Domestic violence happens to men, too. According to the CDC 1 in 4 men will become victims of domestic violence in their life. That totals to around 3 million men a year or one man in America being abused every 37.8 seconds.

The statistics are frightening, but why aren’t we talking about them and the abuse men endure? When we discuss domestic violence as a nation every time an athlete or celebrity assaults their partner or spouse, we talk about the statistics of women being abused. While those numbers are incredibly frightening, we are also forgetting that men can be victims, too. By continuing the stigma that only women are abused, men feel shamed into keeping their abuse a secret.

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A person very close to me is currently in a very abusive and unhealthy relationship. For that person’s safety and privacy, I’ll call them Joe. Joe began a relationship with his girlfriend, who we’ll call Megan, over three years ago, sort of as a rebound. While Megan would publicly announce her feelings for Joe, he would say they were just friends and that he really didn’t want to be in a relationship with her.

Megan would cry to Joe’s family about how much she loved him and how much she wanted to be with him. Then Megan started to tell Joe’s family that he had become verbally and emotionally abusive, saying that Joe would insult her looks and force her to eat food while calling her fat. Joe’s family started to look at him differently and distance themselves from him, because he (according to Megan) was becoming a person they didn’t want anything to do with. However, Megan and Joe continued to spend time together and were basically friends with benefits, occasionally becoming intimate with each other.

One evening while Joe was out with his friends Megan came over to his family’s home to cry about their relationship and how he wasn’t answering her calls. When Joe finally came home, the couple confronted each other while intoxicated. There was an argument about how Joe spent his money and Megan began to hit Joe with a closed fist to the face. Joe curled into a fetal position and allowed Megan to beat him while he cried. As their argument continued Megan again attacked Joe, but this time Joe pushed her away. Megan fell and hit her head and fell unconscious. Joe and his mother took Megan to the hospital where she was told she had a mild concussion. Joe was devastated by what happened and never meant to hurt Megan – he just didn’t want to be hit anymore.

This is an event in their relationship that would be used to change people’s perceptions of them, Megan (the victim) and Joe (the abuser).

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After a sexual encounter, Megan discovered she was pregnant with Joe’s baby. Joe was nervous about becoming a father and was afraid of how his family would react because at this time Joe wasn’t really set in his life – he had a part-time job and still lived with his parents. Joe told Megan that keeping the baby was up to her and her alone. Megan chose to keep the child and Joe was scared but looking forward to becoming a father. Joe moved into Megan’s apartment and things began to change even more.

It started with Joe not being allowed to go to OBGYN appointments for their unborn child. It seemed strange to Joe’s family, but if that was the way they were doing things as a couple then so be it. Joe then discovered that Megan was smoking during her pregnancy. She gave excuses when Joe confronted her, but promised she would quit. She never did and then OBGYN appointments started to not go so well.

Megan blamed Joe for her pregnancy issues and lashed out at him constantly. Joe would make excuses for Megan’s behavior, saying that it was because she was uncomfortable being pregnant. But it was much more than that and after Megan gave birth to a (thankfully) healthy child, things didn’t get better – they got worse.

Joe would call his family at crazy hours to pick him up at Megan’s apartment. Megan would be drunk, screaming abuse at Joe while he sat on the edge of the bed crying, just taking it. Megan would hit Joe and tell him he wasn’t good enough. Joe just kept coming back though, forgiving her and believing Megan when she would promise to not do it again. But it kept happening and it still is.

Megan and Joe went on and had another child all while the abuse continued. One evening when a family member went to get Joe, Megan grabbed the phone and talked about the time Joe pushed her, saying he meant to hurt her. This all happened while the family member could see into the apartment window, where Joe was being cornered and threatened by Megan. But Joe would keep forgiving Megan, saying she didn’t mean it and that he didn’t deserve to be treated better. Joe convinced himself that he was worthless, a bad father, a bad provider, and that he deserved the abuse both physical and mental that he was receiving. The abuse has progressed to black eyes, bruises, and even objects being thrown at Joe, all while their children watch.

As a relative of Joe, it feels helpless to see someone go through something like this. You try to encourage them to think more of themselves and understand that they don’t deserve the treatment they are getting. It’s heartbreaking to watch someone suffer and you aren’t able to help them.

As a woman it is so hard to understand how any man can be abused by a woman. It seems physically impossible to a point. It’s when you actually witness it and see it, do you start to understand it. Men are too proud to come forward and admit that they are being abused.

The stigma in our society is that men are strong and women are weak. Men who are victims of abuse choose not to come forward because they are afraid of how people will react.

The reality is anyone can be a victim of abuse, children, women, men, elderly, or disabled. No one is excluded. We have to change the way we talk about abuse in the country and understand that by stigmatizing it we shame people from coming forward.

How does it end with Megan and Joe? I don’t know, that’s up to Joe. As of right now Megan has pushed Joe’s family away from him. Megan has convinced everyone around Joe that their relationship is fine and that when she hits him it’s because he deserves it. The sad thing is that people actually believe her and because of my feelings towards Megan it has caused a tremendous strain within my family. I’ve sought outside help about the situation and was told to seek out Child Protective Services or to even call the police when an incident happens.

If you know someone who is a victim of abuse, don’t give up on them no matter how much they try to push you away. Help them the best you can and don’t ignore the nagging feelings you have inside that say this relationship isn’t healthy or normal. Research and seek help for the person you love.