The killing yesterday of Stephon Ramnarine, allegedly at the hands of a teenager with whom he had a relationship, has put the issue of violence against men on the front-burner. While incidents against men are very rare, the reality is that they occur.
Ironically, only last weekend in this newspaper, Be Male Examples Now (BMEN) president Michael Stewart, when asked whether society gives men the support they need, responded, “I believe that we interpret gender equality and domestic abuse to be equality for women and not men and domestic abuse against women and not men.”
While women are sometimes ashamed of the aspersions that would be cast on them when they report domestic abuse, it is far worse for men, who fear they would be ridiculed by the very men and women they must report the crime of domestic abuse to and against.
It’s a well-known fact that there are many female-based organisations who lobby on behalf of women but there aren’t many groups lobbying in support of men. The one that immediately comes to mind is the Single Fathers’ Association, whose president Rondell Feeles encourages men who are victims of domestic abuse to speak out about it. He argues that male victims are too ashamed to talk to the police or relatives about it.
While it’s difficult to get local statistics, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence in the United States notes that on average, 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner. This equates annually to over 10 million women and men, with one in seven women and one in 25 men being injured by an intimate partner.
While these are not local statistics, it is heart-rending when relationships between men and women end in violence and death. Many of the relationships that end this way start off on an equal footing and somewhere things change.
While the latest incident is now a matter for the police and the courts, the fact is that someone, in this case a man, is dead. If one is to believe family accounts, the woman was the aggressor in the relationship.
Mr Stewart is of the view that male conferences that discuss “toxic masculinity” and female conferences that discuss “breaking the glass ceiling” only serve to broaden the gap. These narratives, he believes, must change to discuss males in a positive forward-moving dynamic way, not a negative one.
That is well ahead but many factors lead to conflict in the home, alcoholism, secrecy, a partner outside the marital home and joblessness. These impact both men and women in different ways. Few make reports to the police and in many cases, relatives and friends who claim to have information only speak out after it is too late. Lives could be saved if everyone just does their part. If you are in an abusive relationship, whether male or female, step out, report it and get help. The life you save could be your own. There is no shame in admitting something is wrong. It is far worse if nothing is done.