Despite numerous efforts by governments to curb domestic violence in Guyana, it remains a blight on our society. It is true that in most domestic violence cases, men are the abusers and women are the victims.
Whenever one hears about a case of domestic violence in the country, there is generally an immediate and automatic assumption by the public that the victim is a woman and the male is the perpetrator. Few would believe that the scenario could be the exact opposite.
Today, there are many cases of domestic violence in which men have been and continue to be abused by their female partners but these cases are hardly ever being reported to law enforcement or are brought to the public attention.
The decision by some men to keep such abuse a secret stems from the attitudes in society, especially in macho societies such as Guyana and those in the Caribbean. In these societies, men who suffer physical abuse at the hands of women are often the butt of jokes and are seen as less than men by other men.
Society’s definition of masculinity is supposedly “real men” who simply do not allow women to physically abuse them. Yet increasingly in the public domain, mention is often made of achieving gender balance where equal treatment is accorded to both men and women.
This being the case, especially here in Guyana where the domestic abuse focus is almost entirely on women, it is perhaps time for abused men to break their silence and raise public awareness of their plight and the problem of domestic violence.
Indeed, this is already happening in a growing number of countries including the United States, Canada and several other countries where October every year is observed as Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
The goal is to help reduce domestic violence in general and for all in society to understand that domestic violence should not be tolerated. It is also to encourage men to seek help whenever they are abused by their female partners and that it is acceptable for them to have emotions and not be vulnerable.
It is estimated that more than 65 percent of women are physically, mentally and verbally abused in Guyana and about 20 percent are murdered annually by their male partners.
And while data is not available for men who are abused or murdered by females, it is suspected that 15 percent of men are abused and a few are murdered.
Domestic violence has affected almost everyone in society. And even though the revelation of it against men may catch many by surprise, it points to a disturbing and perhaps a dangerous trend in society.
The silence from men in cases of domestic violence by their female partners is deafening. It is not helping the situation. By any stretch of the imagination, domestic violence of any kind, be it against women or men is wrong in the sense that it is contrary to the goal of building a just and equal society to which we as Guyanese have committed ourselves to do.
As a people, we should become much more aware of the consequences of domestic violence and be more vocal to achieve greater public awareness and disapproval of it.
In the same way that the National Organization of Women (NOW) and other groups have done in the case of female victims of domestic violence, there must be organizations to help the cause of the abused men. We need a national framework and sound policies to end the scourge of domestic violence and the silence by men.
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