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"It's so easy, from the outside, to put the blame on the woman and say, ‘You just need to leave.’ … Where does a woman go where [abuse] is the norm? When the police won't help her? When her family won't help her? Where does she go when she leaves one man who hits her and is just as likely to wind up with another man who hits her, maybe even worse than the first? Where does she go when she's single with three kids, and she lives in a society that makes her a pariah for being a manless woman? Where she's seen as a whore for doing that? Where does she go? What does she do?"
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Domestic abuse, defined as physical or emotional abuse between members of a romantic or familial relationship, was once a recurring comedy trope throughout history. After all, physical and verbal abuse between characters is often considered funny, and romantic relationships were no exceptions. Lately, however, the Unfortunate Implications of Domestic Abuse have gotten more attention, at least for one side of the equation: male-on-female Domestic Abuse.

In modern times this type of domestic abuse is most often used as the impetus for more dramatic plot developments, such as a wife having to face the fear of domestic violence and gain the courage to leave her marriage. In these cases a Dude, Not Funny! may be uttered if someone tries to make light of the situation. Still, female-on-male domestic abuse is still almost always played for laughs.

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May also be an element of a Destructive Romance or a Big, Screwed-Up Family, making it an extreme case of Love Hurts. On another hand, Romanticized Abuse occurs when mistreatment is presented as a form of Fanservice. Sometimes, another man will take exception to this behavior. Expect stories revolving around this to involve a lot of Victim Blaming. May involve Clothing-Concealed Injury if the person being abused tries to hide injuries caused by domestic abuse.

Compare Abusive Parents. Also see The Bluebeard and Black Widow.

See also Values Dissonance and Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male.


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Examples:

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    Advertising 
  • Example with the Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male: in a commercial for a certain mattress company, a wife gets fed up with her husband's constant tossing and turning, and clubs him unconscious with a frying pan. This is supposed to be funny.
  • An ad aired during the Cleveland Cavaliers vs. the Chicago Bulls playoff game starts with a couple acting Sickeningly Sweet, then experiences Mood Whiplash when the husband finds out his wife is a Bulls supporter (he supported the Cavaliers, which in this ad are considered the right team). A voice-over then says "Don't make the same mistake she made" and the ad ends with the husband and wife wearing Cavaliers jerseys while the wife holds an ice-pack to her head. Some Moral Guardians derided the ad and demanded it pulled.
  • A United Kingdom PSA about domestic abuse called "If You Could See Yourself, Would You Stop Yourself?" has the boy in a relationship with a girl looking at himself through a thick-glass window mistreating his girlfriend when she refuses to go along with what he's trying to force her to do with him. He bangs on the window, hoping that he would get himself to stop what he's doing.

    Asian Animation 
  • Wolnie of Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf physically abuses her husband Wolffy whenever he inevitably fails to catch the goats, usually by hitting him with a frying pan. That's just one of the ways she has abused him for failing to catch the goats, by the way.

    Comic Books 
  • Ultimate Marvel: Ultimate Hank Pym is terribly abusive to his wife. Leading to a very satisfying moment when Captain America beat the crap out of him while he was 10 stories high.
  • Superman:
    • This plays into the very first Action Comics issue, where Clark Kent somehow gets involved in a domestic abuse case, leading to Superman intervening with the line, "YOU'RE NOT FIGHTING A WOMAN, NOW!"
    • Revisited in The Dominus Effect story arc where Superman is trapped in four different realities at the same time, when immediately after dealing with the abusive husband he sees a young girl whom he assumes is the abuser's daughter, only to be later revealed as Kismet's form in all four realities.
    • Another example from the franchise is Clark's next-door neighbor Gary. In "Time Ryders", the second Linear Men story from the Time and Time Again collected edition, he is seen walking down the hall to his apartment, simply saying that he's getting counseling to work out his problems and nothing more after that.
    • In "Breaking the Chain", Supergirl starts a relationship with a mysterious guy called Power Boy. Their brief "romance" ended when Power Boy revealed his abusive nature by beating Supergirl into unconsciousness when she had the gall to visit a male friend in the hospital, and then locking her up "for her protection". In reaction, Supergirl gave him a beating and told him to never come near from her again.
      Supergirl: You hit me. You said you loved me... And you hit me.[...] No one who says he loves you should hit you, ever.
    • In Superman: Grounded, William and his mother suffer physical abuse from his father Vincent. Fortunately, Superman puts a stop to that.
  • Batman:
    • Seeing a man beat his wife or girlfriend is a major Berserk Button for Jason Todd. He once killed a man for beating his girlfriend so badly that it caused her to commit suicide — the boyfriend got away scot-free because he was the son of a diplomat, and this drove Jason to take matters into his own hands.
    • Speaking of Batman, there is also the flagship couple, The Joker and Harleen Quinzel. Though their relationship originated in the animated series, the comics have not been holding back on expanding their relationship as much as possible.... In fact, their relationship is so well developed, it's a wonder Harl is still as physically sound as she is. At first this was played purely for comedy, with the Joker dishing out a Literal Ass-Kicking to Harley, ending with her landing out in the street (or, in one case, in the hyena pit). It finally entered Dude, Not Funny! territory in Mad Love, where he flew into a rage, slapped Harley, beat her with a large fish, and finally shoved her through a window several stories above the ground, causing her to land in a blood-soaked heap in the alley below with a black eye and at least three broken limbs. As she heals in Arkham Asylum's hospital wing, Harley comes to forgive the Joker after he sends her a rose and a note reading "Feel better soon" — without even bothering to apologize. In Death of the Family, the Joker is inflicting this on Harley Quinn worse than ever. This time she escapes him. That's a good thing, because he tried hanging her with a chain, and infecting her hyenas with rabies just to hurt her!
  • Often Played for Laughs in the stories by Wilhelm Busch.
  • In Runaways, during a time-traveling expedition to the 1900s, Karolina and Molly meet a sweet little girl named Klara Prast. When they see Klara fighting with an older man and later appearing with bruises on her face, they assume that her father beats her. Turns out they're half right. The man beats her, but he's her husband, not her father.
    • Chase was physically and verbally abused by his father, to the point where he blamed himself for his abuse. Frighteningly, in the last arc before the series was cancelled, he threatens to beat Klara because she's crying too much after he's deliberately gone out of his way to be cruel to her, because he blames her for Old Lace's death.
  • A few instances of this in The Golden Age. Jonathan Law (Tarantula) gets so frustrated with his Writer's Block and the fact that his paramour Libby Lawrence (Liberty Belle) is finally getting work as a news commentator that he tries to vent them out on Libby, but she takes him down rather easily. Later on, Joan Dale (Miss America) shows signs of abuse after she showed Tex Thompson's Secret Diary to her friends that revealed, among other things, that Thompson was really the Ultra-Humanite.
  • Afterlife with Archie:
    • One of Betty's older sisters, Polly, had been in an abusive relationship in the past. At the time Betty was too young and naive to understand.
    • Cheryl has this type of relationship with her clingy brother Jason. He's controlling and emotionally manipulative.
  • Several cases show up in V for Vendetta, mostly among the higher ups of the tyrannical Norsefire government.
    • Derek Almond, the director of the government's Secret Police, verbally and physically abuses his gentle wife Rosemary. In the most chilling of several such instances, he wakes his wife up during the night, pointing a gun at her. After several tense beat panels, he pulls the trigger... and the gun goes click. He then tells her that although he didn't have the gun loaded, he implies that one day soon it will be loaded as he leaves the room.
    • A rare case of a female abuser is also shown. Helen Heyer plots for her Henpecked Husband Conrad to rise to the top. Along the way she regularly belittles him, psychologically undercuts him, and completely ignores his genuine love for her. When Conrad is critically wounded while killing Alastair Harper, a man Helen slept with as part of her schemes, she is so furious with the fact that he ruined her plans that she leaves him to bleed out and die rather than help him.
  • The first call the new sheriff takes in Copperhead is a case of a father roughing up one of his sons outside their house. As a result he's an immediate suspect when several members of the family are murdered. He's innocent on account of being dead at the time.
  • Richard Dragon's father beat his mother, and was a horrible father to boot though Richard's mom tried to always get in between Richard and his father's actual fists. This is part of the reason he uses Dragon in place of his father's surname.
  • Wonder Woman:
    • Sensation Comics: In the Christmas feature Wonder Woman rescues some kids and their widowed mother from their abusive uncle/brother-in-law that the mother is so worried is going to step things up and kill her family she's waiting in the dark with a bat to attack anyone who comes through the door.
    • The man who is married to the real Diana Prince from whom Diana bought her secret idenity threatens his wife when she wants to go back to work and brutally attacks WW—thinking she is his wife—and then leaves her chained to the stove in the kitchen.
    • Wonder Woman (2006) #5 focuses on a women's shelter run by survivors of domestic abuse who were inspired to escape from their horrible home lives and found a shelter for others stuck in similar situations by seeing Wonder Woman's actions.
  • In Castle Waiting, Lady Jain seeks sanctuary at the titular shelter to escape her abusive husband.
  • The villainess Mother Night from the Marvel Universe is a truly terrible human being... but read the stories where she and the Red Skull were an item, and cringe. It was one of the most hideously abusive relationships in comics; the Skull beat her savagely, yelled and screamed at her for no reason, humiliated her in front of his subordinates, and refused to let her kill herself (which she requested because she thought, if he was beating her so much, clearly she is failing him somehow) because "you'd like that, wouldn't you?", whereupon he promised to beat her some more.
  • Trouble, which was supposed to be about Spider-Man's parents, Uncle Ben, and Aunt May, had May fearing for the safety of her and her mother if her dad found out about her Teen Pregnancy.

    Comic Strips 
  • Andy Capp used to qualify. In one of Britain's longest-running newspaper comics, things are getting steadily better. Andy Capp used to give Flo black eyes on a regular basis. Later, she was more and more often shown winning the fights, sending Andy tumbling out of the house and into the gutter. In fact, Andy looked like he was becoming an abused husband for a while. Now, however, they almost never resort to violence and attend marriage guidance meetings. He's stopped smoking, too.
  • The newspaper comic Bringing Up Father used to own this trope, at least until the sixties. Jiggs' wife Maggie was notoriously violent, and her rolling pin became a trademark of the comic. Lampshaded in a vintage issue of MAD, where Jiggs' injuries are shown in a fairly gruesome realistic style. This satire on domestic abuse ran in Mad #17, 1954.
  • The Lockhorns is an American strip that thinks a hateful marriage is comedy. While it has never featured physical abuse, some of the hurtful remarks the two of them make about each other borders on psychological abuse.

    Fairy Tales 
  • There's a genre of fairy tales around beating one's spouse, usually Played for Laughs or as punishment for the spouse doing something very stupid.
  • There's a fairy tale about a fairy woman who marries a human man, and tells him that she will leave him if he beats her. The first time, he hits her when she laughs at a funeral. (She has her reasons, she knows the person is going to heaven, or some such thing) He pleads with her to not leave him, and she forgives him. The second time, she cries at the christening of a child ... and so on. After he did it three times, she's gone forever. Apparently, when that tale originated, it was so unusual to not tolerate domestic abuse, that only fairies could do it.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Stu's girlfriend in The Hangover is known to have physically beaten him at least once and emotional abuse seems to be ongoing. The other characters treat it much more lightly than they would a man beating a woman, the source of friendly "ribbing" instead of serious discussion, but they do at least make it clear that this is neither right nor normal and vehemently urge Stu to get out of the relationship. His "The Reason You Suck" Speech to his girlfriend later becomes his Moment of Awesome.
  • Morgan's husband Rex in Saw IV is revealed to have beaten both her and their daughter for years.
  • In The Notebook, a scene takes place where a woman repeatedly shoves and hits a man.
  • The Lifetime movie Men Don't Tell features a woman who was abused as a child committing this against her husband. This is most definitely not Played for Laughs and no one believes him for most of the movie.
  • Another Lifetime movie, No One Would Tell, is based on a true story about a teenage girl who is abused and later killed by her boyfriend. The film is notable in that Fred Savage plays the abusive boyfriend and Candace Cameron portrays his girlfriend/victim.
  • Brightburn Implied. Noah berates his wife when she told him that giving a rifle to Brandon is not the smartest birthday gift, and leaves her when he's attacked by Brandon. It's hard to tell if the latter is just him not thinking straight, saving Brandon, actually leaving his wife, or all three.
  • The Burning Bed, starring the late Farrah Fawcett, tells the true story of Francine Hughes, who killed her husband Mickey Hughes to escape 13 years of domestic abuse.
  • In The Other Guys he never gets physical, but Allen Gamble (one of the heroes) is emotionally abusive to his wife to a rather disturbing extent, vigorously and repeatedly insulting her physical appearance, sense of style, cooking ability and calling her an adulterer and whore when she reveals that she is pregnant. This occurs both in private and in the presence of others. He later explains that he does this all because he fears that, if she ever realizes how truly beautiful she is, she will leave him; this makes things worse, since it shows that he is aware that his actions are wrong and is deliberately traumatizing his wife for his own ends. It is not Played for Laughs, it does not set up an Aesop, it is just... awful.
  • In The Boondock Saints, the brothers get in trouble with a Straw Feminist, who loudly complains that their use of the term "Rule of Thumb" is sexist as it supposedly referred to the width of a stick a man could use to beat his wife.
  • Jenna's husband from Waitress is a particularly nasty version. It's almost purely emotional, though he does finally hit her when she tries to leave for the pie-baking contest in another state. All the damage is done through emotional putdowns, misogynistic remarks and a general ignorance of anything regarding her feelings, thoughts, or desires. The film does an excellent job portraying how difficult it is to extract oneself out of this sort of situation, without being Anvilicious.
  • Edgar, before he is killed and taken over by the Bug in Men in Black, is shown to be emotionally abusive towards Beatrice in his first scene, where he acts as though the meal she prepared for him was poison (and yet barks at her to not take the food away as he's eating it), and also claims her to possibly want to poison him as she skulks away like a dog who was either hit too much or hit too little (he doesn't know or care which it is), states that she's so useless that the only thing that could carry its weight around is his pickup truck (which is promptly totaled by the Bug's spaceship), and finally, when questioned by Beatrice about what just crashed into his truck, he angrily tells her to get "her big butt" back in the house. Going by some statements he made, he might also be physically abusive towards his wife as well.
  • Chris in The Woman regularly slaps his wife around whenever she speaks out of line. His abuse of his wife is interplayed with his abuse of the feral woman that he captures.
  • Ray Winston's character in Nil By Mouth.
  • In the 2011 film Warrior: When his father mentions swearing off women, Tommy mumbles that it must be hard to find a woman who can take a good punch these days.
  • This is the setup for everything that happens in Thelma & Louise, specifically Thelma's husband (who was an emotionally and mentally abusive Manchild, but not shown to be physically abusive).
  • Adelle in Kalifornia, who is involved with Serial Killer Early Grayce. It gets even sadder when she reveals that he only whips her when she "deserves it," and that she feels like he protects her from the people who have done WORSE things to her. Adelle was gang-raped as a young teenager, which left her in the hospital for months.
  • The Purple Rose of Cairo revolves around a woman avoiding an abusive husband by taking refuge in filmed fantasy. It makes the ending, in which she goes back to her husband, all the more heartbreaking.
  • Bill, the first step-dad in Boyhood, turns out to be a nasty drunk subjected to violent mood swings. At one point, the young protagonist and his step-brother walk into their parents' garage to find their mother on the ground crying, with Bill angrily noting that she fell on her own accord.
  • In the alternate 1985 of Back to the Future Part II, Biff Tannen became a successful entrepreneur who also became bored with his wife Lorraine and only keeps her around as a Trophy Wife as revenge against his rival George McFly, whom he killed in that timeline several years after George fathered Lorraine's children. Biff goes so far as to even abuse his adopted children, and threatened to put his wife and her children in jail alongside her brother Joey if she ever tried to leave him. In a deleted scene from the movie, it is suggested that Lorraine ends up killing 1985-A Biff, which is why 2015 Biff starts to disappear after returning the DeLorean that he stole to give his 1955 self the sports almanac to change history with.
  • In 100 Feet, Mike apparently was battering Marnie from the beginning of their marriage until she finally killed him with the knife he went after her with. He starts again after his death and her return to the house.
  • Blue Steel: Megan's father, who disapproves of his daughter becoming a cop, starts to mistreat his wife. Megan eventually arrests him for domestic abuse.
  • Stonehearst Asylum: Implied to be the case with Eliza, whose husband was apparently possessed of "unnatural" appetites, and it's likely the cause of her mental illness too.
  • In When Darkness Falls, Håkan beats his wife Carina, as well as his father used to beat his mother.
  • Canadian-made TV movie Life With Billy. Based on the book by the same name, it's the true story of Jane Hurshman's relationship with her common-law husband Billy Stafford. The film starts with her shooting her husband as he's passed out drunk in the driver's seat of his pickup truck. During her court testimony, we're shown their story through a series of flashbacks. At one point, when Hurshman is describing a particularly horrible act, her lawyer asks why she didn't leave him. She could only answer that she was afraid he'd kill her entire family.
  • Road House: After Brad Wesley's mistress is too forward one time too many with Dalton, she's dragged out of the roadhouse by one of his goons. She's next seen in Wesley's mansion with a bruised-up face.
  • Cruel and Unusual: Edgar is slowly revealed to have controlled his wife's life almost completely, stopping her from working or having her own bank account, and constantly being paranoid that she'd leave him or was having affairs. It's also implied that she's stuck with him if she wants to stay in the country, as her residence there appears to depend upon their marriage. She poisoned him due to feeling it was the only way to escape.
  • In Suffragette, this being a film about the time before women had the right to vote, domestic violence is everywhere. A woman turns up to a suffrage meeting so beaten up that her comrades decide she can't speak publicly in that state, as she won't be taken seriously by the men in power. (With the implication that they'll think she deserved it). Maud's husband seems to be not that abusive at first, but after her picture gets into the newspapers as that of a suffragette, he throws her out of the shared home that is at least partially paid for by the money she earns as laundress, and later on gives up her son for adoption without asking her — when she returns home one day, the couple is already there to pick up their adoptive son. She is, of course, devastated. There's also the rich man who stubbornly refuses, after paying the caution for his wife, to also free her fellow suffragists, a form of psychological abuse, as he's obviously wealthy enough to easily afford it.
  • Gaslight is a very well-known movie featuring abusive partners, to the point where gaslighting is named after it. Paula's recently married husband, Gregory, tries to make her think she's insane by making her think she is a forgetful Unreliable Narrator hearing noises.
  • Dean from Kingsman: The Secret Service openly beats Eggsy and is implied to beat his wife, Eggsy's mother, too.
  • The World of Kanako: Protagonist Akikazu is implied to have abused his daughter Kanako when she still was younger. Later on he punches and sexually abuses his wife Kiriko when he's angry.
  • In The War Wagon, Crazy Jealous Guy Wes certainly abuses his wife Kate emotionally, and probably physically as well. He treats her more like a possession than a spouse, and Kate later reveals to Billy that Wes bought her from her parents for $20 and a horse.
  • Reviving Ophelia provides a textbook example of an abusive relationship. Elizabeth's relationship with a boy named Mark starts off sweet and innocent before he becomes possessive, controlling, and physically violent towards her. It only gets worse when he threatens to pull a Murder-Suicide after she breaks up with him and gets a restraining order against him.
  • One of the women in Caged was arrested for shooting her abusive husband.
  • The Symbol of the Unconquered: Upon accidentally revealing to his girlfriend that he's black, Jefferson gets so mad at his mother that he strangles her and throws her to the ground.
  • Not Without My Daughter has Betty Mahmoody, played by Sally Field, being beaten by her Iranian husband, Moody, played by Alfred Molina. They were happily married in America and they had a daughter named Mahtob. They all went to Tehran, Iran on vacation for two weeks to visit Moody's family. After the two weeks ended, he wants his wife and child to stay in Iran and try to conform to the customs there. Betty refuses for this to happen, and Moody slaps her to make her stay. Betty and Mahtob secretly try to get out of Iran with the help of the Swiss Embassy and a few sympathetic Iranians. If Moody ever suspected that she was trying to escape or be late for something, he would beat her, even in front of public.
  • Provoked has Kiranjit Ahluwalia, played by Aishwarya Rai, who was physically, emotionally, and sexually abused by her husband for ten years. She couldn't take it anymore, so she used a Napalm oil mix to pour on his feet while he slept and burned him.
  • 13 Minutes: Elsa's husband beats her frequently, including when she's pregnant.
  • The 2011 Lifetime film, No Surrender, introduced a woman named Jenny Reardon as victim of spousal abuse, having written letters to writer Amelia Davis (Mena Suvari) about her abuse at the hands of her husband, who she killed in self-defense. However, in a twist, it was revealed that Jenny was the true abuser and Trevor wrote the letters. Jenny killed Trevor in cold blood after finding out, and she had colluded with Amelia's abusive ex-husband (who Jenny later killed, also in cold blood) to ruin Amelia, as Jenny blamed Amelia for "ruining her life."
  • Michael Conrad in Black Zoo. He physically and verbally abuses his wife Edna (and murdered his first wife), and emotionally abuses his son Carl, who is mute as a result of his father's activities.
  • Tales of Terror: In "The Black Cat", Montressor heaps verbal, physical and economic abuse on his poor wife Annabelle. It is little surprise he winds up murdering her.
  • SHAZAM! (2019): When Billy moves into the apartment complex where his biological mother currently lives, someone is heard shouting in his mom's room, indicating that she is left with a verbally abusive partner after leaving Billy to foster care.
  • In Sleeping with the Enemy, Julia Roberts' character is a wife suffering in a marriage with her abusive husband, who refuses to let her go. She seeks escape by faking her death and living an entirely new life with someone else... until her husband tracks her down.
  • The Strange Thing About the Johnsons shows a rare occurrence where the child is the abuser and the parent is the victim. Isaiah has been sexually assaulting his father, Sidney, for 14 years, while Victim Blaming him in order for his father to continue putting up with the abuse. After Isaiah violently rapes him in the bathtub, Sidney becomes so psychologically damaged by the abuse that he kills himself by hit-and-run.
  • In Dust Devil, Mark is a paranoid husband who thinks Wendy is cheating on him, and hits her whenever he thinks she’s lying.
  • Before I Go To Sleep: Mike is revealed to have beaten up Christine in the past, and he later hits her in the present as well. He tries to beat her up again near the end, yet she successfully fights back to overpower him.

    Jokes 
  • Old joke (Posting it here is not implying that it is funny, but it falls under the trope. There is no question it falls under Black Comedy.)
    Q: What do you tell a [opposite gender] with two black eyes?
    A: Nothin', you already done told 'em twice.

    Pinballs 

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Test was initially a man pushed thought of as sure to be future world champion, who just so happened to have an adorably embarrassing girlfriend named Stacy Keibler. But a roadblock in the way to Test's climb to the top called Scott Steiner, and when Test had trouble with it he resorted to beating up Keibler to alleviate his stress.
  • Jimmy Jacobs resulted to stalking The Lovely Lacey in Ring of Honor after she cheated on him with Austin Aries and even tried to hit her with a railroad spike. Luckily Lacey was saved by Joey Mathews and Tyler Black.
  • When Billy Boy started dating Fabi Apache, he accidentally became the focal point of Fabi and Gran Apache's Over Protective Dad feud in AAA. Gran Apache tried many methods to get Billy Boy to leave Fabi, but in the end all he did was drive Billy Boy to beat Fabi. However, Fabi eventually put a stop to Billy Boy's abusive ways by defeating him in a steel cage match.
  • After his short stint as Beaver Cleavage, Headbanger Mosh became Chaz, "the Jersey boy who just likes to have fun" with his valet and girlfriend Marianna. It was actually getting over a bit — so of course Marianna came out with a black eye asking "Why Chaz, why?" Chaz was ostracized by the rest of the roster and even the referees, who would refuse to count pinfalls for him. note  Then one day Headbanger Thrasher showed up with footage of Marianna applying makeup to fake the bruises. Marianna was taken away by the police and never seen again, and the Headbangers reunited and went on to do absolutely nothing.

    Tabletop Games 

    Theatre 
  • Example too venerable to stop soon: it seems unlikely that Mr. Punch will stop clubbing Judy.
  • A Streetcar Named Desire has Stella on the receiving end of this from her husband Stanley, the which she explains away.
  • In Liliom, practically every character calls Liliom out for hitting Julie except for Julie herself. This trait is carried over to Billy Bigelow in Carousel, replete with Unfortunate Implications when Julie tells her daughter that a slap can "feel like a kiss."
  • In Molière's The Doctor in Spite of Himself (a.k.a. Le Médecin Malgré Lui or The Unwitting Doctor), the whole plot starts when Martine decides to get even with Sganarelle for beating her up.
  • During the short play Trifles by Susan Glaspell it becomes obvious that the relationship between Mrs. Wright and her husband is a textbook case of this trope, with the apparent tipping point that led her to kill him being when he killed her canary, who was her soul companion and source of joy.
  • Cyrano de Bergerac: Ragueneau clearly doesn't care about Lisa's feelings or opinions; he prefers his poet friends over her. Then Cyrano notices the very obvious truth that Lisa is cheating on him with a Mousketter. The second Act seems to play this situation for humor, but the very first words of the Third Act show us the severe consequences of this when Raguenau admits he had an Interrupted Suicide when his wife abandoned him.
  • In Trial by Jury, Edwin defends himself against the charge of Breach of Promise of Marriage by defaming himself, proclaiming that he smokes and drinks to excess and that "I'm sure I would thrash her, perhaps I should kick her." The Judge proposes to get the defendant drunk and see if he would treat her as he said. Everyone else objects, with the natural exception of the defendant.
  • In Fiorello! an exasperated Marie, fed up with Fiorello never noticing her as a romantic possibility, declares that she'll marry "The Very Next Man" who comes along, whatever the circumstances.
    And if he likes me
    Who cares how frequently he strikes me
    I'll fetch his slippers with my arm in a sling
    Just for the privilege of wearing his ring
  • In Man of La Mancha Sancho Panzo reveals his own abuse while sharing a "Little Gossip" with a dying Don Quixote.
    When I first got home my wife Teresa beat me,
    But the blows fell very lightly on my back.
    She kept missing ev'ry other stroke
    And crying from the heart
    That while I was gone
    She'd gone and lost the knack!
  • Exit, Pursued by a Bear: Kyle has hit his wife Nan multiple times in the past, as well as calling her bitch and forcing her to do things she's obviously incredibly uncomfortable with, like bleeding an illegally shot deer for dinner when her passion is for animals, as well as emotionally toying with her and telling her he loves her and needs her when she tries to make a stand for herself.
  • Westeros: An American Musical: In "No Waiting", Sansa sings about doing her best to avoid Joffrey, whome she describes as growing crueler each day.

    Video Games 
  • Silent Hill: Shattered Memories has the Wicked and Weak ending which shows a woman verbally and physically abusing a man without being Played for Laughs. What's worse, the entire incident is seen and filmed by their seven-year-old daughter, who was wandering around the house with a video camera.
  • In the 1st Degree strongly indicates that this occurred between James Tobin and his girlfriend Ruby Garcia. She is said to be completely under Tobin's thumb, and they did get into a fight over a love letter Zachery Barnes sent to her. Played completely straight.
  • Harvest Moon 64:
    • If they marry, Ann often gets into arguments with Cliff that leave him with a bruised eye. They always make up though.
    • While Ann's arguably Played for Laughs, or at least is treated in a rather lighthearted manner, Gotz is implied to be this to his wife Sasha (and like his daughter Karen as well) but it's Played for Drama.
  • Zero Time Dilemma reveals in one ending that Diana was once married to an abusive husband that abused alcohol and regularly beat her. While she did eventually divorce him, he kept hounding her for favors and got violent when she refused. Worse yet, she would always end up caving in if he begged hard enough, resulting in her joining the Dcom experiment just so she could leave him for good.
  • The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt: In the quest Family Matters, the "Bloody Baron" Philip Strenger is revealed to have abused his wife Anna, although he never abused Tamara, his daughter
  • In Gleaner Heights, Lee is physically and emotionally abusive towards Matilda. At one point he even attempts to rape his wife and if you leave it's implied he does. If you intervene you can either beat him up, which causes Matilda to leave him for good, or you can outright kill him and hide his body in the backyard.
  • The relationship between Bentley and Penelope throughout the Sly Cooper games was revealed to be an emotionally abusive one in Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, with Penelope as the abuser. Thing is, Penelope wanted Bentley's skills for profit, and planned to murder his two best friends to make sure she's the only one he has. She even calls him "dumb" because of said friendships. But when Bentley learns the truth, she turns to use violence against him. He defeats her in a Boss Battle, and their relationship comes to an end.

    Web Animation 
  • 12: In Episode 2, it's revealed rather quickly that Ivy is at least physically abused by Reed, her housemate, and her goal is to give her the proper motivation to get the hell out of there.
    • Chapter II of Orgins implies that Reed is scared of being alone, which leads to false assumptions and hints of emotional abuse as well.
  • RWBY:
    • Adam behaves abusively towards Blake, blaming her for how he felt after she walked out on him, and blaming her for "making him" hurt her in retaliation. He tells her that he will destroy everything she cares about just because she left him. All the time he's trying to emotionally beat her down, he displays a calm, implacable determination and peppers his speech with terms of endearment such as "my love" or "my darling" which contribute to the creepiness of his behaviour. After he falls out with the White Fang, he stalks her across Anima and waits until she's alone and separated from other people to ambush her. He is enraged that she's thrown away her memories of him and makes it absolutely clear that he's never going to let her go ever again.
    Blake: Adam's strong, but his real power comes from control. He used to get in my head, make me feel small. But now I see he just wanted to pull me down to his size.
    • The Schnees are a wealthy, dysfunctional family headed by the controlling, sociopathic Gold Digger Jacques. He married into the family solely to take over the Schnee Dust Company, treating his wife and children as accessories that only exist to serve him. His wife was driven to alcoholism after he admitted their marriage was a means to an end, and he uses her condition to further manipulate their children. The extent of his abuse is never fully discussed, but Willow admits to having planted hidden cameras all over the house out of fear of what he might do to their children. Winter fled to join the military and bottles up her emotions. Weiss left the country to escape him, but is dragged home and spends Volume 4 trying to escape when he places her under house arrest. The youngest child, Whitley, acts as the perfect child to his father and is hostile towards his sisters. Willow clarifies that his actions are the result of being left alone with an abusive father and a helpless, alcoholic mother.
  • Lilium -Sims 2:
    • Isis is forced into marrying Baltazar. Their marriage is unhappy and Baltazar is physically abusive. At the end of the video he strikes her and leaves her for dead.
    • According to the beginning, Estella and Baltazar's father abused their mother.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • Rupert Van Helden of KateModern shouts at, threatens and occasionally hits his wife, who tells her friends that the bruises are caused by falling coconuts.
  • Survival of the Fittest characters often have to suffer through this (although it normally ties in with Abusive Parents). It has mostly dried up as of v5, though there is still a bit of this as a backstory for characters.
  • The Onion had an article mocking the Lifetime network's abused-wife-empowerment movies entitled "Empowered Man Murders Controlling Wife In Lifetime For Men Original Movie".
  • A rare example of male-on-female abuse being Played for Laughs is in The Nostalgia Chick's "Top Ten Disturbing And Inescapable Christmas Songs". While the Chick dances gleefully to a country song, Nella (playing an abused wife) gets smacked around by her husband. The funniness comes in when he starts giving her noogies.
  • The Nostalgia Critic knows what it's like to be on the receiving end, so he praises the Joker/Harley Quinn dynamic for capturing the trope so perfectly; that you realize fully your partner is bad for you, but there's something about them that makes you keep coming back.
    • His actor has also talked about it quite a bit. One of the times he even explained how fear and abuse in families will make the victim crazier the worse it gets.
  • In Echo Chamber Shannon both threatens and hits Tom.
  • In Cracked's "14 Unintentionally Horrifying Commercials" video, a comment is made about the early part of Nintendo's ad for New Super Luigi U where Princess Peach cries out "Mario" repeatedly in tears while cowering, saying "Is this a video game ad or a domestic abuse PSA?"
  • George Wickham of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries manages to be more vile than this book counterpart, emotionally abusing Lydia, pressuring her into a committed relationship before she's ready, isolating her from her family and telling her only he loves and understands her, threatening to leave and making her feel like no one will ever love her like he will. Watching Lydia's vlogs with him in them is like watching a trainwreck. And then he pressures her into making a sex tape to "prove" she loved him, and then tries to release it online for money without her consent. And before the series, he dated Gigi Darcy. Gigi's brother told Gigi he was only dating her for her money, but she didn't believe him. So he proved it, offering George a check in exchange for leaving. George took it. Given Gigi's apparent fear of him, it's implied something similar to what happened to Lydia may have been going on before Gigi's brother intervened.
  • The Human Pet: Eric's father abused his mother, shown by how afraid she was to go against his word when he turned against Eric.
  • My Dad's Tapes: Chris's father used to hit his mother, likely due to his hatred of women.
  • Joueur du Grenier: The "Fort Boyard" episode has a guy browbeat and slap his girlfriend, on TV. He also introduces himself as a far-right activist.

    Western Animation 
  • However, the trope — particularly, the male-on-female kind — is all too frequently Played for Laughs. The "best" example is "The Courtship of Stewie's Father," where Peter discovers the secret to bonding with his son, Stewie, is physically abusing Lois! (This was at a point in the series where a recurring plotline saw Stewie want to kill his mother in the most violent way possible.) The abuse accelerates until a final incident where Lois is thrown into the back of the station wagon and Peter — with Stewie riding shotgun — drives the car into a nearby river.
  • The topic of several cutaway gags. Example: A parody of "Horton Hears a Who," entitled "Horton hears domestic violence in the apartment next to his but doesn't call 911."
  • DC Animated Universe:
    • The continuity has this in spades (no pun intended) with Harley Quinn's relationship with The Joker. A major part, if not the most important part, of Harley's character is the abuse. She fell for him when she was a psychologist at Arkham Asylum and he drove Harleen Quinzel to become Harley Quinn. Even though Harley is frequently slapped out and berated by the Joker — he even kicked her out a window in one Batman: The Animated Series episode — she comes back to him eventually. Or at least she did until Tim (Robin) killed him. Batman Beyond shows she eventually went straight and she probably settled down with someone better. She berates her granddaughters for being criminals, like she was when she was younger.
    • There's also the Justice League Unlimited episode "A Once And Future Thing," in which a meek man who's easily dominated by his wife builds a time machine and tries to use it to get away from her. When he eventually seizes its terrifying potential and becomes a super-villain by playing with the timestream, she's changed her tune and is deeply intimidated by his power (it's hinted that he placed her mother in some kind of futuristic torture chamber). Neither her verbal abuse before he created his machine or his outright bullying of her are played for laughs, and in the end Batman causes that man to repeatedly face his wife's abuse by putting him in a never-ending time loop.
    • Tala and Luthor's relationship definitely has shades of this. Before that, it was implied Luthor and Mercy Graves were like this.
    • Hro Talak ends up being abusive to his lover Shayera Hol (Hawkgirl) when she turns against him in the latter part of "Starcrossed."
  • The animated and live action combined series Ace Lightning featured an unusual variation in which the writers featured the villain of the piece (who had been the subject of some Villain Decay of late) as regularly violently attacking and verbally abusing the former partner in crime who had betrayed him for the show's titular hero. Fans have pointed out how much his behaviour would be considered domestic abuse were they members of the human cast.
  • On The Flintstones, Wilma used to hit her husband Fred over the head with a frying pan and milk bottles, though this slapstick was pretty common for cartoons of the time.
  • The Proud Family: Trudy Proud's treatment of Oscar would be horrifying if the genders were reversed.
  • Courage the Cowardly Dog: Mad Dog, a gang boss, is this trope for his girlfriend Bunny, and played dead seriously. He's so violently possessive of her that he'll punish her for having a best friend, and wreck said best friend's life so horribly she's incapable of facing reality and runs away. He also manipulates Bunny's emotions to try and get her to do as he pleases, only to snap into abuser mode a second later, a technique real life abusers use. The poor girl is absolutely terrified of him as a result. The whole thing between Bunny and Kitty reeks of romantic subtext so his ideology makes more sense in that he's mad at his girlfriend being in love with another, instead of being friends with someone. Doesn't excuse it, though.
    Mad Dog: I take you from a two-bit joint and make you a class act, and you wanna make me second rate!? If I even smell Kitty, I'll bury the two of you!
  • In Archer, Sterling's relationship with any woman apart from his mother falls into this. Particular examples are Cheryl/Carol Tunt in the first series, a number of implied incidents with prostitues and his ongoing relationship with Lana Kane which regularly results in her being physically or mentally hurt.
    • Averted with his Season 2 relationship with Katya Kazanova, where it was Love at First Sight, up to the point that she sacrificed herself to save his life. At the end of Season 3, when she comes back as a cyborg, Archer even pulls an I Want My Beloved to Be Happy by not fighting her about leaving with Barry.
  • Heavily implied in the Young Justice episode "Beneath", with Tye Longshadow's mother and her smug, hulking (by normal human standards) boyfriend, Maurice. By the end of the episode, he ends up being unrelated to the bigger events of the story and is all set up to lose his job and get arrested as part of a mundane racket of pirated DVDs — which worked, according to the producer — but there's still this:
    Mrs. Longshadow: (outside the house, alone with her son's friend, her face partly in shadow) Don't mind Maurice. He's... having a bad day.
    Jaime: I hear he has a lot of bad days.
    Mrs. Longshadow: (desperately) Good ones, too! (not looking at Jaime, face out of the shadows, as she finally starts to realize what she's saying) ...occasionally...
  • While Sarah constantly beating up her big brother Ed is Played for Laughs in Ed, Edd n Eddy, the trope's played disturbingly straight in The Movie, revealing that Eddy's entire characterization is the result of him being the victim of his older brother's abuse.
  • Kaeloo: Mr. Cat was a victim of this; he was constantly yelled at by his mom and beaten up by his older brothers.
  • BoJack Horseman: BoJack was physically and emotionally abused by both of his parents, his mother was abused by his father, and before that, she was abused by her father, who also had an abusive attitude towards her mother that resulted in him getting her lobotomized after her grief over the death of their son in WWII became too great for her to bear.
    • When BoJack asks Diane if she's the black sheep of the family, she replies, "No, Gary's the black sheep. He's adopted. I'm just the member of the family nobody likes." Her family resented her when she was young for wanting to expand her horizons, and as an adult, they still resent her for her success, and constantly tear her down for her failures.
  • Mac from Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends has no positive scenes with his Big Brother Bully, who just teases and hits him whenever they interact. Their mother is too busy to notice.
  • Kim's relationship with Eric in Kim Possible Movie: So the Drama was an emotionally abusive one, mainly because of Eric being a gaslighter. It becomes a full physically abusive one when it's revealed Eric is actually a synthodrone, and he attacks Kim. The relationship ends with Eric's death after he makes the mistake of insulting Rufus, causing the little guy to bite him in the foot.

    Real Life 
  • Still a huge problem around the world, but at least it's not acceptable behavior in many countries anymore. And then, in some it is.
  • In Spain, if you are a woman and you beat your husband you get HALF as many years in jail as a man who beats his wife, by law.
  • Similarly, in medieval England, while a man could legally beat his wife for wrongdoing, a woman who was being cruelly beaten for no apparent reason could legally sue her husband before a church court and make him mend his ways, but a man who admitted that he was being abused by his own wife would be subject to Victim Blaming, since a Henpecked Husband was not seen as a real man.
  • This is subverted in a fashion in Russia. The fine for being found guilty of wife beating was $200. The fine for wrestling with a bear was $1000.
  • Lindsay Lohan's father Michael allegedly abused her mother Dina while they were married so he could blackmail Lindsay into working every day. Then he got jailed for physically and sexually abusing his ex-girlfriend Kate Majors. The rest of the family (Lindsay especially) wants nothing to do with him.
  • In New Jersey, the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act has a definition of domestic violence so broad that an 18 year old who is being abused by his or her Abusive Parents can seek a restraining order against them under the Act. This is by design; the Act is supposed to provide "the maximum measure of protection" to victims of domestic violence, and New Jersey understands domestic violence to encompass not just violence between people in "romantic" or sexual relationships but anyone you live with (remember, "domestic" means "of the home"). It's an extension of the idea that their home should be the place where a person be and feel safest.
  • In two famous cases that will hardly be forgotten, Ike Turner (as depicted in What's Love Got to Do with It) and Chris Brown.
  • One of the most infamous female-on-male domestic abuse incidents was with Brynn Hartman, who murdered her husband Phil while under the influence of drugs after a heated argument about her drug addiction.
  • In 2017, the contestants of the Miss Peru beauty pageant sought to bring attention to this issue by taking the measurements portion of the show Off the Rails.
  • As crazy as this may sound, this is a real reason that Prohibition happened in The Roaring '20s. Many of the early feminists were Dry Crusaders, and it had to do with preventing domestic violence. Back in the Victorian era, it was thought that domestic violence wasn't so much a public health and safety issue as a private matter. But because of social mores and paradigms about what a man was supposed to be like, it was much easier to address these issues by blaming them on alcohol.

 
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Alternative Title(s): Abusive Spouse, Domestic Abuser

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Lisa Can't Leave

Carlos starts out apologetic, but he makes it clear he won't let his fiancee Lisa leave him.

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