Real Men Don’t Hit Women – part ii

by Annie Kaszina on October 4, 2011

The message: real men don’t hit women should be perfectly self-explanatory, but is it?

What exactly do we mean by the term “hit”?

And should we assume that if a man does NOT hit a woman he can’t be guilty of domestic violence?

Of course, things are not really that simple.  That kind of generalization is misleading – not least to women who are well on their way to becoming victims of domestic violence.

Let’s start by looking at how domestic violence works in practice.  Most violent men do not beat the living daylights out of their partner the first time they raise their hand to her – although some do.  More commonly, the violence will escalate over time, as the perpetrator becomes more confident about his power to “get away with it”.

In most cases, after the first explosion, the perpetrator will apologise, profess extreme remorse, vow it will never happen again, find a convenient excuse – such as alcohol, stress, jealousy, passion, or past hurts – and declare his undying love.

His loving partner will forgive him and accept his excuses.  When she does that she has no idea that, from his perspective, she is, giving him permission to repeat the same behavior.  And repeat the same behaviour, he will, with the same outcome next time around, and the time after that…  The only difference is that, over time, the violence tends to become more frequent and more severe.

Over time also, the declarations of love and apology decrease until they disappear entirely – except when the woman makes the decision to leave, or press charges.

At this point, the violent man suddenly ‘wakes up to himself’, realizes how precious his partner is, vows it will never happen again, and plays Mr Nice Guy just long enough to lull his victim into a false sense of security….

And then it starts all over again.

But let’s look, in detail, at the early stages of domestic violence.  Normally, domestic violence is preceded by an outburst of rage on the perpetrator’s part.  The ’causes’ of that rage are, most commonly, incredibly trivial and innocent.  Anything can be a trigger for violence: a woman could be ‘wearing the wrong shoes’, she could ask her partner to go to the supermarket with her, or not have ironed his shirt properly…  The abusive behavior could be likened to using a nuclear weapon to rail-road policy making at local government level.

The unsuspecting woman does something that incurs her partner’s fury.  He takes it as an opportunity to rant and rave.  Curiously, he tends to become more, rather than less, furious, the more he goes on about it, because he is taking himself to the next level.

That next level may include:

  • physical intimidation
  • spitting
  • slapping
  • pushing her

Is physical intimidation domestic violence?  If someone – you love, and want to trust – is invading your space, seemingly out of control, and making violent gestures within a few inches of your face, so that you really can’t be sure he won’t strike you, does that not feel like domestic violence?  Will it not trigger your fear responses?  Is it not a massive violation of your trust?

Is spitting domestic violence?  You tell me how you would feel if your partner deliberately spat at you?  How would you interpret his feelings towards you at that point?  How safe would it feel to be anywhere near him?

Spitting and ‘mere’ physical intimidation offer the abuser a great get-out clause.  He’ll say that he never touched you, it wasn’t that serious, he just wanted you to take his point of view seriously.  He did what he did to concentrate your mind because he felt undermined by you.  Allegedly.

Is a slap domestic violence?  If it is done in anger, and done with an intention to hurt and intimidate, what else could it be?  The beauty of a slap – from a perpetrator’s point of view – is that he can minimize the importance of what he’s done by saying, it was ‘only a slap’, he never meant to hurt you, he just wanted to make you listen to him.

Is a push domestic violence?  Obviously, that push needs to be taken in context.  We are not talking about a playful push, here.  That push may cause you to overbalance and hurt yourself against furniture.  That push may cause you to fall down a flight of stairs.  Once again the abuser can minimize his responsibility.  He was just trying to make you see his point of view.  And it really wasn’t such a big push.  Was it his fault if you fell over and hurt yourself?

Why was he pushing you when he could see the corner of the table nearby?  When he could see how close you were to the top of the stairs?  

Why did he feel he had the right to use brute force to express his point of view?

Real men have an intention to safeguard their partner’s physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.  Behaving in any way calculated to undermine a partner’s physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing constitutes domestic violence.  In many cases, it is a sign that should tell you the physical violence will continue to escalate over time – until death, or divorce do you part.

Real men don’t use physical and psychological means to make their partner feel unsafe around them.  Ever.

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