The head of a non-profit organisation in Tobago is lamenting there is still too much societal stigma attached to men who are abused.
Michael Stewart of BMEN, which is geared towards the upliftment of men, told Newsday abuse against men, including those in the military and protective services, is prevalent."From where I sit, because I do counselling, I am quite aware of men who have been abused, particularly men in the military where, if they are caught retaliating, they will lose their jobs.
"I have known of situations where wives will be wilfully hitting a man and they say, 'If you hit me you know what will happen.' So, he is more or less powerless unless he is prepared to lose his job."He added: "So, there are issues of violence against men taking place. But that too is covered up because of the
stigma attached to it. If they go to report it, people may not believe it and they would be called names."Stewart said he has known men, who, in fits of rage, hit walls to avoid lashing their wives or girlfriends."One man's knuckles, I know, was broken because he wanted to lash out somehow. The discussion really is long and wide."At a plenary sitting of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) in March, then secretary for health, wellness and family development, Dr Agatha Carrington, announced she had received approval to establish a committee geared towards the elimination of gender-based violence on the island.On that occasion, Carrington noted the safety of women and girls against the threat of domestic violence and other forms of abuse continues to be a concern. She had called on the THA to urge all Tobagonians to reject and eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls.Carrington also requested a committee of all key stakeholders, led by the Division of Health, Wellness and Family Development, be established to devise strategies to tackle the problem.
She had told the House, “Last year, we recorded 41 women coming in for assistance. They came in for assistance, they were seeking refuge. There were issues with respect to domestic violence occurring in their homes. They came to the division for support, for refuge, for advice, for counselling. This issue is too widespread for us to sweep under the carpet. Apart from being widespread, it is impacting the stability of the health of families and communities.”Stewart said BMEN welcomes any committee to address domestic abuse."I am in full support of all the levels of galvanising that we are going to give to our women and men, and having a committee being put forward to say we are going to speak and deal affirmatively against violence against women, I think it is wholesome."However, Stewart said the committee also has to address abuse against children and men."We need to move it from just violence against women to violence generally. But currently, the overwhelming victims right now would be women and therefore we should really lend support.Stewart said while his organisation does not have any statistics on how serious the problem is in Tobago, he believes domestic abuse is still covered up."I would say that a lot of violence that would take place against women may still be covered up because of the pride of women in having to put their husbands and spouses out there. So they give excuses."We know of excuses they give to the medical people as to why their eyes are black and other marks on their skin."Stewart said some of the women are also married to prominent people, "so they may be hesitant to come out."It is prevalent, but how prevalent, I can't put a mark on it."New Health Secretary Tracy Davidson-Celestine is yet to make an announcement on the establishment of the committee.