Gender equality: Not another celebrity blog.

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I am not a big celebrity fan. I have worked for several years in the travel and tourism industry and I have met several Hollywood A-listers, Bollywood veterans, singers, and sportsmen. None of them excites me. 

James Houran, a psychologist at HVS executive once said,

In our society, celebrities act like a drug, they’re around us everywhere, they are an easy fix”

Perhaps, this is why I avoid them. Well, avoid might not be the correct term here- but the fact is- I couldn’t care less.

But this Johmber* (Depp vs Heard) case caught my eye- unexpectedly. And there is a reason behind this. A reason, not a justification or excuse or the mighty “but” (as in the famous sentence- I am not a racist but).

(*Warning: Made up word!! Thanks, David)

I have a genuine reason for that. This is because I happen to know a few male survivors of domestic violence. Don’t worry, I have acquired the necessary permissions to share their stories. But I wouldn’t be revealing any identities of these people.

The first question people ask about male survivors is – why didn’t they tell anyone? Or, why didn’t they look for help?

The answer isn’t easy though. Society (and the media) almost always parade men as the preparators of violence, never the victims. And for those who stand up, it screams “Men are not real men if they can’t take it”.

In the majority of DV cases, the society that blindly supports female victims expects men to “men up”.  This societal issue of masculinity and stereotypes is one of the reasons that discourage men from reporting violence against them.

Dr Alyson Huntly and students at the University of Bristol analysed 12 cases of domestic violence against men and organised the findings into a series of themes.

The primary reason was the fear of not being believed or being accused as the perpetrator, followed by embarrassment and feeling of “less of a man”. 

Men were also worried about the welfare of their partners and feared losing contact with their children.

A close friend I have known for several years decided to share his abuse history after watching this Johmber*case.

This person used to be the most active social chap in our hanging-out group. I knew something was wrong as he had stopped all communications and social media and he would barely reply to my messages. And to be honest, I had moved on and had almost forgotten about this man.

But I was glad that we managed to reconnect.

This is his story, unedited.(published with permission)

“I have been abused multiple times. She regularly threw things at me, screamed at me and called me all sorts of names. But this is when she started becoming physical.

It was sometime in October; our baby was just over eight months old and it was my turn to look after her.

 I was feeding the baby. I don’t remember what triggered her but my partner began to throw punches at me and scratch me. I stood up and covered the baby in my arms. She continued punching and scratching. She only stopped when my t-shirt fell into pieces.

I was covered in scratches. (He showed me a few pictures) She threw a new t-shirt at me and ordered me to change it, but I refused. She then pulled the t-shirt off me and left for work. She probably wanted to hide the evidence.

On the way, she sent me a long apologetic text message.

I didn’t think about reporting to authorities because I didn’t want to ruin my relationship- especially with an 8-month-old baby.

Later, I went to my workplace with the baby because I wanted a distraction.  I didn’t tell this to anyone.

This story confirms the outcome of the study by Dr Huntley.

According to the ONO, Office of National Statistics in the UK, one in three victims of DV are men. However,

  • Just 4.4 per cent of the victims are supported by domestic services.
  • Out of 39 organisations with 238 spaces in refuges or safe housing, just 58 places are dedicated to men.
  • 11 % of men have considered taking their life due to partner abuse, compared to 7.2% of women.

Interestingly, but understandably, almost half (49%) per cent of men do not tell anyone about the abuse they receive. And according to a survey by the Mankind initiative  64% of victims would not have called if the helpline was not anonymous.

The biggest problem is the invisible pressure from society. Men are often, and incorrectly portrayed as hunters from ancient times. (Researchers have found shreds of evidence of female hunters)  This assumption subconsciously makes males deny violence against them. This could be the primary factor in higher suicide rates in male DV victims.

Of course, Johnny Depp doesn’t represent all male DV victims, but Amber heard does show what narcissism is really like. She is taking full advantage of societal bias.

Another story from a survivor.

It was almost midnight when I arrived home. My car had broken down and It took me hours to fix it. As soon as I arrived home, she started shouting at me and accused me of having an affair.

I was cold and tired, I told her what happened, but she didn’t believe me. I told her that I will provide all pieces of evidence about the car and show the RAC paperwork before going to the separate room to sleep. After I tucked myself in bed, she arrived in my room and started punching me. I thought she was going to kill me. I had no option but to push her away.

This was the first time I had touched her during the abuse, Normally I would run away or lock myself in the bathroom.

It felt like she was waiting for this moment. As soon as I pushed her, she called the police and I went downstairs. She was still abusing me verbally until the police arrived.

I was taken to custody, she had told the police that I beat her up with a wooden panel. I was charged with DV because I told the police that I pushed her.  Thankfully, the court did not believe her and I was released without charge.

I suffered more after she left.  She had already told her fabricated story to our common friends and relatives, everybody thought that I was the perpetrator. I was isolated. I even attempted suicide.

This made me think. If the perpetrator was indeed a male here, the situation would have been different. Johnny Depp was kicked out of the Pirates’ franchise – because of an accusation. But Amber Heard remained unaffected.  

Innocent until proven guilty rarely applies to male DV victims.

We talk a lot about equality, and we claim ourselves to be part of a civilised society, but time is overdue to treat DV victims equally. 

What can we do

Remove the stereotypical bias. Crime doesn’t have a gender. Women aren’t always vulnerable and men aren’t always “the strong” ones.

Be compassionate: One day, you could end up becoming a victim. Victims don’t want to know the “tips and tricks”. They can’t go back in time and react differently. Your compassion could save somebody’s life.

When we run out of options, we become suicidal. However, studies show that a majority of people who feel suicidal don’t actually want to die- they want the situation to die.

I remember somebody posting “goodbye” on social media shortly after committing suicide. I was not very close to this person, but this person was always jolly and fun to be around. They did not show any signs of distress or sadness of any kind. Unfortunately, nobody took this person’s final call seriously.

Most suicidal people want to hear one sentence, which is “I am here for you”. So, the next time before you ask someone to man up, think of the consequences. Words have power, so please use them wisely.

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