It’s time for society to accept that domestic violence doesn’t discriminate – people discriminate. And, domestic violence against men does happen!
Below is a man’s story on what happened to him. For professional reasons I can’t name him however, I have verified his story and it is the truth. I haven’t changed his wording, so this is his story, in his words, told by him.
Why Did I Write This?
I was asked by Amanda Ray, who works passionately to stop domestic abuse, to provide a man’s perspective. To tell a man’s story.
If it could happen to me, it could happen to anybody. I’ve run my own business. I’ve worked for blue-chips and start-ups. I have a PhD. The kind of things you perhaps wouldn’t expect a battered spouse to have achieved.
If this helps just one person avoid the terrible fate of domestic abuse, then writing it has been worthwhile.
The Verbal Phase
It is difficult to pinpoint when the verbal phase began.
Was it when I had an allergy attack so bad both nostrils were blocked and was worried my throat would close? Which meant I cancelled our planned brunch in order to get medicine. She got angry I’d spoilt her plans and didn’t come. Told me I was a wimp.
Was it when she began to complain about my playing tennis? Which escalated into arguments because I couldn’t perceive of a happy life without sport being involved. I needed to be physically fit to be mentally fit. Still do. These arguments were draining.
Was it when I went to watch a football match with friends, one of whom was female? Who she immediately determined she didn’t like. And, forbade me from seeing my friend without her being present that was some argument.
I’m not sure. I do know I got called all the names under the sun for all the above. But two things do stick out.
She was going to the gym. I told her that I’d do the shopping while she worked out. That I’d pick her up afterwards. For some reason, when I picked her up, she was in a foul mood. On getting home, she immediately sorted through all the groceries. And told me I was an fxxxing idiot. Apparently, I’d bought too much dry pasta and I’d forgotten to buy tomato ketchup. This meant I didn’t love her. I didn’t care about household duties. I was a loser and she couldn’t believe she’d married me.
The other was when we were watching Charlie’s Angels. Her choice. Halfway through the film, she asked me if I thought any of the Angels were good looking. I said I thought Lucy Lui was cute. Before I could even give an opinion about Cameron Diaz and Drew Barrymore, she’d launched into me. Saying, ‘when a wife asks you if somebody else is good looking, you always take that opportunity to tell your wife how beautiful she is’ and I was an fxxxing idiot for not knowing this. That she couldn’t believe she’d married such a loser. And on and on. For at least an hour.
To be honest, I can’t remember the verbal stuff with massive clarity, because it became part of everyday living. I glanced too long at a woman walking past. I was an fxxxing pig. I didn’t pay her enough attention at a social gathering. I was a bastard loser. I stayed out five minutes longer than she’d anticipated. I was a stupid wanker who didn’t care about her at all.
The Emotional Abuse
A lot of the verbal stuff blends into the emotional. It is difficult to separate them because the verbal anger often accompanies the emotional abuse.
The ‘looking at other women’ stuff was one element. If I even glanced at another woman, she would refuse to talk to me. Refuse to cuddle. Refuse to touch me. Either that or full blown anger and verbal abuse. It got to the state that I would focus on staring fixedly ahead while we out, just in case any sidewards head movement was interpreted as ‘staring at that woman.’
To get her own back on this ‘betrayal’, she’d blatantly flirt with other men at social events. She would then blame me for not caring about our relationship because I hadn’t physically threatened the guy she was flirting with.
One of her favourite tricks was to suggest I watch a movie on TV while she did something else. Supposedly, it was to help me wind down after a long day. But it was a power play. About 10-15 minutes before the end of the film, she’d insist I come to bed. If I didn’t, it proved I didn’t love her. A pure control tactic. Towards the end, she would tell me I had to come to bed if I wanted to save the marriage.
She’d also get furiously angry if I socialised with friends, either from work or sport. She’d say that I should put her first. That only she had my best interests at heart. That they weren’t true friends because of various things they’d said and done. All of them were flawed and she wasn’t happy that I spent time with them. Especially if they were female. This is an isolating tactic, aimed at removing your social support network.
Sex was also a tactic. I was supposed to be an olympic athlete of sex, ready and available whenever she wanted it. Even if that were four times a night. Not so much of a problem for an 18-year old. But for somebody in his mid-thirties, somewhat unrealistic. If I couldn’t perform, she’d accuse me of not loving her and withdraw affection. If I didn’t perform exactly as she wanted (too fast, too slow, speeding up at the wrong time), then I was an fxxxing idiot who didn’t know the first thing about how to please a woman.
The Physical Abuse
My wife was small. I’m pretty well built. So the concept of getting beaten up is a strange one. But it happens.
Towards the end, she’d regularly punch and hit me. I have to confess, my memory is a little hazy as to why. I remember her picking up an extension plug and hitting me around the head with it because I hadn’t plugged it in to the wall.
She also threw a coffee cup at me. And waved a kitchen knife around. But for the life of me I can’t remember why.
As for the punching, slapping and spitting? It blurs into one. I do remember some of the injuries. And lying to my friends that the cuts and bruises around my eyes were down to walking into a door wearing my glasses.
I could have prevented it. I could have beaten her up. Stopped her from being violent by being even more violent. But how can you do that? A man doesn’t hit women. And rightly so. But a woman shouldn’t hit a man either.
And if I did hit her, then society would blame me. One mark on her and I’d be in serious trouble. Domestic abuser. Public enemy number one.
I had a few tactics. I could restrain her. Hold her so tightly she couldn’t hit me. But that just made her angrier, so that when I released her, the violence would be worse.
I could try and escape the room. But she’d stand in the way of the door. And if I did get out, she’d have stoked her anger in my absence. Meaning the violence would be worse when I returned.
My Psychological State
People can’t believe that you go through such things. That you don’t walk out the moment it starts. And nor would I if I hadn’t gone through it. But there are reasons for it.
You loved her enough to marry her. You want to help. You reach out and reach out. Put yourself through hoops to try and make things right. You don’t want to let go of that feeling. Or give up on that effort.
You also start believing some of it is your fault. That you are actually behaving so badly that the abuse is justified. Which is not really a strange reaction. We all know we are imperfect. That we can be difficult to live with. That our habits aren’t ideal. It’s doesn’t take much to amplify these thoughts and see them as reasons for abuse.
You also lose touch with yourself. The person you were before the abuse started has gone (happily, only temporarily if you can escape). That happy and social person has disappeared. You lose touch with your capacity for rationality. You aren’t going crazy. But all your cognitive efforts are expended on trying to avoid another abusive episode. You are walking on eggshells and it takes all your energy to avoid breaking one.
Which, of course, is impossible, as you cannot predict what will set the abuse off. A girl looks at you appraisingly. You spend too long doing a task. You are too loud getting undressed. The food you prepared doesn’t taste right. All can set it off. As can anything else. Things so random you can’t possibly prepare for them.
Many people get trapped in such a spiral. Holding onto the positive feelings that launched the relationship. Reflecting on what you might be doing to cause the abuse. And losing touch with yourself. For some, that will mean genuine physical danger as abuse ramps up to bodily harm. Or something worse.