Every year at the same time, we as a society observe what is called the “16 days of activism against women and child abuse” (I think more recently redubbed as “…activism against gender violence”). Then there is the more recent “one billion rising” which is an activist group calling for an end to violence against women and girls (no mention made of violence against boys). There are a few more groups like this, quite a few. It can also be mentioned that, undeniably, there is much recognition given in general society today to the plight of abuse suffered by women and children. There is one thing that I always ask when hearing the argument of these activist groups and their supporters: as a man, what about me?
To explain what I mean, let me start off by asserting that there is no such thing as physical abuse, an assertion that I think you will agree with. When a person is physically abused, for example beaten up or raped, the physical damage sustained by the victim, with time, completely heals. If you look at that point objectively, you might ask yourself why is it then that physically abusing someone is illegal and wrong, the reason why its illegal and wrong is because of the emotional trauma that remains and most probably never heals. Whenever somebody has their personal space so violently violated, it is the memory of that physical trauma, and the fact that you were so personally violated that causes harm and continues to cause harm to the victim, in most cases for the rest of their life, even after the physical damage has healed a long time ago.
The fact remains though, that you do not need to physically harm somebody to cause them emotional trauma. Being emotionally ridiculed, belittled, bullied, sexually harassed, ostracized, persecuted, etc, causes as much damage to the victims emotions, especially if the abuse takes place over many years or over an entire childhood. The sting in the tale of purely emotional abuse is that there is no physical manifestation of the abuse; no scars, no bruises, no broken bones, no black eyes. This point I can personally attest to. And I think that this is the reason why abuse suffered by men and boys is not recognized, because most of the abuse suffered by men and boys is not physical, so the abuse can not be seen with the eyes.
For the same reason, women are not recognized in society as being equally as guilty of gender violence as men are. Most of the time when a woman abuses a man, it is not physically but emotionally, but that does not mean that women don’t abuse men physically. Hypothetically speaking, if a woman sets out to beat a man, how does the man defend himself? Does he hit back? Our society and our court rooms do not see women as capable of physical abuse, the assumption is that because the man is physically stronger he can not possibly be physically abused. So I ask you again, does he hit back and risk being thrown in jail and branded a woman beater simply for defending himself?
It is testament to society's attitude to see how little research data there is about domestic abuse suffered by men, compared to the amount of research done on domestic abuse suffered by women.
I cant help but think that activists who only recognize gender violence when it is the man perpetrating it and the woman or child receiving it, are missing the point in a fundamental way. It is the act of violence, whether that be physical or emotional, and being committed by either gender, that should be brought to light. What good is it being concerned about a social issue, when you’re only concerned about the issue half the time?
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