WHY MEN BEAT by Claude Mills Featured

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"I TOLD her not to do it. She knew what would happen if she did. She did it, and then when mi a try reason wid har, she come ah loud mi up. She diss me so mi did have to give it to her. "She deserved it. "She deserved it."


These are the words of admitted woman-beater, 26-year-old Robert Reynolds, a mechanical engineer.

When perpetrators of domestic violence are asked why they beat their intimate partners, the most common responses are: "When mi lick her, she listen" or "she diss me" or "mi need fi teach her a lesson."

Some psychologists note that this points to insecurity which is the physiological epicentre of men's violence towards women -- the need to be dominant, coupled with a man's deep distrust of women.

Experts also theorise that as adults, men become emotionally dependent upon a wife and expect her to be responsible for making them happy.

"Men have a deep mistrust of women. When she cannot make them happy, she lets them down. This mistrust is tied up in their fear of how their peers perceive them. They are always trying to match up to some macho ideal of how men and women ought to relate and this creates problems," one psychologist said.

Other schools of thought point to a cultural problem.

Most major cultures over the past 3,500 years, have tolerated the physical abuse of women under specific conditions. There is evidence of men physically controlling women in the Bible and other places, and men are quick to quote Ephesians 5: 22 - 23 to justify the patriarchal dominance of a male. "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church and he is saviour of the body."

Evidence of women's suppression is portrayed in the mores, folk-ways, and laws of societies throughout the Christian and Islamic eras. The myth was that "a man could not beat his wife with a stick wider than the length of his thumb", setting the state-decided parameters of how to control a woman.

"Culturally, men who are perpetrators of violence against woman are seen as macho by other men and it is normal to exercise power and control...that is, until it happens to a female close to you," said Sargeant Louis Brown of the Mandeville Police Station who works with situations of domestic violence in Manchester.

According to official police figures, there are 36 reports of domestic violence in Manchester daily, the majority of them occurring in farming districts.

"There is a serious problem with us men. One of the main reasons I got into this sort of counselling was so that I can understand and relate better to my partner. I have also learnt that there are other means of persuasion and communication to deal with problems," said Sargeant Brown.

According to figures, domestic-related murders in Jamaica leaped significantly between 1988 and present. In 1988, there were 188 domestic-related murders. Last year the figure was 331, almost double. There have been 251 domestic-related murders since the start of this year.

The number of reported assaults has fallen from a high of 13,614 in 1997 to a low of 3,373 last year. However, reported cases of wounding have almost tripled from 1,297 in 1997 to 3,735 last year. Wounding denotes actual bodily harm, while assault does not necessarily entail physical damage. It is important to note that verbal abuse which is likely the most widespread form of abuse against women are not captured in these

While acknowledging their role, researchers dispute the theory that alcohol and drug problems are "the precipitants of abuse."

"Women try to reason that it is 'because he was drinking that's why he hit me', but that's a lie. A man who would hit you while he's drunk would still beat the hell out of you when he's sober," said one counsellor.

"We do know, however, that alcohol is found to be involved in approximately half of the cases reported to the police. Either the victim or perpetrator has been drinking, or both. So certainly, there is some bearing on people's behaviour when they have been drinking alcohol. But generally, it's never the cause of the violence. Violence is really someone's decision that it's okay to hit another person, to strangle, restrain, or whatever the physical act," said the counsellor.

Some experts theorise that while the spotlight is thrown on physical abuse, people need to examine the role of female aggression in cases of domestic abuse.

"Women use sex -- the withholding of it -- to solve problems, and verbal and emotional aggression, while men use physical aggression. That's where the paradox comes in, for the female, it is verbal or emotional, just as potent but it's the physical aggression that shows up on the chart," said psychologist Dr. Leahcim Semaj.

"But what should the man do, trace back the woman when she's tracing him? If he does, he will be seen as a 'maama man'," he said.

Dr. Semaj suggested that men should opt out of abusive situations, and take control of their own destiny by leaving abusive partners.

"Men should not hit women, whatever the situation. But we need to raise the question about verbal and emotional aggression, the taunting, teasing, the tracing and encourage men to end these relationships. Men should leave toxic relationships, especially if the woman does things to motivate you to hit her. You should think about ending the relationship," he said.
And what about women who seem to provoke abuse, and to egg on the batterer?

Experts believe that sometimes women in abusive relationships deliberately provoke their men to get it over with. The anxiety of not knowing when the next battering will come causes some victims to force the issue because once it has happened, there will be a brief period of time when they can feel safe.

"These women are most likely responding to a battering cycle," Dr. Semaj said.

Some women also see this as an act of love, added Dr. Semaj, and "the bigger the fight, the more intense the make-up...if there is no general show of affection, except when making up, the psychological effect may be 'if we fight, it will lead to a positive situation'. So women simulate the fight, so that they can get on with the loving again."

Not all men who batter are simple Neanderthals who know what they do is wrong and choose to do it anyway. There is evidence to suggest that some of these men have been victims of abuse themselves.

According to a worldwide research of batterers' groups, more than half of the men who beat come from homes where the male in the family was either very violent or controlling.

"Most behaviours are learned. If a man is from the sort of environment where his father beat his mother, it is quite likely that he will do the same," said Dr. Leachim Semaj.

In these homes, family members usually live in morbid fear of the domineering male because of threats, or frequent violence directed at his mate, the children, or both. Even if the violence is directed at the children, they are witnesses nevertheless, say the experts.

"This sort of experiences leaves a profound lifelong effect on the lives of young impressionable males," Dr. Semaj added.

In the last year Women's Media Watch has been conducting workshops across the island to change the way men and women relate to each other in intimate relationships.

"We recognise that both males and females in relationship put down each other a lot. We are trying to get people to better relate to each other, and diversify the images they have of both males and females so we can debunk the old myths," said Michelle Golding-Morris, one of the founding members of Women's Media Watch, and a member of the Caribbean Association for Feminist Research and Action, said.

"However, we need to have more males participating in the workshops spreading these positive messages. Males tend to accept the messages better when they are sent by other males," she said.

In the meantime, one of the greatest obstacles to changing how men and women relate to each other is the persistent denial of men that a problem exists. Experts say that a lot of young men may not view their behaviour as a problem as batterers are selective about whom they beat. They usually exhibit physical violence toward their intimate partners, but at the same time do not beat their bosses or co-workers when they experience frustration, tension, or anger in the workplace, one expert said.

Counsellors and behavioural researchers say that batterers often feel justified in their behaviour and that society is unfairly persecuting them for their actions.

"Most men don't realise they are batterers. They believe that their behaviour is natural because it is learned, sometimes in their own family units and enforced by their peers and community members," Assistant Commissioner of Police Novelette Grant who is one of the 12 regional trainers given a mandate to train others to intervene in matters of domestic violence.

"I remember one young man who never saw himself as an angry or a violent person. His girlfriend made a report to the station, and we went for him. He complied with us and came into the station. I counselled him about his behaviour, and told him while he may not think himself a violent person, he nevertheless solved problems with violence."

"Eventually he was able to see himself through someone else's eyes, and he got help with the problem," she said.


Read 4150 times Last modified on Friday, 04 June 2010 01:27

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