How can we shine a light on the problem of domestic violence so that for 'abuser' or 'victim' we do not automatically think 'he' for the first and then 'she' for the second?
It has taken far too long for the whole question of violence in the home to be seen for the terrible thing that it is. Too often the feelings of shame or disgrace prevent victims from speaking out.
If you have been on the receiving end of any of the different ways that maltreatment can be experienced you will know what I mean. Worn down by day to day physical or emotional abuse means that the victim is forced to believe 'It must be my fault.' Indeed blaming the other for what is happening is one of the tools of any abuser. Any man - or woman - who is systematically abused will lose all sense of self-worth or self-esteem, and yet to reveal this is out of the question, and so the unhappy situation continues. This is the reason why so many victims find it hard to leave their partners, and is the answer to the age-old question of 'Why doesn't he/she just get out?' The situation is compounded if there are children in the marriage; and it is important to keep in mind that for children to witness abuse of one parent by another has a devastating effect on their mental health. Don't trick yourself into believing they don't notice or will not be affected by what they see or hear.
So although the tip of the iceberg of domestic violence is beginning to emerge, what is still very often glossed over is that there are women who are abusive towards men. This is certainly the hidden side of violence.
There are still jokes made about hen-pecked husbands, the loved target of many comedians, and this makes it all the more difficult for many man to speak out. But abuse of men happens, and happens more often than we like to think: it is contrary to the stereotype image of the tough macho man who can take care of himself under any circumstances. Indeed, as I have heard from many men, they feel at a loss when physically attacked by a women. 'Is it okay to hit back?' Or will they be seen as a wimp or as a strong silent type if they 'take it on the chin?'
In addition to being taunted about all manner of 'crimes' the humiliation felt by men makes it more difficult for them to speak out and seek help. Support and help and a safe place to 'speak' are to be welcomed with open arms.
Not only are young men on the receiving end of a sharp tongue or flailing fists, but older men too. We hear of 'granny bashing' but older men are just as much as women at grave risk.
To my mind, no one should live their life in fear of another person, for any reason whatsoever. Any domestic violence is a two-way street, and not to be tolerated whichever way it goes.
If any, or all of this rings a bell with you, get help and get it now. Some men (and some women too) have delayed, and tragically they have not survived.
© Jill Curtis 2002
Submitted by: jill curtis *
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