18 April, 2018 / Posted by: Sandra Ndangha
The Silent Torturer: Gender Based Violence against Men
Gender Based Violence (GBV) is a general term used to capture violence that occurs because of normative role expectations associated with each gender, along with unequal power relationships between two genders, within the context of a specific society. (Boom 2008, pg14). Although GBV is predominantly against females, males also suffer this violence, the extent to which cannot be properly quantified because it is swept under the rug. Societal norms and beliefs make it hard to believe that men can also be subject to GBV. The perpetrators of violence against men regularly evade justice due to stigma attached to reporting.
GBV can take various forms. Most common is domestic violence, which comes in the form of verbal, sexual and physical abuse. The perpetrators of this class offence are often family members and friends and for this reason the victims/survivors are reluctant to seek justice. When some summon the courage to seek justice its either denied or delayed. The sheer volume of evidence demanded from the victims to make a legal case further compounds issues. But the judicial aspect of GBV against males is for another day. Today we tackle its societal roots.
Boys, especially teenagers, are often sexually violated by older women, a family friend or house-help, but conditioned never to voice it. Sadly, when they do try to speak up, nobody listens. Even when they are heard, it is classified as a family matter and should be treated as such, giving little to no thought about the psychological trauma on the child and its long-term effects. What is heart-breaking is that when these abuses are recounted amongst teenage boys, it is conveniently labelled “a rite of passage” and downplayed. While this is happening to teenagers, men are equally sexually abused at their work place by female bosses or co-workers yet cannot voice a word of protest or displeasure. Society deems it improbable.
Although most African countries have refused to legalize or acknowledge gay rights, there is a growing number of men abused by rich and influential, openly or closeted gay men. Africa and some other parts of the world still regard homosexuality as taboo, hence, they deprive victims of gay abusers the courage to report such cases let alone seek justice for the crimes committed against them. The societal price is too great to pay. Some men are sexually violated in their homes by their wives yet societal norms equate a man reporting sexual violation by his wife to weakness. Society deems it impossible.
It is not uncommon to hear that some of this sexual violence happens within our religious settings. Men suffer all kinds of violence at the hands of some church leaders, both male and female. In the worst-case scenario, victims bow to the illusion that it is wrong to go against a “man of God” or the church. Society deems it unacceptable.
Above all else, verbal abuse is the most common form of violence against men. Men are verbally abused by their wives, parents, friends and even their children. Some wives repeatedly use unruly statements such as, ‘good for nothing husband, are you a man?’ to batter their husbands. These women are not even aware of their abusive actions and the effect it has on the man psychologically. Teenage boys are constantly berated by the key actors in their lives; their parents, siblings, family members, house helps and even school teachers. They are mentally hammered with words such as weak, soft, useless. These words, supposed to “toughen them up”, destroys their self-worth and often lingers for a lifetime. The words continue to haunt not only them but their sons, reinforcing a vicious cycle of broken men.
It is time to lift the lid on violence against men. It is clear to see that Gender Based Violence is not just perpetrated against women and girls, but boys and men also. The psychological scars carried by men who go through this abuse is unquantifiable. They often never speak of it and never heal from the emotional and mental damage created by this silent torturer. Violence against men creates an ignored tsunami, devastating families, careers, relationships and most significantly, its victims. Actor Terry Crews did just that when he spoke up about the sexual abuse he suffered in the workplace during the rise of the #MeToo movement. We must challenge the societal norms that accommodate this pariah and ensure that violence against men is treated with the same importance as violence against women.