Suffering in silence: men and domestic violence

Dominic Burrows mended his relationship with his mother after ending an abusive relationship with an ex-girlfriend  |
Photo credit: Dominic Burrows 

Society generally adheres to the notion that domestic violence is not exclusive to a specific race or social class, but there is a noticeable lack of attention given to the fact that domestic violence does not have a gender either.

As data and survival stories across the country are shared to educate the masses for Domestic Violence Awareness Month, it is important to note that though the number of abused men is not as high as abused women, the numbers are still significant. 

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), one in four men have been victims of [some form of] physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime, compared to one in three women. This number does not include the countless men who have been subjected to non-physical abuse.

Dominic Burrows and Ethan Posey, both Florida A&M University (FAMU) students and domestic violence survivors, are hopeful that black men will collectively come forward with their stories of survival in an attempt to shed light on a closeted societal issue.  

Burrows and Posey were subjected to domestic violence at the hands of ex-girlfriends.

“The abuse I faced was verbal, emotional and physical,”  Burrows admitted. “It went on for about a year, but it didn’t start this way.”

Like many domestic violence cases, the abusers are often charming and romantic in the beginning of the relationship. However, when the dynamic of his relationship did begin to change, Burrows admits that he suffered silently to avoid losing the woman he loved.

“She started off by guilt tripping me. She made me believe I wasn’t loving her enough,” he said. “It got to a point where she was so controlling that I could no longer even speak to other women cordially. I went along with it because I wanted to please her.”

“She broke me down and ripped my manhood away one day at a time. It stuck with me psychologically,” Burrows recalled.

Posey admits that because of his large stature, his girlfriend at the time would brutally beat him, knowing that he would not fight back.

“She was about 5 feet 1 inch. She liked to hit me because of her size,” he said. “I wasn’t going to hit her back.”

Posey believes that black men silently remain victims of domestic violence at the hands of women due to fear.

Ethan Posey, a survivor of an abusive relationship | Photo credit: Ethan Posey 

“It feels like the moment you speak up, you’re going to be blamed. It’s going to be turned on you as if you were the aggressor,” he said. “I’m a 6-foot-2-inch, 250-pound black man. I simply walk down the street and get looked at as an aggressor.”

“It’s the same reason that black boys are afraid to cry,” Posey added. “It makes [them] feel less than. It’s used to keep [them] silent.”

According to Burrows, the boiling point of his toxic relationship was reached when his mother refused to remain a part of his life as he continued to enable his now ex-girlfriend’s abusive behavior out of fear. 

“I pretended to break up with her to keep my relationship with my mom, but once [my mom] knew the truth about my relationship, she washed her hands of me,” Burrows admitted. “She told me that she could not stand to witness her son go through the same abuse she faced.”

After losing his mother’s support, Burrows fell into a deep depression. “At that point, I had no one friends or family left, and I finally broke down,” he admitted. The FAMU student was admitted to the Tallahassee Mental Health Center after a failed suicide attempt. 

Burrows’ message to men suffering through domestic violence is a simple one: “Black men, the taboo surrounding African-Americans seeking help needs to end.  You can’t allow your pride and stereotypes of men being abused get to you,” he said, “forget what society thinks because they’re not the ones going through the pain. Seek the proper help.”

Local men and women who fall victim to domestic violence can find help at Tallahassee’s Refuge House. Refuge House serves all people affected by domestic violence and sexual assault across the eight counties of the Big Bend.

Jane Doe, a Refuge House Crisis Center operator who remains anonymous, wants men to know that they have a 24-hour crisis hotline and safe center for domestic violence victims. They also offer counseling and injunction assistance in courtrooms.

“I think a lot of male survivors take more advantage of our counseling services because there’s still a stigma. We want them to know that they are not alone and don’t have to feel ashamed,” she said.

Posey insists that society should bring more attention to the verbally, emotionally and physically abused men who continue to suffer quietly.

“Our trauma should not be viewed as less important because it isn’t seen as frequently. Just because we don’t have the largest voice in the room doesn’t mean that we don’t have a voice.”