Women are often seen as the sole sufferers of domestic violence but if recent happenings are anything to go by, men are as much victims. At least seven men have died in Kenya, in the past one year, with either their wives or girlfriends suspected to have snapped life out of them.
Statistic of the seven murdered men is drawn from analysis of media reports covering April 2020 to April 2021.The most recent involved a 37-year-old Daniel Omollo Onyango, a Kenya Defence Force officer whose death, the police suspect, was caused by his 27-year-old wife Violet Asela Emu, on the night of April 3.
An article published by Newszetu, ‘KDF officer dies in domestic fight with his musician wife’, says the couple differed over a one-bedroom house Ms Emu, an upcoming local secular artiste, had rented in Mirema Drive, Kasarani , Nairobi for her music business.
“This led to an argument resulting into a physical fight at about 1am in which the deceased bit his wife on the shoulder. The wife also bit the deceased’s finger, right side of the chest and back of the shoulder,” an investigator told nation.africa.
Upon realising the damage she had caused him, the wife sought to save his life by rushing him to Kahawa Garrison Health Centre. He was, however, pronounced dead en route to the facility by a nurse who had accompanied an ambulance Ms Emu had earlier requested for to take her late husband to hospital.
The late Onyango is one of a growing number of male victims of domestic abuse. Cases of physical, sexual, economic, technological and psychological violence against men may not be getting to the police occurrence books or media houses, but many men are suffering in silence and their numbers are growing. This is something they do not want to talk about or necessarily admit. Some even say they don’t report the abuse because they don’t think authorities would believe them.
Data from National Crime Research Centre (NCRC) shows that lifetime prevalence of SGBV for women stands at 38 per cent against 20.9 per cent for men, as at now.
The number of male domestic violence victims has, however, continued growing in a society that is largely in denial. A 2014 NCRC study on SGBV established that men were at a higher risk of the violence than women.
The study that looked at the SGBV exposure in the past 12 months, found the current prevalence for men to be 48.6 per cent compared to 37.7 per cent for women.
Of most concern, is the study’s findings of women trivialising men’s SGBV experiences, clearly pointing to the fear of stigma that men who have been abused, have to overcome to seek help.
Ending up dead
The avoidance of victimisation, perhaps, explaining why men never report SGBV offences.
For instance, of the 2,416 cases of GBV reported in Kenya between January and June, 2020, 71 per cent of them related to the female as the victims. This is according to NCRC analysis.
Apart from ending up dead, men have indeed suffered from grievous bodily injuries caused by their intimate partners.
In 2015, Kenya drew unpleasant global publicity for having numerous men, especially from Central Kenya, being mutilated by their wives.
The wives opted to chop off their husbands’ private parts at the height of a domestic squabble triggered by either a husband returning home drunk or tracing ‘disappeared’ money, among other issues.
There are others who have been disfigured with acid. The case of Mr Dan ShieShie who has founded DanShieShie Foundation to speak against violence on men is among the most outstanding.
He is the brainchild of the men-only hotline 1196, launched in June last year, to help men access tele-counselling. In two months, the hotline had assisted more than 2,000 men.
Professor of Sociology at the University of Nairobi, Charles Nzioka says many men are suffering in silence due to social-cultural bondages.
“Men are all grounded in a culture that defines masculinity as endurance, persistence and any element that shows female dominance must be shied away from,” he says.
He adds: “Unless we change the cultural construction of masculinity, then it will be difficult (for men to speak out). They will continue suffering in silence. They will not raise their voices.”
Counselling psychologist and former chairperson of Kenya Counselling and Psychological Association, Prof Catherine Gachutha, says the men’s “dying in silence” attribute is costly.
“Many of them have died through depression, drinking, taking drugs (in pretext) of solving their problems,” she says.
For the men to speak out, they need to be helped to deal with shame and ignorance relating to the pain and damage caused by the violence, she says.
“Sometimes men take the violence meted on them for granted, like, she just pushed me but it is okay,” she says, “If someone is trying to demean you or dehumanise you; that is something that one should take seriously.”
She enlists tell-tale signs for a violated man that family and friends can look out for to help him before it is too late include when a healthy man suddenly starts suffering from malnutrition, shifts from smart to untidy dressing and withdrawn, hence no longer active or interested in things he previously enjoyed doing.
Ms Gachutha advises men against using counter-violence as a tool of solving the conflicts.
“Many at times, because of their orientation, they would want to counter violence with violence; hitting with hitting; shouting with shouting. The more they become violent, the more the other party is going to become violent,” she says.
Instead, she urges them to be firm, clearly state their terms and know “when to retreat and forge forward in dignity and not in shame.”
Victims in the last 12 months
These statistic may be skewed by the shame of men reporting abuse at the hands of a woman.
- Martin Kahiga 42; for not spending a night with the woman.
- Kelvin Njenga Ng’ang’a; disagreement over who would do the utensils after dinner.
- Bryan Indimuli; quarrel over a piece of ugali
- 19-year-old man killed by a 15-year-old girl; quarrel over unknown matter
- Charles Murimi, 49; reason unknown
- Edward Okello; domestic squabble
- Daniel Omollo Onyango; disagreement over a rented one-bedroom for the wife’s music business.
How to identify a violent partner
Like women, men also need to recognise what domestic violence looks like, and know that they don’t need to be ‘tough’ and accept abuse.
Physical: Hitting, slapping, punching, kicking, burning, strangulation, damaging personal property, refusing medical care and/or controlling medication, coercing partner into substance abuse and use of weapons
Psychological: Name calling, insulting, blaming the partner for everything, extreme jealousy, intimidation, shaming, humiliating, isolation, controlling what the partner does and where the partner goes and stalking.
Technological: Hacking into a partner’s e-mail and personal accounts, using tracking devices in a partner’s cell phone to monitor their location, phone calls and messages, monitoring interactions via social media and demanding to know partner’s passwords.
Economic: Inflicting physical harm or injury that would prevent the person from attending work, harassing partner at their workplace, controlling financial assets and effectively putting partner on an allowance and damaging a partner’s credit score.
Source: University of South Africa
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