UTAH (ABC4) — Many victims of domestic violence suffer in silence, feeling like they can’t come forward. This can be especially true for male victims, who experts say may be afraid to reach out for help because they feel shame or are worried they will be judged.
One in four men will experience intimate partner violence in their lifetime, according to Jennifer Campbell, executive director of the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition.
On top of that, officials said that those numbers could be underreported.
“I do believe men hesitate to report it simply because we all perceive men to be strong,” said Utah County Sheriff Rosie Rivera. “If [they] are involved in domestic violence, they don’t want to be perceived as weak. But it’s not weak. We need to get this information reported so we can help them.”
Two months ago, Demetrius Omar Lateef Allen — also known by his professional bull rider name “Ouncie Mitchell” — was killed in what police are calling a domestic violence homicide after he visited Salt Lake City to compete in the Utah State Fair.
LaShawn Denise Bagley, who police say had an on-and-off relationship with Allen, was arrested for investigation of murder and felony discharge of a firearm. So far, no charges have been filed against Bagley. We reached out to the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s office for comment, but at the time of this report, haven’t heard back.
Allen’s family said that he was a great light in their lives, and the loss has been extremely difficult.
“It’s like I’m still in a dream, and I just want to wake up and have him back. It doesn’t feel real to refer to him in past tense,” said Monicia Hale, Allen’s cousin.
She said it is important to treat domestic violence seriously and let male victims know they are supported.
“Don’t make a judgment or make a joke out of it because it isn’t funny. For any man going through that, I would tell him to speak out regardless of how you think you might be judged,” she said.
A man who wishes to remain anonymous shared his story with ABC4 about how he was emotionally and physically abused and controlled for over a decade of marriage.
“Behind closed doors, you have no idea what can happen,” he said.
He said he constantly hoped his relationship would improve, but it didn’t.
“My normal became more and more unnormal [daily],” he said.
He described that he was kept away from his family and didn’t feel like he could tell anyone about what he was going through.
“To explain what it is I’m in, I just didn’t want to do it. I couldn’t do it. I was shell-shocked,” he said.
He said that he could never imagine he would experience what he did.
“I was walking on pins and needles, on absolute broken glass daily. I couldn’t keep my mind straight,” he said.
Eventually, he said, the abuse put him in the hospital.
“She hit me so hard that it knocked the wind out of me,” he said.
And the mental abuse also took its toll.
“My soul was ripped from me.”
He added that men may feel like they won’t be believed or they might be trivialized, which is why it might be difficult for them to come forward.
Domestic violence advocates said that men might feel uneasy about reporting if they’re experiencing abuse due to stigmas and worry that others won’t listen to them, or people will assume they’re the perpetrator.
“Assuming it’s just one type or one area is actually really dangerous in our narrative as a community because it limits our understanding of what we can do to help,” said Campbell.
She said in order to support victims of domestic violence, we need to listen and believe them. She shared that men need to know there are as many resources available, such as counseling services and shelters, for men as there are for women in Utah.
“No one deserves abuse, even though that may be something they’re told for whatever reason. There are people here to help you — trained professionals that recognize domestic violence impacts men,” she said.
Rivera recently went to a forum in Washington D.C. with other law enforcement professionals where they addressed the topic of male victims of domestic violence. She said we need to take a look at harmful biases that could stop men from getting the help they need.
“This came up when Ouncie Mitchell was killed. I had a lot of people calling and saying, ‘But that doesn’t happen. Men aren’t victims.’ But men are victims, and law enforcement needs [training] to make sure we are fair and accurate,” she said.
The anonymous source said it isn’t easy to come forward, but he hopes others do, so they are able to get the support they need and get out of the abusive relationship.
“Put your foot down and say I can’t do this anymore. Speak up about it and get out of it,” he said.
Support for victims and survivors of domestic and intimate partner violence is available 24/7: 1-800-897-LINK (5465). If you or someone else is in immediate danger, or in an emergency, please call 9-1-1 immediately