By Yvonne Dick, For Postmedia NewsNovember 29, 2010
Real men don't hit women, but sometimes women hit them.
(whose name has been changed to protect his family) is a middle-aged
Calgary teacher of average build. At home, his wife would engage in
sporadic episodes of violence that Chivers won't talk about even now
that he's left the marriage. At the time, despite the violence, he says
he didn't want to leave because of his kids.
Research into the area of domestic abuse targeted at men indicates
that men fear going to jail on false charges, the loss of their
children, and having to pay for both the family house plus an apartment
on just their income.
Yet when Chivers and his wife sought help, the counsellor's first
advice was to just get a divorce.
"I spent a lot of time in the office, living there ... for weeks at a
time," says Chivers. "Eventually I got the divorce, but not until I had
tried everything else first . The whole system is a disaster for men."
Although it's not often talked about, abuse against men happens, in
numbers and types nearly the same as women: according to Statistics
Canada, in 2005, seven per cent of women and six per cent of men
experienced abuse. The difference is, men don't tell.
Maybe that's not surprising when you consider that men often try to
be the strong, silent types, raised to respect women, to rescue them
from danger. Chivers notes they don't how to handle it when the woman is
Experts say that abuse can happen to anyone.
Like Roy Martin (whose name has also been changed), a tradesman who
admits he lost all control over his life. At the end, he says, he had
withdrawn so far into himself that he didn't have a friend left. After
one incident, with the red bruise marks still on his face, Martin and
his wife went for help.
In the first session, Martin recalls, "the counsellor said to me,
`What'd you do to make her so angry she had to hit you?'''
According to an Alberta government booklet on preventing male abuse,
the abuse can take many forms - including pushing, blocking doors,
threats, financial control, insults, lies intended to confuse, blaming,
isolating, monitoring phone and email communication, making fun of a
person's body, forcing or pressuring him into sexual activities he
doesn't want, and many others.
"Abuse is power and control ... for the person perpetrating it," says
Cheryl Krneychuk-Waddy, of the Calgary Counselling Centre, adding that
for the abused men, "there is a lot of shame, it's a question of their
masculinity ... victims and abusers come in every shape, colour, size,
She says the couple may want help - both for the abused and abuser.
Counselling can be a lifeline.
"Usually if a man calls in, they'll be able to talk with a counsellor
the next business day," says Krneychuk-Waddy, who holds a master's
degree in social work.
Safety and confidentiality are always top priority. But in a crisis,
men don't know where to turn.
Laura Bakken is with the Community Crisis Society (Strathmore). "For
men with children, there are really very few places they can go,'' she
said. ``If they are dealing with family violence, then it really helps
to be in a place that has some understanding, and some focus on that, as
opposed to going to a homeless shelter."
Krneychuk-Waddy says that you can help the man in your life who tells
you he's being abused - or whom you suspect is being abused. For a
start, don't confront his abuser, no matter how tempting it might be to
do so. Do, however, talk to the man involved.
"Offer them a safe place ... ask them what they need. Validate what
they're saying," she says.
Both Chivers and Martin left their abusive relationships. Life went
on for them, and they began to heal. A chance at a whole new life, where
abuse is not allowed.
Martin has a final piece of advice for men who are being abused.
"Start thinking about your own needs - what do you need to make you
Chances are that those needs include safety, security, respect and a
feeling that you're loved. And that's well deserved.