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On Battered Men (PHILPER Paper)

Posted on: September 19, 2008

This is my final paper in PHILPER. My professor said that it’s more of a GENDERS (more of like a sex education class) paper than a PHILPER (Philosophy of Person) paper so I got a low grade but I tried to do my best here. Haha. The topic really intrigues me.

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On Battered Men
What’s on our mind?

When domestic violence comes to our mind, what are the images that we form inside our heads? We see a wife beaten up by her drunken husband or a kid physically abused by his parents. But has it ever crossed your mind that domestic violence also includes the man of the house or the husband. Most often, media and some research points men as the culprit or the villain of the story, the one who inflicts the injury and the pain. It is seldom that men are seen as victims.

Same with male rape, battered men are seen as a scapegoat by some feminist groups. They claim that concerns for battered men is just a way to divert the attention away from the real issue which is the battered women and children but the real issue here is domestic violence which male abuse is also a part.

The reader might be wondering why I tapped on this topic, which might be a bit unpopular to the taste of the many. After reading a series of handouts and going through a lot of topics on my head, this topic had stuck into my mind. I felt that this topic has been set aside for the longest time for various reasons.
Do you know that women are eight times more likely to report their abuse than men? And women are five times more likely to discuss the abuse with their friends than men? This shows that the number of battered men can be bigger than we all thought. So this is not really a light topic to touch.

Let’s first look into the kinds of domestic violence. There are four kinds of domestic violence: physical, emotional, financial and sexual. But usually a perpetrator abuses in more than one way. For example, a person can be abused both physically and emotionally at the same time. The perpetrator can be an intimate partner (not necessarily a man) or a family member.

The issue of domestic violence, specifically male abuse, is impossible to discuss if it will only be from one side. So in this paper, three perspectives will be seen: the person being abused, the person who abuse and the people around them. Let’s try to look into what can be going on inside their heads.

On The Abused
It has long been a stereotype that men are the perpetrators in a violent situation and women are the victims. But there are researches that show that the likelihood that women are abused is just about the same as the likelihood that men are abused. But you will ask why then we don’t hear much of the news of battered men. There can be several reasons.

First, part of achieving personhood is to secure respect over and above the threshold respect in connection with their status as human beings (1a). Will you respect a man who lets his wife or girlfriend beat him up or talks trash to him? Of course, our initial reaction would be to put that person down. Telling him why he couldn’t keep up his dignity against his partner (this goes the same with abused women) and in that instance, you lose your respect to him (3a). In doing so, you are preventing that man to achieve his personhood. Any man who thinks highly of what society would think that he would rather just stay silent than lose any respect that is left of him.

Second, those who were in this kind of situation usually have a low self-esteem. This could even been one of the reasons why the abuse started after all. People with low self-esteem are likely to do anything just to please other people. He does things for them and puts others first (2a). Let’s cite an example. A husband, who is a normal office worker, is being verbally abused by his wife, who is highly paid executive. The husband chooses to stay in the relationship because of their children (some of wives also have this reason). He wants them to have a complete family. Or his wife maybe a politician and they have to have the image of a perfect couple.

Third, men are seen as the stronger sex. They seem to be in control of the things that happen to their surroundings. They would not be seen as helpless individuals but rather they have the capacity to take care of their own lives. The society that we live in dictates that if a person does not act from his/her free will then that person would not be responsible for the his/her action (1b). But would we think that a man does not act from his free will? It is hard to associate weakness and not being in control to a male figure. If a man lets something like that happens, for sure the society will condemn him. What could motivate him then to speak up?

On The Abuser
I think one of the reasons why male abuse is not as acceptable as women abuse is the idea on who does the abuse. In what we are all familiar with, a woman gets beaten by his husband but we can’t think of how a woman can abuse her husband. It seems all superficial and impossible.

Earlier, I listed all kinds of domestic violence that can happen in an abusive relationship. What we are all used to hearing are the physical abuses which we think are not likely to happen, a woman beating up his husband (although this is possible). But there can be other ways in which a perpetrator can inflict pain and trauma to her victim. Let’s look at the comical concept of “Andres Bisaya”. This is the slang term for husbands who do everything that their wives will tell them. We can see in the movies wives nagging their husbands early in the morning and husbands doing the chores while the wife keeps on saying bad things to the husband. We all find this funny in one way or the other and this is sometimes the source of jokes around the community, those who labeled as such or sometimes “Under the Saya” is the center of jokes in drinking sessions.

In the more serious note, we find this funny but this can be an example of an emotional abuse. Words can be more hurtful than actions. Telling a husband that he is a good-for-nothing man will definitely leave a scar to his ego. This kind of abuse can leave a lifelong trauma to the person. That person may even become abusive outside as an outlet to the pain that he is suffering from the emotional abuse.

The concept of moral good and evil gives emphasis to the alternative which is given to our hands (3b). When you hurt someone in one way or another, you choose to do it so you chose to do evil in that sense. It is not right to say that you had no choice because everything we go through is a choice.

Every institution tends to develop the passions to crave for power (4a). Abusing someone gives the perpetrator a sense of power and the moment they had the taste of it, they crave for it. If institutions give the push for these kinds of people then abuse will never stop. For instance, the justice system is not that effective into persecuting people at fault then more people will be encourage to do abuse since there is no consequence to their actions.

“Hell is other people.” – J. S. Sarte (3c). There is a struggle between love for oneself and love for other people. Some people see others as rivals and would do anything just to place themselves higher than the others, even compromising their relationships with the people closest to them. If they see that at some point, a person is a threat to their success, in this situation, their husband. They will put down her husband in anyway, even to the point of abusing him.

On the Onlookers
We thought that in this issue, the only ones involved are the abused and the abuser but I personally believe that we, the onlookers, also play a large part in this issue. I think the issue can either be solved or be left untouched according to the discretion of the people that are around. It may not be the situation now but you might encounter a case of domestic violence in which you are a part. Or you might already have a friend or an acquaintance in an abusive relationship and you just have to be extra sensitive to figure out that it’s already happening.

But why should you put your finger in it? Why would you bother to think of others? You would think that they are not your responsibility. But we all live in a history and we have a responsible share in it (2b). If we want to be with the world, with the totality of mankind then we should be ready to take part and do our responsibility which is to correct anything that seems to be wrong (2c).

In our culture, we are not individualistic. Actually we take pride in the groups that we are in. We like to have a relationship with others. Through that, we get certain sense of belongingness. Inside these groups, there is a mutual relationship. They give you respect, care and protection and of course, if you are a rational being, you would do the same to the other in the same group (1c). It’s a give and take relationship so if someone needs you, you would likely help that person.

Lately, there had been the propagation of support groups for women in abuse but there is rarely any group that helps men in abuse. Don’t you think that it is unfair or it is the right to do? This may be due to lots of reasons. Let’s look into it.

As I mentioned earlier, there is already a stereotype and we gladly stick our beliefs in it. Because of this stereotype, men’s ego developed a mask that they are invulnerable even though they are not. In one of the reasons why there are few cases that we can hear of male abuse is because they are trying to protect themselves from humiliation and misinterpretation.

We can’t help but judge others. I’m not perfect myself and sometimes I can’t help but judge things I don’t understand so I try to understand it so I wouldn’t make such judgments anymore. I do that because I don’t want to be judged myself and I believe that everything that happens has a reason.

Comparing the modern day battered man to the beaten man in the Good Samaritan story, the man in the story was helpless after being beaten down by some men (4b). Today, the battered man is also helpless but we can’t see them lying in the road instead they are hiding their bruised egos and are careful not to let anyone find out about their situation.

I tried to put myself in the shoes of a battered man and tried to get into his mind and this is what I realized. Are you being a neighbor if you helped a man to get out of abusive relationship (4c)? If I was a man and I’m a victim of an abusive relationship, I would rather have the attitude of Levite towards the man. Act like you don’t know anything. Because if you help the man, I think it would hurt more. Remember the time when you fell somewhere and scraped your knee and if no one knows, you can control your tears but the moment, for example, your mother ran to your side and asked how you are. Your tears would uncontrollably fall down your tears.

I think when other people show their concern towards you, you become more vulnerable because you feel that you can let go at that particular moment. And of course, showing your vulnerability is not what you want, you want to look like you’re in control (especially for men).

One time, I found out years ago that one of my male friends had bruises on his arms and of course, we asked him what happened. He just walked out that day and didn’t speak to us for awhile. After a few years, he told us that it was his girlfriend who did that to him. He was just too ashamed to tell that to us. His girlfriend used to vent out her “frustration” on him and he just let it go since he loves his girlfriend.
Of course, we were angry but he told us that he doesn’t want us to interfere because it is his problem after all and then he began putting the blame to himself (5a). I didn’t know what to do then because before that I wasn’t aware of it. But today, I asked myself if that is the right thing to do, to just let someone suffer on his own. As a friend of the abused, it is hard to do anything. Asking him why he couldn’t leave her will just make him hide more.

While checking on the reasons, why men stay in this kind of relationships? I found a very interesting reason, they are afraid that if they file a case against their wives. It could happen that the story might turn the other way. Since woman as an abuser is not common, the police officials will be reluctant to file the case against her and they might think that the one who abuses might really be the husband and arrest him instead.
Some men believed that maybe she is just disturbed and they could do something to help her get out of it. He wants to be her protector but in the course of trying to help her, he let her hurt him. Some men thought they deserve it. They think that what their partners are saying about them is right.

So how can we help them? I think first we should try to be open-minded (5b). We should not close our minds to different possibilities. We may think that a woman can’t hurt a man; that is not true. According to accounts of men who were under this kind of abusive relationship, it can range from scratching to kicking to stabbing to gun pointing. If there are men who are violent, there are also women who can be violent. Although I’m a girl, I agree that women can really abuse men if they want to.

We should also not limit domestic violence into women and children abuse (5c). If feminist groups are pushing for equal rights then we should also consider that male abuse is also existent and must be given due attention. Battered men also deserve support groups and government attention. Most men choose not to speak up because no one, including the authorities, would not believe them and will find them ridiculous and funny. Or sometimes make them the villain.

Same with battered women; don’t be judgmental towards them. We can’t say mean things to them since we are not in the same situation. We can’t tell them just go out of the relationship since we are the one who were in it. They might be staying for different reasons but we have no right to tell them that they were wrong with their decision. Instead we should help them in any way that we can. I saw in a television show that a boss was able to help her employee get out of an abusive relationship by taking note of the injuries that her employee had because of the abuse and because of that, the employee’s abusive partner was given a life sentence in prison.

After looking into the different perspectives and looking into the minds of those who are involved, domestic violence specifically male abuse is really more than what meet the eyes. It is really complicated and needs more attention to solve it. Here in our country, where psychological help is not really popular, needs to liberalize its effort to help those in abusive relationships whether it is male abuse or women abuse.
Being a person is more than breathing, personhood is something to be achieved. You can’t just stay quiet while others are suffering. Be sensitive to the needs of others. Don’t wait for others to ask help, take the initiative. Think that others are you. Treat others as you will treat yourself.

References
Handouts
(1) Akan Philosophy of the Person
(2) Historicity – Albert Dondyne
(3) Karol Wojtyla’s View of the Human Person – Andrzej Szostek
(4) The Socius and the Neighbor – Paul Ricoeur
(5) On Nature, Values and Ideology – Manuel Dy
Internet Sources
– Heart to Heart. http://www.heart-2-heart.ca/men/
– MenWeb. http://www.batteredmen.com/bathelpwhymen.htm
– Battered Men? Battered Facts. http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=1247

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3 Responses to "On Battered Men (PHILPER Paper)"

It’s very very GENDERS-ish. But it’s a well-written paper. 😀

Dapat more on the self, alam mo naman pilosopo ka dapat sa philosophy!

Thank you for bringing more public awareness to this issue through your paper and this blog! It’s so difficult for people to understand how a man can be the victim of a woman’s violence but after 8 years of taking calls from abused men on our toll free helpline I have a great understanding of this topic.
This is a tough subject for most professors to accept given that society has been indoctrinated with the feminist definition of domestic violence i.e. men are batterers and women are victims period, end of discussion. I am happy to hear you are intrigued by this topic and if you live in the USA I encourage you to volunteer with our non profit agency.

Nice topic and paper.

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