The first draft of my research paper is due on Monday, and I have a lot of thoughts floating around in my head. I’ve been pretty busy lately, and haven’t made the time to write, but I decided to sit down and get my thoughts out so that I may see some semblance of order. I am really excited to share my findings with the world – this is heading in a much different direction than I anticipated.
Coming from an abusive relationship, I thought for sure that I would want to write all about the war on women. I mean, what could be greater than reaching out to all the poor, defenseless, women that have been mistreated by their partners? I was on this path to further educate the world about abusive relationships and warning signs.
If you have been following along throughout this process, you know that I recently conducted several interviews with abuse victims about the kinds of abuse they received. Approximately half were male and half were female. I must say that the male stories had an unexpected effect on me. I was horrified. The effort to raise awareness on abuse towards women has been going on for over thirty years – and some studies indicate that although it is still a major social issue, it’s trending down. Obviously it is my deepest hope that no woman ever receives abuse ever again. However, it is obvious that women do have a voice and an advocate, from community resources to literature to the behavior of the police to the behavior in the courtroom. Women have an entire army to back them.
But what about the men?
I will tell you that there have been near three hundred surveys done regarding domestic violence, intimate partner violence, and abuse in relationships. These are not your typical surveys. They are conducted by highly respected scholars. PhDs, MDs, graduate students, scientists… and they are thorough and extremely scientific. I can hardly read the description of how the survey was conducted… most of the words make no sense to me. Words like multi-collinearity, logistic regression analysis, and all kinds of talk about variables, coefficients, and controls. Basically, it is obvious that this wasn’t some online survey conducted by a questionable magazine. This represents real research. I read every word and tried to make sense of what they were telling me. It wasn’t hard to understand… as long as I didn’t try to figure out what logistic regression analysis meant. I’ll just trust that if they know the word, they must be respectable. Plus, all of the studies are published in peer-reviewed journals.
Anyway, that’s off topic. I am only telling you this so that you know that these findings are, in fact, scientific. I won’t cite all my sources now, because I am making broad statements, but you will see in my final research paper (when I post it) the citations and you can look it up for yourself.
Before I tell you what I’ve found, a few words on how to write a research paper. Apparently I have been doing it wrong my entire life. Most people, when they want to write a research paper, will think of a thesis and then search for evidence to support that thesis. This is backwards. It’s called a RESEARCH paper for a reason: first you do the research, then you make assertions, then you form your thesis. An assertion is basically a factual statement derived from the evidence found in research. So, that being said, here are my assertions for my paper (read: factual statements based on the support of evidence):
Assertion One: Abuse is equal between men and women. And when I say equal, I mean nearly 50-50. It is not going to be a perfect divide, of course, and sometimes it’s more men than women and more women than men. But the point is this – for every woman who is abused, there is one man who is abused. The ratio is 1:1. Even more alarming, this statistic applies to the aggressor as well. That’s right: for every one man who abuses a woman, there is one woman who abuses a man. Mind. Blown.
Assertion Two: Women are more likely to be violent because they know men won’t retaliate. This might be a tough pill to swallow. It casts my gender in a negative light, and a truly horrific and terrifying one at that. Doesn’t that mean that abusive women take advantage of the fact that men are raised not to hit back? Yes. But, wait a minute, haven’t we been saying that men take advantage of women for smaller stature all these years? Hasn’t it been ingrained in us that we are the weaker gender and that bad men will exploit that? Well, apparently, bad women will exploit a man’s weaknesses, too.
Assertion Three: Male victims are given less help by the police force, the courtroom, and community resources. This shocked me and made me feel pretty nauseous. There are so many variables at play here – but the chief one is that our societal view of what a man “should” be affects our judgement. Victim interviews state that when a wife attacked a husband (successfully, of course, because good men don’t strike women) and he called the police, they refused to arrest her. Another instance is that a judge would not approve a restraining order for an abusive wife, and she somehow obtained custody of their children and he was left with nothing. Another example is that one man called a battered women’s shelter, just needing advice on who to turn to, and they told him that they only help women and hung up the phone. It’s no wonder that men can’t talk about it when it’s happening – and to know that they receive little to no support? I think about what I went through and wonder… if other people had treated me like it was meaningless, if I had no support, if the police had just left that night… what would have happened? I can tell you what would have happened… I would not have been able to heal without the support and validation of my friends and family. And if I had been made to feel like it was no big deal… it would have crushed me, and it would not have gotten better. I say, with no dramatics whatsoever, that I probably would have committed suicide. Think about that. How strong do I feel when I have an army backing me – versus how strong is a man, who is really just a person, dealing with the same emotions, with no support?
Assertion Four: Abuse causes severe psychological damage. This is brief and true. Most of my interview subjects have been through bouts of depression, some hurting themselves while others seriously considering committing suicide. It’s post traumatic stress disorder, and it’s nothing to play around with. Sure, this might all sound dramatic, but as we saw with Peter – when a kid has a belt around his neck considering taking his own life, and credits the woman who made him feel like he was less than worthless, abuse is a serious problem. And, even if that happened years ago, he’s still not okay. None of us are ever going to be okay. That dark place… it’s always going to be there.
There are more assertions pending, and my teacher playfully reminded me that this is a ten page paper, under twenty pages please. I cheerfully informed him that he will be receiving a single-spaced twenty page paper. Ha-ha. There’s just so many aspects of this that are so important. First of all – what is abuse, anyway? Defining my terms and listing abusive behaviors… and encouraging the reader to really think about what it means to treat others with respect. I have done some of those things on that list, and I knew they were bad when I did them. Sometimes we act out when angry, sometimes we just can’t help ourselves. Sometimes this and sometimes that – the whys don’t matter as much as admitting that we abuse one another on a frequently basis. Our family, our friends, our coworkers… with varying levels of severity of course, but this is an abusive world. When you really start to think about how people treat one another, suddenly it’s all you see. Me, personally… I’m never going to go to that place again. I’m never going to disrespect others if I can help it, and I will not allow others to disrespect me.
So, as this process unfolds, I find myself more and more an advocate for men rather than an advocate for women. As I stated earlier, women have an army to back them. They are pitied by the public, protected by the police, and the court sees them as the inherently downtrodden gender. Every piece of the puzzle is engineered to help empower women and help them to get out of a dangerous and unhealthy circumstance. But, the men are not only receiving an equal amount of abuse, they have little to no resources. On top of that, it seems that there are barriers put in place to prevent them from achieving the same goal: get away from the abuse.
So, with that being said, I declare myself an advocate for male survivors. I will contact the MCVP and see what resources they have for male victims. I will start support groups, start the conversation in our society, and spread awareness. It seems so silly, almost insulting, to be a woman advocate for males. But why do I think that? Only because the way we view men, as a society, is so deeply ingrained that I think this: won’t it be weird to be a woman (lesser gender) fighting for male victim rights? Doesn’t that make the male look weak if he needs a woman to come to his aid? Who says? Who?! How about this instead: people abuse people. People that are female have resources and support to extricate themselves from abusive relationships. People who are men do not have that luxury. The system is horribly imbalanced and something needs to be done. Who cares who helps? Male, female, lesbian, gay, transgender, or Klingon – it’s all hands on deck, people.
Be a part of it.