Abused husbands, violent wives
source: 'Today' newspaper, 31 October 2005, by Terrance Ang
31 Oct 2005
Husband abuse: when it's men who need shelter from violence
My mother once said "I always taught my daughter that she should leave any man who raised his hand to strike her. But I never realised that I would have to teach my sons that lesson and I regret it."
Unfortunately, I am the person who caused her to make this remark. I am part of a rare but growing species in Singapore - I am an abused husband.
In the three years that we were a couple, my ex-wife and I had the type of relationship that most people think only exists in soap operas. But the drama was painfully real.
We hear cases of women who are beaten by their husbands or male partners. And we rightly admire women who survive abusive husbands.
In Singapore, the Government has been
working with groups like Aware. The Woman's Charter protects the rights of
women in marriage and groups like Aware provide counselling and shelter
for women who survive abusive relationships.
But society seems to be blind to the idea that women can be abusive and men can be the victims. I was clueless - until I became one of them.
To be fair, my ex-wife suffers from bi-polar disorder. Her mood swings were extreme. Her personality could be described as being like something from the movie Gremlins On one hand she is the sweet, cute and adorable "mog gwai", on the other hand, she is also the vicious "gremlin".
At its best, the gremlin side of her nature would prompt her to call me at the office and be verbally abusive. I would avoid giving her the telephone numbers of places where I worked, but she would somehow find them whenever I switched off my mobile.
At its worst, her behaviour would result in public embarrassment and violence. She once walked into the men's toilet of a department store to confront me. She would not leave when asked to by the toilet attendant.
In the last major confrontation that we had, I ended up lying at the bottom of a bridge with her hands in my mouth and a fist to the side of my head.
Only one man, a Caucasian, offered to call the police. Everyone else walked past. Had I laid a finger on her, there is no doubt that every passer-by would have rushed to her aid.
Ironically, it was my father-in-law who suggested that I grab hold of her and physically scare her into behaving herself. At first, I tried to restrain her. But it dawned on me that if I left marks on her, she could paint a picture of me as the abuser.
Self-defence is hard to prove when you are 1.75m tall and weigh more than 80 kg, while your wife is 1.55 metres tall and weighs 50 kg. So the only option left to me was to allow her to inflict damage whenever she exploded in public.
It is a golden rule that men simply do not hit women - a man can walk away from a woman, but never hit her. Yet, whenever we see a woman hit a man, our assumption is that the man deserved it.
I know that my actions did not justify her violent outbursts, but people would assume I was at fault. I remember being hit several times with a bag containing a laptop at an MRT station. The station staff approached me as if they wanted to deal with me.
We tried counselling. I accompanied her to sessions at the Institute of Mental Health. By the end, I had to take out a Personal Protection Order (PPO) against her.
I told her that for three years I had lived on a street in London that was known for drug dealers and prostitutes. I had walked along that street, drunk and at dangerous hours, and never been assaulted. She was the first person to assault me. "But I'm your wife," she replied.
I've also come to resent the Woman's Charter as much as I have come to resent the notion that I, as a man, am in any way obliged to take care of a woman - even after a divorce. In the two years that I was married to her, I had to endure public embarrassment and violence - yet, I was the failure because I didn't have a regular income to take care of her.
There was an report in the press a while back about the rise in numbers of men taking out PPOs against women. To men, abused as I was, I would say Never resort to physical violence, we can never win.
And also, never be afraid to take out a PPO. It's not a shame to do it; sometimes it's the only option available. She says she is reformed and has found peace with God. She says she has acknowledged the fact that I have no desire to settle down and have children with her. I'm relieved.
We're in the process of filing for divorce. My parents are relieved I am out of this marriage, as are my friends. I'm suddenly discovering that I have a life. I still care about her; we still speak to each other, which amazes most people.
But the fact remains, trusting her not to resort to violence is one gamble that I won't take.
The writer is a freelance writer. Names have been changed to protect the parties involved.