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20 Sep Written by  Ladi Opaluwa

A Thought for Abused Men

As with women, so it is with men; they, too, are susceptible to domestic abuse. Not a few men have suffered slaps in the hands―precisely, palms― of their wives. The slap is often received with masculine stoicism and at best reported at family meetings held to reconcile the couple. But recently, one man cried out.

The story is reported in the papers of a man who filed for divorce from his wife of seventeen years over alleged frequent battery by his wife. In his testimony at a customary court in Osogbo, the man said, ‘I am tired of this marriage due to frequent beating by my wife as well as her nagging nature. She does not go to church and whenever I go to church or vigil, she will not allow me into the house and if she does, she beats me mercilessly.’

And her confession, delivered through tears and slime: ‘What my husband said was true. I always beat him...’

The comments following the story on the website of Trendy Sturvs reveal that mockery is the natural response towards male victims of domestic abuse. ‘Very funny’, they read, ‘shameless he-goat wen madam dey beat!’, ‘oh boy, the man lazy sha’, ‘Funny story, lol’. Whereas women in the similar conditions elicit pity, the story of an abused man is a joke. Elsewhere offline, the reaction did not vary significantly. It was recounted for its potential to provoke laughter, for comic relief.

So the man finds himself in a ridiculous situation. He cannot juggle retaining his dignity and making public such incidences. He would not report to the police, neither will he get himself admitted in the crowded emergency ward of a hospital. Already, the term ‘domestic’ predisposes the phrase to a misrepresentation skewed in favour of women: that men are not supposed to be victims of domestic violence. In my search online for ‘Abused Men’, the first two results Google yielded were, ‘How to Help Abused Women’ and ‘Abusive men’.

The battered man is a loner. He is rarely the focus of nongovernmental organisations. He is an embarrassment to his gender. Based on the assumption that all men are more powerful than their wives, the question is asked, how is it that a healthy, grown man, with all his muscles, gets beaten by a woman? Forgetting that behind every cantankerous, brawling wife is a clan of thuggish brothers.

Chinelo Okparanta, speaking recently on the blog of ‘The Story Prize,’ said of Nigeria, ‘it is a country in which women and children continue to be victims of domestic violence’. It may be argued that cases of wives assaulting husbands are infrequent, but women are equally inclined to abuse their spouses, in non-physical ways. By the way, sleep deprivation, for its consequences on a person’s health, is classified under physical abuse. So all those sundry bedtime tapping of husbands for no reason than ‘there is something we need to discuss, now,’ and the midnight sobbing antics may eventually constitute domestic violence.

Generally less endowed with physical strength, women reign in the sphere of verbal and emotional abuse, which include words or acts meant to humiliate, embarrass, intimidate, alienate, endanger, or diminish the victim’s self-worth. Therefore, the raucous wife pelting insults after her husband in the streets is as much a form of domestic violence as the woman promising to castrate her husband should he again be seen with a certain lady.

Domestic violence also manifests in minor acts of rebellion, often over allegations of indulgence in typically masculine vices like drunkenness, keeping late-nights, preferring the company of friends and girlfriends: the ditched wife locking her husband out in the cold for returning home at 11 pm and starving him for those suspicious, incessant meetings; the scorned wife seizing his car, causing him to be late for the next ‘meeting’; the paranoid wife stalking him to the hotel (Brenda Harvey and Lionel Richie); the choleric wife forbidding him from seeing his ‘errant’ friends; the incensed wife (or girlfriend, in the case of Left Eye) setting fire to his property; the neurotic wife on a destructive rampage, shattering tumblers, windowpanes, and the television; and of course, there is the legend of the nagging wife for all offences.


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