Societal power structures and some pop culture stereotypes which lead some men to fear appearing weak are often behind intimate spousal abuse.
Clare Murphy, of the Queensland University of Technology's Faculty of Law has, as part of her PhD research into men's intimate partner abuse and control, interviewed 16 men who have been physically, emotionally, sexually or financially controlling of a live-in female partner and participated in programmes to stop abuse.
Published in PsychDigest, March 2009.
Her research found many men who had been abusive thought that displaying behaviours such as showing empathy and love meant they would be seen as less masculine by other men. Even men who wanted a loving, non-abusive relationship with a woman may suppress loving and caring practices to avoid being ostracized by other men.
Ms Murphy spent two years facilitating women's programmes at Hamilton Abuse Intervention Project in New Zealand, researching how women coped with psychological abuse. She defined spousal abuse as the use of a systematic pattern of wide ranging tactics used to establish and maintain power and control over a female partner.
According to Ms Murphy, not all perpetrators use physical violence; rather they may use psychological abuse including mind games, degradation and violation of trust. They may sexually abuse their partner, control finances, prevent her from working, isolate her from family and friends and prevent her from getting any medical help she might need.
Society tends to depict perpetrators of domestic violence as non-white, poor, young men, according to Ms Murphy, and if a white, middle-class man's violence makes the news, women are often investigated to see how they may have provoked the response.
Moreover, men who do not fit the stereotypes often do not define themselves as perpetrators, decreasing the possibility of seeking to change.
For intimate partner abuse to cease, changes must occur in individuals and institutions that practise and condone hierarchical power and control, regardless of context. "This includes those who denigrate homosexual men or women, education officials who do not reinforce school bullying policies, legal professionals who do not reinforce laws against elder abuse, TV sports comedy programmes that favour misogynistic jokes and companies that record music that supports domestic violence."
Queensland University of Technology (2009, February 5). Misplaced machismo behind domestic violence. Retrieved February 22, 2009, from http://www.news.qut.edu.au/cgi-bin/WebObjects/News.woa/wa/goNewsPage?newsEventID=24017