Not just husband and wife, not just black and blue
Domestic violence is defined as any violence that takes place between intimate
partners. Unfortunately, however, many people do not realise that it encompasses
much more than the stereotypical image of a battered, black-eyed wife.
Domestic violence does not solely happen between husband and wife. Though
they may not be living in the same household, violence can also take place
between girlfriend and boyfriend. Although we must not ignore that this issue is
still very prevalent among women, with two women per year killed because of
domestic violence in the UK, we also cannot ignore cases we do not commonly
hear about, and might not be as widely aware of.
Many people find it difficult to picture the image of a battered husband. Even
though we are in the 21st century, and it is acknowledged by many that women
are equal to men, and therefore can be as violent as men, female-on-male abuse
is still not perceived as a big concern.
“She is weaker and shorter,” people reason. “How much damage
could she possibly do?”
And behind that reasoning lie outdated, sexist notions; that women can do no
harm and should not go through harm (except for circumstances where it
deserved), and that men should tolerate harm because they are the breadwinner,
the protector, and should be automatically tougher than women.
And what is the result? When a man says that he feels abused by his wife, or
that he is afraid of what his wife or girlfriend might do to him; he is usually met with
laughter, dismissal or disbelief. This makes men who experience domestic
violence very unlikely to speak up or even acknowledge the abuse – making them
unable to break the cycle.
Domestic violence can also happen in LGBTIQ+ relationships. These
relationships are between people of the same gender or those who identify to a
different gender from their birth sex. The LGBTIQ+ community already struggles
for acceptance and understanding. But unfortunately, most people tend to forget
that same-sex couples may experience domestic violence too. As a result,
LGBTIQ+ victims often get treated in the same way male victims are with laughter,
dismissal, or disbelief. And as happens in female-on-male abuse, this insensitivity
(and possible also lack of awareness) makes the LGBTIQ+ community less likely
to ask for help in cases of violence, leaving them to fix these risky circumstances
on their own.
The primary cause of all these mistaken assumptions is a shallow understanding
of the various forms that violence can take.
Some think that violence is only shouting and hitting. But violence can also be
beratement and name-calling; being called stupid, selfish and lazy, when you are
in fact none of those things.
Violence can also take the form of emotional manipulation. It can be difficult to
realise that you are being emotionally manipulated, because the goal of the
assailant is to make you doubt your own reality. They will say things like “That
never happened,” “It didn’t happen in that way,” or “You are too sensitive” – when
undoubtedly, you are in the right.
Another form of violence can be financial abuse, where the perpetrator takes
control of the victim’s finances, withholding money and even threatening to keep
all the money for themselves if the victim leaves.
Being a victim of domestic violence is already very risky. Sometimes even those
who try to help the victims out are targeted, or even murdered, by the abuser.
Myths like “women can’t abuse men” and the invisibility of domestic abuse within
the LGBTIQ+ community can prevent victims from even realising they are
being abused. This in turn makes them less likely to seek help and makes it more
likely that their situation becomes even worse.
If you know anyone who is suffering from domestic violence, offer your help,
educate, and most importantly: speak up.
Bachelor of Psychology Honours, Second Year