The Abuse of Men

An Enquiry into the Adult Male Experience of Heterosexual Abuse

About The Book

Lynne Renoir suffered physical abuse at the hands of her judgmental father. The pain she endured led her to investigate how other abused people suffer, particularly men in their relationships with destructive women.

In her Master’s thesis Lynne interviewed forty-eight men from Australia and New Zealand. They told her about severe physical, psychological and sexual abuse. This led her to the view that men, as a whole, have been disempowered.

She points to the fact that society sees only women as victims of abuse, with men inevitably portrayed as perpetrators. Her call is for governmental authorities to recognize the plight of men in abusive relationships and to take action to remedy the wrong that has been done to them.


Do men suffer in their intimate relationships?

Lynne Renoir’s study suggests they do. Her findings are that women are more likely than men to use weapons. They will throw heavy objects, hit their partner with a fist, kick, bite, choke or stab him, or destroy his property.

The various forms of emotional abuse included preventing the man from contacting his family or friends. The woman would claim that his children were not his, criticise his intellect or his body shape, pick on him for the slightest mistake, or humiliate him in front of others. They would threaten to harm their children, or to disappear, taking the children with them.

Some women used sex as a means of control. They would withhold sex in order to punish the man for perceived shortcomings. Alternatively they would demand sex at the most inappropriate times.


An abused man will blame himself for being inadequate. He will feel he has failed to exhibit masculine characteristics such as strength, independence, and the ability to cope with adversity. His situation is exacerbated by the reaction of others. His story can be met with scepticism or disbelief on the part of the police, legal institutions, or even members of the helping professions. Abused men are often reluctant to leave their partners because they are fearful for the welfare of their children, who themselves can be victims of abuse.

Help is not provided for abused men. There are very few “men’s shelters”, as it is largely assumed that only women can be the victims of abuse. Men are supposed to be able to take whatever a woman might throw at them. Because of prevailing attitudes towards men generally, in society today abused men are rendered powerless.

What’s inside


A - Incidence and Forms of Abuse

Gender Comparison

Forms of Physical Abuse

Forms of Psychological Abuse

Characteristics of Male Victims


B - Reactions to Abuse


C - The Role of Society

The Police and the Lower Courts

Family Law

Social Attitudes

Gender Roles



D - The Construct of Masculinity

Forms of Abuse

Sniechowski and Sherven (1995) found that women more often use weapons than do men (82% of women; 25% of men). Cook states that according to a study of 328 married couples published in the Journal of Marriage and the Family, ‘Women were significantly more likely to throw an object, slap, kick/bite/hit with fist and hit with an object’ (1997 p.38).

In two Australian studies, the most common type of male behaviour which resulted in abuse was minor violation of household rules, and the three most common reasons women gave for abuse of their husbands were: to resolve the argument, to respond to family crisis, to ‘stop him bothering me’ (Sarantakos 1998; 1999).

The stories of the participants in this project confirm the kinds of abuse outlined above.

JASON: She would throw hard objects at me, like photos, bottles, plates. This would happen if I did things like not putting clothes in the proper place, or not hanging a towel up. If we were out and she wanted to go home and I didn’t, she’d put on one of these tantrums.

KEVIN: She burnt a hole in my arm and hit me in the face with a cooking pot that split my eyebrow. She picked up a hunting knife and threatened me with it. I took that one off her and she took out another one and she threatened to cut my eye out and I could watch her kill Karen. We struggled for the knife and it went into her thigh. She then took out an AVO against me.

ANDREW: She’d throw things at me — whatever she could find — ash trays or anything heavy. Sometimes she seemed like a person possessed. She would grab me by the genitals. ‘I’ll rip your fucking balls off’ she’d say. Then if I restrained her by holding her shoulders she would try to bite me or kick me.

BRUCE: Once when I was about to drive off to cricket, she put her head through the car window and smashed a dish of Farex in my face, cutting my eye.

ROY: I had to work long shifts and often when I came home, I’d find my wife had left the children (the youngest was only a few months) and had gone down to the club, drinking and playing the poker machines. Sometimes when I went to get her, she’d smash a glass or a bottle across my head. Several times I had my head cracked open.

STUART: She would get mad about anything at all and go off her head. She’d throw whatever was in her hand at the time — firewood, pitchforks, rocks. Once she threw a cup of hot coffee all over me. Then when I tried to run away she threw a glass bowl of nuts. On another occasion she threw the cutlery container at me — knives and forks went everywhere. Then she picked up a carving knife and was trying to stab me. I grabbed her wrists and managed to escape. I ran to my car, but she ran after me with a glass in her hand and screamed, ‘You get in that car and I’ll break the windows’. Then she hit me with the glass on the side of my face. It severed my temporal artery. I was losing a huge amount of blood and she was still screaming at me.

IAN: She used to scratch me on the face and neck. One night I was lying in bed, half asleep. She came in, and with a full-blooded fist she punched me in the left eye. She had her engagement ring on and the huge stone nearly gouged my eye out.

EVAN: Her abuse? Hitting with fists about my face and body. Kicking my legs. Biting at my protective arms. Throwing shoe polish or bottles at my head. Poking me in my face and body while screaming in my face. Once she knocked me down from behind and bit my right hand badly.

GEOFF: After she’d blown up about some triviality, I would just keep quiet, but then I’d be subjected to three or four hours of ranting and raving on what I was doing wrong. If I tried toleave the room, it would result in something being thrown. It started with things like fruit, but then she’d throw things that belonged to me, or something that someone in my family had given me and it would get smashed — usually something made of glass. Then she began to throw things directly at me. Once she threw the heater at me and it broke. But if ever I left the house, she’d lock me out. In the end I’d just sit there and agree to everything she said, knowing that within a few hours, if I was lucky, she’d run out of steam.




The abuse of men by women happens and hurts, yet it is rarely covered by the media or recognized as an issue in society.

Driven by her history as an abuse victim Renoir has published a thoroughly researched and illuminating study that explores this often-hidden phenomenon and reveals how these men are affected by it. Moreover, she calls out the social structures and cultural negligence that enable female-on-male abuse to occur.

Gail Torr, President,