Domestic violence is no laughing matter. But a man who went public about being abused showed we have a ways to go before the stigma is gone and victims are not shamed into silence.
British talk show host Jeremy Kyle recently welcomed a guest named Geoff, who shared his experience with an abusive ex-girlfriend.
"It was violent from her side," Geoff told Kyle on an episode that aired on Tuesday. He described one particularly egregious incident in which he felt forced to jump off a balcony to escape his abuser. "I ended up in hospital and I cut all my arm and back open," he said.
Rather than express compassion for this individual's trauma, though, the audience laughed. But Kyle refused to let their ignorance persist.
"It's not funny, though, is it?" Kyle asked his audience. "If a woman sat here and a bloke had locked her in a flat and she'd been forced to jump out, you would not be laughing."
Domestic violence has been covered on similar talk shows previously, but few have featured the experiences of male survivors. Their experiences aren't widely discussed, perhaps because they are often disbelieved or mocked. Still, 1 in 4 men has experienced physical violence by an intimate partner in some form, and 1 in 7 has experienced severe physical violence, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
While Kyle's response to this particular incident was a strike against sexism, it's worth noting that the same host has been criticized for failing to treat women with the same respect. A 2012 Feministing blog post pushed back on paternalistic, slut-shaming comments Kyle made to pregnant women on an episode devoted to DNA testing. One Guardian columnist criticized Kyle for participating in "moralized social sadism" on his show in 2014.
Despite his show's modus operandi, Kyle's reaction was appropriate. While domestic violence has largely been seen as a "women's" problem in the past, Geoff's decision to reveal his experience demonstrates that the issue of violence is far more systemic — and honest conversations do much to shatter the shame and silence that allow it to continue.
h/t The Mirror