Many times we have a great conflict in deciding how to counsel a male victim of abuse without showing misandry in any form. That is, showing them that unlike the society at large we as counselors do care for them the most. The primary idea in this is to share our shoulder for these victims to cry on. This is how men’s rights forums have been working for so long. The result, in-spite of the sacrifice of so many fighters’ and their parents’ lives, society at large still insensitive towards issues relating to men.
Identifying the male victim
Before we get into this discussion of helping men in distress we should understand who are these distressed men? How to identify that a man is distressed? Unless we identify a distressed man properly our solution or method of counseling will go wrong. To understand and identify a distressed man, we need to carefully analyze each person/case.
Men who want to move on
It doesn’t matter if one has got a false 498a, DV or maintenance case; there are many men around us who do not consider themselves as victims even after these false cases. If as a counselor we consider these men as victims or distressed then we will make the biggest mistake, because they never considered themselves as victims in the first place. These are the men who want to settle the matter with money (negotiate and reduce the amount may be) and move on. Neither do they understand the value of our struggle nor do they have any reason to stick around with us. They just contact us to know if they can reduce the maintenance or alimony amount.
First of all, we need to understand there is no easy solution to these cases. Today there are so many legal provisions for women, these cases can be dragged onto for a long time if the other side is informed or have a good advocate. When we tend to provide an easy solution in our first interaction and don’t make them realize that the battle is likely to be long drawn, they get frustrated to see a long drawn battle in reality and lose respect for our fighters. They think of this movement as a group of some arbitrary losers and misguided men. Hence, giving an easy solution to one and all is a strict no-no.
So in our first interaction itself, we should make two things very clear to the victim –
- It is a long drawn battle and there is no easy quick-fix for them
- Each of these victims needs to be champion of their own cases, only then they will be able to handle the pressure of their cases
We want to understand that men who want to negotiate for a less amount and move on may be right in their way of thinking, but they are not going to help us in our movement. They don’t even understand the sacrifice of our fellow fighters and they don’t understand that paying easy money to their wives may be ok for them, but that sets an expectation to everyone around that in any divorce ONLY men have to pay irrespective of the merit of the case. Even if they understand this, they will not care because in the first place they have never respected the movement.
So while counseling these men, we need to make them understand the value of this movement, sacrifice of our fellow fighters and their family members. Most of these men consider we are a toll-free number giving only answers to their questions and we have no expectations from them. That is the reason they can never understand the danger of the gender biased laws. They don’t know the feelings of the men who lose their jobs but asked to ‘Beg, borrow, steal’ to maintain their wives. They don’t understand how fathers who are denied custody of their children commit suicide.
If we categorize these men along with those who have fought long battles without any job, lost their family members, lost all respect in society and so on, we will show our greatest disrespect for those warriors. It is about respecting women who file false rape cases and comparing them with real rape victims. In this movement, this is the last thing we should do – to show disrespect to our earlier fighters who have put in a lot of effort to create this ground/platform for us.
2. Men who want easy divorce
There are many men who come to us for the suggestion on how to get divorced. Well, as I said earlier we are a movement and not a law firm that gives easy divorce tips to men. Those who come to us for divorce tips are like the first category of people who are not victims, they are not warriors too. They mind their own business, get divorced and move on with another girl.
We should identify these men at the first possible instant and separate them from other victims. They are not victims.
3. Men who use extreme language/abuses
In a first instant, they show as if their wife had all the faults and they use abusive language to describe their wives. Well, nowadays using these abuses in normal conversation is not a big deal for many but it does show the person describing his past relation too. More often than not these men emerge as not warriors. They come to meetings when needed and vanish when they don’t need any help. They may come to one / two of our programs too, but they never become a warrior. They use/abuse the platform and then move on.
Understand, they are not victims too. They come to us only for their personal vengeance that does not help us or the cause in any manner.
There may be other types of men who are not victims and hence we should not consider them as victims by ourselves. So we should not make the mistake of considering these men as victims.
4. Real victims of abuse
Now that we can segregate the real victims we need to strategize how to help these guys. I have already expressed that spoon feeding is not empowerment even for the real victims. So the question comes when we get a real victim who comes to us for help and does not have any help from the society or the people around him, isn’t it foolish to tell them to study some complex articles, victim stories or may be legal articles. So in such a case, when we come across a real victim who comes crying to us and who does not know anything of our laws, and already has undergone a lot of cruelty in his life what should we do?
Well, I have always been against any easy solutions, but I have never been against giving these men (only real victims) a shoulder to cry on. So as a counselor the minimum we can do is to give them a patient hearing, a platform to vent their frustration. But at the same time, we need to make them realize that there is no easy way out and they need to be an informed warrior to fight their battle. Because if at the start they have some issues that we provide an easy solution for, some other time they may have some other grave issues. If that happens, they again need to come back to us unless they are empowered in the true sense. So giving easy solution may make them feel better but that takes away the importance of knowledge and being master of one’s own case. That exposes them to a greater risk in future and also doesn’t help the movement in any manner. Once these victims understand the power of knowledge, they become a warrior. They not only respect other fellow fighters but also respect the movement. They become a fighter in the long run.
Counseling – the ART
We have seen why it is important for us to understand the victimhood of a person before we help them. Also if we consider every man accused of these false cases as victims, we will make the biggest mistake. We also lose our value to these men because they start thinking that we are fighting for a trivial reason. They not only think low of our fighters but also mock this movement on other platforms even if we provide them with an easy solution. We need to understand that counseling human beings is an art and the main objective of any counseling should be to empower the person and make him realize that ‘Self Help is Best Help’. We can only help them find the right path, and there may be many such paths. So they need to choose the right one based on their judgment and understanding.