Not One Or The Other: Domestic Violence

We all know twitter can hold the best and worst of humanity in it’s 140 characters, but there was something recently that made me so mad and so sick I had to say something. Of course, saying something in 140 characters never really works, so instead, here’s my rant from September.

You’ve probably heard me mention the @EverydaySexism campaign with fondness over the last few months as I have loved the truth that has been spread by allowing people an outlet. It has allowed men and women to speak up in a society which often just tells them ironically to “man up”.

One morning I was just as fond of the campaign when they retweeted an article brought to their attention. The article was by an anonymous man who was abused over more than a decade by his female partner. It was wonderful to see @EverydaySexism support a man who was told to “go home” by the police after being given 14 stitches in his head from a wound inflicted by “Jane” with a stone chopping board. Apparently according to many, women can’t possibly do much harm, and even if they do, the man should just get over it.

@EverydaySexism’s retweet was not the one to make me feel sick; this response was:

Tweet

The heartlessness and cynicism that basically said that this man was part of a minority issue and there were bigger fish to fry (aka men’s violence to women), and that it was simply being used to deflect from this bigger issue, made my skin crawl. This was from someone who can be assumed to follow the @Everyday Sexism campaign, and therefore may well be anti-sexism. Yet this tweet was so supremely sexist, I remembered why feminists so often get a bad reputation.

Here’s some thing they should have thought about before they came up with such a thoughtless comment:

Firstly, there is a common attitude that men should just have to deal with violence that is dealt by a woman. I have experienced this. I hit my now-husband, once, three years ago, immediately regretted it, and have never done it since. It freaked him out, and it freaked me out, and I desperately wanted to make sure that he had someone to talk to about it that would realise it was a big deal and protect him from me if I ever did that again (particularly if we were to ever have children). When he mentioned it, with me present, to friends of ours they looked confused and laughed. This freaked me out because if it had been me to say he had hit me, they would have been outraged. Far less men than women feel able to come forward because there is still a societal image that suggests they are weak if they a. can’t take it, b. complain, or c. “get beaten up by a girl”. I would suggest that although the percentage of domestic violence reported against men by women is significantly smaller than the alternative, the data is inadequate to describe the men affected by domestic violence who stay silent.

Secondly, it is a sexist attitude which suggests a woman can’t be “tough” enough, big enough, strong enough or “manly” enough to ever have such a physical control over a man and be the cause of domestic violence. Domestic violence is something that happens to a woman because she is weak/small/incapable of defending herself/whatever cr*p people come up with by a mean, mean man who took advantage of her. The man is the one with automatic control in this image, and it is rarely pictured differently. Although men as a whole tend to be stronger than women as a whole, individuals will always show exceptions, and it doesn’t take strength to put out a cigarette on someone’s skin, drip hot plastic onto a sleeping man, or hit someone from behind with a heavy, blunt object. And if this man were to ever strike her back? How many people would believe him saying “she’s been beating me for x years and it was self-defence”? Women can be just as manipulative, hurtful, emotionally and mentally abusive as a man, and when they use physical force it is often ignored.

Lastly, but by no means least, is the fact that all domestic violence is wrong. Women, men, and children; no-one should face fear of emotional, mental, sexual (yes, that does happen to men too!) or physical abuse at home or anywhere else. Simply suggesting it happens less to one group than the others doesn’t justify ignoring the minority. If so, I could suggest feminism doesn’t matter because children are far more likely to be abused, killed and live in poverty than women, so aren’t feminists just deflecting from the real issue? NO! If someone is being beaten by their partner then they need help to get out, get counselling and medical treatment, and be protected from any future harm. Sexism is when you put one sex over another in your treatment of a person. By claiming male victims don’t count as much as female victims you are just reaffirming a harmful sexist attitude that has real victims.

“Matt” was brave enough to speak out, but was turned away by the police despite obvious injuries, and thankfully finally found the ManKind Initiative. Would I have known where to send him for help? No. I know about Women’s Shelters and phone lines which can help, but for a man there just doesn’t seem to be the public knowledge out there. Something needs to be done about this because it is not OK that men are made to feel weak at home and then by those they go to for help. It is not weak to say you are being abused. It is weak to hear someone is being abused and do nothing.

If I am ever the cause of harm to my husband and family I want someone to protect them from me with just as much passion and determination as I would expect were the roles reversed. I know that there have been times in my life where I have felt out of control, and emotionally I would say that in my worst points I am capable of causing harm. I do not want to cause harm, and go out of my way to avoid such a situation where I might, paying close attention to my mental state, but I have said to my husband continually that if I act in such a way he is to get away and take my children. It is incredibly hard to suggest this, but not as hard as being the victim of abuse. I am blessed enough to have earned back his trust over a very long time and he has stayed with me despite my show of temper. I cannot say I deserved this forgiveness but I am eternally grateful for it.

PLEASE do NOT make the mistake of assuming women can’t cause harm, and men can’t be abused. You don’t ever want to make that mistake and cause a victim of abuse to stay silent.

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