Remember sometime back when a group of women activists, G10, called for a sexual boycott and men termed it domestic abuse against them? I am sure some men had it rough going through the month-long ‘drought.’ Not many of them went public complaining safe for Ndiritu Njoka, chairman of Maendeleo Ya Wanaume (MYW) that champions men’s rights. Statistics from a survey carried out by MYW in 40 selected districts in Kenya are startling. Over 1.5 million men are victims of domestic violence daily, perpetrated by women, most their wives. These victims are physically abused in their bedrooms at night and kicked out of the house or end up sleeping in the living room, bars, or in their cars. Many are locked out of their house if they come home late or drunk.
Let’s not go deeper into this because I am embarrassed that men from my home province of Central Kenya top the list of victims at 72 per cent! But do we have to let things go this far? No, fellow men, let’s make it our resolution this year to recognise the signs of domestic violence from our fairer sex and know when and how to seek help. Domestic violence against men is difficult to identify, yet it’s a serious threat.
Also called domestic abuse, battering or intimate partner violence, domestic violence happens between people in an intimate relationship. It takes many forms, including emotional, sexual and physical abuse and threats of abuse. It’s difficult to realise it’s happening early in the relationship. Your wife or partner might seem attentive, generous and protective in ways that later turn out to be controlling and frightening.
Initially, the abuse appears as isolated incidents. She may apologise, promise to change, not to abuse you again and then offer you a gift. You’re happy at the gesture. However the cycle repeats itself and the abuse becomes more frequent and severe over time. On the other hand it may start out by both of you slapping or shoving each other when you get angry, with neither of you seeing this as being abused or controlled. Eventually, it causes both physical and emotional damage to your relationship.
You may be a victim of domestic violence if your wife, partner or girlfriend:
*Calls you names, insults you or puts you down.
* Stops you from going to work or school or prevents you from seeing family members or friends.
* Attempts to control your finances, movements, dressing and becomes jealous or possessive, or constantly accuses you of infidelity.
* Threatens you with violence or brandishes a weapon at you.
* Hits, shoves, slaps, chokes or otherwise hurts you or your children.
* Forces you to have sex or engage in sexual acts against your will.
* Blames you for her violent behavior or tells you that you deserve it and in some cases
portrays the violence as mutual and consensual.
Often, this violence leaves you depressed and anxious and as a result, you are likely to abuse alcohol or drugs or engage in unprotected sex. It may even trigger suicide attempts. Since men are traditionally assumed to be physically stronger than women, they are highly unlikely to talk about it let alone report it due to embarrassment or fear of ridicule.
Moreover you may wonder where to report or if there are injuries which hospitals to go to unlike a woman who will straight away seek help, for instance, at the Nairobi Women’s Hospital. Medical staff and other contacts may not consider asking if your injuries were caused by domestic violence, making it harder to open up about the abuse. Remember though, if you’re being abused, you aren’t to blame — and help is available.
Start by telling someone about the abuse, a trustworthy friend, relative, colleague, religious leader or your doctor, for support. A doctor or nurse will treat injuries if any and can refer you to other sources of help. A counselor will provide needed support and refer you to support groups for people in abusive relationships. By reporting the matter to the police, a court will intervene and issue restraining orders that legally bind the abuser to stay away from you or face arrest.
* Use your phone cautiously as the abuser might listen in to your conversations especially when you’re seeking help. When you turn to a friend or doctor for help, make the call when the abuser isn’t around or from a safe location.
* You can never be too careful in using your home computer so consider using a computer at work, at the cyber café or at a friend’s house, to seek help.
* Always have a packed emergency bag that includes items you’ll need when you leave, such as extra clothes and keys. Leave the bag in a safe place. Also keep important personal papers, money and prescription medications handy so that you can take them with you on short notice.
Published on February 2013