Q. I read your advice about leaving an abusive husband. What advice do you have for a man who has been physically abused (I have never hit back) and who is demeaned verbally for being out of work for an extended period of time. (I work part-time.) I love my wife but am worried that by staying I don’t love myself.
A. My advice to an abused man is the same as my advice to an abused woman — leave.
The situation of a man being physically or emotionally abused by a wife parallels that of a woman being abused by a husband. A woman, even if she isn’t as strong, can absolutely hurt or cripple a man. She can use a car, knife, fire, blunt object or other weapon.
In many ways, domestic violence against a man is more hidden. Cases of this are very much underreported. Men often find it difficult to confide in others, because revealing their abuse is so counter to masculine culture, which makes it seem shameful and weak to be so bullied. Their friends and family cannot help because they don’t know about it. Sometimes a couple will enter therapy and not reveal to the therapist that abuse is going on, which prevents any real change from happening. Treatment can be helpful in some circumstances if the abusive woman is intent on change. However, just as is the case with a male abuser ... it is likely to continue.
Men often are afraid to defend themselves or don’t want to hit back. Sometimes this is because they have been so emotionally broken down that they believe they deserve their abuse, just as emotionally abused women often do. Emotional abuse is often harder to define by men. Constant harsh criticism, name calling, systematic tearing down and isolating you from others are patterns of emotional abuse and can be every bit as destructive as physical abuse.
There is also the sense that men are stronger and therefore more dangerous. But women have killed their husbands, and not only in self-defense. Even if a woman doesn’t have a weapon, she can cause a man serious and even disabling injury.
You must protect yourself and remove yourself from this situation before it escalates. I suggest you take the same protective safeguards a woman should — quietly plan a way out, and go somewhere where you will be safe. If need be, get the police involved. Women are just as capable of stalking as men; consider an order of protection.
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