Violence dominates headlines, books and movies and has long inhabited our most intimate relationships.
A woman is assaulted or beaten every nine seconds in the United States alone, according to Domestic Violence Statistics. Worldwide, one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or abused in her lifetime — often by a member of her own family. Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women, trumping car accidents, muggings and rapes combined.
Discussion about violence in relationships is heavily focused on women for a reason. In heterosexual relationships — which the statistics I have gathered reflect — women are more often the victims. However, domestic violence against men is not nonexistent.
According to The Feminist Wire, reports of such violence are often underreported and ignored. Since men are culturally associated with being the violent and strong gender, reporting physical violence committed by a woman can often be too "shameful" for a man.
But domestic violence goes beyond statistics and straightforward facts. Even in books and movies, violence between couples is prevalent and weirdly distorted.
Consider this familiar cinematic scenario. A man has just admitted to his girlfriend that he’s been cheating on her. The woman delivers a stinging slap to the cheating scoundrel, and the audience cheers.
It’s an empowering act of violence, justified and feminist. Women will no longer let men walk all over them in terms of emotional abuse or cheating. You go girl.
In a different movie, audiences see a similar scenario. Someone admits to cheating, the betrayed partner gives the cheater a good blow and justice is served.
Except this time, it was the woman who cheated and the man who delivered the outraged hit. Everything is different. How dare this man abuse someone just because she finally got the courage to admit the truth and leave him. One hit, is one too many. It’s so incredible this woman had the strength to leave what was clearly an abusive relationship.
What accounts for this difference in reaction goes beyond the exact situation that provokes the violence. In a world that stresses women as victims and men as violent brutes, it’s almost a relief to see a violent woman, one who keeps her male lover in check with a good hit.
The argument can be made that male-perpetrated domestic violence is so much worse because men are stronger, and thus the physical abuse is more severe. Aside from the fact that this really is not the point, violence against men by women can be more than just a slap. A 2010 Center for Disease Control census revealed 40 percent of severe physical abuse victims are men.
A weapon can also outmaneuver a man just as easily as a woman. In 1998, actor Phil Hartman’s wife, Brynn Hartman, murdered him with a revolver.
Still, a man who calls the police to report domestic violence is three times more likely to be arrested than his female abuser. In 1996, when football player Warren Moon’s wife attacked him, throwing a candlestick at his head and kneeing him in the groin, he was charged with spousal abuse and was only acquitted after his wife confessed she had attacked him and her wounds were self-inflicted.
Many phone calls for help by men to domestic abuse hotlines have been dismissed as pranks. Most cases of female-perpetrated domestic violence are often written off as mental illness or considered the result of an insensitive husband.
Few would blame Elin Nordegren, Tiger Woods’ wife, for giving her husband a stinging slap after he cheated on her with multiple women. Indeed, rumors surfaced Nordegren had physically abused Woods two days after the first cheating allegations surfaced in 2009, though officials have said it was the golf star’s car accident that caused the cuts and bruises on his face and that Nordegren used a golf club to try to break Woods out of his car.
Regardless, the rumors inspired Daily Beast writer Rebecca Dana to applaud Nordegren for taking a golf club to Wood’s Escalade, if it was over cheating allegations, in her 2009 article "The Year of Women Fighting Back." She noted that there are dangerous and illegal ways women can fight back but "the point is: women are fighting back."
In essence, whether you talk back, destroy his property, punch him or even kill him — you go girl.
Violence is not a method of empowerment for either men or women. However, it is something that plagues both in intimate relationships. Public awareness will not end domestic violence against men, but it is the first step in overturning the habit of ignoring further victims.
Editor’s Note: a column on domestic violence in LGBTQ relationships will run May 3.