Thursday, February 10, 2011

Taking It Like a Man and The Fear Factor

Two of the comments I received to my blog entry of January 20th about Dr. Phil reminded just how far people will go to hold steadfast to their convictions no matter what evidence may be presented to the contrary.

Matt wrote, “Finally men are learning how to get their balls back and stand up to women. “Anonymous” wrote quite a lengthy comment that I will summarize here: Dr. Phil is right, size does matter and that she [the wife on the show] doesn't have to be perfect, she can yell, scream and throw things…this doesn’t make her the abuser. Men need to step up to the plate and start being men, they need to take leadership of their families and stop relying on women to fix things for them. Men need to stop other men from abusing women and stop laughing about women being abused. If the guy on the show was fearful for his life why doesn't he just leave? So what if this guy locked himself in a closet and his car to escape her…big deal…he should take it like a man.

The risks of manning up are high:

Some people just don’t get that men in abusive relationships have much more to fear than physical violence and that standing up for one’s self as a man in these situations is tantamount to being on a suicide mission. Abusive women can and do use the system put in place to protect true victims to their advantage so that they can manipulate their victims and situations. Abusive women tell their partners things like, “Go ahead and call the police, who do you think they will believe me or you?” and “If you ever leave me I will ruin you and make damn sure you never see the kids again.” Abused men do live in fear because they know that their abusive partners can make good on these threats.

“Manning up” is a sure fire way for an abused man to lose everything he values and treasures in life; his children, his reputation, his property, and his bank account, not to mention his life. Male victims who have called our helpline have reported that they have awoken in the middle of the night to find that their partners were standing over them holding a gun or knife and threatening to kill them.

In addition, battered women’s advocates have made a point of reminding us that abusive men do not need to use physical violence to put fear in their victims, just the threat of violence is enough to keep women from leaving her abusive partners or telling anyone about what’s going on in their homes. So it stands to reason that abusive women also know the right buttons to push to put fear in men.

It is a common misconception that men are stronger and bigger and therefore the only ones that can cause “injury” in relationships fraught with violence. Thinking only in terms of size and strength perpetuates the stereotype that men are strong and women are weak, is that really the message we want to leave for the next generation?

Ever wonder why some people continue to hold onto myths and misconceptions that defy common sense? Well, according to University of Illinois Psychology Professor and author Daniel Simons, (and Josh Landis and Mitch Butler of “The Fast Draw,”), when an issue has to do with our perceived safety, often times, facts and logic do not apply. Once a view becomes hardened and people see it as the truth it is extremely difficult to dispel. They say that it goes beyond simple resistance to admitting you are wrong, it has to do with how ideas take root in our brains. The first time we hear something it gets processed in an area deep in our brain called the hippo-campus but as we think about it and remember it the view gets written more deeply into our cerebral cortex. Rewriting those deep beliefs is especially hard. When false beliefs face new information that turns out to be the truth, the truth doesn’t always set people free.

If we want to truly end intimate partner violence we must change these outdated beliefs and views and accept that men can be victims and that their suffering is no less important than the sufferings of their female counterparts.