Kenya: Male Victims of Abuse Choose Silence to Avoid Humiliation

3 December 2019

Men would rather suffer in silence than bear the embarrassment of reporting domestic violence to authorities, new findings reveal.

In Nyeri, data from police show that in five years, no man has reported abuse. This is despite reports that men suffer domestic and sexual abuse inside their homes.

Records at the Gender Based Violence (GBV) reporting desk at the Nyeri police headquarters reveal that an average of 20 cases are reported annually, but none of the victims is male.

FEAR OF EMBARASSMENT

"Men tend to believe that it's better to suffer in silence than get embarrassed reporting that they have been abused by women," says Nyeri Central sub-county police commander Paul Kuria.

The recorded cases are usually rape or defilement and rarely do they entail domestic abuse.

GBV remains the greatest face of unequal gender relations in society and a violation of human rights despite attempts to curb it.

Violence, especially towards men, reached crisis levels in 2014 and 2015 when media reports were awash with stories of husbands being attacked and scarred by their wives. Cases of hackings and mutilation of men's genitals by their wives elicited national dialogue and for a moment, men spoke against sexual abuse.

However, the ridicule that followed pushed men back into hiding.

SAFE SPACE

The then Nyeri Woman Representative Priscilla Nyokabi decided to put up a GBV reporting office at the Nyeri Central Police Station. This was an attempt to create a safe space for victims of violence but public humiliation discouraged many of them from reporting.

Five years later, the office is deserted and officers deployed to other sections.

On the other hand, women report sexual and domestic abuse with ease. However, stigma surrounds reporting cases of domestic abuse forcing them to opt for out-of-court settlements.

Ms Mercy Joel, a psychology practitioner at Outspan Hospital and Medical College, attributes the situation to cultural and outdated beliefs saying failure to report GBV is because the society views it as inappropriate.

FAR REACHING EFFECTS

"A woman will be abused by her husband and hold on because to her, it is normal. If she runs away, her mother will send her back to prevent humiliation," she says.

Regarding men, she says society expects them to be strong and able to handle any issues.

"We live in a patriarchal society where men are taught to be manly and when violence is directed at them, they fail to talk about it," she says.

For men, the mental torture that follows the silence has far reaching effects such as depression.

"Men will not ask for assistance even when they desperately need it. They will choose alcohol, drugs or suicide as a way out," adds Ms Joel.

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