AS Zimbabwe joined the rest of the world in marking the annual 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign, which is meant to raise awareness on gender-based violence and its effects on women, it is worth noting that men are also victims who often suffer silently because of widely held social norms and perceptions of gender, which makes it difficult for them to come forward.
The campaign which starts on November 25 runs up to 10 December every year. Moreover, when men do speak, service providers frequently fail to listen to or believe them.
Nevertheless, the story of a Bulawayo man, Carlton Woodend, who was beaten by his abusive wife Prudence Ndebele and decided to break his silence in a bid to save a lifeline service will apparently inspire thousands of men who live in silence and pain.
Woodend, from Cowdray Park suburb, and who has since separated from his wife, turned to court when he eventually felt he was “better off dead”.
He said before they separated his wife who would be nasty to him for days at one time, struck him with a hammer on the head.
Woodend’s story which will supposedly encourage a growing number of other male victims of domestic abuse not to leave it so late, was heard at the Bulawayo Civil Court where he was seeking a protection order against his estranged wife.
“I reported a case of assault against my wife Prudence Ndebele. She used a hammer to hit me on the head and before that she also tried to stab me with a knife. I, however, managed to escape unhurt.
“She is very violent and she also uses vul_gar language to insult me. Her two younger sisters have also threatened to kill me and as a result I am now living in fear and want the court to intervene by granting me a protection order against her,” begged Woodend.
He said his estranged wife also destroyed his cellphone adding that she was also denying him access to his child.
Ndebele defended her alleged violent conduct saying when she assaulted her estranged husband she was acting in self-defence.
“He was the first to assault me, so I was defending myself that’s why he didn’t report me to the police. We are no longer staying together after we separated on 21 October and from that time, we never had a misunderstanding but he comes to my home,” she responded.
Woodend, who apparently felt that he needed help to get to the root of his feelings, insisted that Ndebele was abusing him.
He maintained that before they separated, he was trapped in a violent marriage and was silently terrified that he might die at the hands of his wife.
Woodend’s prayers were, however, not answered when the presiding magistrate Marygold Ndlovu dismissed his application saying the court was not satisfied that he was under danger to warrant a protection order.
“There is no basis for applicant to seek a protection order. It is clear that the parties have marital problems and they have separated. From the time of separation, they have been seeing each other well and applicant seems to be bitter about the issue of the child.
“It also appears he is seeking to enforce a marriage through this court as well as access or guardianship. The court is not satisfied that he is under danger to warrant a protection order since parties are living separately and peacefully, application is hereby dismissed,” charged the magistrate.
Meanwhile, gender activist and counsellor Duduzile Mhlanga said there were numerous reasons why domestic violence and abuse was not reported by men including a fear of retaliation or a lack of trust or confidence in the courts and police.
“We know that domestic violence against men is a seriously under-reported crime, and we know men, feel ashamed if women are beating them. They fear being ridiculed if they report the matter to the police.
“Surprisingly, when a man beats his wife, he will be judged severely and when a woman does that to her husband, people always blame the man as the perpetrator. This is now the time that abused men should open up by bearing in mind that domestic abuse is not a gender issue but a violence issue,” urged Mhlanga.
She said it was also important to note that while the number of women victims eclipses men, the proportion of males reporting domestic abuse increases with age.