Monday, November 16, 2009

It's not the same

For some reason, I've heard and read a lot lately from men who think that their girlfriends yelling at them is identical to a woman's male significant other physically assaulting her.

Where did this idea come from?

Being yelled at sucks. Being yelled at repeatedly and systematically by your significant other already has a name: verbal and/or emotional abuse. But it is not the same as being physically assaulted.

If your girlfriend or wife is screaming at you for god-knows-what, in front of the kids, so all the neighbors can hear, that's pretty terrible. If this happens often, you should probably reconsider your relationship with her. If you stay, I can understand the reasons why you might feel compelled to do so. Perhaps you are afraid for the kids, maybe your life is so entwined with hers, maybe for decades, that you just can't muster the energy to leave. Maybe she's psychologically abusive and takes advantage of you to the point where you feel as though you're nothing without her. You know, typical signs of abuse. Mental abuse. Verbal abuse. Psychological abuse.

All of those kinds of abuse are terrible and should most certainly not occur within an intimate relationship. They all fall under the umbrella of "abusive behavior."

But it is not the same as physical abuse.

Comparing the two is inaccurate. I can be beaten to death. I cannot be yelled at to death. I can leave the room, the house, the city, if I'm being yelled at. I cannot leave the house if I'm physically injured to the point of not being able to move. And if that happens? I'm at the mercy of my abuser. At that point, my life is potentially in danger.

Do we typically tend to downplay the damaging effects of verbal assault and emotional abuse at the hands of women, and the wounds inflicted on male victims of these types of abuse? I'm sure we do. Of course that's not right. It's also not the point, though. The point is that physical assault and verbal assault are not the same.

Some might say that repeated emotional abuse can lead the victim to self-harm and/or suicide, arguing that emotional abuse does cause physical injury or even death. Of course it's true that some victims may be emotionally or psychologically beaten down to the point that they feel ending their life is the only option. But, ultimately, suicide is the choice of the person committing it.

Anyway, if I'm missing something, by all means, let me know. But I'm quite certain that it is just not the same.