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M_Id_123282_abuseA 250 lb. woman punches her 150 lb. husband, what is the man to do? A 150 lb. woman who holds a black belt in karate hits and punches her 250 lb. boyfriend, what is the man supposed to do? Ever since childhood, men have been taught, “Never hit a girl.”

Mothers frequently beat their children, especially boys. They may use wooden spoons, belts, hairbrushes, fists and hands to discipline their children. Yet, these boys are told time and time again, regardless of the circumstances, do not hit a woman no matter what. 

What would happen if a football player, punched by a woman, were to call 9-1-1 and complain, “my wife/girlfriend is hitting me!”?  What would happen if such a 9-1-1 call went viral?  Humiliating?  How many men would be able to tolerate the humiliation? How many police officers throughout the country would be sympathetic to a man who called 9-1-1 with a complaint that his wife or girlfriend was beating him up.

Is it no wonder that we don’t hear much about “woman-on-man spousal abuse? What are a man’s options? He is told to simply  “suck it up!”

So what’s my point? I am not condoning any form of abuse, whether man-on-woman or woman-on-man. It seems to me that if we want a less abusive society, all forms of abuse should be condemned.  And when punishments for abuse are meted out, they should be meted out without regard to gender.  Just because men are seen as stronger, does not make them any less abused by irrational, violent women who may think that just because they are women, they can get away with abusing their spouses. And men must begin to feel that they have as much right to call 9-1-1 and receive the same consideration by law enforcement as women.

When we think of physical abuse, we more often than think of men as the abusers. Most of the statistics that have been compiled about domestic violence portray men as the abusers.  However, that doesn’t mean that women do not abuse. It may only mean that incidents of women abusing men are less likely to be reported. It is highly sexist to assume that men should be able to cope with abuse inflicted upon them by women. We tend to minimize female on male abuse. Much abuse inflicted by women on men would not even be called abuse. When we see a video of a man slugging a woman, we are enraged. When we see a woman slugging her husband we may laugh or think he probably deserved it. A sexist view of the world.

When boys and girls are abused, whether by their mothers or fathers, there is an increased probability that they will become abusers as adults. While not all people abused as children become abusers, in my experience virtually all abusers were either abused or witnessed abuse as children.

People who were abused as children understandably harbor resentment towards their abusers. Such resentments fester within and may erupt toward others later in life. In other words, men who were abused by mothers (or who witnessed abuse of women) are more likely to abuse the women in their life. And women who were abused by their fathers are more likely to abuse the men in their life. However, the form that their abusive behavior takes may differ. Men tend to be direct. Women may learn more indirect forms of abuse, such as taunting or provocative behavior, or believe that they can get away being physical abusive because of society’s prohibition against a return strike by a man. Regardless of the form, however, abuse is still abuse.

The net result is that there are many potential abusers out there, both men and women. As a society, we have to recognize that both men and women are abused. We need a two-pronged approach for preventing abuse, one that focuses on remediating the causes of abuse and the action of abuse. We need a major public campaign against child abuse in all of its forms as well as a campaign teaching people how to deal with abuse as adults. This approach should apply equally to the genders, recognizing that emotional abuse and physical abuse can be destructive to either sex.