America’s Secret – Domestic Violence
Domestic Abuse is NOT a gender Issue
By John M Disque
Edited By James Howell
When people hear about, or read about, domestic violence most automatically assume that it’s the male performing the abuse and the female is the victim, but it’s not always the case.
Female domestic abuse on males is on the rise and now accounts for over 40% of domestic violence cases. This equates to roughly 5.4 million battered men. Men are the victims and the women are the abusers in 2 of every 5 domestic violence cases.
These stats might shock you and you’re apt to ask how it could be and why it’s not public knowledge. There are many reasons: The crime is difficult to identify; Police, judges, attorneys, families and friends are not taking this issue serious and all of it hands a license to the female abuser to continue with the abuse. When men do report it, there’s no resources or support to help him. There’s no incentive to report it or talk about it and many men who did report it felt like no one believed him, understood or cared. The only incentive remaining is to keep it hidden.
One will first bring up the fact that most men are much stronger than their female spouse or girlfriend
and wouldn’t have much problem defending themselves. This is true but, the moment he defends himself is the moment he is seen as the abuser and she is seen as the victim. The simple act of
restraining the female can be a more difficult task than one might think and can also be categorized as physical violence. Most males understand society’s view on domestic violence and are literally
reduced to submissive punching bags.
The crime often goes unreported because it comes with an “embarrassment factor” where the man is automatically assumed to be “a wimp..” (for lack of a better word). The result is often - humiliation.
Domestic violence has been with us since the beginning of time but it took many years of advocacy and support to give women the courage to report it and take their stories public. This same process is happening today with men.
On 5/20/2012 I sat down with Ed Shardon of Sweetwater TN for an interview and long discussion on the issue of domestic violence.
John: The giant stigma, double standard and misperception on this issue keeps men from talking about it and writers from writing about it but I think it’s time and I want to thank you for sharing your story.
Ed: The thanks are all mine. Articles and reports like yours are what will bring the issue further into the mainstream. More men will be willing to talk about it and more women will be charged and dealt with accordingly. That’s why I’m doing this.
John: You were physically abused by your former wife? How long did it go on?
Ed: Yes. There were periods of months when it would stop and things would get better. She was in counseling… not for this.. but anger management and emotional control was part of her therapy so it would give me some hope.
We were married for 11 years.
John: A lot of people would ask: why not just leave?
Ed: Most times she would leave. I would throw her out and sometimes I had to call the law to get it done. They’d come and see the blood all over me, broken dishes and holes in the walls, broken furniture and they’d see her just fine. I guess they were trained on it or had been around long enough. They knew what was going on.
At this point Ed handed me police reports and letters from the police station offering advice and recognizing that he was the victim of domestic abuse.
John: Did you ever press charges?
Ed: No, the police said I need to, but I never did. As for leaving… I worked my whole life for this house. I built it with my own hands. It’s all I have. Why should I be the one to leave? She abuses me and then she gets the house?
John: Did you know she was violent before you married her?
Ed: Yeah. That’s the part I hate. That’s where I made my biggest mistake.
She’d come back in a few days and I’d have new hope. I suppose it’s the same way when females are being abused. People don’t understand why the women keep taking him back but I was blind and in love and I wanted so bad for this to work out. I guess I was just a sucker. I take responsibility for that.
In the beginning it was just little things. She’d get mad at her mother or a family member or me and
throw a coffee mug against the wall. Over the years it progressed into this….
Ed handed me a few pictures that were hard to look at and, in them, he was almost unrecognizable. It was hard to take in and grasp but….
John: Did your friends and family know what was going on?
Ed: No. I kept it from everyone. I knew they wouldn’t understand it. I’d tell them I got in a fight with some guy or that I was in a car wreck or got hurt at work. In the end I was running out of reasons for looking like I did or for limping or being at the hospital. When we were finally separated I told a few people but like I suspected – they didn’t understand and two of them even laughed and cracked jokes about it. I think this is the biggest reason men don’t talk about it.
John: Was the violence the main issue for your separation and divorce?
Ed: Yeah – but no one knew that. Most people in my life still don’t know it. I guess they think we just got sick of each other.
John: What was the final straw?
Ed: Well, like I said - it progressed and it got to the point of life and death. She tried to cut my throat while I was sleeping (At this point Ed shows me the scar on his neck) and I think she was trying to poison me. It reached a point where I lost all hope that it would get better.
It took 11 years and a part of me still loves her and feels sorry for her. She had a rough childhood. I just finally realized I couldn’t fix that.
During a trial separation I found pictures of her with other men on the internet and I just lost complete respect for her. That was a whole new level and area of abuse and I just couldn’t deal with it anymore.
John: Is there anything you’d like to add?
Ed: I’d like to see our society take this issue more serious…. just as serious as domestic violence against women.
One of the big problems with this crime is: men will fight back. Once they do that no one listens to them and they think he was the one responsible for it.
I came very close to hitting my wife. I’m ashamed to say I wanted to and it took everything in me to keep from doing it. A lot of times I think she was trying to get me to hit her but I knew if I did that I would’ve crippled her for life and I’d go to jail and lose everything.
John: Is there any advice you’d like to share.
Ed: Yes, don’t ignore the signs. Don’t marry someone unless they’re emotionally stable. There were signs right from the start and I ignored it all. I thought they would get better if I tried harder. I blamed myself for all her issues but the harder I tried, the worse it got. I was constantly on trial and paying for the things her parents or ex-boyfriends had done to her. There was no filling the hole inside of her.
John: Wouldn’t this be a control issue? Was she using victim stance to control your life?
Ed: That’s exactly what it is: control. When she felt like she was losing this control – that’s when things got bad.
My advice to people is not to let this happen to you. You’re not going to be able to fix this and it’s going to get worse.
On sitting down with Ed, I also learned of his ex-wife’s possessiveness and insecurity. Most of her physical violence began with her own paranoia. She would call him at work so often that it was interfering with his career. She’d accuse him of cheating or lying about something and when he’d return from work at the end of the day he’d come home to a house that was torn apart. I believe this is a common trend with abusers. Their own insecurity and trust issues ultimately manifest in physical violence.
Physical violence is often blamed on the victim and done so in a way where the victim often buys the story. “You deserve it.” “If you wouldn’t have…” The abuse continues when the victim actually believes the abuser’s story.
A person without the courage to face their own problems sometimes project them onto others. Someone’s anxiety, depression, alcohol problem, childhood trauma, insecurity, etc.. is blamed on their spouse,.. giving the abuser a self-created excuse or license to abuse.
Financial struggles are also a common trend. One spouse might blame the other for overspending and causing the relationship financial hardship, which is often translated to a lack of respect that can easily manifest itself in physical violence, especially when mixed with drugs and/or alcohol.
Have the numbers always been this bad or are they increasing because it’s now being reported?
No, the numbers have not always been this bad. They’re increasing for a combination of reasons.
Regardless of whether or not it was reported or kept hidden – women are dealing with more financial, social, family and career pressure than ever before. Combining this with the pace of our society, the rising costs of living, increasing cases of alcohol and drug abuse and every marriage is under more pressure than any time in our history.
The stats are expected to continue to rise as more pressure is placed on couples, as more men report it and men begin to feel less suppressed by public stigma.
The root causes of domestic violence….
There's a very noticeable common theme in the cases I’ve studied. Whether the abuser is male or female - most of these issues start as normal relationships with one spouse showing signs of insecurity, lack of ability to trust, possessiveness, paranoia, mental control, unjustified accusations, jealousy, etc.. One spouse will continually attempt to comfort and reassure the person while the paranoia does nothing but fester and grow worse throughout the years. As it increases with more and more unreasonable demands, the abused person continually reassures the insecure person to the point of exhaustion. Ultimately it hits a breaking point and the end result is often domestic violence.
When a woman is physically abused the damage is usually more severe and noticeable. When someone sees her they’ll immediately suspect domestic violence and offer help and hope. With men the damage is usually less severe and, if it is noticed, it’s assumed that he got in a fight with another male or was injured on the job. Point being – with men it’s much easier to hide and men are constantly bombarded with incentive to keep it hid. The violence often leaves the victim depressed and without enough confidence or self-esteem to reach for help outside the relationship. On top of it – no one wants to concede to a failed relationship and is another reason it remains hidden.
Domestic violence often begins with verbal violence as if one spouse is testing the other’s breaking point. Verbal violence often does much more damage than physical violence and can destroy a person’s mental health and self-confidence for the remainder of their lives. It doesn’t heal or go away with a divorce and has left many emotionally crippled for life.
The common thread keywords here are…
If you, or someone you know, are dealing with domestic violence – know right now that there is no excuse for it. It is not the victim’s fault no matter what they’ve done or said.
Lately more and more men have been coming out and talking about this issue. This incredible bravery will come with a heavy price. They’ll lose friends, they’ll be misunderstood, they’ll be laughed at, but the cost of staying silent is: more innocent people suffering in silence.
If you are a male who is being domestically abused, the first thing you should know is that you’re not alone. The second thing you should know is that it’s not going to get better and chances are very good that it will increase with each silent day.
Ultimately you are responsible for attracting violence to your life and tolerating something that no human should ever tolerate.
Once you acknowledge that it’s your problem and that you too hold the responsibility – you can take steps to free yourself from the problem but that’s not enough. You are also free to share your story, your strength, your understanding and your insight with the world. Perhaps the most unfair and dangerous part of abuse is this new obligation. You are now an authority and each day you remain in silence another human being suffers.
Published in EAST TN NEWS May 21, 2012