Male victims of domestic abuse too embarrassed to speak up

By Pham Linh   May 29, 2024 | 02:29 am PT
Male victims of domestic abuse too embarrassed to speak up
A depressed man inside his bedroom. Illustration photo by Envato
Tuan Anh, 40, has been suffering from weight loss, loss of appetite, insomnia, and anxiety after his wife discovered his emotional infidelity with a female colleague.

Last year the Hanoian was visiting her Facebook page every day to look at her photos and leave reactions and comments. When speaking with his wife, regardless of the topic of discussion, he would bring up her name.

When his wife found out, Anh had to change his job and cut all ties with the woman.

Now his wife has all his passwords, including to his phone and social media accounts, has installed a GPS tracking application and requires him to report on his whereabouts constantly.

She also controls his lunchtime: Anh needs to be home by 12:30 p.m. to eat and leave home at 1:15 p.m. to get back to work.

"Everyone at the workplace knows that I fear my wife. Some give me looks while others badmouth and ridicule me," he says forlornly. "But I can’t do anything because I was in the wrong and she lost trust in me. Now I have to endure the mental abuse".

Like Anh, some men are suffering from domestic abuse, but they often keep it under wraps fearing ridicule.

According to the Law on Prevention and Control of Domestic Violence, domestic violence is any deliberate action by abusers to maintain power and control over their spouse and children.

According to a report by the Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs, in 2023 more than 3,100 households saw domestic abuse, and more than 3,200 cases were reported.

There had been more than 4,400 cases in 2002. Of the 2023 cases physical violence was the leading form of abuse at 1,520, followed by emotional abuse (1,400), economic abuse (230), and sexual abuse (110).

Women accounted for 2,600 of the victims and men for 565.

Compared to 2022 figures, both the total number of cases and victims decreased, but the proportion of male victims showed signs of increasing.

Nearly 3,000 perpetrators were reprimanded and slapped with penalties, and 129 were criminally charged.

According to Dr Khuat Thu Hong, director of the Institute of Social Development Studies, male victims often experience mental and psychological abuse unlike women who often suffer from sexual or physical violence.

It is rare for men to be beaten and injured by their partners and end up in hospital.

However, certain forms of abuse happen quite regularly, such as having their daily itineraries, phones or emails strictly controlled, harsh criticism, contemptuous behavior, and being cold-shouldered by their partner.

Hong contends that male victims of domestic abuse tend to endure in silence due to fear of judgement.

Hong says that in cases involving female perpetrators and male victims, people often picture physically strong, formidable wives and feeble husbands.

But in fact, the main cause leading to abuse is simply a lack of communication and effective measures for conflict resolution, she explains.

As a result, conflicts accumulate and escalate to the point of explosion, and to avoid situations that can ultimately descend into physical violence, couples should learn how to communicate effectively with each other.

Do Thi Hang, former deputy district head and head of the reconciliation department in Hai Ba Trung District, Hanoi, recalls mediating between a married couple in their 50s two years ago.

The wife threw a rice bowl at her husband because the rice was undercooked, and he needed to get three stitches on his face, she says.

"The husband insisted on a divorce on the grounds that he had suffered abuse from his wife for more than 30 years. Whenever she was not satisfied, she would offend and insult him, even in front of their children. "Neighbors next door repeatedly witnessed her kicking him out of their house and yelling at him in crowded places. During those times, the husband could only lower his gaze and refrain from arguing for fear of creating a scene."

In explanation, Hong says most men do not fight back and just keep silent due to the stereotypes around masculinity, like being the gender that is stronger and more protective. "In any case of abuse, whether the perpetrator is male or female, the abusive behaviors will happen again if you allow them to happen in the first place."

To address this situation, she says society and men themselves should take domestic abuse more seriously.

Men experiencing abuse is not something to take lightly or laugh at.

Men who suffer from abuse need to seek help from relatives, friends or social organizations instead of being embarrassed or fearing derision.

In a recent study Hong found less than 10% of men revealed they were victims of abuse. If we compare the rate of women and men who experience abuse in all its forms, there is no question it is the former who bear the brunt.

But abuse is unacceptable in a relationship, regardless of gender, she says.

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