By Philippa Arthur
“When people think of abuse in relationships, the first thing they think of is a man abusing a woman,” Prince Addo, a victim of domestic violence said. “I was hit with cooking utensils, slapped several times and almost stabbed in the stomach with a knife.”
Addo, 30, was born physically challenged with a pediatric foot and ankle deformity and malformation.
He was a student of the Ghana Society for the Socially Disadvantaged, where he mastered in shoemaking and was given a shop to start his shoemaking business after his graduation in 2015.That same year, Addo met and got engaged to his fiancée – Mariama Alhassan.
It was what happened to Addo in his hometown in Eastern Region, Amanase that finally convinced him that he needed to leave the woman he once loved.
Alhassan, the fiancée of Addo, threatened to abort her four-month-old pregnancy and so they argued and got into a fight. She pulled a knife on him, threatened to stab him and run away.
“I begged and told her to put the knife away,” Addo said in Twi.
True to her threat, Alhassan took a drug in an attempt to end her pregnancy. She fainted and was rushed to Korle-Bu’s Intensive Care Unit.
The Police detained Addo for questioning into what had happened to Alhassan. Addo said that when he opened up about his predicament, the police considered the story funny and so made comments that suggested he was weak.
According to Addo, everyone involved in his case – from police, to social welfare workers and even his friends –ridiculed him because they failed to recognize that a young man could be a victim of an abuse by a woman
“It’s not been easy. Hmmm!” Three years of torture and humiliation in that relationship,” Addo said in Twi.
Addo is one of a growing number of male victims of domestic violence in Ghana. Dora Spio-Forson, a worker at the Kaneshie unit of Domestic Violence and Victims’ Support Unit (DOVVSU), said that women are not the only ones experiencing domestic violence.
“At the Kaneshie DOVVSU, we record a lot of such cases against men,” Spio-Forson said.
The 2016 Ghana Statistical Service report on Domestic Violence reveals that 71.5 percent of women and 71.4 per cent of men reported having experienced at least one form of violence (domestic and non-domestic) over their lifetime. However, the report showed that 50.8 per cent of men experienced higher incidence levels of physical violence than women (42.4 per cent), with such men facing common forms of physical violence like being slapped or having objects thrown at them.
Addo’s experience is somewhat “typical,” says Josephine Kafui Tetteh, a psychologist and a mediator at the Alternative Dispute Resolution Centre of the Accra High Court.
Tetteh asserts that in Ghana’s cultural system, men are associated men with physical strength, which doesn’t fit in with an image of someone being physically abused and psychologically degraded.
“Men’s need to be protectors has resulted in them not even seeing themselves as victims of abuse,” Tetteh said.
Addo’s case of domestic violence was reported to the Kaneshie DOVVSU Unit and later referred to the Kaneshie Social Welfare Unit; where an attempt was made to peacefully resolve the conflict between him and his fiancée.
For a long time, DOVVSU, the institution responsible for handling cases of domestic violence in Ghana, was known for helping only women and children, George Weah, a social worker said.
“Formerly it was Women and Juvenile Unit (WAJU) and now it is DOVVSU but most people still think that it is an institution for only women and children,” Weah said. “I think more awareness has to be done in the area of sensitizing men to seek help when they are abused like has been done for women.”
Some men have attested that indeed it will be very difficult for them to go to the police to report that their wives or girlfriends have beaten or maltreated them one way or another.
Godfred Attehson, Addo’s closest friend, said that he advised Addo not to report the situation when he first told him about it.
“It is very embarrassing for a woman to beat you up,” Attehson said. “He is the man, he just has to keep quiet and suffer in silence.”
Addo has found himself another girlfriend whom he claims “loves” and “respects” him.
“It’s difficult to report that you are being abused as a man by a woman but if you do, you end up finding peace finally,” Addo said.