I’ve been asked on more than one occasion, whether I was ever tempted to hit my ex-wife back.
The victim of domestic abuse for 9 years, my wife’s violent outbursts kept me on edge and I planned every detail of every day to avoid her triggers being pulled, because when they got pulled, the gates of hell were truly opened.
I was bitten, kicked, slapped, punched (she floored me completely on a number of occasions), and she attacked me with anything she could lay her hands on, like the set of keys, the metal watering can … and the candlestick (yes I know: it sounds like an Agatha Christie movie).
But when it was all kicking off, did it ever cross my mind to hit her back?
Whilst I’ve never been a professional cage fighter or Kung Fu expert, (although I did watch The Karate Kid back in the day) and whilst I’ve never been a violent man … I guess I could have hit her back, but:
- Would it have put her in her place?
- Would it have been justified?
- Would it have created a more peaceful home?
So to answer the BIG question first:
The thought of hitting back almost never crossed my mind because my autopilot response to her rage was appeasement rather than standing up to her. I was 100% focussed on damage limitation, so hitting back was simply not on my list of options.
However, towards the end of our relationship, I came close to hitting back on a couple of occasions because my fear had turned to contempt and I’d become increasingly worried that her violent outbursts were getting worse: I genuinely wondered whether she might kill me one day. But whilst I came close to the brink, I didn’t and I am SO glad, that I found the strength to avoid hitting back!
For any man caught in an abusive relationship, there are some critically important reasons to avoid hitting back.
- What will your children think if mummy has a black eye? Who will mummy blame? What will you say to them?
- When she reports the punch (sporting the black eye) to the police, to neighbours and friends, and ensures that everyone has seen it (including the parents on the school run) what will they think? Let’s face it, your justification that you hit her back after years of long term domestic abuse will not be believed or taken seriously if you’ve never previously reported the abuse (as most men haven’t). It’s one thing to feel ashamed as a man that you couldn’t prevent domestic abuse from happening, it’s quite another to perceived as the main perpetrator.
- If your relationship ends, how likely is it that the incident with the black eye (which she will have reported to the authorities) will make a headline appearance in court when you’re fighting for contact with your children?
If you want to survive abuse and come out the other side ready to repair, then reason, logic and rational thinking must prevail every time … and raw emotion must lose. So what is the rational thing to do? (I think you’ll find that hitting back is not the answer)
- Only as an absolute last resort and if you and/or your children are in genuine physical danger, should you take the necessary measures to defend yourself/your children and in defending yourself/your children, your primary motive should still be restraint/how to safely get away/how to confiscate the weapon if one is being used/and calling for help at the earliest opportunity.
- For anyone caught in physical abuse, my heart goes out to you. It’s a tough, tough call, particularly if you’re trying to shield your children from witnessing the abuse. I’ve been there before, holding back arms which are intent on slamming a candlestick over my head for a second time, feeling the pain from the first blow and I know what a horrible dilemma you’re facing. But when the emotions are boiling over and things are spiralling out of control; hitting back is a perilous and slippery slope.
- Revenge is over-rated: any temporary feeling of satisfaction will quickly disappear and revenge kick-starts an ever accelerating train, which then speeds out of control and can only stop in a colossal crash.
If you ❤️ this post, check out my recent TEDx talk: ‘Domestic Abuse, not a gender issue‘, where I describe my experiences of abuse, why I stayed, how I forgave and the wider issues faced by male survivors.
Andrew Pain is a high performance coach and TEDx speaker, serving people from all walks of life, enabling them to live boldly, wisely and with less stress, so they live life on their own terms and realise their most precious dreams. In his spare time, he is a campaigner, passionately believing that in order to effectively tackle domestic abuse, we need to de-gender it.