By Denrele Animasaun
‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that’ -Martin Luther King Jr.
November 19 is International Men’s Day. It is a global event highlighting the positive value that men bring to the world, their families and communities.
It is important that it highlights positive role models and also to raise awareness of men’s well-being.
So, in the spirit of international men’s day, l am revisiting a subject matter rarely spoken about but it does affect more men on a daily basis.
Four years ago, I got to know the extent of this abuse through Matthew Gansallo.
Matthew Gansallo walked into my office and told me that he was going to write a book to help men who have been going through emotional abuse. I sensed there was more to his intent because I have always assumed that men were the perpetrators when it came to abuse. I was in for an education. Matthew Olaseni Gansallo, is an academic, a specialist, historian, museum director and an architect. I had no reason to doubt him though I saw this as a departure from his occupation.
At the same time, I was also intrigued as to what his motives were regarding this subject matter.
Although, he lives in London, he is very much a Nigerian who has a vested interest in the Nigerian community but also wants to give back by mentoring young people and nurturing their aspirations in higher education as to fulfil their fullest potential.
So we sat down and he explained the purpose of the book which by then had generated interests from TV and churches and several concerned citizens agreed that there is a need for a serious discourse.
We need to talk and for the sake of our men and family, we need to do it now.
He told me the story: there seems to be an increasing number of our men in the diaspora going through this ordeal and are reluctant to seek help.
Speaking to some of his friends, many in their 40s and 50s all confirmed that: men find it difficult to discuss their problems with close friends and family. As a result, they are even more reluctant to seek help at all.
Due to prolonged hardship and internalized emotional trauma, some unfortunately, do not see any other way out and they end up taking their lives because of the shame.
Matthew tells me, that, some men are ashamed to admit it but, that they are victims of emotional abuse and this is something that is often not talked about within our community. After all, it is always understood that men should be able to deal with their own problems.
Let me stress that women are more likely to be victims of physical and emotional abuse. Domestic violence is a serious problem, with one national survey finding that close to a third of all of Nigerian women have experienced physical violence, which encompasses battery, marital rape and murder at the hands of their intimate partners. But the same survey found that 43% of women believe a husband is justified in beating his wife for a number of reasons, including going out without telling him, or neglecting the children.
As we now know there is definitely an uphill trend of more men being emotionally abused and more so, at an alarming level across the diaspora and too higher rate to ignore.
This is a black thing, not just a Nigerian thing.
Matthews’s book: Men who suffer from emotional abuse; silent suffering, sheds a light on the phenomena.
This is happening to men in particular, who go home to get a wife and then settle abroad. According to his book, the abuse starts when the wives are about to or have received their papers or residency; they begin to make spurious accusations, then routinely emotionally or physically abuse, goad the man, threaten to take the children away, threaten to call the authorities and make him homeless and then make several calls to the authorities in order to make claims that the man is the aggressor.
The issue here is: It is always perceived that the man is the aggressor so automatically the man gets arrested, removed from the family home, told not to return, or contact his family, and with due process, he may get a caution or a criminal record- all this has a domino effect: could cost him his job, his family, his home and means of living. It could affect his physical and mental health, which impact his job and livelihood.
This modus operandi seems to be too commonplace for it to be a rarity; he said it is almost like there is a manual and it is tearing families apart and the emotionally abused man, in particular, comes out of this worse off as he grapples in silence with the abuse.
Emotional abuse chips away at a person’s feelings of self-worth and independence.
Emotional abuse can be as destructive and damaging as physical abuse and it damages the person’s mental health. It could also be fatal, where the man loses his life.
It’s common for physically abusive relationships to also include aspects of emotional abuse as this is how power and control is maintained within the relationship. It is insidious and unrelenting. The common pattern: man brings wife from home, he supports her and sometimes her family, he finances her studies, she gets her papers, she graduates, starts earning, trouble starts in the family home, physical and emotional abuse on both sides, children suffer, divorce pending, police are involved, man leaves home, restricted access to children, messy divorce, more stress and he becomes socially isolated and anger or depression sets in.
Usually, it does not end well. We, as a community have got to address this and urgently too, we have to admit that this is going on.
Unless, we open up and offer support, then it will continue to happen and it will affect the next generation and any relationship that this abused man may have after this trauma.
The children are victims too, and are pawns in this unfortunate situation, they become silent witnesses and they have to deal with this on a daily basis and this experience will affect them in later years.
They will become emotionally scarred if this is not fully addressed.
The break up definitely will have a long term effect on the children and the cycle of abuse is likely to continue as this becomes the norm.
There are a lot of damaged children in such abusive relationships so there are no winners here.
And the man in an abusive relationship often rides a lonely train, he often hides the emotional scars in public as if nothing is wrong and when he gets home, he deals with the reality: day in and day out, of this emotional abuse, there is no respite and it begins to fester, eating away at his being. He can either crumble or lash out. He becomes an expert in living two lives and keeping the secret and remaining silent, dare not confide in people.
This is a heavy burden to carry alone.
Who would believe that this man is the victim? He lives with the shame if found out, that he cannot keep the family together and the secret has a serious impact on his emotional health. Men are conditioned to be strong and to keep every emotion in. This is not healthy; it will affect the person both physically and emotionally.
For those who are experiencing emotional abuse; it is important to get help and get help earlier rather than later.