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Spousal Abuse: When The Wife Is The Abuser

Spousal abuse doesn’t happen only to women. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 10% of men in the U.S. have experienced rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner. However, the actual number might be higher since men are more likely not to report due to stigma: many men don’t want to be appear “weak” by admitting they were hurt by a woman.

Abusive Relationships Are About Power And Control

All abusers, regardless of gender, try to exert power and control over their significant other through the following means:

  • Whittles away at your self-esteem via name-calling, put-downs, and constant criticism.
  • Tries to stop you from seeing friends and family.
  • Controls access to money.
  • Tries to keep tabs on your whereabouts (when there are no reasonable grounds for suspicion).
  • Rages when under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • Tries to turn the children against you.
  • Threatens to hurt you, take your money, or take the children if you leave.
  • Uses physical force: hits, kicks, slaps, scratches, or pushes you.
  • Threatens you with a weapon.
  • Forces you to have sex.
  • Blames her behavior on you.

Don’t Let Stigma Keep You From Getting Help

You may be keeping the abuse a secret because you don’t want to explain how a woman – especially if she’s much smaller than you – is using force to hurt you. But you’re not alone: 4% of men in this country experience physical harm in their relationships.

Your partner may also have you convinced that you’re the one to blame. If you’re questioning your judgment, call a DV hotline so they can assess your situation. A DV counselor can also help you prepare an exit plan so you can leave your abuser in the safest way possible.

Divorcing An Abuser

If your spouse is trying to manipulate you into staying by threatening to hurt you financially, or keep you from seeing the children, you may be afraid to leave your marriage. While the prospect of divorce from an abusive spouse is scary, remaining in an abusive marriage and exposing children to violence and power struggles damages them and you. Here are some steps to take to protect yourself and your kids:

  • Consult with a family law attorney who specializes in domestic violence cases (
  • Take photos of bruises or other signs of physical injury.
  • Take measures against cyber-spying: remove the GPS from your phone and car; change passwords on all electronic devices; clear the browsing on your computer; consider using a computer at work, the library, or a friend’s house.
  • Get a temporary restraining order (TRO) to prevent your spouse from contacting you.
  • Consider requesting a temporary order of sole custody and a risk assessment to determine the risk of harm to children from the abuser.
  • Work with your attorney to present evidence to the court to show why your temporary restraining order should become permanent.

Look To The Future

Breaking the silence about your abuse may be embarrassing initially, but it’s the first step to ending domestic violence. You may be surprised how relieved you feel when you no longer have to keep up appearances. The energy you spent trying to placate your abuser can now be spent building a better future for yourself and your children.