It dawned upon me that things were getting out of control. A month before this, I had ignored her text messages. Couples do quarrel at times. I had no idea that her husband would turn violent. I am now looking at photos of her bruised arm that she sent.
I could clearly remember that episode and how I felt. Sarah (not her real name) is a highly-educated person. Her husband is a well-known community figure. There is a reason she reached out to me. She had no one else to turn to. I am not a close friend, though we met occasionally at some community events.
But I am not about to be dragged into her domestic affairs. I do not want to be misunderstood. That could have made things worse for her. Not knowing, it had gotten worse for her. She went into depression and that was the last I heard of her.
Looking back at this incident, I thought to myself: could I have done more?
Recently, I came across a report by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF). There were 2,459 cases of family violence reported and requiring the Personal Protection Order (PPO). These were in 2019 alone. The persons causing hurt were mostly men.
I am a man. But surely, I am not that type of men. I would never lay my hand on a woman. I’ve been told that a man who harms women are the weakest kind of men. But hang on. Aren’t men also supposed to be strong? To display their authority? To “stand up” and be a “man”? Something, somewhere had gone wrong for us men.
Sarah once shared that her husband hated the fact that she was better-educated and earning more than him. At home, he would constantly remind her that he is the head of the household and makes all the decisions. In short, he demands her obedience. She would not take his bidding for a submissive wife. And that was when the quarrels started. When words would not settle, fists and blows would ensue.
I know now what this means. It is the idea that as men, we are (supposed to be) superior. We are constantly told that men are leaders in all affairs. And when we fail in our tasks, we felt emasculated, less of a man. To compensate for our shame, we turn violent. There is a term for this: toxic masculinity.
It is time we confront the ideas we’ve been taught and the values we uphold. As a man, I must first ask what values do I stand for? Certainly, not hurting another person should be high on the list. But there must be more. What about offering help and protection to those in need? Isn’t this what true compassion means? I’ve come to learn that to be a man is not to compensate myself but to offer compassion.
I know now that I had let Sarah down. I could have done more. But I will learn. There are steps that you and I can take when we know that someone is suffering from emotional or physical violence in a relationship. Firstly, offer a line of support if they need it. Secondly, report to the authorities if their lives are at stake.
No one should suffer in silence. And we need to do our part. Especially us, men.