He was 6’3”, handsome and strong. He exuded confidence. Women wanted him and men wanted to be him, but I will never forget the day my friend sat me down and said, “She beats me.”
He then proceeded to show me the cigarette burns, the images of cuts and bruises and the marks all over his back from the day he was repeatedly hit with an extension cord.
I sat in disbelief and struggled to comprehend how this was even possible. I mean, she was quite petite and even shorter than my own 5’5” inch frame. Then I remembered: abuse is rooted in mental control and manipulation.
Tears streamed rapidly from my eyes as I listened to unimaginable things. He detailed how she would threaten to take his child away if he left. He told me how she would remind him that he was a Black man with a record and the court system would automatically believe anything she said, so he had better “do what he was told.” He told me how if he tried to fight back when she decided to physically “punish” him, all she had to do was hit herself and leave a mark and tell the police he did it. She dictated his every move, controlled his life and threatened his freedom every single day.
And everyday, he suffered in silence.
All of these memories came flooding back to me last week when Darius Ellis was murdered by his girlfriend, Yasmine Elder. CBS News reported that he had been overpowered by Elder and forced to drink bleach. He was found on the ground outside and pronounced dead two hours later. It takes just 8 ounces of undiluted bleach to kill a 150 lb. adult. As someone very familiar with abuse, I am willing to bet this was not the first time this man was violated by his partner.
When are we going to start to honestly address Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) in instances when women are the aggressors? There are so many men who are regularly abused. They are regularly disrespected verbally, emotionally, mentally and physically. We should be just as OUTRAGED as we are when we see women violated when we hear these stories. But for the most part, Darius Ellis’ story flew relatively under the radar.
Abuse is not gender specific. Big men, strong men …Black men you would never think are victims too. Female abusers use all kinds of threats and have various types of leverage such as pretending to be abused by their mate, lying to the police, threatening to take away a man’s children and crying wolf when he tries to protect himself or restrains her.
IPV is a very real issue that people like to sweep under the rug or “not get involved in.” It’s even more covert and dismissed when the aggressor is female and or if the abuse occurs in same-sex relationships. Most people don’t know that the highest percentage of battered and abused people in relationships are men, according to a CDC study.
Intimate Partner Violence is in fact an epidemic and can be exceptionally challenging for men in homosexual relationships. Victims are often financially dependent, may face homelessness and not have family they can turn to. The support system is also the support system of the abuser and the threat of having their health status disclosed against their will as a form of control. These are just some of the reasons many are unable to leave an abusive mate.
We are all aware of how horribly victims of rape and sexual abuse get treated by society. Imagine what it must be like for an abused man. Having no one to tell or talk to because you KNOW that you will be ridiculed. A man will most likely be asked how he ALLOWED the abuse to happen, instead of simply being helped.
Imagine not wanting to go to the police station to file a report, because you know it will not be taken seriously. Imagine finding the courage to make it to court for an order of protection, only to be greeted by an antiquated judge who tells you to simply “man up” while everyone in the court room snickers with no idea of the gravity of the situation or your predicament.
Aside from the possible ridicule, there are very few networks of support for men who are victims of abuse. There are hardly any shelters and counseling centers to protect them from violent partners like there are for women and children.
We—especially Black women—need to create emotionally safe spaces for Black men to be able to seek help when they need it. We need to make sure we are open to what someone is saying and not negating their experience by telling them they are allowing it to happen or laughing at them because of their gender. The most detrimental thing you can do to someone who is attempting to share their pain is to minimize, ridicule, or call them a name (stupid, punk, soft, b****, etc). We always claim we want the men in our lives to be honest with us, but that cannot happen in an emotionally hostile or dismissive environment. Abuse knows no color, race, age, ethnicity, socio-economic status, or gender.
If you or someone you know is being abused, here are some resources:
In the U.S. and Canada: Call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.
Domestic Violence Against Men: Know the Signs, here.
Find tips for safety while in or trying to leave an abusive relationship here.
Neffer-Oduntunde A. Kerr, affectionately known by her nickname ‘Boom’ to many of her readers, is a freelance writer and blogger based in Chicago. Neffer has written for Ebony, JET and ChicagoNow. She is currently working on her first book and you can keep up with her on Instagram @itstheboomshow.