Women are likely to report abusive behaviour and intimate partner violence more now than ever. They feel they will be believed, the are no longer ashamed nor do they think it is their fault. They are being encouraged to report it, hold men accountable for the devastating impact on their lives and the effect on their children. I’d also like to ask them to reflect on the part they played in creating the chaos, share the responsibility and the burdens of social norms.
The very nature of an intimate or domestic relationship means that you know more about that person than anyone else. You’ve seen him vulnerable, you’ve seen her cry, you know what makes him angry, you’ve seen her fly into a rage with frustration. You’ve seen him tired and disappointed, You’ve seen her depressed. You’ve watched him withdraw and know of his childhood wounds.
Yep that is a relationship! There is going to be conflict when opinions collide. There are arguments about housework, pets and children. There is stress about money. There is the constant juggle of rosters and who’s job is more important. There are competing priorities. Every family faces challenges and if there is illness, injury, grief or mental health issues, the stress can escalate and there are expectations and assumptions that the family unit is a safe place to fall apart. And it is. So as a member of that family you have a responsibility to support the crisis, avoid adding to it and hold space for a peaceful return to a calm equilibrium state of mind.
Partner have more compassion for theirs in that moment, a greater understanding than friends, a different perspective from work colleagues and hold some of the most embarrassing memories of you, close to their heart. That is what makes a relationship feel safe. Until it doesn’t. Until we can’t cope. Until we can’t deal with it anymore.
So why are men scared? Well times have changed, attitudes and beliefs are reframing the way we tolerate bad behaviour in our homes. There has always been free choice, but now women are empowered to make decisions that no longer meet the social norms of the previous century. They consider themselves as individuals, not the appendage. They are independent with a capacity to support themselves. They are no longer ‘just’ mothers or housewives or part time.
In fact there is no title, they are women.
So for men who have held poor attitudes towards women in the past, suppressed their rights, freedoms, choices or emotionally blackmailed them because they were not meeting the expectations they had for them, or worse, injured them because they displayed challenging behaviour to your bad behaviour……………….
It’s time to say sorry. Probably not to her, but to yourself.
So I’m going to go here now. If women have done this to men, exerted power and control, then gender equality will ensure they are held just as responsible. If you want to know what this looks like, I found this interesting article. Just to make things fair and equal. We all know it happens but there are no excuses for violence.
What we do know at the moment is that violence against women is more common than women against men, and more deadly. Whether it is because they don’t feel abused or too embarrassed to report it, we might never know the real stats. But it takes two people to have conflict and it’s all about power and control. Signs of an abusive relationship are:
- you fear of your partner
- your partner is jealous
- your partner threatens or belittles you
- your partner controls you
I do want to share the advice of the emotional health experts I have interviewed. We all have 200 versions of ourselves. We show up differently in a vast range of situations that makes up our life. We treat people differently according to our relationship with them, and as they get closer to the real you, they know more, see more versions of you. They will likely accept you for exactly who you are, but that doesn’t mean they like that version of you and certainly doesn’t mean they will tolerate any disrespect. It has always been your responsibility to be the best version of yourself, someone who has empathy, compassion and shows kindness. A human. It’s important to understand that even if you didn’t think it was, now that you have read this line…..you know it is.
Abusive behaviours have the propensity to silence victims out of fear, for hours, days, months and years as a measure of self preservation.
For men they fear being laughed at, humiliated, embarrassed and shamed, especially in front of other men.
Women fear being killed. Feeling safe for a women has a different meaning.
But women have the opportunity and capacity to make themselves feel safe, regardless. Regardless of anyone else’s opinions, actions, behaviours, choices and decisions. Regardless of someone else’s emotional reaction, physical stature or psychological terror tactics. I know because I can. I learnt from the age of 19 what an angry man looked like, and how to deal with that situation. I learnt how to not back down, how not to engage in the argument and stand firm in my belief for equality. Over the course of the next two decades I developed a communication style that was confident and considered my position in that relationship, yet it was still perceived as intimidatory and manipulative by men…….why? because I used what they would use……..denial that I was affected by their opinion of me.
I positioned myself on an equal footing, regardless whether they believed it and despite any hierarchy, position of power or gender. As much as they tried, their words did not impact on my determination………..until it did.
But holding them to account was a long drawn out struggle, it takes time and I will never be the same. In the end, all I wanted was acknowledgement, awareness and an apology. Two out of three ain’t bad.
Many women seek that from an intimate relationship, they know your potential, you have shown them ‘love’ and they see the slithers of that person they feel in love with every other time. So when you show up as that person, you give her hope that he is coming back. This is the complexity of Domestic Violence and it’s cycle, something we are trying to deal with that doesn’t have deadly consequences. Even my research subjects never wanted the relationship to end, they just wanted the other person to change. Some were willing to give them that opportunity until they couldn’t stand what was essentially, the cycle of abuse.
The findings of the Royal Commission into Family Violence (2015) found that the root cause of Domestic and Family Violence is gender inequality. The power imbalance that is used by one over the other. Contributing factors include alcohol, drugs, gamblings, work place cultures and the burden of male primacy. Much of it was centred around the attitudes of men towards women’s roles in society.
A lot men have felt the need to be a man, act like a man, take control, be in control. ‘Control your wife’ a man once said to my husband; like it was an expectation and I didn’t have a right to demand he leave my property after I questioned him over delivery he was making.
So why should men be scared? Well, as confidence grows amongst women to report domestic abuse/violence and hold men accountable for their behaviour. As they loose the tolerance of disrespectful behaviour, men are now more vulnerable because most of the time they claim they don’t even know they are doing it.
Let’s check what tactics they might employ
- Dominance– Abusive individuals need to feel in charge of the relationship. They will make decisions for you and the family, tell you what to do, and expect you to obey without question. Your abuser may treat you like a servant, child, or even as his or her possession.
- Humiliation– An abuser will do everything he or she can to make you feel bad about yourself. After all, if you believe you are worthless and that no one else will want you, you are less likely to escape. Insults, name-calling, shaming, and public belittlement are all artillery of abuse.
- Isolation– In order to increase your dependence on him/ her, an abusive partner will cut you off from the outside world by keeping you from seeing friends and family, or even prevent you from going to work.
- Threats– Abusers commonly use threats to keep their partners from leaving. Your abuser may threaten to hurt or kill you, your children, or other family members, and may threaten to report you to child services.
- Intimidation– Your abuser may use a variety of intimidation tactics intended to scare you into obedience. Such tactics include making threatening gestures, smashing things in front of you, destroying property, or putting weaponry on display.
- Denial and blame–Your abusive partner may minimise the abuse or deny that it occurred. He or she will commonly shift the blame onto you.
In the last month I have seen ‘male dominated industry’s’ taking Domestic Violence prevention seriously. Tradies ‘Tool Box Talks’ is making a huge impact on awareness and prevention. DV doesn’t just cost lives. It doesn’t just heighten the risk of injury at work. It doesn’t only create workplace stress through poor leadership or lost productivity. It costs businesses millions of dollars of year in employee time off, retraining, misused resources and now it will become their greatest liability if it is allowed to continue when it’s suspected or known. Workplace culture allows and encourages the degradation of partners and relationships. It objectives women for uses and trivialises their contributions to the family and the community. For workplaces, the First Aid Response to Physical Safety, Mental Health and now Domestic Violence Prevention can only help, not hinder.
Well whether they do and they don’t, it doesn’t matter anymore, it is no longer an excuse. There is enough messaging out there to educate and inform yourself. And for women if you have not opposed abusive behaviour that left you (not made you) feel threatened, intimidated, harassed or stalked, it sent a strong message that this behaviour is ok. If you have raised the concern that resulted in a heated argument or escalated whilst he was drinking, he won’t remember your issue. It’s important to have these conversations in a non confrontation way, as most people feel attacked, criticised and blamed. Insert Counsellor or Mediator here.
What I witnessed in my front line domestic investigations was that the ‘WE’ co-create the chaos. The abusive behaviour women have enabled just by virtue of being their greatest supporter, instilled the belief that even if ‘that happened’ it wouldn’t happen again, or be that bad and everything will be ok, he’ll change. The insidious issue of DV is that the pattern of behaviour and cycle of violence is entrenched in the relationship. Both keep doing the same thing, expecting things to change. You have to do the work on yourself and you might just find that you create the change you want to see in your world.
At the moment, men are acutely aware of the impact of their behaviour. Gone are the wolf whistles and not just because I’m getting older. Gone are the pinch that girl on the arse as she walks past. And the language and derogatory phrases are slowly phasing out as the comparisons like ‘run like a girl’ or ‘what a pussy’ now make less sense than they use to. But there is more to do.
The concern for men who may have been abusive or violent, is that the woman or women you abused will now be stronger psychologically, braver mentally and unwavering in restorative justice. You see that abusive behaviour stole a part of them that they once loved, it destroyed apart of her that you didn’t respect. In an attempt to control her, you have diminished the value she saw in herself, and tainted that image of her she once believed in. You silenced her into submission with threats of isolation, making her feel like the crazy one for objecting to your toxic behaviour. But she is the phoenix in the ashes.
So what’s at risk? What we do know is that you have probably had personal growth, learnt the lessons of poor choices and bad decisions and may be living life in happiness or bliss. What would a historical complaint of domestic violence create for men now? It will suddenly unpack old wounds, place the current ‘situation’ at risk, erode the trust in your relationships and impact on employment. This is not to mention the mental and emotional stress of getting through a criminal court matter. Especially if no one has ever seen this version of you.
You see, you may not be that person now, but you were that person to her then. It’s not about revenge, it is about accountability. Being held responsible. It is about healing. So what would you do. Fight it, Ignore or Deny it. Suggestion. Resolve it.
I don’t suggest for a minute to track down your ex and apologise. But you might want to take time to reflect, share and talk about it. Nothing worse than someone you love now becoming aware of the person you use to be. Just watch those Netflix series. It’s devastating. So in light of the fact that, the only system dealing with this type of violence is the criminal and sometimes the civil system is that the ‘system and process’ leaves little room for negotiations, mediations or an opportunity to demonstrate remorse. It’s certainly a consideration that has not yet been openly discussed since the convictions of Harvey Weinstein.
Whilst you may not pose a threat anymore, you’ve given up stalking and harassment, intimidation is fruitless and you can’t see her to assault her, please know she still carries those wounds with her. It is impacting on her current partner, her children, so if you hurt her, stripped her emotionally of self worth or used controlling tactics that created a situation where she felt she had to make choices in her daily life that took into consideration your reaction…….was it really love?
This is a conversation starter and I look forward to reading the comments in the years to come.