Exploring Male Students’ Lived Experiences of Intimate Partner Abuse from a Female Partner and Help-seeking
This research investigated how male university students who have experienced abuse from a female intimate partner made sense of this abuse and their help seeking experiences. Students who indicated having experienced some form of Intimate Partner Abuse (IPA) were identified through a screening questionnaire and invited to take part in this study. In-depth interviews with seven students were analysed using interpretive phenomenological analysis. This analysis identified two themes related to the men’s experiences of IPA and help seeking. The first theme of stuck in the abusive relationship comprised four subthemes, each representing a barrier the men faced which kept them in an abusive relationship and prevented them from acting to end the abuse or from seeking help. These barriers were 1) the emotional investment the men had in the relationship, 2) living in an all-encompassing controlling environment, 3) their sense of responsibility to shoulder the burdens of the relationship, and 4) their understanding of abuse in relationships. The second theme moving on from the abuse described the process of overcoming and moving past these experiences. It comprised three subthemes: 1) how the men overcame the barriers and began moving on, 2) the slow process of supported recovery and learning, and 3) the existence of ongoing impacts related to the abuse. These findings add to the growing body of literature on IPA which has found that men can be the victims of abuse which can be serious, have lasting impacts, and for which they have difficulty seeking and receiving help. The need for policies and services which can overcome the barriers men face and that address their needs are discussed. This is the first qualitative research looking at men’s IPA victimisation with a student sample and future research is needed which looks at this phenomenon with students across countries and cultural groups and in relationships in which IPA was bidirectional.