Cii News | 09 Safar 1436/02 December 2014

It may be difficult to believe but the flip side of domestic violence paints the picture of a man, battered and abused at the hands of an angry and unreasonable wife.

Incidents of abused men are no different to those told by women. Men abused by their wives are kicked, hit, stabbed and pushed down stairs and through plate glass doors. They are emotionally and verbally degraded, and like their female counterparts, men often cover up for their wives. The stigma of being a “weakling” or “not man enough” is attached to being an abused husband so men lie to their doctors and the authorities about the true cause of their injuries.

Men in these abusive relationships never fight back, not only because they were raised not to hit women, but also because automatically authorities consider the man the aggressor in cases of domestic abuse, even when the woman is at fault, and are thus arrested.

“Domestic violence is any incident of threatening behaviour. Violent or physical abuse on psychological, physical, emotional, sexual or financial levels between two adults regardless of gender and age and this violent behaviour reflects on the kids. Domestic violence can be seen as this pattern of abusive and controlling behaviour which the abuser seeks power over their victim and the behaviour gets worse over time,” explained life coach Nelene Flemming

Felmming says during her research as well as during the 16 days of Activism there are many complaints from women and children “but there is a voice unheard and that is the voice of men”.

“I don’t know whether it’s the perception of men being weaker and women just want more and more control but I think that the subject to study on its own.”

Abusive women, much like men have psychological problems that come from pre-conditioning or generational conditioning. The example of abusive parents growing might be the only way the abuser sees life and relationships.

Doctor Khalid Sohail, Pakistani author, humanist and psychotherapist has counselled many abused husbands who come out of the destructive relationship as damaged as abused women and only after many years. The cycle of abuse, irrespective of whether the abuser is the man or woman in the relationship follows the same pattern.

The abuser becomes aggressive, lashes out verbally and physically and then feeling shame or regret either apologises or “makes up” by buying gifts or behaving extra affectionately. The perpetual cycle makes it harder for the victim to leave, gives the abuser more power, often scarring children.

Claudia Dias who has counselled abusive men and women for over twenty years is critical of the different ways domestic violence against men and women is understood. In an article on battered.com she said, “When a man hits a woman, it’s abuse and felony. When she does it, it’s because she has a bad temper.” Claudia describes the cycles of domestic abuse as “a dance… it doesn’t matter which gender does which part.” The major difference, she says, is that men hit women to “make them shut up” whereas women hit men in order to “make them listen.””

Over the years authorities and mental health professionals are realising there are many abused husbands who are still leading a life of secrecy in our communities. Since men’s shelters are scarce to non-existent, it is difficult for these men to get professional help.

 

The distinguishing traits of an abuser, says Flemming, “The abuser has this goal to have all the power and control and their perceptions are that the victim has the same goal for power that they do. This makes them so much stronger. Then they are central and dominant. They believe they are entitled to be selfish. They are irresponsible and they blame others for their mistakes and they never accept the blame. The abuse escalates over time and the abuser is happy in every situation. They don’t see any reason to change.”

The victim thus takes the blame and shame for the abuser’s actions. Being the one in the relationship who recognises a problem, the victim wants things to work out and is hopeful it will. Victims become anxious and scared and might then abuse substances like alcohol and drugs.

Victims can notice tell tale signs of an abuser such as early expressions of love and pressure for commitment. A red flag is someone who grew up in an abusive family. “They are extremely jealous of your friends and in a way she possesses you. She hurts you when she doesn’t get her way, being abusive to family members and the most important is sarcasm. That’s talking you down, breaking you down.  She has unrealistic expectations for you to meet all her needs.”

The indirect abuse of children leads to a legacy of abusive relationships. Children who come from abusive families are changed by the cyclic battles they witness. They grow up believing that a normal family life is one defined by a wheel of fear, violence and tearful apologies. Their self-esteem is affected in a way that cannot easily be understood explain psychologists.