I’m living with a woman for whom I've paid lobola. We’ve been together for four years and have two children. I haven’t formalised our marriage beyond lobola because I have serious doubts about whether I want to spend the rest of my life with her or not. She’s very angry, controlling, unforgiving and bitter.
I have never cheated or hit her but she doesn’t hesitate to slap or disrespect me. I’ve never talked to anyone about this. By not hitting her back even when she challenges me to do so, she believes I’m scared of her but that’s not the case. What can I do? - ABUSED LOVER
Domestic violence in terms of the law means physical, sexual, emotional, verbal or psychological abuse. It is also when there is intimidation, harassment, stalking, damage to property, entry into the complainant’s house without consent where the parties do not share the same residence, or any other controlling or abusive behaviour towards a complainant where such conduct harms or causes imminent harm to the safety, health or wellbeing of the complainant. This includes all controlling or abusive behaviour where the accuser fears for their safety, health or wellbeing.
MEN ARE VICTIMS
Usually when we talk about victims of domestic violence, it's in relation to women. But it's true that men are victims too, yet we don’t really hear about them because they mostly keep quiet. This is for various reasons, including shame and humiliation.
However, the rights afforded to women in terms of domestic violence are also afforded to men. And men are as entitled to lay a formal charge around any part of the definition of abuse as women are.
Nevertheless, many of those who speak of or report the crime are a subject of ridicule and are made to feel as if they are not being “man enough” to deal with their female partner. As a result, most men feel they have nowhere to go for help and they'd rather suffer in silence.
If that’s not the case, they leave the relationship and find themselves women they can dominate, control and abuse in turn. And so the cycle goes on. Abused men face a shortage of resources, a lack of understanding from friends and family, and legal obstacles, especially if trying to gain custody of the children from an abusive mother.
It’s therefore very reasonable for men to believe that the system is stacked against them, and therefore feel justified to find their own means to deal with the situation.
DIFFERENT EFFECTS ON MEN
What hurts a man mentally and emotionally can be very different from what hurts a woman. For example, being called a coward, impotent or a failure can have a very different psychological impact on a man.
Cruel words hurt, but they hurt and linger in different ways. In most cases, men are more deeply affected by emotional abuse than physical abuse.
SPOT THE SIGNS
If your wife or girlfriend hits or punches you, throws the car keys or dishes or any other movable objects at you, or if she belittles you in public, you are being abused. If she threatens you, withholds your money, is possessive, makes false accusations, controls who you see and where you go, or threatens to take your children away if you report the abuse, then you are being abused.
You need to think about how you will deal with this very serious issue because you can't allow it to go on without doing something about it. Every person is valuable and every life is precious. You do not deserve to be abused.
Staying in an abusive relationship because of shame, humiliation and thinking others won’t believe you, is disempowering yourself. Take your life back as a man and determine who you want to spend the rest of your life with.
Get help and advice on how to break out of the cycle of abuse from domestic violence support groups or a counsellor in your area. You can also contact local bodies like Famsa (Families South Africa). Go to famsa.org.za to locate the office nearest you. Keep evidence of the abuse and report it to the police.
Keep important documents like your ID card nearby, in case of life-threatening situations where you need to quickly leave your home with your children. Do not react with force or violence. This will only complicate matters.
The police must protect you according to the country’s constitution, and they must treat you with dignity, respect, care and concern. Society has double standards when it comes to facing the reality of male abuse, yet there are those who will believe you and will walk with you. But you are the one who must seek help. Don't let your pride stand in the way of you getting out of a bad relationship.