Fri | Dec 1, 2023

Michael Abrahams | Women abuse men too

Published:Tuesday | June 6, 2023 | 12:14 AM
Dr Michael Abrahams writes: ‘Unfortunately, we have been socialised to tolerate women hitting men and getting away with it.’
Dr Michael Abrahams writes: ‘Unfortunately, we have been socialised to tolerate women hitting men and getting away with it.’

It was a horrific crime. The married couple, the husband in the union being a cop, apparently had been having a tumultuous relationship for several years. However, they had their last spat last week, and it ended in murder. The victim was shot several times, and a hammer used to inflict multiple head injuries. A cop was heard in a voice note saying that the crime scene, where a pistol, two hammers and a machete were retrieved, was the worst he had ever seen.

Recently, there has been a spate of highly publicised cases where men have killed women. But in this instance, the man was the victim. What was also distressing were some of the comments in social media:

“Maybe him did a beat her or give her bun.”

“Don’t sorry for him. He must have been abusing her. She obviously got tired.”

“Dem dutty man yah feel like nuttn nuffi start or stop unless dem seh suh! She fed up!!!”

Intimate partner violence is a global issue, and whenever the topic is raised, images of battered women often come to mind. And it is understandable. Indeed, in most cases, women are the victims and men the aggressors. The data clearly show that women are significantly more likely to not only experience domestic abuse, but to be abused repetitively and more violently, not just physically, but sexually as well. However, men can be victims, too, not just in same-sex relationships, but in heterosexual unions where women are the perpetrators.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States, one in seven men age 18 years or older has been the victim of intimate partner violence in his lifetime. Men are abused too, but there are several reasons why we do not hear about it that much.

First, women, as stated above, are more likely to be victims than men. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline in America, over one in three women (35.6 per cent) and one in four men (28.5 per cent) in the US have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.

Second, men are socialised not to express their feelings, or see themselves as victims as much as women are. When faced with painful situations, boys and men are told to ‘suck it up’, ‘man up’, or ‘take it like a man’. Being abused by an intimate partner is embarrassing, and many cases where women are affected go unreported for this reason, and because of fear of repercussions by the abuser.

Men are even less likely to report or even speak of being abused because of gender stereotypes, which paint them as the stronger sex. They fear being ridiculed. If their partner is of the same gender, the stigma regarding being gay may be a deterrent. And if the partner is a woman, the victim may fear being mocked and laughed at for being weak. After all, men are supposed to run things.

Not only that, but there is also the issue of verbal and emotional abuse. Again, women experience this from men, but they give it to men, too. This is no excuse for physical violence, but sometimes men hit out after being chronically goaded and emasculated by their female spouses.

Another reason why we hear less about battered men is that women are more likely to be seriously physically injured when attacked by a man than vice versa. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in seven women and one in 25 men have been injured by an intimate partner. This is because men, on average, are stronger than women. If a man hits a woman with all his might, he is more likely to injure her than if she does the same to him.

SOCIALISED TO TOLERATE

Unfortunately, we have been socialised to tolerate women hitting men and getting away with it. Growing up, I recall watching several Hollywood movies where women slapped men in their faces when they said things that displeased them, and I still see it today.

I remember a movie, This Christmas, where there is a scene in which a woman threw baby oil on the bathroom floor while her husband was in the shower, and when he came out and slipped and fell on the floor, she gave him a thorough beating with a belt because he was unfaithful to her. I do not recall hearing any negative comments about that. In fact, when I watched the scene on YouTube, in the comments section, a woman wrote, “I remember as a kid, this part was always my favourite”, followed by a ‘laughing face’ emoji.

As a boy, I remember the instruction to “never hit a girl” being drummed into my head. Unfortunately, the narrative about not hitting boys is not shared with girls with similar zeal. In fact, on more than one occasion, while speaking with boys at the primary/prep-school level, the youngsters complained bitterly to me about girls hitting and bullying them with impunity. And every now and then a woman will report to me that her spouse hit her, only to reveal later in the conversation that it was she who assaulted him first.

Regarding the slain policeman, according to those who knew the couple, the murder did not result from his wife retaliating to abuse from him. She had a history of repeatedly physically abusing her husband. During an interview, a man acquainted with the couple said he had been called to the house several times during violent encounters and that the wife was always the aggressor. The deceased’s sister claimed that he wanted to leave her for years. Now he has left permanently.

Yes, women abuse men too.

Michael Abrahams is an obstetrician and gynaecologist, social commentator and human-rights advocate. Send feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and michabe_1999@hotmail.com, or follow him on Twitter @mikeyabrahams.