Lifestyle

Men Can Be Victims Of Domestic Violence Too

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I don’t think there is anything more reprehensible than domestic violence. And when I think of the term, I often see it as a one-way street, where the man in the relationship is the abuser. But that isn’t always the case; there is actually a growing problem where men are being physically abused by their wives. And if you’re looking for a good example, take a look at a recent episode of the reality show Real Housewives of Orange County.

Braunwyn Windham-Burke, a star of the show, admitted to striking her husband multiple times, and doing it in front of their children. According to Page Six, Windham-Burke said this on the show: “I just, I lost it. I lost my temper again with Sean belittling me over the vacuum cleaner,” she began to explain in self-filmed footage, saying she couldn’t get the charger for the appliance to work. “Instead of being like, ‘Yeah, I’ll help you’ — ’cause he’s still going to the office. He’s still working. He’s still getting out of the house — instead of helping, he made fun of me and I lost it and I smacked him. I haven’t done that since we were in Aspen.”

I think everyone watching the show paused at “I haven’t done that since we were in Aspen,” because it clearly indicated that she’d hit him before. Naturally, she went into more details, saying “I have hit Sean a couple of times in my life. Nothing though like what happened in Aspen. I hit him across the face and I hit him hard. I wanted to go drink. I was angry and I was lashing out, and Curren saw it.”

Curren is the couple’s seven-year-old child. The part that gave me the most pause in all of this was her reasoning for striking her husband: She blamed it on her drinking. It’s hard not to hear her excuse and not feel like I’ve heard it before.

When I was a teenager, I went to church with a prison guard. He once told me about a guy in jail who was locked up for beating women. Lots of women. And his excuse for every single one of his violent charges was, “I’m an alcoholic.” I remember thinking this man was flat out disgusting human trash, and I hated that he felt he was innocent because he was an alcoholic, and the drinking was to blame, not his horrible actions. Frankly, I don’t see any reason a woman should feel comfortable using the same excuse for abusing her husband.

Of course, Braunwyn Windham-Burke striking her husband isn’t an isolated thing. A recent U.K. government survey indicated that 9% of males had experienced some form of partner abuse, which amounts to around 1.4 million men. This includes stalking, physical violence and sexual assault. A U.S. study published in the Journal of Family Violence found that male domestic violence victims are often slapped, kicked, punched, grabbed or choked by their partners.

This is a very real problem. And the truly sad reality is that men who are faced with domestic violence, much like women, do not report it because of social shame. According to Psychology Today, only small proportions of men (less than 20% of victims) will tell the police or a health professional about their victimization. Their reason is because they fear they will be scorned, ridiculed, or disbelieved by these authorities.

And sadly, thanks to the toxic “man-up” masculinity that pervades our culture, that fear of being scorned is very legitimate. A recent research paper by Dr. Elizabeth Bates from the University of Cumbria found that the overarching experience of male domestic violence victims was that “no one would ever believe me.” One victim noted “I told friends, they laughed,” while another stated that he got the same reaction … from the police.

There is no excuse for domestic violence of any kind, regardless of gender. If someone is physically abusing their spouse, they are in the wrong. And if someone needs help because they are in an abusive relationship, they should be taken seriously, regardless of gender. I mean, honestly, being in an abusive relationship is tragic enough. But then having someone laugh at you when you reach out for help, well … that’s just adding insult to injury.

Listen, people, care for the one you are with. Love them, listen to them, understand them, and accept that they are a life partner, not an adversary. Treat them with respect, and regardless of gender, do not physically or emotionally abuse them. And if someone comes to you for help because they are being abused, whether you are a friend, family member, doctor, police officer, human… take them seriously. Listen to their concerns, and help them find resources to get out of a bad place. Above all, don’t forget that men can be vulnerable too.

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