Feature: Monster wives

It’s rarely talked about. But 5.4% of domestic violence cases are wives abusing their husbands. Most of these women physically injure the men, or make them fear that they will be hurt.

WHEN it comes to domestic violence, most of us think the perpetrator is a man.

But what if it is the man of the house who takes the beating?

It’s not as widely reported, but it does happen. Unfortunately, experts say men tend to remain silent if they have been abused.

The ugly truth is that there are husbands and fathers who have been at the receiving end of aggressive wives, making up 5.4% of 1, 037 domestic violence cases between 2017 and June 2018, according to news reports.

Most cases were reportedly due to jealousy, sexual dysfunction and partners seeking a divorce.

Women, Family and Community Development Ministry also reveals other reasons when contacted: financial problems, being hot tempered, misunderstandings, alcoholic wives, drug addiction, involvement of third parties and child custody issues.

As shocking as it may sound, the most common type of abuse by wives is physically injuring their husbands, or inflicting fear in the men that they will be hurt physically.

“Other forms of abuse include causing damage to property with the intent to cause distress to the victim as well as psychological and emotional abuse, ” the ministry tells Sunday Star.

“If you are a man who has been abused, call our hotline Talian Kasih 15999, or contact your nearest district Social Welfare Office, ” the ministry advises.

Looking at the overall picture on domestic violence, a total of 602 cases were recorded by the ministry last year.

Most victims (552) or 91.7% were female.

The remaining 8.3% or 50 victims were male – 10 adults and 40 boys aged below 18.

For female victims, women outnumbered girls, with most victims (92%) aged 18 and above while the rest were children aged below 18.

Among the men, the highest number of abuse cases were recorded in Selangor (15), followed by Negri Sembilan (10), and Penang and Kedah (seven cases each).

Most victims were granted interim protection orders in the ministry’s efforts to aid their situation.

Of the total 533 abusers recorded last year, 522 were men while 11 were women.

Most or 61% of male abusers were aged between 22 and 39. Of the women, eight were aged between 22 and 39, while three were between 40 and 59.

While it remains a fact that most domestic violence victims are women, it doesn’t discount the pain and anguish suffered by the minority male victims.

However, there isn’t a dire need yet to set up an organisation specially to handle cases for male domestic abuse, says the ministry.

“Currently, the number of domestic violence cases involving males is not alarming, therefore establishing a dedicated body or organisation similar to Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) is not yet necessary.

“However, should the need arise and the reported domestic violence cases involving male is serious, a special committee shall be formed to look into and evaluate the need to form such organisation, ” the ministry adds.

Family law practitioner Honey Tan believes that more could be done by the authorities to combat the perception that men do not face domestic abuse.

“The Health Ministry, Women, Family and Community Development Ministry and the police should step up campaigns to clearly state that domestic violence by anyone is wrong and illegal, ” she urges.

While she concedes she has not come across many cases where a husband is abused by his wife, she says gender stereotypes could have contributed to low reporting rates.

“From my observations and work in the area, it is clear that gender stereotypes play a big role in the low reporting rate.

“Men are stereotyped to be strong, ‘ in control’ of their wives, being the breadwinner and the head of households.

“To admit that they are domestic violence survivors will be a tough admission for them to make, ” she points out.

WAO advocacy and communications officer Tan Heang-Lee notes that a bigger and more urgent concern could be the abuse of the elderly.

“Among the domestic violence cases reported to the police in 2015, 25% of victims were men, but 1% of perpetrators were wives and former wives.

“This likely means that many male survivors of domestic violence were abused by family members, and not their spouses, ” she says

She adds that elders are especially vulnerable to abuse due to “social isolation” and “denial of their autonomy”.

She says while the Domestic Violence Act covers all forms of violence between spouses and family members, policy makers also need to make addressing elder abuse a priority especially in light of Malaysia’s ageing population.

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