Uncondition societal beliefs and expectations on domestic violence. Break the silence and raise awareness that DV happens to men too!TiH
Almost one year ago, a Kenyan man in the UK committed suicide. It is speculated that he was severely depressed, simply because he was in an abusive relationship. He was the abused. Were he a woman, he’d be spoilt for choice for places to seek help, shelter and counselling e.g. Refuge for Women and Children and Women’s Aid: but being a man put him at a disadvantage mostly because he couldn’t tell anyone what he was going through, lest people think less of him and his manliness.
Domestic violence happens to men too.
There are social experiments saturating the web of women assaulting men and no one flinches, but when a man does it several people are willing to risk their lives to help. I saw a video of a woman assaulting a man and people were cheering and taking videos – it’s like society condones that behaviour and sees nothing wrong with it. Societal demands are such that men are not supposed to show emotions – they must remain stoic and cold. It’s time to uncondition that belief.
With this knowledge, I decided to do a little digging: I found a lot of information online for male victims of domestic violence, however, there were no physical places to escape to. Imagine a victim whose every move is controlled including their online presence – searching for help could put them at further risk, yet the only help available is online. Are there places men can go to?
According to a survey by Mankind – a male victim initiative in the UK – despite half a million men suffering abuse at the hands of their partners, there are only 19 organisations with 78 spaces offering refuge or safe housing for male victims; of these 78 spaces, only 20 are dedicated to male victims of domestic abuse. This is unacceptable and horrifying.
How many men are suffering in silence because they have nowhere to go? How many are suffering and know where to go, but the thought of being turned down because of lack of space is too much of a burden? How many are scared silent because society is obsessed with masculinity ideals and gender stereotypes? How many would rather die than be faced with scepticism and judgement because their cultural beliefs clash with modernism?
The first thing society should do is start by educating children about the characteristics of a (un)healthy relationship. Both boys and girls should grow up knowing how to differentiate healthy relationships from unhealthy ones; they should know that anyone can be victim irrespective of their gender; anyone can be a perpetrator irrespective of their gender. They should educate them on how to identify signs of abuse. Teach them that anyone can be a victim irrespective of profession, sexuality, religion, culture and vice versa. They should teach awareness of the tactics abusers use to keep their victims – e.g. threatening harm to themselves when someone threatens to leave.
A 2019 crime survey for England and Wales estimated that 1.3 million women and just over half a million men experienced domestic violence or abuse. This statistic steadily rose during quarantine this year. I think it’s safe to speculate that the large disparity is because more women than men report the violence against them – men don’t report because they fear appearing unmanly, shame, embarrassment, and failure to live up to the masculine ideals that society has been conditioned to believe. Historical patriarchy structure since time began may be to blame, or the belief that being with a beautiful woman is more important and sacrificing your dignity is a small price to pay.
I heard of a woman who advised another: “if you want to get rid of your husband, start a fight. Hit him to provoke him. Then call the cops and he’ll be bundled into a police van before he can blink.” Unfortunately, many police personnel would take things at face value and only after prolonged and arduous interrogations and reports, would a man be believed. Apparently, to some cops, it’s hard to imagine a woman beating up a man. Some brave men have told their stories and it’s hard to hear because a woman can be as vicious as any man.
There is also a common misconception that domestic violence has to be physical – it doesn’t. Psychological or emotional abuse is the most form used by female abusers because it doesn’t necessarily require physical strength. This kind of abuse can be in various forms – control, coercion, intimidation, withholding affection, belittling language, humiliation especially in public and damaging personal property – this list is not exhaustive. And then there is, of course, financial abuse – this one is a doozy – apart from control, there are excessive demands and unrealistic expectations. For some abusers making too much money is as much a problem as making too little money.
Domestic violence is not just perpetrated in heterosexual relationships, it is as much a problem in other relationships too. I heard a sad story of a man from Cameroon, let’s call him Pete. He was so severely abused by his partner that he developed an anxiety disorder that made him rock imaginary babies whenever he was in the presence of women. However, Pete was gay and before he met his partner all his confidants were women. His partner, a kind-looking man from France, let’s call him Jon, was an abuser. Pete was made to feel ‘useless’ because he lost his job. He was constantly threatened with exposure of his sexual orientation. He was verbally abused with unimaginable names. He was called a ‘failure’ and a ‘pathetic excuse for a man’. Pete was always on edge. Given his cultural beliefs and upbringing it was harder for him to seek help: not only did he fear being judged for being gay, he was sure it would be used against him.
For any man to have the confidence to come forward, help should be readily available as it is for women. Society should be educated – starting with the children – that domestic violence would not be tolerated on anyone by anyone. A man is a human being. Cultural conditioning needs overhauling. Women too can dish it out as hard as any man. Equal opportunity is not just for workplaces.
They say what a man can do, a woman can do it too and better! Just think about that for a second….
This website is quite helpful and would recommend it for anyone in need of help.
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Photo credit: Nathan Cowley – Pexel