Domestic Violence – The Male Perspective and Child Custody
August 21, 2020
‘Man sentenced to imprisonment for assaulting his wife‘, ‘it’s not just a slap; it is violence against her‘, ‘he must have induced her to commit suicide‘ etc. We all have heard of such events on televisions, on social media platforms and where not. India does not have a proper system of data analysis and that is where we lag. No one bothers to report the cases of violence against men as people rarely believe that such things can happen. It would be unjust to say that only women fall prey to events of domestic abuse.
Today, gender roles are changing; men and women are sharing the same power relations. It has now become crucial that we start paying attention to cases of domestic violence against men. The picture representing only female victims is false and incomplete. Statistics have shown that more than 40% of the total cases of domestic violence are done to men. It might not be easy for us to identify cases against men. This needs to be addressed because domestic violence destroys the lives of both partners and more than that of the child involved.
People mainly assume that violence could be done to men only in a public place and not domestically. This is a major unexplored field. In general, a man and woman go through equal levels of aggression both physical and mental but evidently, not many cases are reported where violence is perpetrated on a man. Because of a limited number of incidents these cases remain unreported.
What is Domestic Violence?
Domestic Violence is an act done in aggression by any
partner or their family members. Some of the established symbols of domestic
violence are criticizing a spouse for trivial things, forced intimate
relationships against the will, threats made against victims by the spouse or
their family members, monitoring the victims, and more.
Sometimes, the male victims feel ashamed of reporting such cases. Violence can not only be physical but mental, emotional, economic and actions of threats that influence the other person in the relationship. It is a tool to place one’s power and domination over the other person, something which intimidates, frozen, coerces, threaten, hurt, humiliate, or manipulate someone.
Why do men not speak up?
Domestic Violence laws in India sometimes can be women-centric and provide very few opportunities for men. They feel like no one would listen to them or believe them; they then try to handle it personally and not drag it into courts. It becomes very complicated. There are some important reasons due to which male victims do not speak up against the wrong done to them in marital relationships.
Male victims have a certain need to remain with their abusive spouses since they are subject to them for help. Their children are likewise having an explanation that men stay since they feel that in case of such events if they leave the kids they could face similar outcomes and will have to undergo some mental illness as their parents go through. They need to approach their children to secure them. Getting out of a harsh relationship can be difficult to do. Sometimes the victim also does not have money to bear the costs of litigation and also the litigation consumes a lot of their time.
It has become a general mindset that men can’t see themselves as victims. They do not get tagged with the ‘victim‘ label. Only women can feel battered. I feel, sometimes, they feel hard to defend themselves and don’t seek help as they think it is gender-based. There is a term that explains that women can take part in abusing which is commonly known as ‘mutual combat‘. This explains that women too can play a role in abusing their partners. It shows that women are mainly accused of domestic violence in where she acts in self-defense, retaliation, or know getting abused. People do not take this issue seriously as they think ‘he must’ve done something to deserve it‘. Abuse against men is not just physical but threatening them to expose them in front of outsiders, jealousy, over possessiveness, slapping, or even striking them, etc.
Why do the cases go unreported?
Although it is very difficult to report domestic violence cases so many of them go unreported whether they are against a man or woman, this becomes even more difficult in taking into account that how many men are suffering from the same. The most significant reason for it is astringent gender-based considerations prevalent in the society or the social stigma in which society perceives that one who is the victim of domestic violence is weak. The perception people have in their mind that only women are the victims of domestic violence is wrong as statistically domestic violence cases of men and women both occur equally but due to a family’s responsibility on him, he not feeling comfortable in reporting abuses most of the cases goes unreported.
What should be done?
These little things can give rise to more perilous situations. Be it a man or a woman, everyone needs to be protected. It doesn’t matter if a man is considerably stronger than a woman he also needs to be heard. The most important thing in these kinds of situations a man should learn is self-restraint. Holding oneself back and having proper control over anger is most important. In many cases, a man goes unheard because police sometimes arrest the prime attacker and this may not depend on who started the abuse in the first place. Men are not generally comfortable taking these matters in courts or handle them legally, in such cases they must share it with someone they are comfortable or may take help from the domestic relations attorneys.
Child Custody Rights of a Father
The issue of child custody comes up at the time of judicial separation or divorce, which courts decide. It stands for controlling, taking care, and maintenance of a child below 18 years of age by its custodial parent and providing him with educational and financial security, understanding the child, giving him a healthy and good lifestyle, providing proper emotional, physical, and medical support, etc. Legal Custody of a child involves taking long term decisions of a child. However, physical custody is given only to one parent.
Nowadays in the custody of a child, both parents are given
equal rights. Some factors affecting legal custody are:
If a parent is mentally and physically appropriate to decide on the child’s behalf.
What type of relationship he had with both the father and the mother.
Parent’s financial stability.
What a child wishes to have, only if he is capable of making opinions.
All these decisions are given in the best interest of the child. A child’s needs and wants are taken care of rather than the intentions of the parents.
Fights for custody of a child can be a tough one for a father as the old notion of courts consider a mother to be the natural caretaker of a child and think that only she can take decisions in the best interests of a child. Unfortunately, it is not true for all the cases. Father’s rights in child custody are:
If a mother willingly gives up on the custody of the child to the father.
If she is not mentally stable or has an immoral character.
If a child can make an opinion that is if he has attained an age of 13 years and expresses his will to stay with the father.
If the father’s financial capacity is proved to be stronger than that of the mother. If it is proved that he can give the child a better lifestyle and upbringing or if the father can prove that the child’s upbringing can prove dangerous with the mother.
And most importantly, if the mother is itself the convict or at fault.
Domestic Violence against men can surprise many people in India because of the gender-typical stereotypes prevalent in society for centuries. If a man tries to say publically about the violence he is going through, not only his ‘mardaangi‘ but also his ability to stand up to a woman; ‘Ek aurat‘ is questioned.
The biases towards men and women can be extremely dangerous. It is not anyone’s fault as our upbringing is done in such a way where we are taught that a man must be stronger than a woman. If he cries they ask ‘ladki hai kya?‘ These stereotypes can prove to be very problematic and destructive to society. We need to spread awareness about such happenings as not only women but men can also feel about things; they have a right to be heard. By this, we don’t mean to say that women do not fall victims to domestic violence but men can be the victims too. Cases of domestic violence mostly lead to judicial separations which affect adversely and exhaust the child involved the most. Parents must think of their child before they take any drastic step and always focus on the child’s upbringing and giving him a good life.
Editor’s Note Many times, male casualties don’t come forward in domestic violence cases since they’re stressed about social stigmas. In any case, by not coming forward they are moreover not getting the support they may need to break the cycle of violence. Domestic violence against men is no laughing matter. It is a serious issue in need of concerted action.
The International Men’s Right Campaign Group PARITY claims that men are often treated as ‘second class victims‘ and many police officers and councils do not take them seriously. ‘Male victims are almost invisible to the authorities such as police, who rarely can be prevailed to take the man’s side’, said John Mays of PARITY in an article by The Guardian. There needs to be a day for the elimination of violence against men. A day is usually set apart for handling a prominent problem and brings awareness to it. Violence against men is prevalent but the extent is unknown. If we could prove the extent, then we need such a day for men too.