Joshua Miller hasn’t had the greatest experiences with toy guitars.
After his girlfriend attacked him and his young son, Jordan, Miller found himself on the wrong end of an arrest: one where he supposedly had attacked someone with a toy guitar. It wasn’t until his story had been corroborated by a neighbor that the right person was in handcuffs – Miller’s girlfriend at the time.
Miller was a victim of domestic abuse, a subject that, when approached, can launch tangents of complaints when placed in context with women but causes crickets to chirp when done the same with men.
“The biggest challenge that these [domestic violence victims] men face is that people don’t believe them,” says Paige Fink, chief executive of the domestic violence shelter the Family Place. “The pendulum has swung to the point that men are assumed to be the aggressor.”
It’s an assumption that shouldn’t be allowed to run unchecked. In 2016, the National Domestic Violence Hotline received 12,046 calls and messages from men saying that they’d been in abusive relationships, a 73% increase from just two years ago.
Of course, the assumption isn’t unfounded. It can be argued that because men are known to be stronger and bigger, they are more likely to inflict abuse on their intimate partners, and gender inequalities in society have shifted to the point where it’s assumed that men are automatically the cause of any fault.
One of the reasons why perhaps males’ domestic abuse is so well-hidden (possibly almost taboo) is because, as Fink said, the reaction such a story might entail in the ripples of society.
Another reason may be that the general opinion about domestic violence is that it only involves physical abuse between intimate partners; this fact is wholly untrue. Domestic violence can be psychological, emotional, coercive, even economical; both of these abuses can be accomplished by women and men.
In an interview with NPR, “Jeff” (names had been changed to protect privacy) talked about the reason he stayed in his marriage: “You’ve entered into a marriage covenant – sickness and health, for better or for worse. And you are going for better or for worse, right?” He’d had no friends, hadn’t gone out anywhere except for church, and hadn’t been able to make decisions for himself or his daughter. Yet, despite this emotional manipulation, Jeff stayed, believing that it was simply part of his marriage vows.
Some other reasons men may stay in an abusive relationship: loving their partner, shame, an uncertainty of an aftermath, or fear of not seeing their children.
Forty percent of men have had similar experiences to Jeff in their relationships – they’ve been emotionally manipulated, isolated from their friends and family, blackmailed, threatened, or have been deprived of their economic control. 48.8% have experienced at least one form of psychologically aggressive behavior – their whereabouts being tracked, being insulted or humiliated, or been threatened.
“She would call me names and she hurt me because she regularly called me ignorant,” recalled Cyrus, a domestic abuse survivor in Victoria. “When we went up to do her flat, she sought to belittle me and my capabilities.”
Twenty-nine percent of males have even been raped by their intimate partner. “She forced me to have sex to become a good husband,” says David, another Victorian survivor. “I thought I deserved it because I was withdrawn and a bad husband.”
Male domestic abuse (or any type of domestic abuse, really) deserves a brighter spotlight and more vigorous discussion. It can do as much damage to a man’s psyche as it can a woman’s.
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