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Dr Ilze Van der Merwe
B.A. (Psych) (RAU) B.A Honn (Psych)(RAU) M.A. Research Pysch (Cum Laude)(RAU) M.A. Couns. Psych (Cum Laude)(RAU) D.Litt et Phil.(RAU)
Divorce Attorney Cape Town
Admitted Attorney of the High Court of South Africa.
B.Bus.Sci (UCT), LLB (UCT), PDLP (UCT)
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The silent victims

Speak up against domestic abuse

Domestic abuse has become so prevalent – not only in South African society – that hardly a day goes by without an article appearing in the newspapers. Last year the UK reported 1.2 million women experiencing domestic violence. In the US incidents of domestic violence against women occurred every 15 seconds.

Physical violence is only one form of domestic abuse. Victims of domestic abuse can suffer psychological, verbal, and even sexual abuse. And in their wounded numbers are the silent victims – men who are abused by their partners.

UK stats: 40% of victims of domestic abuse are men
US stats: every 37.8 seconds a man is a victim of domestic abuse

In his article on spousal abuse, political adviser Zama Mvulane wrote ‘there is a lack of acceptance that men, too, are increasingly becoming silent victims of domestic abuse and violence at the hands of their partners, and that there is a growing number of same-sex couples experiencing domestic violence from their partners.’

There needs to be greater awareness of the plight of men caught up in domestic violence. This is one of those pillars of prejudice that has to be toppled in the creation of a non-sexist society.

The problem is worsened by the fact that men are less likely to talk about any physical or emotional abuse that they suffer – most particularly at the hands of a female partner – and even less likely to report it to the police.

need to deal with attitudes in the police service as a key priority in dealing with domestic violence.
Central to this is the need to educate the police to take cases of abuse against men just as seriously.’

‘Speak up, man!’

Social ambiguity about men being abused is a factor in their not speaking up; they also run the risk of not being believed.

Reasons men don’t report domestic abuse

  • threats
  • victimisation
  • blackmail
  • fear of being prevented contact with their children, especially if the couple is not married
  • gender bias
  • stigma.

The list varies, but quite often it is because of embarrassment, and the impression it would create of appearing weak.

The problem is not limited to female-on-male domestic abuse. It is not only prevalent for men in same-sex relationships, but it is amplified. Aside from having to deal with being victims of domestic abuse from their partners in the same way as female-on-male domestic abuse victims do, they may also have to face judgmental attitudes, negative perceptions and stereotypes if they seek assistance.

Jan Brown, executive director and founder of the Domestic Abuse Helpline for Men, stated that “domestic violence is not about size, gender, or strength. It’s about abuse, control, and power, and getting out of dangerous situations and getting help, whether you are a woman being abused, or a man.”’

Whichever form domestic abuse takes, it has to be stopped short.

It is a good idea to document any abuse immediately.

If you are a victim of domestic abuse, whether you are a man or a woman, a boy or a girl, there is no need to continue suffering. It is a sign of strength, not weakness, to come forward. There is no shame seeking help.

It is extremely important for those who are victims to resist being provoked into retaliation. Do not allow domestic abuse to build up to the point where you explode, and where you become an aggressor.

Remember, you are not alone, and you do not have to suffer in silence.

Speak to Simon for judgement-free legal advice. Simon Dippenaar & Associates can assist you with obtaining a protection order in appropriate circumstances, and can also direct you in seeking other help.

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