When many write and discourse on gender abuse or sexual abuse, they are naturally considered to be speaking about male abuse on the female person. This is, in particular, true in the Botswana case, where patriarchy is rife. Cases of the abuse of males by their female counterparts in Botswana are therefore almost inconceivable. They are unbelievable and laughable before the police, parents and society in general. What kind of man gets abused by a woman? O tshwanetse a bo a jesitswe, ba mo tsere boloko kgotsa ke pharamesing. A man must be strong; a warrior and muscular. What kind of warrior gets slapped around by a woman in petticoats and skirts?
Female abuse doesn’t take the same form as male abuse. It certainly cannot, since men and women are different. Male abuse usually manifests itself in physical violence & in certain cases, financial restrictions on the spouse. Unbeknown to many, there are many men in our country who are suffering great abuse from their partners. They suffer in silence because it is unmanly for one to complain of female abuse. Their abuse therefore remains unreported and untreated. The perpetrators know this and use a man’s silence and isolation to their own advantage – to keep their victim isolated and tormented. While there are limited studies on female on male violence and abuse, the world is slowly realizing that the kind of violent and destructive behaviour observed amongst men some of it is largely engendered by their abusive female partners. Researchers and commentators agree on a number of indicators that show that a woman is abusing her male companion. Below we discuss some of these with the hope that men in our country will be able to identify their abusers without cultural restrictions inhibiting their judgement. How do we identify the abusive female partner?
The first sign is that the abusive woman usually throws a huge tantrum if she doesn’t get her way with her partner. She is easily upset and uses her fiery tempter as a controlling tool. She yells, she cries, throws things and she may even throw herself to the ground so that a man may give in. She harangues her man. Men who hate drama therefore do everything to eschew setting off their partners. They therefore give in, unaware that they are giving in to abuse and manipulation.
One of an abuser’s top goals is to isolate her victim and keep him away from communicating with anyone who might present a view that differs from theirs. The abusive woman would therefore attempt to separate a man from his friends, his parents and other relatives. A man’s mother may suddenly be seen as a spoiler, a witch who is a bad grandmother. She may even be labelled possessive of her own son.
Another sign that a woman is abusive of her man is that she withholds sex when she doesn’t get what she wants. Sex is used a tool to control her partner. If she is dissatisfied with something in the relationship, she rolls herself in a sheet, gives her partner her back and withholds sex from a partner. The man starved of sex gives in to the demands of his partner.
An abusive woman is usually verbally hostile. She doesn’t use fists or sticks to attack her man. She uses her tongue to lash at the man who cannot keep up with her language. She belittles the man, reminds him that he is nothing, repeatedly stabbing him with poisonous and sharp words. The man remains psychologically battered, weakened, debased and feeling inadequate.
The abusive woman also wishes to control the financial independence of the man. She wants to take total control of a man’s pay. She argues that the man doesn’t know how to handle his money. Instead her ultimate aim is to spend with wild abandon the money earned by the man, lead him to financial ruin. She therefore spends the man’s money on herself, buying clothes, drinks and food, and beautifying herself while the man increasingly looks shabby and dejected. This is parasitical abuse which many men remain unaware of, and sometimes consider normal.
The abusive woman also has unreasonable expectations. She may know that the two of you can only afford to live in a P2000 rent house. She will however insist that the two of you should live in a P4000 rent house largely to impress her friends and relatives. She may know that you cannot afford expensive clothes, or an expensive car. However she will insist on these expensive expenses driving both you to financial ruin.
The abusive woman may threaten to call the police on you every time you disagree or quarrel. She may inform your superiors at work of your family arguments and disagreement. She will call your aunts, uncles or cousins every time you have disagreements. She does this to portray the man as an unstable person. She wants to be seen as a victim and the man as a perpetrator. Instead of resolving her family problems with her man, she actually avoids engaging him. She instead prefers to spread news of any disagreements between the two of them to the man’s friends and relatives. This is abusive on the man and attempts to portray him as unreasonable and a source of problems.
Many men suffer in silence in abusive relationships. They don’t usually report instances of abuse. While they may be terribly traumatised in their relationship, they are not taken seriously by the police and are despised by the society for being weak. It is therefore important that firstly men identify the source of the problem. They need to identify instances of abuse and characterise them as abuse instead of dismissing their abusers as ridiculous and a nuance. While there is an expectation culturally on men to be strong and not display any sign of weakness, it is only when men empower themselves, identify abuse and resist it that they will be able to lead healthy and productive lives.