Domestic violence against men — where is the help?
Does domestic violence affect only the two people in an intimate relationship who live together? Should it be extended to partners who don’t live together and to all victims of domestic violence including children and family members? Is physical violence the only type of domestic violence or are there other types, for example, psychological abuse?
The statistics on physical violence against women are staggering. I am in no way putting aside the disgusting and abhorrent topic of domestic violence against women, but women are not the only victims. Try to find statistics on violence against men, especially partner on partner violence and the figures are sketchy at best. The founder of Men’s Rights, Sydney (Australia) claims that one in three men are victims of intimate partner abuse.
Why aren’t we conversant in the statistics of this abuse? Why are the statistics available not representative of the real issue? This article is not focusing on abuse as a general concept simply because that would require much more space and time to consider the different types of abuse a man can endure at the hands of his partner but instead, intends to draw attention to both physical and mental abuse of men.
The first thing to note in the lack of reporting is there are a number of factors which prevent the reporting of partner (very often female) physical violence against men.
When the police are called to these types of domestic violence situations, men are often thought to be the provocateurs. Not that this would make any partner violence acceptable, but it’s often a fallacy.
Partners are just as able to perpetrate violence as the men in question. In response, society offers no more than stigma and the shame of being perceived as weak and not able to protect themselves. A dear friend of mine had a wife who beat him when she got drunk and when she didn’t get her own way. He stands 6 foot 1 inch, is a regular at the gym and could easily overpower her, but he doesn’t lift a finger against her. He refuses to even restrain her for fear that the police will be called and he will be charged with domestic abuse. The embarrassment of being as strong as he is and yet beaten by someone who society deems to be weaker, weighs heavy on his shoulders. If he does report the violence he stands to risk the loss of his children — if he is seen to be to blame, he may be subject to even more abuse at the hands of his partner.
What if men are shielding the children of the household from the partner violence? I’ve seen adverts for hotlines and shelters for women but where is the network for men with or without their children?
It’s a combination of these factors that prevents men from reporting violence against them in domestic situations.
How does a man call out a partner on mental abuse? Mind games, affairs, children by those other than themselves are just a few example of mental abuse. Vicious cycles of bullying and even in some cases teaching children by example a lack of respect towards their father. The way a man processes abuse, the way a man responds to abuse is not different from the way a woman does. The difference is that society is more aware of abuse against women and almost ignores the silent minority of men.
The agony of being bullied and abused is compounded by the fact that the victim may not be believed or indeed be blamed for the problem. This abuse can cause intense feelings of humiliation and through time, anxiety and deep depression. This makes the partner even more susceptible to more bullying, the bully seeing the ‘weakness’ in the partner. We need to stop thinking of this state of mind as weak. Language is powerful. Often it precedes behaviour. The word we need to use is vulnerable. We all have the capacity to be vulnerable. The internal scars from psychological abuse wound deeply and are harder to see and thus more difficult to heal.
Men and women are undeniably raised with different messages through time about identity and capabilities. Expectations of behaviours are drilled into all of us in childhood. Today, by the time we are of age, expectations are still that men should be strong and women should be strong willed. No one questions a female’s vulnerability in the face of a (male) partner abusing them. Accommodation is made for their responsive behaviours. Where is this understanding and accommodation for men? Where is the hotline, the safe house for a man and his children or even the time off work in situations of crisis when he needs to move out of the family home in order to be safe? There are none.
Each and every time I see domestic violence reported or I notice the effects on someone, it always occurs to me that we are ignoring all the vulnerable of our communities. Men are expected to be nonviolent, not reactive in today’s world, where in fact, cut the surface and, to take Shakespeare out of context, “If you prick us, do we not bleed?” Man and woman are no different when it comes to responses to violence and abuse. We must take care of all members of our society.
This article in no way means to belittle violence against women, nor the #MeToo movement, but it’s a cry out loud for every man who has endured punches, kicks, spit, blunt and sharp objects. Where is the help for him?