A couple of days ago, for the Food 4 Thought meme, I wrote about my particular take on the #MeToo movement. While it cannot be denied that it has, quite rightly, brought the plight of what women have had to endure from male entitlement for far too long out into the open, it doesn’t, I feel, go far enough.
I am not for one moment trying to lessen the significance of what #MeToo seeks to achieve. I applaud the stand that has been taken, meaning that men who abuse women from a position of power can do so with impunity. Anything that fights against the concept of male entitlement cannot be given too much support. The problem is, as I alluded to in that previous post, being a victim of abuse is not simply a women’s issue. The evidence would almost certainly identify the fact that the majority of abuse victims are women, and that the majority of abusers are men, but the sad fact is that women can commit abuse too, and men can very definitely be victims.
There is still, sadly, a stigma around mental health issues. There is a particular stigma for men who suffer from them. That stigma is further intensified when men are the victims of abuse. For a start, it is often seen as not being “manly” for men to admit to such things; “real men” should be able to stand up for themselves. The range of derogatory expression towards men in these situations begins with the idea that we should just “man up” and culminates in the most toxic expression that sadly exists among some rabidly right-wing so called feminists who claim that we deserve such things and that it’s good that men should get to experience what so many women have to endure for once.
As I mentioned, in that post, while I have been fortunate not to experience sexual abuse, I do know what it is like to experience physical and emotional abuse. The former, from a father who got violent when he had been drinking and; sadly, for whom the drinking was his own expression of the mental health issues he himself was experiencing. The latter, at the hands of a manipulative partner who never passed up any opportunity to undermine me and my already limited belief in myself whenever it suited her to do so.
I have suffered a nervous breakdown, I have been medicated. I once had to take the drastic step of flushing every tablet in the house down the toilet just to prevent myself from doing something stupid.
I was fortunate, I had friends whom I could confide in, a GP who spotted what was happening and got me on to a counseling program. But even that openness wasn’t without its hazards. I have trusted and, therefore, opened up to people who have then abused the trust I put in them. I have had my own good intentions, trying to help a fellow victim turned against me.
All of these thing have, of course, been extremely painful, but one of the things that has hurt most of all is the dismissal, from some people, of what I have experienced, simply on the grounds of my gender. Again, from that more toxic element of society that believes that what men suffer isn’t really abuse; the idea that by having a penis and not a vagina, my experiences are somehow hot valid or that I almost deserve them because I have a Y-chromosome. I wish I were over-dramatising, but sadly such people do exist.
The thing is, abuse is is not a competition; there aren’t varying scales of victimhood. Abuse is abuse and is wrong. Victims are victims and need support. Gender is irrelevant.
Much is spoken about the appallingly low conviction rate in rape trials, and rightly so. Many “powerful” men have,in the past few years, been called to task for their treatment of women and, again, rightly so. More and more women are coming forward and telling of their ordeals, even in the knowledge that the statistical chances of getting justice is shockingly low.
For whatever reason, the same cannot be said for men. For some perverse sense of reasoning in our society, we recognise the fact that women can and always have been victims, and there is a network of support there for them. It isn’t great, it could be so much better, but it’s there.
For men, such things are still very much in the dark ages. We suffer in silence because that’s what men do. We don’t admit to being abused because that brings our very masculinity into question. Men are much less likely to seek help and support and, for those that do, it is even more sparsely scattered.
More needs to be done; for all victims, not just for men or women. Survivors are survivors, there really is no differentiation. All survivors need compassion and encouragement, and all survivors need to know that, when they find the courage to come forward, the support they need will be there.