Not All Domestic Abusers Are Men

It’s far too easy to overlook that cruelty has no gender.

I used to share an apartment with a committed, monogamous couple. John* was nice, albeit a little moody at times. His girlfriend Jenny was generally polite… to me. But the way she treated her partner was unacceptable. At times, it was downright abusive.

Imagine what would happen if I found John pushing Jenny into a corner, screaming expletives and slapping her in the face. I’d immediately call the police, even if Jenny begged me not to. I’d have seen this scenario on TV enough to know that Jenny was a victim.

But when my other roommate and I walked in on Jenny pushing John into a corner, screaming expletives and slapping him, we didn’t know what to do. John was bigger and stronger than Jenny, we thought. If he was “letting her do this,” then he must have done something to deserve it…right? Wrong.

As the months went on, Jenny’s abusive behavior continued. My other roommate and I avoided going home at all costs, hoping they’d just “sort it out somehow.” Eventually, I moved out. John continued to be victimized until he somehow mustered the courage to leave.

Months later, Jenny had a new boyfriend… and her pattern of abuse continued. In a chance meeting, I finally confronted her. “Why do you treat your partners like this?”

She grinned and said, “A real man can handle it.” 

My jaw dropped. “What would you do if he pushed you away?”

“Call the police,” she replied. “Duh.”

This exchange was shocking for several reasons. First, she genuinely thought she had a right to physically hurt men, while they had no right to defend themselves. Second, she used toxic stereotypes to her advantage, emasculating her partners if they couldn’t “handle” her abuse. Third… her new boyfriend was right there. Listening. Saying nothing.

Why did he (or John) put up with this woman’s abuse? The same reason people stay with violent male partners: they’re under the abusers’ control.

The majority of convicted domestic abusers are male, but cruelty has no gender.

As right as our legal systems are in doing what they can to protect women, what resources are there for men? If John were to ask his male friends for advice, would they just laugh it off? And if he were to call the police, would he be taken seriously?

I saw this same dynamic with a lesbian couple I was once close with in college.

Maria came to class with bruises on her upper arms. She laughed it off, saying her girlfriend got jealous over a text message and “pushed me around a little.” Was this abuse? Yes. But because her partner was a woman, Maria said it felt “silly to make it a problem.”

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been physically abused by an intimate partner. Studies have also estimated that 1 in 7 men will be victims of “severe” physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetimes.

Not all of these “intimate partners” are male. But because male perpetrators are more common, female abusers have learned to rationalize their behavior as permissible – and people around them do, too.

How do abusive women rationalize their bad behavior?

A simple Google search presented some alarming results. Even on social websites like Jezebel, where gender equality is said to be valued, posts like this one present female-on-male domestic abuse as acceptable – even humorous. 

With all the progress we’ve made for feminism and gender equality, why do we continue to overlook abuse?

Just a few generations ago, it was still legal and “acceptable” for men to beat and rape their wives in the United States. It was supposedly the man’s “right” to exert physical violence if he thought it was “necessary,” and it was the woman’s “place” to take it, especially if she somehow “deserved it.” Reading this, I couldn’t help but remember Jenny’s chilling rationalization of her violence toward John.

Abuse is never the victim’s fault, regardless of gender, status, or personal disagreement.

Domestic abuse toward women was legal and seen as “acceptable” until victims and allies stood up together to do something to stop it. Today, male-on-female domestic abuse is still a problem, but it’s not “okay” or “humorous” in most modern circles. So why is abuse toward men seen this way?

Why the double standard?

I don’t know why female abusers continue to fly under the radar, especially with so many groups advocating for equality. But I do know that those of us who have seen it happen – and done nothing to stop it – have become part of the problem.

Female abusers are less likely than men to be reported or even labeled as “abusers” by bystanders. But they’re not any less dangerous.

Sometimes, all it takes is one phone call to ultimately save a life. By waiting for the victim to “do something about it,” we are putting the blame on them while allowing the perpetrator to continue in crime.

“…Women tend to abuse men differently than men abuse women,” Victoria Ramos writes for PsychCentral. “Women generally favor emotional abuse tactics, making the abuse much more difficult to detect.”

Dr. Jill Murray, an expert on destructive relationships, has shared some crucial concepts to understand about domestic abusers:

  • Abuse is a learned behavior. It is learned from seeing it used as an effective tool of control—usually in the home in which [s]he grew up.
  • Abuse is not a natural reaction to an outside event.
  • It is not normal to behave in a violent manner within a personal relationship.
  • Abusers deny that abuse has occurred or make light of an abusive episode.
  • Abusers blame the victim, other people, or outside events for the abusive attack.
  • Abusers don’t act because they are out of control. They choose to respond to a situation violently. They are making a conscious decision to behave in an abusive manner.
  • Abusers know what they are doing and what they want [from their partner].
  • Abusers act out of a need for control and domination, not anger.
  • Abusers are not reacting to stress.
  • Abusers may at times be loving and gentle, charming and engaging, hard workers and good students.

A physically or emotionally violent relationship is not about love. It’s control, it’s abuse, and it’s wrong. If you are a victim of domestic violence, don’t wait to reach out for help. It’s not your job to change your abusive partner. Your only responsibility is to keep yourself safe — even if you love them, and even if they’re sorry. Domestic abusers can (and should) seek help from professionals. But your only responsibility is to seek help for yourself.

Resources For Help:

Educational Resources:

No matter your gender (or theirs), you are not alone. LoveTV welcomes thoughts, comments, and perspectives from victims and families of all identities, orientations, and relationship configurations. Let’s keep this conversation going. Share your thoughts or questions below!

*John and Jenny’s names have been changed to protect their anonymity.

How to Decide if You Should Stay Together (or Break Up) After Graduation

Lots of couples call it quits after school is over, but that doesn’t mean that you have to. So, what graduation mean for your relationship?

The time just after graduation is exciting, challenging, and completely terrifying. You’re heading out into the world with a fresh new degree, wild dreams, and, if you’re like me, tons of important organic chemistry knowledge that you’ll definitely forget in just a few months.

In your post-grad life, you’re going to learn new things about yourself, likely struggle professionally, find new dreams, and definitely grow as a person. And with all those changes and challenges, it can be complicated to keep a relationship going strong.

Which is why graduation time means cutting ties for so many couples.

Often, high school and college sweethearts find themselves splitting because of distance (maybe one of them moves to another state, or country). But a lot of times people break up because they grow apart emotionally.

But that’s OK. You’re bound to change and grow into yourself in the time after graduation, and that often means new relationship needs.

However, it doesn’t mean it’s impossible to stay together, either.

Personally, I’ve gone through three graduations with my fiancé: we went to high school together, stayed together through college (even going to different schools), and I just recently I finished up my masters degree just months before our wedding. And while some periods of our lives were more challenging than others, we were able to grow together (instead of growing apart) and our relationship worked out in the long run.

Sometimes, the hardest part of juggling love and life after graduation is just knowing when to try to keep a relationship going and when to simply part as friends.

Here are some things to consider when thinking about your relationship after graduation. And don’t forget, we’re here to help when you have relationship questions or just want to cut through the challenges of the dating world. We’re offering a special membership to new graduates as well. Use the code Graduate to receive your 14 day trial period on all subscriptions (that’s double our current LOVE TV 7 Day Free offer.)

1. Do you feel like you have room to grow?

coupl studying together at college

I knew a couple at my university who seemed like the perfect childhood sweethearts. They were so cute that Topanga and Cory from “Boy Meets World” would have seriously been put to shame.

They’d been together since middle school and seemed to be so compatible. They were interested in the same things (like acting classes and soccer), made the same friends, and seemed to be so in love with each other.

Which is why I was so confused when they broke up. One day they were sitting together with our friend group in the cafeteria at lunch, the next they were on opposite sides of the dining room, avoiding eye contact.

Then, to make things even stranger, they both started hanging out with new people and joining new clubs. She joined a sorority and spent her time going to parties and planning weekend trips to the beach. Meanwhile, he started getting really into law, joined the mock trial team, and started interning at the governor’s office. They both found new friend groups, stopped going to soccer games, and I never saw either of them taking a theatre class again.

At first, I thought they were trying to distract themselves from a hard breakup, trying new things and experimenting to keep from feeling sad. But eventually, I learned that this wasn’t just a phase, they were just both growing… in separate directions.

People change and grow, and sometimes being in a relationship can stall you from trying new things. If you two have something in common, you might devote more time to whatever that is, rather than exploring whatever really calls to you. While successful couples can figure out how to balance their own interests with their partner’s, sometimes people just need some room to grow by themselves.

Never feel like you have to compromise your interests, or your opportunity to find yourself, to maintain a relationship. If you feel like you need some room to grow, on your own, give yourself that time.

2. Are you worried about missing out on other love interests?

making new friends in college

Johnny Depp once said that “if you love two people at the same time, choose the second. Because if you really loved the first one, you wouldn’t have fallen for the second.” I think that his idea is true, even if you haven’t met that second person yet.

When I was starting college (with a committed relationship), a friend asked if I was worried about missing out on dating hot college guys. I honestly was not. In fact, I hadn’t even thought about it. I was satisfied with my relationship and didn’t want to date anyone else. Being on a new campus, around new people, wasn’t going to change that.

But, I was also very lucky. I found my future husband early and I knew where I wanted the relationship to go. Not many people have that kind of relationship in high school.

If the idea of a whole new world with lots of cute singles sounds enticing, it’s probably because (maybe even subconsciously) you know that your current partner isn’t going to be the love of your life. You deserve a relationship that makes you certain that you’re not missing out on anything, and if you don’t have that already, maybe now is your chance to start looking.

3. Is your love circumstantial?

should you stay together after graduation

We’ve all had friendships out of convenience: those friends that you feel so close to, until you don’t have to see them every day. There’s that friend that you love hanging out with at work, but as soon as you switch jobs, you never see them again. Or the pal you hang out with all the time during ultimate frisbee practice, but once the season is over, you realize you don’t actually have much in common.

Many casual relationships, especially in high school and college, are often formed out of convenience. You might start dating someone because they live in your dorm building or you take classes together. And with them always nearby, you might stay in the relationship because it’s easy.

Now, I’m not saying that you can’t meet your future spouse in a class, because you absolutely can (I did!) but there’s a whole great big world of people out there. You shouldn’t settle for that convenient relationship because it’s easy and comfortable, there could be a greater love out there waiting for you.

A good trick is to ask yourself if you would still be together if you lived an hour away from them, or two hours. You’ll know right away if you should try to keep the relationship together, or if you should part ways.

4. How much time are you willing to spend with them?

should you stay together after graduation

Every weekend in college, either my fiancé (then boyfriend) or I would drive the 45 minutes to the other’s school to spend time together. While I loved getting to see him so often, I can’t say it was always easy to make the time. I had to work extra hard on weeknights to finish as much homework as I could before I drove up to see him, and there were definitely a number of events and parties at school that I had to skip.

No matter what exciting thing you do next, whether it’s more school or a great new career, know that a relationship is a time commitment and your relationship has to be a priority in order to succeed.

If that time spent with your significant other doesn’t feel worth missing out on something else (or if you feel like you don’t have the time to devote to maintaining a relationship) it’s probably time to move on to what’s next.

5. What do you really want to accomplish in this next phase of life? Will your partner help or hurt you in achieving your goal?

should we stay together after graduation

Graduation often means new adventures and new goals, and if your plans don’t align with your partner’s, it might be hard to move forward. For example, if you’re dreaming of moving to Japan, but your partner wants you both to get a job locally, you might find yourself giving up on a dream.

It’s a good idea to make a list of what you want to do in the next few years, and have your partner do the same. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t necessarily break up if your lists don’t fit together absolutely perfectly right now. Plans almost always change and even if you are confident in your list now, you might change your mind down the road.

The important thing is that you’re able to work together to make sure you both get what you want, compromise when you can, and work as a team in the long run. If you don’t think you can do that, or your paths are too different, it’s best to talk about that now.

6. Do you picture yourself with your partner forever?

getting married after graduation

Sometimes, it’s good to date simply for fun. You could be seeing someone who is really cool and interesting, but that doesn’t exactly mean you see yourself marrying that person. At different phases in life you might want something different out of your relationships, and if right now all you need is a casual date to hang out with on a Friday night, that’s OK!

But, making a relationship last post-graduation can be hard work. You don’t want to go through all that trouble for someone you don’t see yourself having a meaningful (and long) relationship with. Simply ask yourself if you want to be with this person a year from now, or perhaps two years from now. Hopefully you’ll know your answer right away.


These six questions are sure to give any graduate a lot to think about. Just remember that graduation may be one of the craziest but most exciting times of your entire life, and navigating your love life on top of that can be a challenge for anyone. Hopefully, this list will help you realize the best path for your relationship, and set your love life up for success!

And don’t forget, we’re offering a special membership to new graduates as well. Use the code Graduate to receive your 14 day trial period on all subscriptions (that’s double our current LOVE TV 7 Day Free offer.)