It could be happening to you right in your home but it’s not one of those things you write home about or even discuss with your buddies. You also find it difficult to report to authorities for fear of social ridicule. So you would rather sleep in the sitting room, in the car or in the bar! This is domestic violence against the ‘stronger’ sex! We tell you how to recognise if you are being abused and how to get help.

A recent survey showed that many men are victims of domestic violence. Central region topped the list with 72 per cent of the men interviewed saying they were victims. Nairobi, Nyanza, Rift Valley and North Eastern regions followed in that order.

How does it happen?

Your spouse threatens violence, strikes you, apologises, promises to change and offers gifts of atonement, but the cycle repeats itself and the violence becomes more frequent and severe over time. If this is your portion, then you’re in an abusive relationship.

Domestic violence against men that goes with the common catchwords such as domestic abuse, battering or intimate partner violence, can take many forms including emotional, sexual and physical abuse, and threats of abuse. Early in the relationship, your partner might seem attentive, generous and protective in ways that later turn out to be controlling and frightening. Initially, it might appear as isolated incidents. She might apologise and promise not to abuse you again. But those will be empty promises for she will abuse you again and again.

The telltale signs

You’re experiencing domestic violence if your wife or partner:

Calls you names, insults you or puts you down.

Prevents you from going to work or school.

Stops you from seeing family members or friends.

Tries to control how you spend money, where you go or what you wear.

Acts jealous or possessive or constantly accuses you of being unfaithful.

Threatens you with violence or a weapon.

Hits, kicks, shoves, slaps, chokes or otherwise hurts you or your children.

Assaults you while you’re sleeping or after drinking.

Forces you to have sex or engage in sexual acts against your will.

Blames you for her violent behaviour or tells you that you deserve it.

Portrays the violence as mutual and consensual.

Remember you are not the only one affected by the violence; your children, even though just witnesses, are put at risk of developmental problems, psychiatric disorders, problems at school, aggressive behaviour and low self-esteem. It’s normal to worry that seeking help could further endanger you or break up your family, but getting help is the best way to protect both your children and yourself.

Domestic violence can leave you depressed and anxious and you are likely to abuse alcohol or drugs, engage in unprotected sex or trigger suicide attempts. Since men are traditionally thought to be physically stronger than women, you are less likely to talk about, or report it due to embarrassment or fear of ridicule. You might also worry that the significance of the abuse will be minimised because you are a man. Remember: if you’re being abused, you aren’t to blame, and help is available.

Where to seek help

Domestic violence against men can have devastating effects. Although you may not be able to stop your partner’s abusive behaviour, you can seek help. No one deserves to be abused. So turn to someone you trust like a friend, relative, neighbour, work colleague or pastor for support. Doctors and nurses will treat injuries and can refer you to other help such as counselling and support groups for people in abusive relationships. The court can help you obtain a restraining order that legally mandates the abuser to stay away from you or face arrest.

Published in November 2015