Beyond patriarchy: a qualitative study of men's experience of domestic abuse

Utton, Penny (2013) Beyond patriarchy: a qualitative study of men's experience of domestic abuse. Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.


There is a particular death of research into heterosexual men's experiences of domestic abuse (DA) and currently no research from a counselling psychology perspective. The investigation examined heterosexual men's experiences of DA. Nine men who selfidentified as having been subject to DA within a prior heterosexual relationship were interviewed regarding their experiences. The gathered data were analysed qualitatively using interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA). Themes generated suggested that many facets of the abuse experience were comparable to that of female survivors. Accordingly, survivors experienced a range of unpredictable abusive behaviours with control cited as the desired end of abuse perpetration. Male survivors were also observed to develop depression, post-traumatic stress and difficulties with traumatic bonding and affect regulation as a result of DA. Despite these similarities, it was noted that the concept of female perpetrated DA inverted prevailing socio-cultural gender norms and expectations. Consequently, the socio-cultural context in which men experienced DA was cited as largely hostile, persecutory and dismissive. This hostile context differentiated the experience of DA for the male survivor. Firstly, it enabled the perpetrator to abuse with minimal social or legal ramification. Secondly, it created an opportunity for the perpetrator to control and abuse via false allegations of DA. Thirdly. it resulted in survivors experiencing repeated re-victimisation, ridicule, disbelief and humiliation when the abuse was disclosed. Deep-seated feelings of shame, emasculation and isolation were therefore noted to entrench the experience of being a male abused by a female. This shame and isolation was thought to potentially augment experiences of depression and post-traumatic stress. A key implication of the findings is the need for counselling psychologists to be aware that men can be subject to DA and that such abuse can have a severe, traumatic and enduring impact. The findings also help to advance counselling psychologists' understanding of the potential relevance of gender norms and to appreciate how such norms may distinguish the experience of DA for a male survivor, creating an alternate set of vulnerability and mediating factors. The results also suggest that these norms may have an impact on how a male survivor behaves in therapy and responds to the therapeutic relationship. Suggestions are also made for further research in the area.

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