FOR THE BROTHERS WE CAN'T HEAR
Almost three decades ago I was at the tail end of a tumultuous four month relationship with Alicia, a jealous ex-girlfriend. Although attractive, she was also an obsessive, controlling, and conniving woman who even though she was two years younger than I she mistakenly deemed it appropriate to treat me as her junior. After dealing with mindless suspicion of me having affairs with other women, even calling the phone number of a former counselor who I saw more as an aunt and threatening to do bodily harm to her, I finally called her over to my home to have a talk about her behavior. Since her tone was threatening and unapologetic I finally called the relationship quits and demanded that she leave my home. Instead of leaving she became confrontational and tried to destroy my belongings. In my attempt to restrain her we got into a physical altercation. Fortunately, I was able to subdue her in a headlock and physically discharge her and the relationship from my home in less than a New York minute.
I immediately called 911, while she harassed me outside my door and even attempted to kick it down. She eventually left my home which momentarily calmed my fears while I naively anticipated a prompt arrival from the cops. Pitifully, they arrived about one hour later as if they came for a routine termite inspection with no sense of urgency. Following a brief interview discussing the incident, I was issued a complaint number as they departed in laughter. I surmised that the only reason that they earned their title as New York’s “Finest” is because of their history of posing nude.
The following year a lady friend and I were watching a movie entitled “Men Don’t Tell” a rare presentation which chronicled a devoted husband who quietly suffered domestic violence at the hands of his wife, who was well portrayed by actress Judith Light. Midway into the show as we were watching, she called her girlfriend and they verbally applauded in unison at the sight of this innocent family man being abused for no justifiable reason. Although her girlfriend was a domestic violence victim herself, ironically she also saw humor in what they both thought was the norm. The 1996 movie “A Thin Line Between Love and Hate” exemplified the same principles of fiction and reality. The self-titled comedy/drama chronicled a female stalker, Brandi (Lynn Whitfield) who relentlessly pursued Darnell (Martin Lawrence) after he wrongfully deceived her into believing that he was in love with her. Since it was Martin the movie was naturally funny, even the scenes when Brandi was stalking him. Her harassment eventually became unbearable for him which made him go to the police, where he was literally laughed out of the precinct. Regardless of the circumstances, any joke or scene from a comedy is designed to provoke laughter which is what ultimately made the movie enjoyable. While humor generally evolves from some form of truth, typically it is the same tool used to distract us from our painful reality. Hence, Darnell's struggle was satirically degraded to a caricature of the real-life testimonies of countless men who survived the same situation. Unless someone can prove otherwise, I have yet to see a movie producer dare to humiliate the storyline of any woman's domestic violence struggle on screen without protest or censure.
One day after winding down from a week’s vacation in Orlando, I saw my friend Jerry and gave him a kid jab to his rib cage as an informal greeting. Strangely, he collapsed as a lightweight would from a Mike Tyson hook. Naturally startled and worried about his unusual reaction I asked him if he was alright. Although he responded in the affirmative it was followed by a nervous laugh. Jerry eventually confided that his ex-wife, Ramona enraged by his decision to end their 19-year marriage due to irreconcilable differences and date another woman, stormed over to his apartment and nearly stabbed him to death. He lost about a pint of blood which drastically reduced his weight and while I was away he spent several days in intensive care.
In a perfect world Ramona would have been arrested, charged, and convicted of attempted murder in the worst degree. But because of their four children, potential humiliation by the police, along with media and the societal legacy of man-bashing, he refused to press charges and instead told the police that he was the victim of a brutal mugging. The latter is a common result of what often happens when both male and female victims fortunate enough to survive domestic violence assume that it will “only happen once” due to blind love, naivety, and fear. While he literally drowned himself in 80 Proof, 40 oz. bottles of denial and latent depression for several years, Jerry was relentlessly slapped (and punched) in the face by reality, only for Ramona to eventually throw stones and repeatedly shatter his glass house. Unfortunately, in his case a permanent mark was left from the stab wound in his gut, nearly puncturing the heart that was afraid to love anyone else including himself.
Men like ourselves have literally been attacked with a double-edged sword that have imposed an untimely threat to our lives and psychological well being. Most males are taught during childhood by our parents and society to refrain from striking a female at all costs for in doing so it would be diagnosed as an act of cowardice leading others judge the moral fabric of your upbringing or, though it doesn’t matter, even question your sexuality. However, my late mother stressed that if anyone, be they male or female strikes me I have every right to defend myself which is why I have no shame for fighting Alicia or any other male. Regardless of who she is, there is no loving deep enough for me to want to drown in my own pool of bloodshed. Unfortunately, many men have died from it as a result of false pride or public shame of even considering the notion of reporting the abuse that they experienced. While I take pride in my courage to adhere to my mother’s teachings and report the attack when it happened, when law enforcement humiliated me and dismissed the case against an abusive woman’s theoretical plea of insanity from being under the influence of PMS, it spoke volumes about how worthless I was to them as a man.
According to a National Violence Against Women survey, in the United States about 830,000 (almost 1 million) men experience domestic violence annually at the hands of an intimate partner. That does not include unreported cases or matching global stats. Large numbers of these occurrences happened at the hands, and words, of women which are surprisingly almost equal to male to female violence. For decades well into the 21st century numerous media depictions have negatively portrayed us as mindless and insensitive buffoons who are primary culprits of any domestic dysfunction, which prompts women to find solace in verbally degrading men which inevitably leads to violence. Following a video clip former Baltimore Ravens running back, Ray Rice was immediately suspended after an assault on his then fiancée, Janay Palmer in Revel Casino Hotel elevator in Atlantic City. In contrast, there was no cancel culture mandate for R & B singer Solange to be censored or even arrested after repeatedly attacking Jay-Z in an elevator while his wife, Beyoncé practically stood idly, while their bodyguard restrained her. Despite the increasing epidemic described earlier in this paragraph the majority of domestic violence outreach ads primarily depict a female victim. Although recent changes in the law now mandate states to create a safe haven for all domestic violence survivors regardless of gender or sexual orientation, men are still a marginalized demographic.
About seven years ago my employer posted a Domestic Violence Training advertisement displaying the many faces of domestic violence including heterosexual male and LGBTQ+ victims. Although the ad retained heterosexual female, lesbian, and gay victims, the straight male depiction was mysteriously removed in following years. Despite the growing number of male survivors that have come forward my employer, media, and other agencies still fail to openly identify men as the other demographic in need of support. For survivors employed in safety-sensitive crafts and are responsible for safely transporting thousands of lives daily, the lack of defined outreach for male survivors only magnifies their silence and inherent depression that follows. Especially for bus operators, train crews, rail and air traffic controllers, and pilots whose duties require constant focus and attention to traffic, aircraft, signals, communications, door operations, etc. stress management is a major priority. Mismanaged depression increases the likelihood of excessive speed, aircraft accidents, train derailments, poor platform observation, improper route assignments, and various other safety violations. Where discipline and unpaid suspension following these incidents has an adverse affect on a survivor’s finances, his employment stability, and even his shattered self-esteem can worsen his depression and possibly cause him to commit suicide or in worse cases, homicide.
As boys learn behaviors from men, equally girls take social cues from women, both good and bad. In a culture that is still predominantly governed my men it behooves our country to expand awareness of various plights that directly affect men and educate women about the impact of physical and verbal abuse toward us. With domestic violence shelters now opening their doors to men nationwide, because we have been neglected for so long we must now have ad campaigns that solely address the needs of male survivors and the complexities of shame and machismo that often stifle their confidence to seek support. Although Stop Abuse For Everyone (SAFE) and UK based Mankind Initiative are some of the few domestic violence prevention organizations that target the needs of abused men, there is more work to be done.
We must also abort the good girl-bad boy stereotype of the sexes, adopt a culture that holds women fully accountable for their crimes against us, and ensure that justice will prevail at all costs. Although we still have a long way to go, on behalf of ourselves, sons, fathers, friends, and all men it is incumbent that women respect our vulnerabilities and don’t take our strength for granted. With valid reason the #METOO and #TIMESUP movements have shamelessly addressed the impact of men’s transgressions and the adverse affect that they have had upon their lives. In the 21st century and beyond it is time for women and the nation to do the same for us. #MENSRIGHTS #MANSAFE #STOPABUSE #DEFUNDCHAUVINISM #FREEDOMOFBREATH #GENDEREQUALITY