Indian Society & Domestic Violence against Men

On a societal level, there is a need to challenge the preconceived notions of masculinity. For far too long, masculinity has been viewed in generally myopic terms which are neither realistic nor healthy. Domestic violence recognizes that victims can include anyone, regardless of their socio-economic background, education level, race, age, sexual orientation, religion, or gender. Domestic violence was formerly referred to as ‘wife abuse.’ However, this term was abandoned when the definition of domestic violence was changed to reflect that wives are not the only ones who can fall victim to domestic violence. The definition of domestic violence now recognizes that victims can be:

➔ Spouses

➔ Sexual/Dating/Intimate partners

➔ Family members

➔ Children

➔ Cohabitants

Domestic violence has largely focused on women as victims and men as the preparators. Domestic violence against men tends to be unrecognized since they are less likely to admit to or report such incidents, due to embarrassment or fear of ridicule and lack of support. It is a taboo subject that is often ignored or trivialized by society which means the extent of the problem remains unknown, as a result, male victims of domestic violence may not have their health and safety needs met by health care professionals

Moreover, men find it hard to see themselves as victims. They tend to feel that battering is associated with women and men do not carry the label of ‘victim.’ Men who are bisexual or gay believe that they deserve the abuse and that they have to endure it because of their ‘wrong’ sexual orientation. Male victims find it hard to seek help because help is largely gender-based and they also feel that they do not have the right to seek help because they have become part of the problem by defending themselves. “Mutual combat” is a term that states that women take part in the abuse against their partners. “Mutual combat” is also the definition of same-sex battery. Women are generally less physically strong compared to men. The motives for women arrested for domestic violence include self-defence, retaliation, and the knowledge that they were going to be abused. Women tend to commit violence on a less frequent basis than men do, but that is all a myth.

There is a study, conducted by Follingstad, Wright, Lloyd, and Sebastian (1991), that stated that female college students were more likely than males to use violence in the form of control, anger, and retaliation for emotional hurt. The cycle of battering consists of three stages: tension building, the explosion or acute battering incident, and the calm, loving stage. In the tension-building stage, the atmosphere starts to turn negative and a violent act is imminent. The explosion or acute battering incident is when the abuser acts out because things are not going right. The calm, loving stage is when the abuser tries to make things better and promises never to abuse again

"There are several challenges that the male victims face. Firstly, it is about their sense of masculinity. Quite often they do not seek help because they feel a sense of shame and embarrassment, and a very real fear of being laughed at, especially by other men. This perceived sense of masculinity is sadly keeping men in abusive relationships and can be used by their abuser as a means of preventing them from escape.

The second issue concerning masculinity is that society still has a problem with accepting that men can be victims of domestic abuse. There is mistrust for men who come forward, and a struggle to accept that women can be violent towards men. Sadly, these two factors keep men in abusive relationships for far longer than they need to be.

Society's beliefs are still driven by the gender-exclusive perspective that only women can be victims of domestic abuse, which is outdated. We absolutely cannot tolerate domestic abuse towards anyone, regardless of gender.

A social experiment was conducted to see the impact of domestic violence on women and men and how they are differently viewed and perceived by the people and society. When a woman was physically and verbally abused in public, several bystanders interjected. However, when the roles were reversed, there was a lack of action and even laughter. The researchers noted that such reactions are widespread. The thing with the experiment is that only the two protagonists were actors. Everyone else was a genuine member of the public. The prevailing attitude is that only women can be victims of domestic abuse and that only men are the perpetrators - which is wrong and does not represent the reality.

The barriers relating to masculinity are born out of society's views, and also some of the other factors such as ideological and political beliefs.

Essentially society, the media, and politicians need to be far less tolerant of domestic abuse towards men and take those who are brave enough to come forward far more seriously. They must accept that both male and female survivors require help and support.

Also, soap operas, movies, and television shows have contributed to this stereotypical attitude and perspective. Men are always shown or portrayed as strong, who can single-handedly defeat the villain. He is portrayed as the one who can overcome all the problems with power and strength. This needs to change and the concept of masculinity needs to be more broadened and accepting. Men can also have problems, and suffer from domestic violence, and be abused. This needs to be normalized and they should be accepted in society without being discriminated against. A safe space should be given to men to express themselves and share their problems without any stigma or judgments.

There is an initiative started to prevent domestic violence against men and to support the male victim. The Mankind Initiative wants to bring an end to domestic abuse of any kind. Mankind Initiative is a very progressive charity and it has been pushing for a gender-inclusive definition of domestic abuse for 15 years now. It stresses that domestic abuse is a multi-dimensional crime; it can happen to both men and women, in both same-sex and heterosexual relationships. They are all about fairness, equality, and inclusion.

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