Killing me softly

Domestic violence is a term we hear pretty much every day. Whether it’s on the news or about a friend or celebrity, there is one common theme to the stories—he was the abuser and she was the abused.

Domestic violence is a term we hear pretty much every day. Whether it’s on the news or about a friend or celebrity, there is one common theme to the stories—he was the abuser and she was the abused. Nearly every incident that reaches our ears involves a male abusing a female. Is this the result of some massive conspiracy to make men look evil? In a word: no. Part of it is frequency (more women are violently abused by men than vice-versa), part of it is sensationalism (far more men tend to kill the woman they are involved with than vice-versa and that makes a more exciting headline), but it’s not as cut-and-dry a situation as it seems.

Underreporting plagues the domestic violence issue among both genders due to factors such as embarrassment, denial, wanting to protect the abuser, and being afraid of making the problem worse. However, male victims face some particular issues that most female victims don’t. Most obviously, there is stigma surrounding what a male’s friends and family will think if it is discovered that he has ‘let’ a partner abuse him. There is also an element of disbelief from friends, family, police and medical personnel—especially when those people are also male—and victims are often unwittingly, yet strongly, encouraged to minimize the importance and impact of the abuse. Trying to report once and meeting this reaction is a primary factor of why so many men never report again or never report in the first place.

The other far more insidious problem is that women tend toward being emotional abusers and many men are not even aware that what they are experiencing, though destructive and distressing, is abuse at all. Most people are pretty clear on the physical forms of abuse, but there are many other telltale signs of this kind of dynamic. To give you a better idea of the scope of tactics abusers use to control their partners and to illustrate why so many people seem unaware when they are in abusive relationships, I’ve listed some of the most frequent behaviors of abusive partners:

  • Tracking all your time
  • Constantly acting extremely jealous or accusing you of being unfaithful
  • Discouraging your relationships with family and friends
  • Preventing you from working or attending school
  • Angering easily when drinking or on drugs
  • Controlling all finances and forcing you to account in detail for what you spend
  • Humiliating you in front of others
  • Destroying personal property or sentimental items
  • Coercing/blackmailing you to have sex against your will
  • Denying your emotional needs with the intent of punishing or hurting you
  • Denying actions when confronted, ‘I never said that,’ ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about,’ etc.
  • Flying into verbal rages, withdrawing and then suddenly acting like nothing has happened
  • Withholding, refusing to listen, refusing to communicate and emotionally or sexually withdrawing as punishment
  • Using fear, guilt, compassion, values or other ‘hot buttons’ to get what they want
  • Minimizing you with statements such as ‘You’re too sensitive,’ ‘You’re exaggerating,’ or ‘You’re blowing this out of proportion’ etc.
  • Trivializing you by suggesting that what you have done or communicated is inconsequential or unimportant (a more subtle form of minimizing)

This list is far from exhaustive, but it might be enough of an eye-opener for you to examine your relationship more thoroughly. Guys, you don’t have to put up with an abusive jerk (male or female) any more than a girl does.

If you think your partner is abusive, talk to a counselor or a friend, or just get out of the relationship as quickly as possible. No matter how trite it may sound, abuse is not your fault and wanting to end it does not make you weak. Abusive relationships are highly addictive, incredibly hard to escape, and the abuse almost always escalates into harsher forms. No one wants to lose their life, figuratively or literally, to someone who beats them into the ground every day. You deserve better. ?