You might be surprised to learn that four in every ten reported domestic violence cases are men. While gender-based violence (GBV) against women is more widely discussed, it’s important to recognise that men can also be victims of this type of violence.
Sharing his heartfelt experience, Patrick May from Rustenburg tells Health For Mzansi that he was previously physically and emotionally abused by his ex-wife, and that shaped him into feeling less of a man.
“I was constantly strangled by being accused of cheating and faced many other hurtful things. That experience drained me, and I started to lose weight. My skin colour started to change; I had a loss of appetite, and I always thought of killing myself.
“The abuse started long ago before marriage. I was given time to come home when I was late it was a problem sometimes when I had to work overtime I had to ask my boss to call her and tell her that I was going to be late, and when I got home it was still a problem. I’ve never spoken to anyone about the whole situation, but since I left, I’m stress-free from her,” he says.
“It’s not easy for us men because many of us are scared to share because people don’t keep other people’s problems a secret, and we are laughed at. I believe we need more men’s organisations in the country.”
One Johannesburg resident, who would like to remain anonymous, highlights how being physically abused by his girlfriend has led him to have many suicidal thoughts and feel weak.
“My girlfriend beats me up every time I get drunk on weekends. We have beautiful children together and a home that is not easy to leave. I’m scared to speak up because I know I’ll be the laughing stock, and it’s impossible to get the mother of my kids arrested or taken to rehab,” he says.
“I hope men will be listened to more without being judged concerning gender-based violence and will understand that it happens to us as well.”
Clinical psychologist Thabo Van Wyk from Pretoria explains that gender-based violence in men is often overlooked and underreported because men are often encouraged to be strong or act strong from both an emotional and physical perspective.
“Given the societal expectations towards men, they are often stigmatised when they are victims of GBV. The stigma often results in men not reporting acts of violence that they have been victims of.”
He further highlights that a factor that prevents men from seeking help is usually the stigma that they suffer from their immediate or broader communities.
“Men being emotional supporters of other men is also looked down upon in certain cultures and communities, making it difficult for men to engage with men regarding common issues that they might face.”
In trying to change societal attitudes and beliefs that contribute to male victims not getting the support they need, Van Wyk emphasises the need to stop stigmatising male individuals who have suffered from acts of GBV, which might assist in more individuals coming forward and seeking support.
“We should prioritise that justice is served when victims of GBV report the crimes. In addition, continuous education, mostly in communities that stigmatise victims of GBV, might benefit from changing societal attitudes about GBV. Education can be in the form of preventative means for current and future generations to identify, support, and report acts of GBV.”
To report GBV and seek help, Van Wyk mentions that there is the South African Police Service, which is legislated to provide safety and security to the public. In addition, there are initiatives such as Sonke Gender Justice, which provides relevant helplines for a variety of social ills.
Lifeline further offers a toll-free line at 0800150150, which is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for more information and counselling on gender-based violence.
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