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Author Topic: Many Husbands Abused  (Read 1573 times)
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« on: Dec 03, 2008 03:14 AM »

This is Sad . I didnt realize men get abused this much (much less than women, but numbers are still high)
The only thing is I feel that they can go through the series of steps outlined Qur'an as it is clear what to do. But for woman the steps are not always clear what to do.

Hwaa Irfan

Writer, counselor, editor - Egypt
The term "battered husbands" came into use in 1977 as a result of the work of American sociologist, Professor Suzanne Steinmetz.  In Islam, the only violence that is allowed is that done in self defense. Following a recent fatwa from a prominent Saudi Arabia scholar on husband beating, albeit in self defense; we take a look at husband abuse as it occurs in the more researched secular world.

Recent History


Abuse is a physical and/or emotional coercion of another person, in order to exploit, control or dominate that person(s). Both law enforcement and society-at-large are familiar with the idea of an abused wife, but the idea of an abused husband is often met with cynicism, or contempt. Unfortunately such attitude is prevalent in the academic world, which has helped immensely to trivialize the issue of husband abuse or battered husbands.


When the report "The Battered Husband Syndrome" by Professor Suzanne Steinmetz was made public she was publicly attacked, and both her and her family received threats at home and in public, and other social researchers on husband abuse fell prey to contempt. For feminists in general, the belief that they have popularized, is the only "real" victims of family violence are women and children; as the family is the means by which women are controlled.  How is it possible for men to be battered when there is no comparison between the beating by a man, and beating by a woman? If a woman does beat a man, it is usually in self defense, and it is not harmful. Dagsputa argues:


"… when we accept the "broad" definition, we have to acknowledge the context of cultural norms that ?define male, and female gender roles differently. We cannot be oblivious to the prevalent social standards that ?provide disparate support for aggression, domination, and assaultive conduct to women and men. ?Traditionally, it is men and not women, who were and are allowed the power and entitlement to master and ?control their intimate partners. Emotional and physical battering systematically received and continues to ?receive approval if utilized to reinforce masculine gender dominance. Most batterers' treatment programs are ?founded on confronting this historical privilege. Thus, the labeling of women as "batterers" and re-socializing ?them to be nonviolent through education classes that are similar to men's programs seem illogical and ?inappropriate."?


Here, man is the master who controls his intimate "partner", and this implies that the term "batterer" can not be applied to women who do not have this power relationship. With this understanding three aspects are not considered:


That "power" relationship does not translate across cultures "traditionally"
That the abuse of power does not translate across all men
That "power" exists but is exercised by both genders differently
That women are not immune to the forces that shape and reshape gender roles, especially when it comes to the understanding of what it means to be "equal".


So, family violence has come to mean violence against women and nobody else is in the picture.


Feminist scholar, Linda Gordon wrote:


"Feminist theory in general and women's history in particular have moved only slowly beyond the "victimization" paradigm that dominated the rebirth of feminist scholarship. The obstacles to perceiving and describing women' own power have been particularly great in issues relating to social policy, and to family violence, because of the legacy of victim blaming. Defending women against male violence is so urgent that we fear women's loss of status as deserving, political "victims" if we acknowledge women's own aggressions"



What many women yearn for is the opportunity to fulfill their potential, but what happens when that potential is denied expression or if when given the opportunity that one misunderstands or misinterprets that potential? There are many reasons for aggression from both men and women, but we have to be willing to face it, not manipulate or exploit it. In the struggle for the popular notion of equality, i.e. same as, what we have is more confusion, and in that confusion there is more violence. But are only men capable of that violence? It only took a nudge from former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to get former (soon to be) U.S. President Bush to go guns ho into Iraq, and Condoleeza Rise helped "diplomatically" to further the cause of global violence.


Fact or Fiction?


The common notion that family violence, or domestic violence is a male domain in real terms, has been uprooted in the secular world if one takes closer look.


Accounts gathered by the Canadian Family Violence Prevention Unit reflect some of the nature of husband abuse:


"She was holding me away from the door so I couldn’t open the locks... after an hour and a half of trying to get out of the room, my left arm was just black and blue where her fingernails dug in. I was finally able to get out of the room, and then in the hallway she grabbed me by the throat, and she just stood there shaking me... In the room she grabbed a glass that she threatened to break and use on my person".



"She’s screaming at me and then she starts cuffing me across the ears to get my attention. She saw that beating me across the ears wasn’t working so she started using her fists on the back of my head. She jumped on the bed and started kicking me in the back. I didn’t hit back. I just can’t. She started hitting me and ripped the clothing off my back. She started biting me in the back. I held her by the hands. She got her right hand free, and came around with a roundhouse and caught me on the left ear. I just about fell over she hit me so hard . At that point I knew the marriage was over. So I left. I went to a co-worker’s place. When I took off my shirt he sat down and started to cry. About 60% to 80% of my back, across the arms and shoulders all the way down to my belt, was black and blue. The side of my head was swollen where she hit me. I had a headache for three days".


Yes, this is what women can do, and even if we choose to deny this, look at the mothers of abused children, who have been abused by their mothers!


Qualitative studies by Gregorash (1990), and Tutty, (1997) in Canada the lives of 18 men (mainly educated and professionals) were looked at. They were aged 30 – 55, and only one from the sample group remained married.


The abuse to the above sample group was mainly psychological, with incidents of one-off physical abuse including being kneed to the ground. In one case the husband lost some of his teeth. Eleven of the men sought to defend themselves by restraining their wives, 9 men used aggression in turn, one man reacted by raping his wife several times, but none of the men sought treatment for their injuries. Counselors who had clients who were victims of husband abuse; found there were similarities with victims of wife abuse.


The actions of the perpetrating spouse was scaled down

Low self esteem

A combination of fear and shame of the perpetrating spouse

Some husbands did not want to leave the marriage fearing for their children

Some husbands still loved their wives, but just wanted the abuse to stop.



However, there were some differences:


They had refused to be violent in return, or they already had a history of violence. The Family Violence Prevention Unit, Canada found husband abuse to be more prevalent in Canada than in the U.S. This of course is not reflected in the clientele of the services for D.V, where 89% (1996) of the victims are women, because husband abuse is not taken seriously, and it is under-reported. After looking at many studies using samples from the community, they found that as much as 50% of the aggression between couples is mutual.


In 1985, the Family Research Laboratory, U.S. telephoned-interviewed over 6000 families and found the following results:


Women were found to be twice as likely to throw something at their husbands. 

Wives were more likely than husbands to kick, bite, hit and punch.  Wives were more likely to threaten their spouses with a knife or a gun. 

Husbands rated higher in pushing, grabbing and shoving; slapping or hitting; beating up; and actually using a knife or a gun.

Perpetrators of Violence



In terms of who initiated the violence, of the 495 couples that admitted to acts of family violence, the 1985 national survey by the Family Research Laboratory found the following:


Gender Reporting
 Male Initiator
 Female Initiator
 No Memory



The work of the Family Research Laboratory, U.S. continued in 1992, which not only reaffirmed previous national surveys, but also discovered that acts of severe violence by husbands had dropped by 37%, whilst the level of severe acts of violence by wives had remained constant.


It was in 2008, that the staggering figures by the U.S, Justice Department revealed for the U.S. alone:


"… every year, 1,510,455 women and 834,732 men are victims of physical violence by an intimate"


Given here that an intimate can range from pre-marital, cohabiting to marital relations, and that husbands are more likely to under-report an act of violence upon their persons, and given that the justice system, and support services weigh heavily in favor of battered wives over battered husbands, the above figure is quite startling. Towards the end of 2008, amidst a series of global crisis that affect marital relations, the statistics are sure to be even more alarming.


Linda Kelly, former Professor of Law at Virginia University in her paper:

"Disabusing the Definition of Domestic Abuse: How Women Batter" states:


"Over the last twenty-five years, leading sociologists have repeatedly found that men and women commit violence at similar rates. The 1977 assertion that “the phenomenon of husband battering” is as prevalent as wife abuse is confirmed by nationally representative studies, such as the Family Violence Surveys, as well as by numerous other sources.  However, despite the wealth and diversity of the sociological research and the consistency of the findings, female violence is not recognized within the extensive legal literature on domestic violence". 



Breaking the Vicious Circle


It is difficult to continue the issue of husband abuse without looking at wife abuse, and child abuse, in other words family violence. In the research report by the U.S. Department of Justice "Full Report of the Prevalence, Incidence, and Consequences of Violence Against Women"?:


"Although 46.7% of the women and 60.0% of the men who reported being physically assaulted by an adult caretaker as a child reported being physically assaulted as an adult, only 19.8% of the women and 27.3% of the men who did not report being physically assaulted by an adult caretaker as a child did so".


Focused on violence towards women, the 2008 report could not escape other aspects of family violence when looking at the causes. As children both men and women were victims of abuse, which shaped their self image as adults; and that violence was perpetrated by both mothers, and fathers. This pattern of behavior is a result of behavior learnt as a child, a pattern that becomes a vicious circle until the pattern is broken if ever.


Battered wives as a feminist issue has served the male ego well, governments, and NGO's have followed suit, providing much needed support services, which are not available to battered husbands. As D stated:


"Most batterers' treatment programs are ?founded on confronting this historical privilege".


Many Muslim women have fallen prey to these services, with no such equivalent within their own communities. As prey, feminism has not only served to strip Muslim women of their faith, by blaming Islam for their fate, but many of these services claim victory over men who have met the same fate. 


As the pattern of gender relations change, we seriously need to ask ourselves change to what, and if it is anymore agreeable to our true nature than what we seek to change it from. Is man truly capable of setting up human models of existence that is in tune with who we really are? While we are discovering this, many more will be physically hurt/killed, and psychologically damaged.


Men are not alone in their casting role as "master", when women too raise them in that manner. By not recognizing the abuse of husbands because it is not "socially acceptable" we fail completely to see that there is something intrinsically wrong when violence is considered the solution for children, men, and women all of whom determine the nature of the society in which we live.


Although many more services (online and offline) exists for abused husbands since the term "battered husbands" became a part of the English language, obviously, that is not enough. Also, there needs to be adequate mediation support services that aim to heal the family instead of pulling it asunder.


Dasgupta, S D. Towards an Understanding of Women's Use of Non-?Lethal Violence in Intimate Heterosexual ?Relationships. Last Accessed Nov 5th 2008.


Department of Justice.  Full Report of the Prevalence, Incidence, and Consequences of Violence Against Women? Nov. 2000. Last Accessed Nov 13th 2008


Family Violence Prevention Unit, Canada. Husband Abuse: An Overview of Research and Perspectives Last Accessed Nov 5th 2008.


Gordon, L. "Family Violence, Feminism, and Social Control" from "Rethinking the Family" Edited by Thorne, B. and Yalom, M. Northeastern University Press, U.S. 1992.


Hoff, B.H. Why Women Assault. Last Accessed Nov 13th 2008


Kelly, L. Disabusing the Definition of Domestic Abuse: How Women Batter. Florida State University Law Review. 30: 791. Last Accessed Nov 5th 2008.


Sarantakos, S. Husband Abuse Last Accessed Nov 6th 2008



Tutty, L. Husband Abuse: An Overview of Research and Perspectives. The National Clearinghouse on Family Violence, Family Violence Prevention Unit, Health Canada (1999). Last Accessed Nov 5th 2008



  Hwaa Irfan is the Managing Editor of the Family, Cyber and Parenting Counselor Pages at Islam

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