I picked up a hitchhiker last week. He was accompanied by his smallish dog. I know what it’s like to have a dog. (S)he needs you, is a member of your human family and if you need to go somewhere there is often little choice but to take the dog. It was unusual for someone to hitchhike with a dog and his thumb was out somewhat tentatively, making it difficult to decide whether they were actually hitchhiking or perhaps just walking, so I drove past him initially. In my rear view mirror I saw he was in fact hitching and I thought he may have trouble getting a ride with the dog. The dog looked happy and healthy, my helping instinct was aroused and reassured, and I turned around.
Like his hitching thumb the man’s demeanour was tentative and sad. This obscured his unusually developed body including pectoral muscles a professional weightlifter would be proud of. When he had sat himself in my car he extended his hand and introduced himself in a friendly way, thanking me for picking him up.
The man explained his situation. He and his dog were hitchhiking back to his home town because his partner had abandoned him while they were visiting his dying mother. The previous evening the partner had become drunk and had violently attacked both him and his sick mother. She had done this kind of thing many times before and was prone afterwards to take off, leaving him to find his own way home. Today he just wanted to get home and retreat to his bed, to allow his bruises and broken heart to rest and recover.
“Interesting” I thought, and how coincidental. In my life I have happened to cross paths quite often with men describing broadly similar experiences featuring a pattern of physical abuse from a female partner. In fact I have met about as many men as women in situations of partner violence, sometimes mutual and sometimes barely so. When it came to violence from other extended family members, e.g. parents, siblings, cousins, partner’s family members, I’m sure I have met more men than women suffering it.
I asked my passenger if he had sought assistance from police to discourage his partner from her habits. “Yes” he replied, “Five times”. On two occasions they had charged him with violence for which he was subsequently convicted and punished, even though he asserted strongly “I have never hit a woman”. In one incident she had stabbed him several times puncturing one of his lungs. She had then stabbed herself in the leg somewhat superficially and alleged to police he had done that to her first, so they charged him but not her. On the other occasion he called police because she was beating him viciously, upon which she threw herself down a bank and then claimed he had pushed her, so police charged him and not her. On the remaining occasions he had tried to lay a complaint but police had laughed at him and refused to record his complaint, noting he was the one with convictions and pointing out that with his physique it was ridiculous for him to be frightened of a woman.
But frightened he was. He was a body builder and worked sometimes as a personal trainer but his deeply ingrained protective code towards women ruled out the use of the kind of physical force that would have been necessary to subdue his partner during her drunken rampages. He was also frightened of some of her family and associates whom she could easily manipulate to exact ‘retribution’ against him if she felt her own need to harm and dominate him had been frustrated. And he now knew that he could expect no help whatsoever, quite the opposite, from the police his taxes paid for. He was frightened all right.
“Why haven’t you left her?” I asked. Well, he loved her and when she was sober she was a nice person. He relied on her to transport him because a visual problem prevented him from driving. They would make up and she would promise not to do it again. Those were the reasons as he saw them. I could have added a few more reasons. Services concerning domestic violence are still based on beliefs such as those held by the police whom this man repeatedly approached for help, that women are the only gender who can legitimately claim to be victims and men are generally the perpetrators. Unlike women, there were no refuges for him to approach, no promise of protection if he did leave her or support to establish himself anew. Suggestions from police that “well if she’s so bad why don’t you leave her?” only resulted in him feeling even more foolish, inadequate and to blame for his problems. This is what the domestic violence industry and feminist propaganda machines have brought about. This is the true picture of modern domestic violence.
It behoves us to remember that both women and men can be trapped in patterns of unrequited cruelty at the hands (and feet, knives, clubs, tools, pots, stiletto heels, actions, words etc) of partners. Usually both parties will be victims and perpetrators to some extent and their relative status can be difficult to judge fairly despite the confidence with which police and judges do so. But some situations like my hitchhiker’s are clearer, one party being seriously diminished through repeated, undeserved violence unleashed by alcohol or drugs and expressed in response to figures who abused the violent party historically rather than anything much about the current victim. The attacked person blames his/her own inadequacies for the partner’s violence and believes he/she is neither worthy of nor likely to achieve any better situation except to live in hope that the partner will one day value him/her enough to stop the violence. The difference between male and female victims is that women have a vast array of support services designed especially and (mainly) exclusively for them and they are more generally supported by an ideology that shows them understanding, sympathy, validation, encouragement to escape and lawful strong-arm support where necessary. Even that’s not enough to enable some women to move to a safer and better life. None of it’s enough for men.