks to examine the possible convergence and divergence between academic and media reports on male victimization in intimate relationships. This research seeks to answer three central research questions:

1. What are the convergent and divergent themes reported by the media and the scholarly literature on male victimization in family violence?

2. Given the paucity of scholarly research on male victimization in family violence, do the media reports communicate a thematic excess?

3. Can the disparate sources of pedantic and media-based information be combined for a composite portrayal of male victimization in intimate relationships?

The subsequent sections briefly describes data and method employed in this study, reveals patterns of male victimization in the scholarly literature, and identifies patterns of male victimization in the media reports. The final sections summarize answers to the research questions and discusses the implications of the findings.


Since the thrust of this study is a comparison between the scholarly literature and media reports on male victimization in family violence, publications in the scholarly literature can be viewed as part of the data. The limited academic literature on this subject includes three books (two textual sources on family violence) and thirteen peer- reviewed articles published in national and international journals such as Journal of Family Issues, Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Journal of Elder Abuse and Neglect, Australian Journal of Social Issues, Sociological Forum, Journal of Family Violence, Journal of the American Oriental Society, Journal of Marriage and Family, California Law Review, Law and Human Behavior, The Journal of Men's Studies, and Community Care. The majority of the peer-reviewed articles has been published over the last decade and thus provides an up-to-date version of academic perspective on the subject.

The media reports come from a sample collected by students who enrolled in a Family Violence class at the undergraduate level in a Southern university. The students were asked to bring in one article that identifies men as the victims of abuse in an intimate relationship. The concept of "husband" abuse was not strictly enforced given the new notions about the institution of family and individuals cohabiting without essentially getting married. The purposive sample includes several newspaper articles, news stories from online version of news channels and three websites. The sources of articles include, but are not restricted to, New York Times, Boston Globe,, and Sports In addition, three different websites that address the subject matter including, Mensight Magazine and Equal Justice Foundation (the latter generated multiple articles on male victimization in Georgia) was also brought to the class. The time dimensions of most articles ranged from the 1990s to the mid 2000s (except for one piece from the 1970s). The sample size of the news articles incorporated in the final analysis (including multiple reports from Georgia) is 38.

As media representations of men as victims in intimate relationships was elicited in the sample based on student's acquired knowledge and their discretion in selecting the appropriate article, nonprobability purposive sampling was the obvious selective criterion. Babbie (2007) rationalizes the employment of this technique based on the knowledge of (i) the intended population of study (in this case the entire array of newspaper reports in the United States on husband/male partner abuse, (ii) its elements (individual news report that report male victimization), and (iii) the purpose of study (to study the observable trends of male victimization in family violence as reported in newspapers). Babbie (2007) also justifies the utilization of this sampling technique for "deviant" cases: cases which do not fit into the regular behavioral inclinations. However a note of caution needs to be exercised here given that media reports also could exaggerate and "sensationalize" a particular case to the extent that now it will be construed as aberrant. Thus while husband abuse might be brought into the forefront, wife abuse given its wider prevalence, can potentially be relegated to the status of mundane occurrence.

Newspaper reports are classified as primary documents in comparison to secondary documents (which are records of the primary documents and removed from the primary source by one degree) or auxiliary documents (that which can assist the initial data analysis but does not fulfill by itself the entire research objective) (Althied, 1998).

The newspaper articles were compiled and individually evaluated to look for emergent topical codes. This part of the analysis included a process of open coding (Esterberg, 2002) whereby working with the data initially led to the development of certain emergent themes and categories. These codes were spontaneous rather than being dictated by previously established academic research. In addition, anecdotal evidence was also adhered equal amount of importance. Recurrent thematic occurrences among the newspaper sample provided these core codes with more exploratory power. Overall Esterberg (2002) suggests looking for patterns and comparing cases prior to formally building typologies. The articles were thus examined and reexamined, contextually compared and contrasted antecedent to thematic clustering. Esterberg also urges being attentive to both the process of manifest (explicit) and latent (hidden) derivatives of content analysis. This specifically was attended to--given the unusualness of the subject matter and lack of absolute objectivity in media reports.

One of the main limitations is the restricted size of the newspaper sample, which was further narrowed based on the accuracy of the kind of literature brought to class, potentially repetitive articles, etc. This specifically makes it harder to employ the concept of theoretical sampling, where a sense of topical saturation can at least be derived for the core categories. Second, when students engaged in an initial search for male victimization articles, they finally selected one article they deemed appropriate or captivating from among a variety. Thus the possibility of selection bias cannot be overlooked. However, selection bias is also an advantage for the research objective--given that the range of articles came from versatile published sources and reflected individual student discretion based on their acquired knowledge of family violence, it automatically rendered the core categories elicited from analysis with thematic density and contextual relevance.


Male violent victimization in intimate relationships is comparatively a new terrain of academic inquiry--yet an initial review of the literature depicts some notable patterns. These specifically include theoretical examination on men's reluctance to be associated with the overall topical exigency of family violence based on socially entrenched images of masculinity, narratives of abuse that are comparable to the female experience, the emergent overlap between elder abuse and older males as victims, men's unwillingness to report victimization, the construing of "gender neutral" lens to look at family violence as an antifeminist backlash, self defense being an important and questionable precursor to husband's violent victimization including homicide, and potential pros and cons of academic-media based partnership in analyzing male victimization in intimate violence.

Theoretical Perspective: The Macho Paradox and Male Disavowal

Katz (2006) in "Macho Paradox" provides a detailed theoretical and contextual understanding of male involvement in intimate partner violence. Particularizing the socialized history that leads to the male perpetration of violence, the author posits that any kind of injury perpetrated on women is not simply women's but men's issue as well. He defines the social environment which cultivates these gendered norms as "a deeply misogynistic, male dominated culture, where violence against women from subtle to homicidal is disturbingly common" Katz (p. 9). And yet, it is the same social climate that cultivates these gendered norms that also deter men from recognizing their plight when they change positions with women victims. Whether it is about their awareness and proclivity in addressing the harm done to women victims in general or about the victimization of their near and dear ones, it is the lack of overt acknowledgement that characterizes the male disconnect (Katz). This culture of silence can thus be extended to men's experiences with victimization--the same gendered norms that trivialize women's experiences of suffering to justifiable subordination based on a historical tendency, can also preclude men from acknowledging the reversal of this status quo. In this regard, owing up to the truth can potentially be regarded as a subtracted portrayal of conventional masculinity.

Male Narratives of Abuse

In comparison to female victimization, fewer studies have examined the experiences of men in an in-depth inductive paradigm. A disclosure of twelve heterosexual men's experiences in this regard provides a comprehensive and detailed account of the experience (Migliaccio, 2002). While physical strength often put women in a position of powerlessness, it also protects men from hostilities that are perpetrated by women. Ironically if men raised hands in retaliation the same would be read as a gesture of initiation of attacks on women. The first onset of violence follows the initial phase of relationship based commitment (Migliaccio). The persistence of verbal abuse is overwhelming and often results in the partial attribution of blame sharing and reduced self esteem in the men, which renders them unworthy of leaving the situation (Migliaccio). Verbal disparagement gradually ascends to a situation of isolation from their kith and kin and often leads to subsequent acceptance and rationalization of abuse. The ways in which the men in the sample dealt with abuse usually constituted of avoidance and preoccupation with other activities, appeasing their partners with behavior that they perceived could minimize conflict, a generic mind body disassociation where the existence of violence is not acknowledged, physical responses to stopping abuse as discussed in some scenarios and sometimes the extreme consideration of taking one's life (Migliaccio).

A Gender Neutral Definition?

While some of the overlaps between the male and female experience of victimization in domestic violence is apparent, a competing school of thought believes that the more gender neutral claims to husband abuse have to read with caution. Minaker and Snider (2006) explain how the claims of husband abuse run parallel to the feminist pedagogy that challenged "the silence over women's abuse" (p. 755). The authors critique that treating spouse abuse as a gender neutral phenomenon has attained a form of "common sense" and yet the statistics are heavy on the female incidence of violent victimization. The authors argue that this inaccurate emphasis is what typically constitutes anti feminist backlash. The existence of husband abuse cannot be denied and yet, seeking to validate the situation by attributing men's silence to the overwhelming women's group that over insist on men-to female violence, is not the accurate redress of the situation. Minaker and Snider further note that the persistence of tautological arguments that have inundated mass media partially contributes to the creation of the gender neutral lens-this was evident in the repetitive topical headlines that were generated in more than 100 articles on husband abuse using an online database in Canada. The authors claim that the stories appear to make valid arguments under the aegis that equality exists and abuse is no longer a female issue, thus bypassing the structural inequalities that are in place. In addition to the plethora of existing newspaper articles, the Internet also tends to draw attention to the subject of husband abuse and finally undermine the patriarchal ideology of power and control in households as an important precursor to domestic disturbance (Minaker & Snider).

Elderly Men as Victims

From a life course perspective, other more "hidden areas" of abuse including elderly as victims and women as probable perpetrators also represent an area of research deficiency (Reeves et al., 2007). Among potential older male victims of abuse, the risk factors are aggravated by constant fear of criminalization and victimization or living situations where care givers and care receivers co-reside (with women outliving men in typical cohabiting situations). In addition social isolation, cognitive and physical impairment also could contribute to elderly male victimization (Reeves et al.). The life course perspective exhibits perpetrator characteristics of mental disorder and substance abuse as possible correlates. It also offers a reversal of the culturally entrenched perspective of masculinity which potentially "degenerates" with functional and chronological aging process. However the important point of distinction is that abuse could originate from other members in the care giving situation and not necessarily the female significant other--more research is required in this regard to indicate definitive findings.

The Awkward Silence

When men are victims, there seems to be a pattern where family violence is underreported. The findings from a study of 6,291 physical and 1,787 sexual assaults based on the National Violence Against Women Survey demonstrates that men are less likely to report assault when the offender is a female. This also has an impact on the long term effects of abuse (Felson et al., 2005). The authors believe that the victims are less inclined to report assault if the perpetrator is a known individual rather than a complete stranger, both backed by fear of backlash and institutional inertness to their plight (Felson et al.). Gosselin (2010) identifies several factors that impede men from seeking redress for abuse. These include avoiding treatment options since men are less likely to see themselves as victims, minimization of the offence and shame associated with the failure to protect himself from injury, effort at making up for victimization by projecting a strong culturally entrenched masculine identity, the tendency to evade male bonding with others, equating failure to protect oneself with passivity of character, low self esteem, externalization of victimization by inflicting potential harm on someone else and compulsive behaviors including alcohol consumption and substance abuse (Gosselin).

Validation through self defense. Husband abuse and sometimes extreme manifestations including homicide, is often said to precipitate from self defense. In one particular research study college students went over the facts of a fictitious case and rationalized the verdicts of why female perpetrators took the lives of their significant others (Follingstad et al., 1989). The rationale for the study developed from the common mindset of validating self-defense based on circumstantial evidence among jurors, in contrast to the doubt and suspicion evoked in instances when spouses are killed in their sleep or homicide is premeditated. Findings imply that instructions regarding what constitutes justifiable self defense (including husband's use of force) as read in the judge's instructions was important in the validation of self defense (Follingstad et al.). The authors attribute the increased consciousness of understanding a battered woman's plight to recent media designations and the portrayal of the accused as likeable and not a potential "contributor" to the husband's anger (Follingstad et al.).

Grounds of self defense are not full proof either and have been questioned in the past. Sixty-eight families with alleged wives as perpetrators and husbands as victims of abuse were studied to investigate the nature of the self defense assumptions (Sarantakos, 2004). Individual interviews were conducted consecutively with the husband and the wife, child, wife's mother and then the wife once more. The findings from this specific Australian sample reveal that wives responded to their husbands violently often not in fear of imminent danger but to settle an argument or as a punitive response. Analogous to the female counterparts of family violence victimizations, men who are victims live in fear of their lives and of their children (Sarantakos, 2004). In a previously examined study by the same author, the usage of self defense had been questioned on several grounds (Sarantakos, 1999). These include incidents that demonstrate that the first blow was initiated by the wife (and in some cases can be read as an act of aggression rather than self defense), reasons of assault on husbands do not always include self defense (even when in the process husbands are killed) and recorded patterns of wives' prior criminal records. Sarantakos (1999) thus concludes that the homogeneous and monolithic lens of decoding family violence centered on women as victims is open to scrutiny if not inaccurate.

Questioning the implications of battered women's syndrome at the ideological level, Coughlin (1994) looks at the phenomenon as rather detrimental rather than liberating for women. The author claims that the battered women syndrome was offered to women on grounds of being able to retaliate pressures of domestic violence and thus should be applied to the holistic sense of dignity, achievement and authority for their lives (Coughlin). One of the problematic associated with the syndrome is the attribution of the female behavior in response to a man's sense of control. In this regard the battered women's syndrome is limiting--it relegates women's status to subservience and lack of rational self control that precipitates counter attack. Some incidents are counter intuitive to the initial intent of the act--the author draws upon instances of premeditated murder when the husband is sleeping or a hired help is used for killing as probable digressions (Coughlin). While usage of battered women's syndrome is not uncommon to extreme manifestations of violence towards the male significant other, it opens the avenues for two more areas of query: the rhetoric and ideological assumptions of the syndrome to be contextualized within patriarchy and second, reiterates the importance of "permissible" retaliation in response to male precipitated violence.

The Media Based Context

Murray Straus (1992) looks at several changes that have occurred in the domain of family violence since its formal inception in public preview in the 1960s and 1970s. These include the proliferation of journal and scholastic literature on the subject, research and policy based changes precipitated by academic disciplines including sociology, as well as potential partnership between the media and social science (Straus). Yet there are several impediments that prevent a full-scale media utilization. For one given the commitment to "truth," academicians often distrust the media (specifically press) given its tendency to either over simplify or distort an event. Second, the tone of academic research cannot be controlled by favorable or unfavorable press coverage. Susceptibility to the tone of the coverage can be prevented though, given academic journals still constitute the primary medium for publishing research on the subject (Straus).

Straus believes oversimplification in news coverage also has its advantage--the fact that it can make a sociological subject matter more comprehensible for the generic audience. In addition, national organizations including the American Sociological Association have historically made little usage of press based publicity to bring the trends and findings to attention (Straus, 1992). Straus alludes to the fact that research alone often does not completely account for replication. Being one of the early proponents of male victimization in personal relationships, the author suggests that while the initial findings of National Family Violence Survey demonstrated the presence of wife as batterers and the observation has been replicated in other studies over a period of time, the "decreasing" trend of wife and child abuse in contrast, was not adequately retested (Straus). This is where press reports of prevailing trends would be important (rather than having to wait on time consuming academic replication of facts). Keeping in mind these important media-based supplements to original sociological inquiry, Straus proposes an ongoing partnership between academicians and media personnel to bring forth changes in social policy.

Yet the commitment of the media to issues of social importance and then, policies being heavily contingent on published reports, is questionable with regards to a previously determined media agenda. Serevin and Tankard (1992) define agenda setting as "the idea that the news media, by their display of news, come to determine the issues the public thinks about and talks about" (p. 207). Media agenda also has three important elements: visibility (the amount and prominence of coverage given in an issue), audience salience (the relevance of the news to audience needs) and valence (favorable or unfavorable coverage given to an issue) (Serevin & Tankard).

Agenda setting has an important bearing on which aspect of family violence gets more prominence--male victimization by digressing from the conventional trend in family violence can be considered sensational. In addition, Serevin and Tankard (1992) summarize the disparate determinants of media content--individual media workers, media routine (time and space constraints), organizational intents often motivated by profit, the pressure from advocacy and interest groups as well as the overall ideology of society (in this case capitalism). Besides the fact that sensational news coverage of male victimization can potentially lead to more sales--advocacy groups, in their effort to highlight the plight of men in abusive relationships, can also have some latent influence in selective coverage.

Thus the potential benefit of the academic-media report hybrid approach to sociological enquiry as outlined by Murray Straus, as well as the theoretical underpinning of agenda setting motive of the media both need to be carefully weighed in while making meaning of media reports on male victimization in intimate relationships.


The emergent themes that were sorted out from the analysis of the purposive sample of student-generated media reports include underreported male violent victimization crime statistics, lack of supporting services, new definitions of family violence, crimes of passion or violent responses to male-precipitated abuse as a rationale for male victimization, hidden forms of abuse, male victimization associated with celebrity lifestyles, and emergence of new technical resources including websites on the issues.

Underreported Male Victimization

Husband abuse constitutes an overall underreported crime statistics. This can be partially attributed to the fact that given the socially accepted concepts of masculinity, men are less reluctant to report the crime. In addition, even if men are willing to report the crime, the task of trying to substantiate a case of husband abuse is also uphill and faces institutional and procedural barriers. An "" article on why men do not report intimate partner violence enumerates fear of a lack of accountability, and humiliation and lack of confidence as some of the probable causes (, 2007). When men do report violence, the institutional and legal responses largely favor women and disadvantage men specifically with regards to custody battles (Cloer, 2009). Yet recent trends depict that men are being more open about their experience that include lack of restraining orders against women, lack of shelters and legal biases that disadvantage men--a columnist associated with Seattle Post Intelligencer attributes the recent "outpour" to a column that detailed on the recent stalking and killing of a man in Renton, Washington (Jamieson, 2004). The surfacing of one occurrence creates a platform to voice the experience of others.

Lack of Supporting Services

Given that husband abuse is a less acknowledged domain in the arena of family violence, the experiences of victimization receive little support. Men undergo the same kind of post-traumatic experiences including lack of self esteem. Yet there are few services available to men that deal with trauma. However, very recently there has been an increase in the shelter accommodations for men although the number is far less than adequate. One of the very few shelters financed by grants, loans and private donations houses both male and female victims of abuse in Enola, Pennsylvania (, 2003). Men who have availed the service of this shelter have identified the space as "nice" and "safe" although the general duration of the stay is as less as three days (, 2003). Recent legislation in the Violence Against Women Act also now includes federal grants to be dispersed to "female victims, male victims or both" (Young, 2006).

Emergent Definitions

One of the emergent definitions as explicit from the media reports includes a gender-neutral criterion. In addition, a new definition of emancipation hypothesis is adhered to the trend of male intimate partner abuse. The egalitarian status of contemporary relationships is attributed to women's precipitation of intimate violence. In at least two newspaper reports (both in Georgia), life insurance policy of the husband seems to be a motivating factor for premeditated murder attempts among military wives (Equal Justice Foundation, 1997; 2008a). This direction is particularly intriguing--in Georgia alone three of the reports on male victimization are associated with military wives. New definitions of family violence also treat male violent victimization as a real problem. This in turn insists on getting tough on family violence irrespective of the gender of the offender--it is not the underreported nature of husband/intimate male partner abuse but the gravity of the offence that warrants immediate attention.

Crimes of Passion Versus Violent Responses

In terms of some of the emergent prototype of the crime, men's victimization usually takes up two different kinds of appearance: in response to male precipitated violence or as a crime of passion (with the alleged involvement of a third individual). Clara Harris in Houston, took her husband's life in alleged response to his longstanding philandering tendencies after employing a detective agency which confirmed his extra marital involvement (, 2003).

The astounding characteristic of certain crimes reported makes it a compelling storyteller including the infamous instance of Lorena Bobbit. The verdict of the jury which found Bobbit temporarily insane according to the report on New York Times details of the initial act of violence precipitated by the husband (in this case rape) (Margolick, 1994). In a similar incident, Mary Winkler who shot her preacher husband to death, in an on air interview to Oprah Winfrey, confessed responding to years of physical and sexual abuse on impulse (CNN.Com, 2007).

Hidden Nature of Offense

Male violent victimization is not always precipitated by intimate partners and in some scenarios includes children. Thus it is important to iterate the designation of "male" violent victimization to family violence rather than looking at the problem simply as a scenario of husband or intimate partner abuse. The broader characterization of men as victims can also be connected to the overlap in gay men's relationships where abuse is not uncommon. This situation is analogous to other intersections of men's victimizing experiences including elder abuse with men as victims. One interesting reference was made to the death of an octogenarian by a septuagenarian backed by the allegation that he had found another companion, thus patterning after crimes of passion of younger counterparts (Equal Justice Foundation, 2005). In yet another instance, a 76- year-old former wife, was arrested on grounds of hiring a hit man to kill one of her ex- husbands. However, the homicide is defined as a cold case that took twenty years to solve (Equal Justice Foundation, 2008b)

Celebrity Lifestyles

Male victimization in intimate partner violence can also be observed in the lifestyles of the rich and famous. One interesting headline read "irreconcilable differences" emerging as a cause of separation between Cleveland pitcher Chuck Finey and his wife Tawny Kitaen, days after she allegedly "hit" him (Sports Illustrated.Com, 2002). The pitcher obtained a temporary restraining order on his wife and the involvement of medications for depression and migraine seemed to be a precipitating factor. Similarly, Colts cornerback Nick Harper was stabbed repeatedly by his wife during an argument although previous records indicate that Harper had been arrested in the past for hitting his wife in the face (, 2006). More historical is the infamous case of soul singer Al Green whose fan and supposed romantic other poured hot grits on his back in jealous rage and then took her own life in the 1970s (, 2009).

Online Resources

The Internet provides new avenues for dealing with the subject matter of male victimization in intimate partner abuse. This includes resources for men as well as websites dedicated to the purpose. These resources detail on the totality of the male experience: prevalence, poor records, myths associated with male victimization, discussing the broad range of abuse including emotional and psychological impacts, characteristics of women who are abusers (substance abuse, psychological problems, unrealistic assumptions, etc), the context for the onset of violence, strategies employed by women, why men do not report family violence, violence in gay men's relationships as well as providing information for hotlines.


This research attempts to explore the possibilities of synergy, excess and a partnership between academic research and media reports on male victimization in intimate relationships. Overall, a few corresponding themes can be derived from a careful reading of media-based and academic reports. Both the academic and media-based literature address experiences of victimization, guilt, shame, lack of institutional response or emergent controversy regarding the gender neutral claims. For one, men's experiences with victimization constitute underreported crime statistics. The burden of shame and humiliation associated with men as victims of abuse (Felson et al., 2005; Gosselin, 2010), which can potentially prevent them from being able to articulate their experience, is a recurrent theme detailed in both the academic and media reports. Second, lack of support for men (Migliaccio, 2002) at the institutional or personal level is a common concern. However, addendum provided by the media in this direction indicates the pressing need for voicing men's experiences and the fact that one overt life history can encourage others to verbalize their accounts of victimization. In addition, there are also new avenues including shelters available to men, in comparison to lack of support as reported in the past.

The lack of institutional support as well as the tendency of underreporting abuse (specifically when perpetrated by a 'known' other) corroborate one of Katz's (2006) central theses as derived from the 'Macho Paradox'--the reluctance of men to discuss family violence and in this case, revealing their own experiences with victimization. In addition, society's reluctance to put into reference the incidence of male plight also communicates insularity with regards to being able to comprehend an alternative victimization perspective beyond the traditional focus on women and children. In the same way, men as genuine victims also communicate a shift from the established gender status quo. The incidence of male victimization is without an established legacy, and yet potent with possibilities of shifts in the conventional gender roles within the context of family. If the "deeply misogynistic, male dominated culture" (p. 9) that Katz (2006) talks about is the norm, male victimization disturbs the very core of the established belief system.

Consistent with research in the arena of male victimization in intimate relationships (Follingstad et a1.1989; Sarantakos, 2004), media reports also suggest self defense as a result of years of physical torture as a precipitating factor leading to violent responses. The trail of preexisting husband-initiated abuse is apparent in more than one account, specifically as publicized in the infamous incident of Lorena Bobbit.

In addition, as Gelles (1997) outlined earlier with regards to the fluctuating attention adhered to men as victims of abuse, media provides extensive coverage if abuse is associated with social luminaries. News stories also respond to a historical epoch--thus when associated with a celebrity lifestyle it is likely to come into public preview.

The controversy regarding gender-neutral claims appear in both kinds of literature. In the academic parlance, the discourse is situated more at the ideological level (Coughlin, 1994; Minaker & Snider, 2006), whereas in the newspaper reports, the incidences and statistics are addressed to arrive at the gender-neutral claims. The two tones are divergent too--the scholarly literature still insists on looking at the scenario as by and large a feminine problem, but newspapers look at the increased magnitude of domes tic abuse beyond the feminist perspective. Thus, even when academic and newspaper reports dwell on the same theme, the tones might be divergent.

With regards to the second research question, media reports provide an excess of information than the initial scholarly review. The media "excess" specifically can be found with regards to the prevalent patterns: crime of passion as probable rationale, its curious association with military lifestyles, hidden nature of the offender characteristics, and new outlets that allow male victim's some sort of respite from their situation.

In more than one occasion, amorous engagement outside of marriage has been reported. Women have resorted to violence if the perceived sanctity of the relationship is disturbed through the philandering tendency of the husband or significant other. Second, the three specific references to military life indicate a new area of academic inquiry. Violence perpetrated by army wives is a new trend and could potentially indicate a different life experience leading up to the inflamed outcome. In addition, the involvement of elderly women in crimes of passion or otherwise, opens up new directions of query, consistent with the need emphasized by the academic counterpart on the subject (Reeves et al., 2007). However, the intriguing media-based supplement indicates elderly men as potential victims outside of family ties and as an unintended consequence of romantic involvement in late adulthood.

Websites that are new resources of information provides an "objective" account of what Migliaccio (2002) regards as subjective narratives of abuse. These technological resources can be regarded as an extension of evolving support services for men and provide a range of information from the fundamental meaning of family violence to why men tend to underreport.

When put together, both the academic and media overlap and surplus indicate a wide social spectrum across which male victimization is reported--from military personnel, to celebrity lifestyle, the elderly, gay men, or religious workers, for instance. This very broad array of victimization alludes to Connel's (1993) arguments of the transient nature of masculinities and its lack of a comprehensive correlate with social stratification. Connel (1993) refers to a historical development of 'hegemonic' masculinity (prevailing version of masculinity) where over the last two hundred years the so-called "gentry" masculinity (affiliation to kith and kin, code of honor, centrality of warfare) was replaced by "calculative, rational, and regulated masculini-ties" (p. 604). Yet the rational masculinity is not the only form that was in place--Connel discusses the concurrent development of "subdordinated" masculinities among those disadvantaged under industrial capitalism, with a proclivity to demonstrate authority in the domestic arena (Connel, 1993). In more recent times, the promise of gendered egalitarianism of "rational" masculinity has been replaced by covert gender politics and denial of opportunities for women in the workplace (Connel, 1993). Similarly, the unpredictable work prospect for working-class men has also led to a shift in paradigm that includes a wide array of possibilities--from bettering education credentials to intermittent reassertion of conventional masculinity (but not essentially at the cost of relegation of women's status at homes).

Connel's (1993) discussion is relevant in two important aspects. First, it sets up a case for the shifting notion of socially constructed masculinity and the fact that there is no concrete prototype that can be articulated. Second, by decoding the class myth, Connel (1993) makes accommodations for the coexistence of prevalent and alternative versions of masculinity across the social spectrum. Not responding to violence with violence can be a manifestation of hegemonic, rational and calculative masculinity when aligned to privileged social classes including celebrities or typical masculine professions like the military. At the same time, subordinated masculinities, which Connel (1993) discusses as evident from gay men's victimizations or victims without resources and institutional support, do not conform to power display in interpersonal relationships. If the media derivatives were to be contextualized within Connel (1993)'s analytical framework, "nativist, separatist, homophobic" (p. 619) version of masculinity is evidently not the only form in place.

In comparison to Connel's (1993) depiction of assorted masculinity, Messerschimdt (1993) draws on a different relationship between enactments of manliness and routes to deviance. White middle-class boys often display "accommodating masculinities," which are a restrained and rational enactment of the self in institutionalized regimes including the school and are pivotal for their success. Outside the school the children often partake in what can be construed as a non-violent enactment of manhood--this is "oppositional" masculinity--that is discouraged in schools and comprise of low risk deviance. To young boys born to the more privileged classes, oppositional masculinity is a respite from the emasculated self created from excessive conformity within institutional settings (Messerschmidt, 1993). Compliance to irrational authority in the domestic periphery can be a signifier of what Messerschimdt defines as "accommodating" masculinity. Not responding to violence with violence can be a by-product of a lifelong process of socialization that has entrenched normative understandings essential to the "rational" masculine master status. In this regard, the respite of "oppositional masculinity" in the way of resorting to violence never quite follows enactment of accommodating masculinities in adult lives (Messerschmidt, 1993).

Beyond the actual and theoretical implications of convergence and excess of information between the media and academic literature, and with regards to the final question on whether academic/media partnership provides a composite understanding of the male victimization syndrome, perspectives including the agenda-setting role of the media need to be taken into careful consideration. Aberrant social issues including homicide for insurance frauds or crimes of passion are likely to become a headline, given the quality of sensationalism associated with these topics. Given the motive of the wronged writer who decides to appeal through a letter to the editor and the gruesome crime committed by an unlikely offender or an octogenarian's alleged involvement in adultery, these themes would feature in the news agenda to captivate the target audience.

Irrespective of the penchant to profit from arresting themes, media excess does create new opportunities for research. The initial claims derived from news reports, including the rising incidence of male victimization for instance, can thus be validated or rejected in the way of more rigorous scholarly research. Straus (1992) believes that this partnership is pivotal for subsequent social policy formulation. However, the endeavor that goes into responsible policy formulation cannot singularly hinge upon media reports, because these do not account for a disinterested compilation of occurrences published with the singular motive of extending the cause of social sciences. The onus is on academic research--to pick up the cues from the trends reported in the mass media and being able to follow it up timely. In addition, the findings from academic research on the subject have to be communicated to the masses when appropriate, to avoid important knowledge gaps. To sum, the media-academic alliance is a promising exploratory beginning for subsequent research prospects.


An essential derivative from this research pertains to the very essence of interpreting male victimization--from intimate partner to intimate relationships. This change of focus first indicates the nebulous nature of the family and the recent supplements in the way of cohabitation, domestic partnership and other living arrangements. An important discovery also iterates the importance of looking beyond the gender-neutral definition. Men's episodes as victims do not make it gender neutral. Given the shame and guilt in reporting incidences or intermittent attention given to the topic, it is as much connected with the socially entrenched image of masculinity as women's experiences with abuse resonate patriarchal subjugation. Overall, the male disavowal is a product of the lifelong process of gendered socialization, and is by no means neutral in its criterion.

Overall, the role of the media in reporting men's experiences with victimization is both enabling and limiting. It enables to the extent of debunking misapprehensions of male violent victimization while substantiating its importance. At the same time, it is limiting in the way of recurrent, repetitive themes that disclose the violent recourse to a scandalous, "deviant" crime rather than detailing on the context. The optimism of research lies in responsible synergy that demystifies misapprehensions, educates on different aspects of male victimization in intimate relationships, and reiterates importance of gender-specific intervention, thus dispelling myths associated with socially validated masculinity.

DOI: 10.3149/jms.2001.57

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TANNI CHAUDHURI, Assistant Professor-Sociology/Criminology, Department of Social Sciences, Texas Wesleyan University.

Correspondence concerning this article should be sent to TANN1 CHAUDHURI, Department of Social Sciences, Texas Wesleyan University, 1201 Wesleyan street, Fort Worth, Tx 76105. EMAIL: TCHAUDHURI@TXWES.EDU
"Having given (my daughter) in marriage to
   a humpbacked husband,
   (she) is wet with tears.
   Because of his ring-shaped hump, he is curved like a bow.
   He lies on the bed like a full-stuffed sack"

--From Sibayan by Ramesvar (Smith, 1979).
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