Lauren Love February 3, 2016
Domestic violence is a major social cruelty within South Africa, while we annually discuss and rally support for the 16 Days of Activism against Gender – Based violence, many forget that domestic violence is a daily, ongoing struggle. As a researcher, I spent years interviewing, questioning, turning over statistics and policies in order to understand the extent and impact of domestic violence. My research opened up painful cruelties in terms of what women suffer at the hands of the men who claim to love them and yet another face of domestic violence suddenly began to form before my eyes.
While domestic violence has always focussed on advocating women’s rights in terms of abuse, our society has in recent years, seen a rapid increase in domestic violence against men. Worldwide statistics indicate that as many as one in three victims of abuse, are in fact males and the stigma attached to this reality prevents many men from speaking out.
Men across differing social communities, are often taught to be in control, less emotional, stronger and more tolerant of mistreatment by their wives. But the Domestic Violence Act of 1998, protects all victims of domestic violence, without making it an issue of gender. Here is what defines domestic violence according to our constitution:
A domestic relationship exists between a complainant and a respondent in one of the following ways; they are or were married to each other, they live or lived together in a relationship or in the nature of marriage. They are the parents of a child or are persons who have or had parental responsibility for that child, they are family members, they are or were in an engagement, dating or customary relationship including an actual or perceived romantic, intimate or sexual relationship or they share or recently shared the same residence.
Domestic violence means, physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional, verbal or psychological abuse, economic abuse, intimidation, harassment, stalking, damage to property, entry into the complainant’s house without consent, where the parties do not share the same residence or any other controlling or abusive behaviour towards a complainant, where such conduct harms or causes imminent harm to the safety, health or wellbeing of the complainant.
In an interview with a warrant officer at a local Cape Town police station, I addressed the issue of domestic violence and how it impacts the lives of men. The warrant officer understood the issue well and shared the following, men often come in to the police station to ask about their rights in terms of domestic violence. Their shoulders are slumped and the scars are visible both physically and emotionally. They are often slapped, punched, have nail marks or bite marks on their skin but they rarely lay an assault charge or leave their marriages. Most of the time, they are too ashamed and wonder what others are going to think of them if they admit to being abused.
Yet, if you are a man and your wife frequently hits or slaps you, punches you, throws the car keys or dishes, or any other moveable objects at you, or if she belittles you in public, then you are being abused. If she threatens you, withholds your money, is possessive, makes false accusations about you, controls who you see and where you go or threatens to take your children away if you report the abuse, then you are being abused.
Dr Tara from shrink4men.com, says the following; women – centric domestic violence groups and DR Phil would like our society to believe that only men can abuse and only women can be victims. They are lying to you. In fact, individuals who perpetuate this lie are abusers themselves. Why? Because not only are they denying help to millions of men and their children suffering, everyday, they’re denying the existence of their suffering.
There are many reasons why millions of abused men stay in relationships and marriages of abuse, the reasons include shame, humiliation, the doubt that others will believe their stories. Some faith groups advocate that divorce is a sin and deserves punishment, or a man desires to protect his children or fears he will never see his children again if he reports the abuse. In some cases I have encountered personally, the wives have ownership of a gun and threaten to find the husband and to kill him if he leaves or gets involved with someone else after divorce.
However, every single individual that lives today is valuable and every life is precious. No matter who you are, you are worth a life of value and love. Only you hold the keys to a better life, a life of freedom, breaking free of abuse is never easy and the road is winding but time is a great healer.
If you are looking for advice and help on how to break out of the cycle of abuse you are currently facing as a husband, then get advice from a domestic violence website or support group, or counsellor. Contact a local organisation like the Community Intervention Centre based in Milnerton, Cape Town.
Document and get evidence of the abuse, report it to the police, keep important documents like passports etc on hand, in case of severe life – threatening situations where you need to leave your home with your children. Do not retaliate with force or abuse, abusers can be manipulative or antagonising, do not retaliate with violence, this will only be a tool for her to abuse you further. The police have to protect you according to our constitution and they have to treat you with dignity and respect, care and concern.
Above all else, you can be free of this cycle of violence, society has a double standard yardstick when it comes to facing the reality of male abuse, yet there are those who will walk with you and who will believe you. I pray success for your journey and the ability to see that you are valuable and worthy! The courage to break free may seem like a big step but once you break free, you become a survivor one small step at a time.
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