LAST_UPDATEThu, 24 May 2018 8am

Husband Bashing Is More Common Than You Think

"If I were you I wouldn't put up with that", “How can you let this happen?”, “Why don’t you just leave?” or “Why don’t you just kick her out?” Until the last sentence, many reading the first three questions would assume that the questions were directed at a woman suffering in an abusive relationship rather than a confused battered husband.

Women today can be combat pilots, astronauts and prime ministers, and yes, they can also physically assault their spouses and life partners.

The media and government, not only in Malaysia but throughout the world, tend to focus on the female victims of domestic violence. It is undeniable that the majority of domestic violence victims are still female but surprisingly, men abuse – another form of domestic abuse – is grabbing headlines in recent years and is on an upward trend.

Earlier this year, the US national women’s soccer team goalkeeper Hope Solo made headlines worldwide when she appeared in court in connection with a domestic violence arrest. Last year, Hollywood actress Emma Roberts, who is the niece of Academy Award winner Julia Roberts was also arrested for domestic violence for leaving her boyfriend with a bloody nose, although her boyfriend refused to press charges against her.

These are not the only high profile cases as over the last decade many male celebrities have made headlines for being victims of domestic abuse, including Lionel Ritchie (his wife was eventually arrested for spousal abuse), Stephen Hawking who was reportedly abused by his second wife (although he denied it) and even Bill Clinton, the former president of the United States, who was mentioned in the biography ‘Hillary’s Choice’ to have been routinely beaten by his wife.

Domestic violence befalls mostly women in Malaysia, but men make up an increasing percentage of domestic violence cases in recent years. Yes, women are not the only victims of domestic violence anymore.

Cases Of Abused Men On The Rise

According to the statistics by Royal Malaysian Police and the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development, it shows that male victims of domestic violence are on the rise each year. There were 650 cases of domestic violence against men reported in 2010, 815 cases in 2011 and increasing to 930 cases in 2012.  It is believed that the actual figure is higher than police statistics as many domestic violence cases against men go unreported due to a culture of shame, fear of facing social stigma, denigrations of their masculinity or even major legal obstacles.

Just two days ago, Datuk Rohani Abdul Karim, Minister of Women, Community and Family was quoted by media reports that 958 out of 3,673 reported cases of domestic violence in Malaysia this year are male victims, making up about 26% of reported cases this year.

“Domestic violence, be it on women or men, is a pattern of abuse that involves both physical and mental,” said Ivy Josiah, the Executive Director at Women’s Aid Organization (WAO) when contacted by Malaysian Digest.Ivy Josiah (pic) is the Executive Director at Women’s Aid Organization (WAO).Ivy Josiah (pic) is the Executive Director at Women’s Aid Organization (WAO).

“Although there are statistics to support estimated numbers of men being abused, there are no accurate numbers since most men never report the incidences. It is therefore difficult to recognize a man who's a victim of domestic abuse,” she said.

Asked the reason domestic violence against men has become a widespread trend, Josiah said: “The most notable factor that contributes to this phenomenon is that one party has more power over the other,” adding that there are many other reasons which are often interlinked.

“Many would jump to conclusion that financial constraint is the main factor of men being abused. This assumption is not entirely true as domestic violence on men could also due to other reasons.

“Jealousy, depression and controlling behavior such as intense monitoring on partner’s activities could also be one of the reasons,” she added.

Why Men Don’t Speak Up?

Datuk Rohani had also mentioned in her media statement that some victims, particularly men, go to the hospital to seek treatment for injuries from an ‘accident’. It is still difficult for men to publicly talk about being beaten by their wives for fear of getting laughed and teased.

After all, what man wants the world to know he’s getting a beating from his wife? Especially in a largely patriarchal society like Malaysia, men who admit to spousal abuse risk being treated as a joke or source of comical banter.

Although the most commonly recognized form of men abuse is physical, there are several types of domestic violence and the most common types are physical abuse, emotional or psychological abuse.

Physical abuse is the use of physical force against another in a way that injures that person while the latter refers to any use of words, tone, and action with the intention to hurt or demean another person. Other types of abuse include sexual abuse, financial abuse, identity abuse and spiritual abuse.

Pic for illustration purposePic for illustration purpose

Dr. Nasrudin Subhi, a psychology lecturer at Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) shared his view regarding this subject with us.

“Economic hardships, frustration, jealousy and certain personality traits such as dominant characteristics are among the reason why men are being abused nowadays,” he said.

Domestic violence against men can lead to a variety of problems and suffering depends on a variety of factors. It is therefore important to understand the possible negative effects on the victim of abuse as it could greatly affect various aspects of a person’s life.

Victims often report anonymously on online male domestic abuse support sites about  feeling helpless, hopeless, powerless, crazy, confused, overwhelmed, scared, anxious, stressed, fatigued, and physically ill,

When asked the possible psychological effects on the victims, Nasrudin said: “Fundamentally, the impacts on the victims of domestic violence, be it men or women, are almost the same; they include depression, mood swings, anxiety and the decrease of self-esteem.

“Sometimes it can inflict serious emotional damage especially when they are emotionally humiliated or abused although they [men] are usually the ones to resort to physical abuse,” he added.

More Outreach Programmes For Abused Men Needed

There are several initiatives taken by government to help the victims of domestic violence in the country. One Stop Crisis Centre is a program initiated by Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development which established in hospitals nationwide to help in identifying victims of domestic violence.

Doctors and nurses are trained to identify injuries from physical abuses. They will then direct them to counselling centre or police, if necessary.

Dr Faridah Khalid (pic) is the deputy president of National Council for Women’s Organizations. Dr Faridah Khalid (pic) is the deputy president of National Council for Women’s Organizations. “Domestic abuse against men is fast becoming a trend. Educated women of today become more empowered. They are not just confident about their stand in the society but they have no fear of being at risk of divorce due to financial stability,” said Dr Faridah Khalid, the deputy president of National Council for Women’s Organizations when contacted by Malaysian Digest.

“Rather than creating more awareness campaigns which are readily available, efforts should be spent on strengthening the implementation. We need to have a clear cut solution in helping and giving necessary assistance to the victims.”

“Male victims should be given more attention since we do not have many organizations in Malaysia that specifically designed to help them, unlike some Western countries where they have support groups for male domestic violence,” she added.

Like many other countries around the world, domestic violence outreach and support groups tend to be ‘women’- centric, catering to female victims while totally ignoring male abuse victims. However, this approach clearly has to change as the latest statistics in Malaysia shows that about 26% or 1 in 4 domestic abuse victims are now men.  

At present, help for battered husbands and abused men in Malaysia are virtually non-existent as there are no dedicated shelters or support and advocacy groups that cater for this largely silent and invisible group of domestic abuse victims. They can only turn to online support groups, seek private counseling services or reach for religious guidance.

Perhaps looking forward, NGOs as well as the authorities can start to formulate an approach to tackling domestic violence that is gender-neutral to address the changing demographics of abuse victims.