The following piece includes unpublished excerpts from an interview I did with Huffington Post columnist Vicki Larson for her article Are Men Society’s Scapegoats? I’m sharing the information here to give any new visitors the facts about Shrink4Men and to explain why Shrink4Men exists, what it is and what it isn’t.
When and why did you start Shrink4Men.com?
I started Shrink4Men in 2009 to address a gap in the mental health field, where there’s more than $4 billion spent on support programs for abused women annually and very little for abused men.
Our society tends to ignore the fact that men are just as likely to be victims of abuse as women. Many men who visit Shrink4Men and the original Shrink4Men WordPress blog express feelings of isolation and helplessness because they’ve been unable to find anyone in their local communities who is able or willing to recognize and acknowledge their symptoms or offer constructive ways to contend with female perpetrated abuse.
They find it on Shrink4Men, where there are thousands of accounts of psychological and physical abuse suffered by male victims and a supportive community for and by those who’ve experienced it firsthand.
Shrink4Men isn’t just for men.
My work helps educate men and women about abuse — how to recognize it, how it affects relationships, and how to cope with it. Some men have been raised to silently tolerate abuse, that is if they even identify it as abuse. I provide information about how to disengage from an abusive dynamic, how to protect oneself and, if necessary, how to formulate an exit strategy.
It’s also a resource for friends and family members who see their best friend, son, grandson or brother being abused. Second wives and girlfriends often come to Shrink4Men to find ways to help partners who are still being abused by their ex-wives or ex-girlfriends. Adult sons and daughters with abusive mothers also frequent my site.
How many men have you counseled, and what are they mainly struggling with?
I’ve lost count how many men and women I’ve worked with in my career. I began training and working in the field in 1995. I receive inquiries every week for my services from men and women.
In my practice, my male clients struggle with many of the same issues experienced by their female counterparts. Many exhibit trauma symptoms and learned helplessness. Their self-esteem has been systematically eroded. They second-guess their feelings, perceptions and judgment as a result of being gaslighted by their partners.
Many exhibit physical symptoms from the chronic stress and hyper-vigilance of living under abusive conditions such as headaches, muscle fatigue, weight gain and digestive issues. They also struggle with the effects of parental alienation that sometimes occurs when one parent conditions the children to hate and fear the other parent. This includes depression, anxiety and, sometimes, suicidal ideation.
Some men I work with are angry — and rightfully so. Many are unable to articulate this anger because when they express their emotions to others, they’re often accused of having “anger issues” and told to get help. These men do need help, but not because they’re angry. Their anger is a natural byproduct of the abuse they’re experiencing.
They need help and support because they’re being abused by their wives, girlfriends and exes. Our society does not offer much support for men experiencing these issues. It makes most people very uncomfortable.
On your website you state you “have greater empathy for men because they don’t have as many emotional outlets or sources of support.” Why is that?
I have more empathy for men in these situations because of the double standards they face. Men who tell mental health professionals, law enforcement, court evaluators, judges, family members and friends that they’re being abused are often ignored or ridiculed. Sometimes they’re accused of lying. This is why so many abused men remain silent and don’t seek help.
Men are expected to be strong and tough, so many of them carry a tremendous amount of shame for even being in an abusive relationship. They blame themselves and feel like failures. What’s worse, many men are told, “If she’s treating you that way, you must’ve done something to deserve it.” Imagine telling a woman whose husband beats her, “You must’ve have done something to deserve it.” It wouldn’t happen. No mental health professional today would say that to a woman suffering abuse. It happens routinely to men who are. I know because I work with a lot of these men.
Many people assume that our government provides equal amounts of support to female and male abuse victims. This is not the case. Each year federal and state governments spend billions of dollars for various programs designed to stop domestic violence.
Nearly all of these services are available only to female victims.
Currently, there are fewer than 10 shelters in the U.S. that take male abuse victims and their children and only one helpline to my knowledge (DAHMW Domestic Abuse Helpline for Men and Women; 1-888-***-****). When men call their local shelters, they’re told, ‘Sorry, we can’t help you. Women and children only.” [2023 update: DAHMW is no longer in service. I don’t know the current number of existing shelter for men.]
Telling a man to simply leave an abusive marriage can open him up to next level emotional and financial abuse by law enforcement and family court. In my opinion, the family court is willfully blind to the abuse experienced by men. Officers of the court tend to see men as abusers and women as victims. A savvy attorney can take advantage of this via false abuse allegations and ex parte orders.
Many of my clients are the victims of false allegations and baseless restraining orders wielded as legal leverage by the opposing party to gain an advantage in divorce and custody cases. In many ways, our family courts enables abusive women and compound male victimization. We should be supporting male and female abuse victims equally.
Have you ever been accused of woman bashing?
Yes and the accusation is ridiculous. Research shows that both men and women abuse their partners at nearly equal rates. Additionally, many personality disorders that are more likely to be abusive types also occur among the genders in equal rates.
I tailor my work for men because of the dearth of resources available to them on this subject matter. Imagine looking for help and seeing he/him to describe the abuser and she/her for the victim. How would that make you feel if you were a man being abused and seeking help?
Advocating for men doesn’t make me anti-women. I’m not anti-woman; I’m anti-abuse.
I frequent a site for second wives and stepmothers and I introduced your site there because so many of us have dealt with men who have been abused. There is such a need for a place for abused men to go. I’m so glad you started this site. It’s been a great resource for me and my husband, as well as people we know who are in abusive situations at the hands of a woman.
Dr Tara Palmatier says
You’re welcome, knotheadusc. I appreciate your comments. You add a lot of value to the discussions here and I’m grateful for your contributions.
My best to you and your husband and your friends in similar situations.
Thanks for all your work, Dr. T. Your blog helped me a lot while I was going through some really difficult times. I love the work you do and I really appreciate the lack of gender bias and gender stereotyping on your site. It’s a pity more people don’t take that perspective.
Dr Tara Palmatier says
Thanks, Joesixpack. I think the information and stories here probably hit a little too close to home for some people.
I am an active participant in a forum for people in sexless marriages, and we frequently refer ALL people here as a resource for emotional abuse, because 90% of the behaviors discussed here apply to both sexes. The other 10% are only made possible by a maladaptive justice system and misplaced social constructs.
In our other forum, the comment is often made that being sexless is a symptom of a larger problem, and that larger problem often ends up being abuse. There is no limit to the type of carrot that an abuser will use to goad his/her victim into further compliance. I personally used the information here to navigate my escape from an abusive marriage, recovery from anxiety and depression, and currently am undergoing treatment for PTSD.
Dr Tara Palmatier says
Thanks, NaturalSam. I’m glad the people in your forums find it helpful. I try to keep up with following trackbacks, but many forums are private so you’re never quite sure if the link is because someone found you helpful or not.
On a separate note, I’m glad you got out of your abusive marriage and are actively working on healing. Very, very happy for you.
Robert Full Of Rage says
This is my first comment on this website.
Whenever I was abused by a woman, either no one cared or I was ridiculed for being abused. Listening to Dr. Tara on the “A Voice For Men” radio show was the first time in my whole life I ever heard a woman say she cared about men’s pain.
Dr Tara Palmatier says
That’s a sad commentary on our society. It makes me ashamed for some of my gender that that’s been your experience.
Glad you’re here. Thank you for registering and commenting.
I was raised to be a staunch feminist. I was a member of NOW. Somewhere along the way fighting for equality for women morphed into the denigration of men and an institutionalized imbalance of power in the law and the courts. If you don’t think women are ALWAYS right compared to a man in the same equation, then you’re the enemy and a misogynist.
As a woman, Shrink4Men has helped me deal with some of the aftermath caused by my husband’s first marriage. Additionally, the experiences of the members here has helped me to help my husband navigate the waters of post-divorce hell with an abusive personality. It’s not easy to unlearn behavior learned from years of abuse, and that’s true whether you’re a man or a woman. Equality is equality.
I do not find this site or the people of this community to be misogynistic. I find them to be anti-abusive. That, to me, is what this site is about.
Dr Tara Palmatier says
Me, too, Avarah. Even took some women’s studies courses as an undergrad and interned and then worked at a DV shelter for women during my graduate studies. When I was in the 4th grade, I had a t-shirt that read, “Anything boys can do girls can do better.”
Seems to me there’s a percentage of women today who want special rights, not equal rights. That’s not feminism; that’s female supremacy. No thanks.
Amen to that! I have an MSW degree and part of one of my internships involved working for my agency’s “Family Violence” program. What a misnomer! The entire program consisted of court ordered “batterers intervention” classes made up of entirely–you guessed it!—men! The purpose of the class was to “educate” these “batterers” about what excrement they were based on the theories of Lenore Walker (I believe that was her name). I remember so many of the men being totally sincere and asking about situations when their female partner was up in their face screaming and making threats, shoving them, etc.–you know the drill. The response of the female facilitator was ALWAYS that men are natural aggressors and that the female was only defending herself against the man’s innate tendency to be violent. I recall questioning my supervisor about why women cannot be violent because certainly there were females in prison for violent crimes, female child abusers, etc. Her response? Women’s behaviors are entirely the result of oppression by a patriarchal society! WTF!
Hey Beesley! I have an MSW too. Not long after I graduated, I noticed a DV center in Washington, DC was advertising for a victim’s advocate, but expressly requested that no one with a social work degree apply. I wrote to them to ask why they were excluding social workers and they said it was because we’re mandatory reporters of child abuse and they feared that status would prevent abusive moms from coming in for services. The man who wrote to me also explained that they had their own criteria for reporting abuse. And of course, there were no services provided for male victims of abuse. The person I wrote to also directed me to “send my resume to a place where it was welcome.” I didn’t want to work there and hadn’t submitted my resume. I just wanted to know why they were openly discriminating. Now that I’m married to a man who was abused, I’m so glad I never got involved with the DV industry.
I’m grateful for this site as well. One of my friends has recently married and had a child with a woman like this. I can see the signs of whats to come (a 5 minute conversation with the wife garnered 8 of the 15 traits of a golden uterus… in just 5 minutes), so I subtly recommended this site to him. I doubt he read it, he hasn’t fully seen her for what she will become, but he knows this site is out there, and he knows I’m there to help when the time comes.
Dr Tara Palmatier says
Kratch, you’re a good friend. Sadly, for some people living in dysfunction is more comfortable than getting out of their comfort zone of mutual misery and into the unknown.
I hope things work out for your friend.
I have a friend that is being abused at the hands of a horrible woman. I started doing research to figure out why men continue to go back to the relationship. I didn’t understand until I found this website. Now, it all makes sense and I’ve learned so much, which I know so many people have.
Thank you so much for educating our society on such a horrible and destructive problem that effect so many men. I hope the word spreads so that more men can see for themselves that they are not alone.
Dr Tara Palmatier says
You’re welcome, Andie214, and I hope your friend breaks out of that cycle.
Thank you for your support and the contribution of your comments.
“Have you ever been accused of woman bashing?” Dr. T I don’t believe you bash women. I do believe you hold women AND men accountable for abusive behavior. I truly believe if the tables turned tomorrow and woman had little, to no resources available to them, then you would shift gears. Reality as of today is women get help and men get shamed. Abuse is abuse and I think you get that. MAN – WOMAN – CHILD – no one deserves to be abused.
There is nobody else on this planet that has done more to expose abuse in such a humane way than Dr T.
Dr T has thrown the only life preserver out to men like myself and given us a second chance.She totally gets it,not just “I think you get it.”
Without Dr T constantly building up this web-site,I would have given up hope a long time ago.
It is such a spirit booster to watch it grow and see men`s victories in areas once deemed impossible.
I think that your efforts to bring this issue (male abuse in relationships) to light, are pioneering. And the fact that you are female only lends you that much more credibility to your lack of bias. Keep up the good work, Dr. T.
Cousin Dave says
Even though it was a long time ago, I had a lot of questions left over from my first marriage that I was never able to answer until I started reading Shrink4Men. Thank you, Dr. T.
I just completed my divorce process about a month ago and this site has been an incredible resource of support, information and comfort during an 18-month nightmare of chaos during that process thanks to ex-wife.
I am one of the few that has earned primary custody of my children, in part to a surprising 11th-hour diagnosis by a psych of her being bipolar. I have posted here a few times, but mostly just enjoyed the site as being a great reminder that i haven’t been alone in dealing with some pretty abusive behavior on her part to me and my children that is way too long to list.
A great thanks to Dr. T for taking the time to always provide timely and wide-ranging information that simply can not be found elsewhere. Don’t ever quit because as my life slowly gets on track I guarantee there are thousands more men/fathers behind me that really need what you provide.
A huge thanks…
It’s the “18 month nightmare” that I think a lot of us are afraid of. I’m trying to prepare myself for the nightmare. I would file for divorce now, but I don’t think I’m prepared. I hope to get my wife on a psych evaluation as well during the eventual divorce process. Anyways, I think Dr T. and this site are great!
I agree. This blog and its forum are rife with tales of mens’ nightmarish divorces from Cluster B women. Dr. T. is well-intended in exposing these women and for providing men with a preview of what they might expect once they put the divorce wheels in motion. However, I believe there may also be a demotivating effect to all this negative information. Reading the horror stories can do less to get you off the dime and take action, and more to make you soil your pants at the prospect.
Verbal: I find myself waffling between wishing I could convince my friend to leave (if only he could see what it’s like and how much better it is on the ‘outside!’) and hoping that he stays, for fear of the hellish nightmare she will invariably put him through…keeping him from their children and grandchildren, smearing his name, trying to get him to lose his job, stealing money and posessions, begging and pleading with him to give her another chance…only to turn Mr. Hyde behind closed doors…and I do sincerely fear for his life.
Thus begs the question: Which is worse? Living in a constant state of ‘survival’ mode; on edge, handing over bits of your soul every day for the sake of staying alive? Or risking physical death to grapple for a chance at feeling alive on the inside?
All I know is what I chose…it’s been 4+ years, and it’s sometimes hard, and often lonely…I still struggle with demons and sometimes curse my fate…but the worst day away from him is far better than the ‘best’ day with him. It’s no contest.
Very soon after I left, *every* *single* *aspect* of my life improved. Yes, there were hard days, yes, I cried (A LOT) and raged (more than I care to admit), and yes, I even felt an urge to go back. I’d rather live in a box under a bridge than to ever go back to that again.
The good parts of hearing others’ horror stories are:
1. You know you are not alone. with just slight variation, it all sounds eerily familiar.
2. You can better prepare by learning from our mistakes / lessons / experiences / quick-thinking.
3. I’ve heard that before a patient goes into surgery, if they are told some of the possible complications, especially the Truth about what they will feel like afterwards and for how long, they tend to heal much faster. Just by having a realistic idea of what to expect, they do better.
“Thus begs the question: Which is worse? Living in a constant state of ‘survival’ mode; on edge, handing over bits of your soul every day for the sake of staying alive? Or risking physical death to grapple for a chance at feeling alive on the inside?
All I know is what I chose…it’s been 4+ years, and it’s sometimes hard, and often lonely…I still struggle with demons and sometimes curse my fate…but the worst day away from him is far better than the ‘best’ day with him. It’s no contest.”
no truer words…i can only say it’s up to each individual to decide when and if you are ready to go…i always tell others for whatever reason on the verge of leaving there marriage that when the time comes you will know 100 per cent.
If it’s it’s only 98, the answer is likely to be no, because some days that two per cent will be huge, other days a sliver. When the time comes you will know. For me it was the discovery of paperwork on the family computer that detailed her out-of-town hotel stay with another man, her return and repeated rages of denial that finally led to death threats, a punch and my calling of 911. The opening to others such as police of my dark, hidden secret of the tragedy my life had become and for my children was the ‘it’ moment. For most here, you will know the feeling. You will just know.
Once the move is made, you may never for a very long time find total peace and comfort because of her continued actions and memories of what she did to you… but your worst day, will still be better than your best day with her.
My advice to you is spend hours on this web site.Go back the the beginning and re-read the earlier articles.They are full of information that has no expiry date and is as fresh as the first day of printing.Make notes in your journal with all the other instances of abuse.
Not only will you be learning valuable information your confidence level will begin to rise rapidly.
Then your abuser will not be able to zero in on what she is very good at.
Your fear. It will be under control and she won`t be able to undermine you.
She will be the one thrown into confusion……….read on,my friend.
This website has been an enormous help for me since leaving my wife. Luckily we never had children, but after ten years of being raged at, blamed for everything, hyper criticized, etc. this is the first place that I found real answers to what I went through. Thanks for the all you do Dr. T.
This website has helped my family immensely. My husband, a former abused spouse, loves your articles. I share them on facebook frequently and have people come out of the woodwork thanking me for sharing and that your site is now helping them cope/get out/understand past abuse.
On a personal note, I find it utterly insulting that women play feminist and then the victim. You can’t have it both ways. If you want equality, then fight for equality…not oppression.