Violence against men is a subject that is rarely reported or talked about. It is often hidden, endured by the victim, and usually not taken seriously if reported. An extensive amount of stigma and mockery around the topic is what makes it taboo, rarely being viewed as a problem.
What do statistics say?
Worldwide statistics show that boys are beaten more than girls during childhood, and hence they grow up believing that men are violent. Not only are they viewed to be perpetrators of violence, but boys are most often victims of violence. According to a study conducted by the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD), India, in 2007:
54.68% of children who were physically abused (by beating or other forms of physical violence) were boys
52.91% of children who experienced physical abuse in their family environment were boys; in most cases, by their parents
65.99% of boys living on the street reported being physically abused by their family members and other people
Data collected by the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4) 2015-16 states, “The proportion of deaths that are due to non-medical reasons (accidents, violence, poisoning, homicides, or suicides) is higher among men (12%) than women (8%). This peaks at ages 15-29 years for both men and women, reaching a high of half of all deaths for men of age 20-29 years.” The numbers and the reasons for violence vary in the rural and the urban areas.
While the findings are alarming, it is also true that several male voices are never heard due to the fear of being labelled, rejected, made fun of, being bullied or losing one's job. Thus burying the issue further.
Exposure to violence
The patriarchal nature of our society leads to boys being punished or beaten as children, in turn letting them believe that men are violent. As they grow up, this exposure to violence and bullying becomes prevalent as adults. This means that they could show violent behavior as adults, perpetrate violence, or become victims of violence themselves.
Dr Shaibya Saldanha, founder of Enfold India, observes that some acts of violence by men can be traced back to fathers dictating terms to their sons, telling them what to do and what not to do, what course to study and what work to do, all of which give rise to frustration and anger.
Men whose spouses have anger issues or behavioral issues can become victims of domestic violence. Again, they rarely talk about it due to the fear of being mocked at for speaking out.
How does it impact them?
So, what might happen to boys who are exposed to violence? Are adult men more likely to perpetuate violence if they experience it as children?
Let’s understand this a little better.
A young boy's experience of physical abuse (for instance, being beaten by the father or other members of the family) and sexual abuse could lead to:
Helplessness: The sense of a loss of control, powerlessness, fear of not being able to do anything, displaying passive behavior in a negative situation, lack of motivation to escape the abuse. Helplessness is learned and can be a recurring feeling every time the abuse occurs.
Becoming a victim of bullying: The victim's emotional and physical health is affected, and this could be short or long-term. Their self-esteem can be damaged, and they are likely to have a higher risk for mental health problems, behavioral problems, social problems, emotional problems, depression, substance abuse, physical injury and headaches.
Becoming a bully himself: There's a high likelihood that the victim may engage in violent and other risky behavior when they reach adulthood. They may also engage in substance abuse, get into fights, show destructive behavior, abuse their loved ones, and also get into criminal activities.
Experiencing health issues: In adulthood, these issues could manifest as anxiety disorders, depression, personality disorders, aggressive behavior, substance abuse and a number of physical health problems.
The impact of domestic violence as an adult (for instance, being hit by a spouse), often leads to a breakdown of the patriarchal notion which could further affect the man’s sense of self, leaving him helpless or frustrated. If the man is not violent or has never been beaten before, violence from a spouse who has anger issues or behavioral issues could:
Make it difficult for him to face or deal with the situation. The helplessness could be a recurring feeling, further leading to low self-esteem and depression.
Increase his risk of addiction to alcohol and smoking. This could, in turn, lead to serious mental health issues such as depression or anxiety, and physical health issues like heart disease and respiratory problems.
Lead to anger issues, depression, suicide. Making it difficult for themselves and their loved ones to cope with.
Lead to difficulty in functioning. Simple everyday activities - completing tasks, remembering details, being on time - become difficult to carry out.
Make him prone to a number of physical and mental health issues. Heart disease, hypertension, depression, anxiety, are some of the conditions that could affect the person.
Why don’t men talk about the violence they face?
Nihar (name changed), a 30-year-old victim of emotional and physical abuse says, “Men are perceived to be weak if they talk about the violence they’ve faced.”
One of the things that stand in their way is hesitation and an inability to speak about the violence they face. Dr Shaibya Saldanha says, “Men are looked at as perpetrators and fear that they will be laughed at, which is what stops them from going to the police or the court. And patriarchy adds a kind of disbelief around it.”
What can help?
Understanding gender, assertiveness training, developing one’s self-worth
Counseling for couples, or divorce (if required) for men who face domestic violence
Life skills for children and adolescents to understand gender-based violence
If you are a victim of violence, you can reach out to any of these helplines:
- iCALL: 022-25521111 (8 am - 10 pm, Monday to Saturday)
- Parivarthan: 7676602602 (4 pm - 10 pm, Monday to Friday)
- Sneha India: 044-24640050 (24/7)
- Sahai: 080-25497777 (10 am - 8 pm, Monday to Saturday).
With inputs from Dr Shaibya Saldanha, Founder, Enfold.