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‘Nobody will believe that as a man, you’re a victim of domestic violence’ : Why men don’t speak up?

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On Friday during the bitter legal battle between Amber Heard and Johnny Depp,  Heard’s lawyers just made Johnny Depp listen to a recording of himself expressing the desire to self-harm. This was the point Heard drove him to and he was reliving it all during the hearing. The Johnny Depp trial is much more than a celebrity scandal. It’s giving voice to victims of domestic abuse, especially men and the fact that there are still some people out there defending Amber because she’s a woman shows exactly why men who have been victims of domestic violence don’t speak up.

When men become victims of domestic violence, they usually find it hard to seek help. They are ashamed to admit they are vulnerable and fear no one will believe them. Mahesh was one of them. Mahesh, a 32-year-old was beaten and tortured by his wife daily in front of his son. His son’s behaviour was also getting affected because of daily nuisance and violence in the home. The violence and fights were so intense and loud that even neighbours got to know about their condition and they also weren’t unaware of what was happening in their home. But, there was nothing he could do. One day when Mahesh’s wife and son were not present at home, Mahesh hanged himself from the ceiling fan because he was done with the never-ending violence.

Spousal abuse is not something that is faced by only one gender. The general presumption or preconceived notions that have been in our society since bygone is that men are supposed to be strong and should bottle up their emotions. If they show or expose their vulnerabilities then they are labelled as being sissy, effeminate, and many other derogatory terms.

Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) can be experienced by any spouse whether wife or husband. Lack of education, middle-class values, one person earning a higher income, etc are some of the major causes of IPV.

Why men don’t speak up?

Firstly, men feel uneasy about opening up about the violence they face. They feel ashamed that they will be judged and will be labelled as wimpy or effeminate. Also, their struggle against violence will go in vain because of gender-specific laws and provisions that are given in the Indian Constitution.

Secondly, men often fear a fake case being filed against them. The very idea of undergoing a trial for a crime that they have not committed sends shivers down their spine.

Thirdly, Indians continue to live with their families even after their marriage. Because of this factor, men feel ashamed of opening up about the violence. Society also plays a crucial role in nurturing gender biased laws and stereotypes against a particular gender. The world usually lives in denial. As in the case of Amber Heard, most people feel that Heard can not be the perpetrator of violence because she’s a woman. Thus, men never open up.

How gender biased laws make the situation worse?

According to Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code 1860, only a man can be held liable for cruelty to his wife. There is not any subsection or any provisions given in the statute that will make a woman liable for domestic violence.

The biased laws in the Indian Penal Statute favour women, there are a plethora of false cases where women falsely alleged a man of rape or domestic violence and the sad thing is that these biased laws automatically assume that a man can never be the victim. Women do not need to give any sort of evidence to prove their authenticity. They are presumed to be holier than thou creatures by the biased laws.


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