THE SECRET SHAME OF MEN
“…That’s what you get for going with girls behind my back”, she said as she smashed the kitchen utensil into his head.”
So do you know, today is International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women?
It’s okay, there are many who do not know. In fact, I didn’t until I started researching this article. So, now that you know, do you care?
Chance are that if you are or have been affected then it may well strike a connection but if you haven’t then chances are you don’t particularly find the subject matter engaging. If you think about it, it is after all one of those subjects, perhaps not as taboo as it used to be but still nonetheless not the most enjoyable of breakfast chats.
With this in mind, when I found out about the national day, I decided to conduct an experiment; I posted the image below to the ADA Facebook page and asked all those who supported the cause to LIKE and SHARE it, very few did.
I then shared it with another 3000 people on the St Neots Facebook page and asked them to do the same thing; only 8 people LIKED the image.
I then shared it with the whole nation of Facebook women over the age of 18. That’s right, I paid hard-earned cash to take advantage of Facebook’s controversial ‘promote’ feature to advertise the image to the whole of the United Kingdom. Guess how many LIKES I collected in 24 hours?
Apathy breeds contempt?
What is the purpose of a ‘National Day’ anyway? I mean, I can understand the purpose with manufactured days, such as Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s day, Cat, Dog, and anything the commercial world dreams up day and that’s because they want to sell you something; greeting cards, chocolates, flowers, and gifts, it’s all a real money spinner but International Day for the Elimination of Violence against women?
I guess the objective is to raise ‘awareness’ but, in this instance, once it’s happened, once I have liked and am aware of the cause, what difference will that actually make to the millions of suffering women around the world? I’m guessing it probably does not. I’m guessing they’d much rather the violence stop. On the other hand, if there isn’t awareness then there isn’t campaigning and if there isn’t campaigning then there isn’t fund raising, if there isn’t fund raising then there isn’t support and if there isn’t support then there’s just bleakness.
And it sure is a miserable existence, living your life knowing that the person who is supposed to love you and cherish you (in the real sense of the word) just sees you as a possession, an object to be dominated and controlled through fear. Yet sadly, this is an all too familiar reality for many women and story for the rest of us.
That’s right, campaigners have done a pretty good job over the past decade at exposing this still relatively taboo subject, raising awareness (and funds) and providing some well needed support for many.
Yet, there is still one similar story, equally as distressing and as taboo which is slowly making its way into our conciousness yet often fails to be taking seriously and it’s this story that I’m focussing on today. I’m talking of course about the millions of men around the world who regularly subject themselves to domestic violence.
This story isn’t unfamiliar to you, you will have heard it before but you may have found it somewhat difficult to accept. Man; the physically stronger of the sexes (some may question that) being smacked about by a female? It just doesn’t seem to make sense but just because it doesn’t make sense it doesn’t mean it isn’t true because it is.
Even James Bond star, Roger Moore confessed during a television interview that he suffered domestic abuse in both of his first two marriages. The action man suffered punches and scratches at the hands of both women. He also had a teapot thrown at him and a guitar smashed over his head.
Jealousy appears to be the number one cause at soliciting violent outbursts in women. One case to hit the headlines in 2012 is that of 41 year old Beverly Jones who confronted her 44 year old lover, Michael Rees, after finding a ‘suspicious’ text message on his phone (there is a question here as to why she was going through his phone in the first place, more about this later). The two quarrelled about the text message but apparently actually made up and then went to bed together. It was there that Jones told her partner that she had an early Christmas present for him; he just needed to close his eyes. He did but when he opened them again he saw Jones standing over him with a rolling pin just before she started battering him with it; “that’s what you get for going with girls behind my back”, she said as she smashed the kitchen utensil into his head. Mr Rees was admitted to hospital with facial injuries. It later transpired that the text was innocently sent by a girlfriend of one of Rees’ work colleagues. Thankfully, the couple have since separated. Jones was convicted of Actual Bodily Harm and given a 2 year community sentence as her lawyer argued that she suffered from Schizophrenia and did not belong in prison.
This is just one of the thousands of cases of its kind that take place all around the world. Most importantly, it is one of the very few cases that was actually reported and seen through to prosecution.
The Home Office Statistical Bulletin of 2009/10 estimates that among adults (aged between 16 and 59) 15.8% of men have been victims of domestic violence since the age of 16. It estimates that this represents around 2.6 million men. Looking at the numbers of victims in the last year, 4.2% of men are estimated to have experienced domestic violence equating to around 677,000. And this figure is on the rise, latest research shows that the number of assault cases of women against men is rising exponentially with most of these being alcohol related.
According to the Institute of Public Health, half of all incidents of alcohol-related violence in England and Wales take place in or around pubs and clubs. Amongst 18-24 year olds, twice as many women classified as ‘binge-drinkers’ have participated in a violent crime or group fight in a public place than those classified as ‘regular’ drinkers. It’s believed that this binge drinking is encouraged by irresponsible drinks promotions (e.g. happy hour) which is fully exploited by depressed, cash starved citizens that are using alcohol as coping mechanism.
The above makes for some disturbing reading but not every abusive female is an alcohol guzzling marauder although academic surveys overwhelmingly show that men are victims as frequently as or more frequently than women, and we’re not talking just the odd slap here and there, we’re talking about really violent stuff; choking, kicks to the groin, mutilation of genitals (who will ever forget the case of Lorena Bobbit – who some are blaming for this new craze), stabbing, beatings by blunt objects, and the list just goes on.
So what exactly is wrong with these men? Why are they allowing themselves to be victimised like this? They are supposed to be the stronger of the sexes, after all, right? Well, I read a story that gave me some insight into the male behaviour. It was of a young boy and a young girl in the playground, she smacked him, he went to smack her back but she said, “you can’t do that, boys don’t hit girls,” and it was these very words that stuck with him right into his adult years and into an abusive relationship.
It’s often a state of mind. There’s a lot to be said by for nature and nurture but not everybody is the same. Men certainly are not the same. Just because a man may be six foot something with rippling muscles and plays rugby, it doesn’t necessarily follow that he should want to throw that weight around at home. Some men actually abhor violence and the thought of inflicting it on their partner is inconceivable to them.
But abuse isn’t always physical; it can manifest itself in many forms.
Recognise any of these in your relationship or that of somebody you know?
- Being belittled or ‘put down’
- Being blamed for abuse or for arguments
- Abusers deny that abuse is happening or play it down
- Abusers isolate their partners from family and friends in their move to dominate their partner.
- Abusers make unreasonable demands for attention
Threats and intimidation
- threaten to hurt you or kill you
- destroy things that belong to you
- stand over you, invade your personal space
- threaten to kill themselves, and/or the children
- read your emails, texts or letters
- harass or follow you
Then there’s the more obvious physical and sexual abuse. Being physically hurt in any way, including during sex, this is all in one partner’s quest to dominate, own and control their mate.
Other signs of abuse is being constantly accused of having an affair. Whilst there are sometimes mitigating reasons for such accusations it is generally used by insecure people as another form of domination; by accusing their partner, the abuser is taking the ‘upper hand’ forcing their mate into a position of having to defend themselves whilst also conditioning their behaviour into avoidance; avoid future triggers of abuse.
It’s a perpetual cycle and one that, surprisingly, millions of men and women around the globe put up with on a daily, yearly basis.
But there’s one very powerful weapon in the arsenal of an abuser and that’s shame.
This is also a common reason among abused women but in men the shame factor is so much more acute as it attacks the very heart of their virility. No bloke wants his mates to know that he’s so ‘weak’ that he lets his female partner ‘smack him around’, nor is he in a hurry to share this news with members of his family for the very same reason but also because of fear that they might intervene thus undoubtedly exacerbating the situation.
Now, it’d be easy for any of us who are disconnected from the situation and have a very sober perspective to shake our heads and ask “but why the hell put up with it over and over again?” Well, there are many reasons, one of them being Children; the mere thought of ‘abandoning’ their children is inconceivable to some fathers who believe that leaving the marital home would be tantamount to abandoning their children, and whilst some men don’t think twice about this, some devoted fathers can’t even entertain the idea. They’re terrified of what the retaliation might be; legal battles (that will cost money), court appearances, special visitations, vindictive spouse, and simply not being able to see their children on a daily basis, oh and laziness. That’s right, some settle into the relationship, it may not be perfect but the mere thought of the drama and ‘hassle’ that separation would bring simply is not worth it. This then leads to rationalisation; the abused will rationalise the behaviour of the abuser citing reasons why he or she is justified in their actions. This is common in many dysfunctional relationships. “Oh, well she can be controlling but we, me and the children, can be a bit of a handful sometimes”.
Really. And that’s just one small (and probably not best) example of rationalising performed by abuse victims.
Some men (and women) stay in abusive relationships because it gives them (although it may seem warped) a sense of security. It’s reversion to childhood where their partner’s role metamorphoses from that of, well, partner, and becomes that of parent. There’s an easy way to identify this trait. You simply have to look for the relationship where the girlfriend or wife takes on the role of the mother telling the man how to dress, when he’s allowed to go out with his friends (generally only when they too are going out), who he should be friends with, why he shouldn’t stay out so late, and so on. Just look for sentences you’d expect your mother to utter in a relationship where you’d expect both to be equal partners and you’ll see it.
Of course, there’s an argument for the fact that if some men didn’t behave like boys then their partners wouldn’t have to treat them as such. Ironically, this is a self-feeding cycle; the more the girls treat men like boys, the more the men revert. They become these henpecked shells fretting about and dodging potential flashpoint triggers in their quest to avoid confrontation and lead an ‘easy’ existence. It’s therefore no surprise that they metaphorically don their school uniform, complete with shorts and surrender to the authority of their adoptive ‘mothers’. In extreme cases, these include accepting punishment like ‘good little boys’ and never speaking of it to other members of their family or peers (if they can avoid it).
So, of course, when you first hear this theory you have to wonder but the more I think about it, the more I know I can, hand on heart, place at least 5 relationships during my lifetime where friends have been subjugated in one way or another by their girlfriend/wives. I know of one recent relationship featuring a man who is relatively attractive, his funny, and curious about life. His affable and able to talk to most people about anything, the only thing is, he can’t display any of this in front of his wife, at least not to people she has not approved for fear that it may cause an argument. This is particularly the case if the opposite number is a female. (This is a classic case of the female in the relationship automatically seeing the other female as a threat not only to her relationship but also to her control over him.) He’s constantly ‘hen-pecked’ and checked on (through various phone calls) when he is not with her and thus the extrovert becomes the inadequate who adheres to routine and has surrendered any hope of pursuing his own dreams and living his life, alienating anything and anyone his wife does not approve of (because she will not allow it).
Because of the ‘agro’ he’d get from her; it just isn’t worth. Worse still, he knows he is dying inside but he’s terrified of leaving his wife for the same reason as many other men, including the inconceivable terror of ‘leaving’ the family home and thus his children.
What kind of life is that?
Well, it’s his life and it isn’t simple. Life seldom is when you lack belief in yourself because you are living it for and through others.
There isn’t much this writer or a therapist or anybody else can tell the victim of abuse that won’t be obvious; get the hell out of there! Get out of that corrosive environment. Live YOUR life! Your partner is supposed to enrich your life, not stifle it, they are supposed to encourage you, not hold you back, they should get a kick out of watching your thrive not out of seeing you oppressed.
So, is that the only option? Leaving, running away? Well, it depends on the type of relationship. If it’s just a controlling relationship then there is a remedy but that will require such guts, some courage. Remember, abusers are just grown up bullies who get off on controlling their victim, on the power. Often, if you take that power away then you remove the abuse and there’s only one way to do that; stand up to your bully, tell them that you’re not prepared to put up with it anymore. Do not have the conversation over the breakfast table whilst on your way to work. Take time literally out. Go somewhere neutral (without the kids if there are any) and lay it out. Tell your so called bully that you’d like things to change that you’d like to share you life with them but that the victimisation has to stop. Now, I know this sounds over simplistic, that’s because it is. There’s a lot to be said for a sobering chat in the cold light of day. Remember, humans are like animals; we may not hunt in packs anymore but there is still this inherent biological survival gene that compels the strongest to dominate the weak. And, of course, if you have your sobering chat and nothing changes then it either wasn’t conveyed effectively or the damage may already be substantial and thus cannot be repaired.
Whilst the above may be effective in situations where the victim is being verbally abused/controlled, it’s unlikely to be effective in physically abusive relationships and in fact can be downright dangerous. In physically abusive relationships, you’re dealing with entrenched mindsets and, more than likely, pyscological traits that need to be addressed and a simple chat may not even be an option. These cases can sometimes be mended by the intervention of a third party ( a therapist) but this requires that the abuser be prepared to submit to the scrutiny of a ‘stranger’. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to talk to them, if you feel it is physically safe for you to do so.
Whichever case, whatever form, abusive relationships can be stopped only by one person and that is the person who is being abused. He or she must choose to end the cycle and to not be the victim anymore, choose to make the change, brave the unknown, discover some self-belief in his or herself and in his or her ability to weather the storm, heal and start again. Abuse victims are not alone. There are thousands of others in the world who are experiencing the same things in various degrees, and sometimes, just knowing you are not alone is a comfort.
Whilst researching this article I came across a whole myriad of websites dedicated to this very subject. There’s practical everyday advice (even ways to surf the web covertly- cover your tracks, delete your browsing history) as well as a collection of anonymous helplines and charitable foundations that work to providing ex-victims with affordable housing so money doesn’t necessarily have to be a barrier to freedom and the chance to start anew.
It’s scary, it isn’t easy but it can be done. Many choose to break the cycle every year because the day came when they decided enough was enough…
When will you?
Have a blissful Sunday. 🙂