Peggy Wright has been counseling survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault for 19 years. For Men’s Health Month, she asks men what they believe about domestic violence.
Years ago, I was counseling one of my first male clients. He was about 6’4” tall and weighed about 250 or more pounds. He was covered in tattoos and wearing a tee shirt, worn-out jeans, and a leather biker jacket. He informed me that his wife was abusing him. Out of curiosity, I inquired about his wife’s size. He told me that she was about 5’ tall and weighed about 90 pounds. As you might imagine, my initial skepticism about his victim status greatly increased after hearing his answer. I asked him what kinds of abusive things his wife had done to him, to which he replied, “hit me, kick me, bashed my windshield, and lying down behind my truck so I can’t go anywhere.” Acknowledging how bad that was, yet still skeptical, I asked him if he had ever hit her back. He replied quite adamantly “No!” I asked him “Why not?” He emphatically stated, “Because it’s wrong!”
Man! (No pun intended!) Did I learn a couple of valuable lessons that day! I realized that even with much “provocation”, a man who believes it is wrong to strike a woman will not do it. Conversely, a man who believes he has the right to strike a woman will find any excuse to do it. That was a lesson I learned on a regular basis from the men in the Batterers’ groups that I used to facilitate. I heard crazy justification such as the house was not clean enough, dinner was not ready on time, the children were too noisy, and many other outrageous excuses. The truth is, with the exception of self-defense in a life-threatening situation, THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS PROVOCATION! This holds true whether the batterer is a man or a woman. You certainly have the right to protect yourself, but severely beating one’s partner (or former partner) is not self-defense for a mistake, a verbal attack, cheating, or even a minor physical assault. If you have the ability to leave a volatile situation, do so. If restraining the other person is your only option to stop abuse, then by all means, do so. Or better yet, call 9-1-1.
The second lesson that I learned is that men can be victims too, even big burly biker guys! While I was aware that men might be victimized, subconsciously I was buying into the stereotype that only smaller, weaker men could be victims. For male victims, the fear is often not so much the fear of being beaten, but the fear of weapons being used against them or being falsely accused of being the aggressor when the police arrive. This is equally true when men are being abused in homosexual relationships or other non-traditional relationships. While size and strength are certainly factors in abusive relationships, they are not the sole determinants of the predominant aggressor.
In summary, beating your partner is not acceptable, no matter what! The difference between a man who beats a woman (or partner) and a man who does not is his belief that he has a right to do so. What is your belief?
In any given relationship, victims may be male or female, straight, gay, bisexual, or transgender, and of any size. At Fort Bend Women’s Center, we welcome all victims and encourage participation in our services.
If you need help, call our 24 Hour Crisis Hotline at 281-342-HELP (4357)