Domestic Violence Cuts Across Racial and Gender Lines

By now, most of us who follow the world of contemporary sports know that Mike Haywood was fired by the University of Pittsburgh for domestic abuse. Haywood countered that he is innocent and that the “truth will come out.”  If he is, in fact, innocent of all charges, then hopefully justice will be served. However, given that the charges against him were upgraded from misdemeanor to felony status does little to assuage sullied public opinion that was already trending heavily against the former football coach.   

The sad reality is that time after time we have seen numerous examples of domestic violence from prominent men in positions of influence and power.  Chris Brown, O.J. Simpson, Ike Turner, Dennis Rodman, Matt Barnes, Alan Iverson and others have been exposed for derelict behavior. We certainly know that domestic violence is not confined solely to Black men or men of color for that matter. Actor Charlie Sheen, former Pro-wrestler “stone cold” Steve Austin, pro golfer John Daley and rock star Tommy Lee are White men who have been charged with “going medieval” at one time  or another on their wives or girlfriends. And as many of us should know, it is not a problem confined solely to the rich and powerful.

While many people are inclined to believe that the majority of domestic violence is male on female (and according to almost all experts on the topic this is in fact the case), a number of men are also victims of such abuse. In a recent academic article entitled “Women Battering Men: The Other Side of Domestic Abuse” written by Roni-Weisberg Ross, a psychotherapist based in Los Angeles, the author provides provocative and riveting information detailing the ways in which some men are victims of this troubling epidemic. In her article, Weisberg-Ross states the following: 

“Now to the specific topic at hand. When we think of domestic abuse we mostly think of men battering women partners or and to a much lesser extent, women battering their female partners in a lesbian relationship. But when it comes to women battering men, most people would say that they don’t really believe that can happen because men are physically stronger and therefore more capable of defending themselves. However, women do batter their male partners and in much larger numbers than anyone would imagine.”

I will admit that I harbored such a sentiment until several years ago when a male student informed me that he was the victim of physical and verbal abuse from his at the time fiancée. The couple eventually separated.

In another case, when I was a graduate student more than a decade ago, there were unsubstantiated rumors of a certain female graduate colleague who was physically and psychologically abusive to her husband. Several years ago I was chairing a panel at a conference that discussed issues facing men in the 21st century, and during the question and answer session one audience member announced that his wife was so abusive, both physically and mentally, toward him that he eventually walked out after six years of marriage. He simply could not take it anymore. Truth be told, I doubt that his experience was an aberration.

In many cases where the female is the aggressor in domestic violence, the abuse is more likely to be verbal as opposed to physical (although violence does sometime occur) such as belittling her husband or boyfriend’s manhood, his level of success or lack of, economic status, sexual performance, intelligence  athletic ability etc. … For such men, this can be a nightmarish existence.  Similar situations probably happen in gay and lesbian relationships as well. It is undoubtedly a harrowing predicament to be in.

The reason these tormented men (like many women) stay in such dysfunctional relationships vary. The primary reasons are low self-esteem, fear of ruined reputations, financial dependency and, in some cases, for a number of men, they fear that, if they leave, they will relinquish their parental rights.

The reality is that domestic violence has long been a dirty little secret that has far too often either been swept under the rug or kept behind closed doors, literally. It is a crisis that transcends beyond race, class, age, gender and must be addressed aggressively.