By Denrele Animasaun
Someone once said that every man is trying to live up to his father’s expectations or make up for their father’s mistakes….”Barack Obama
The International men’s day was celebrated on November 19th. The event is dedicated to men and to highlight the positive value that men bring to the world, their families and communities.
The date coincides with the birthday of the father of Dr Jerome Teelucksingh, a doctor from Trinidad and Tobago who relaunched International Men’s Day in 1999.
In 2020, the themes International Men’s Day is focusing on include: Making a positive difference to the wellbeing and lives of men and boys, raising awareness and/or funds for charities supporting men and boys’ wellbeing, promoting a positive conversation about men, manhood and masculinity.
I know how much my father’s presence meant to my siblings and I and in fact, to those around. Since his passing, I have a renewed admiration of his exemplary life. And I feel this in the lives of people who he inspired and how, they in turn, have gone on to inspire their friends, family and complete strangers.
I see that in the people that he has inspired. It was not what he said but, his example that he espoused.
My father often quoted this; that there are three things every man should do during his time on earth: Plant a tree, have a son and write a book. Well, he did all three. For those who are on the journey to achieve their goals it does not have to be these specific goals. Whatever it is, I applaud you all and please stay the course, and it is worth the journey.
We are here for a short while, and it is important to work towards your these three so that long after we are gone; there is a tree that our offspring can sit and play under, boys who will become men and stories to share handed from one generation to the next.
This is not morbid musings; it is actually a good way to aspire and inspire each other towards leaving a lasting and productive legacy. It is important that we highlight our positive role models and also to raise awareness of men’s well-being.
Organisers of the event that is now designed to help more people consider what action we can all take to “Make A Difference” and “give men and boys better life chances” by addressing issues such as high suicide rates, sexual abuse and health.
It is particularly important, in these uncertain times, with covid difficulties and the limitations it places on the main bread winners (mostly males) times are very hard and often one can lose hope or feel helpless, when unable to provide adequately for one’s family.
It can be very tough, dispiriting and traumatic at times, losing hope that life is not worth living. It is important that we acknowledge how hard it has become to forge ahead despite the hustle and knock back and always try to get up and try again. Culturally, boys and men are not supposed to cry or breakdown.
Men from very young are conditioned not to cry or express their fears and disappointment. They are to ‘take it as a man’, so they keep it all in until, they can no longer contain their emotions. They may try several maladaptive ways to manifest their inner turmoil; risky behaviour, physical and emotional abuse, anger. They may sit with their sorrows until the mind can no longer contain the emotions and the mind shuts down.
From my archive -Men who suffer emotional abuse:
Matthew Gansallo walked into my office and told me that he was going to write a book to help men who have been going through emotional abuse. I sensed there was more to his intent because I have always assumed that men were the perpetrators when it came to violence and abuse. I was in for an education. Matthew Olaseni Gansallo, this man is an academic, a specialist, and historian, museum director and an architect. I had no reason to doubt him though I saw this as a departure from his occupation. I was also intrigued as to what his motives were regarding this subject matter. Although, he lives in London, he is very much a Nigerian who has a vested interest in the Nigerian community but also wants to give back by mentoring young people and nurturing their aspirations in higher education for them to fulfil their fullest potential.
So we sat down and he explained the purpose of the book which by then had generated interests from TV and churches and several concerned citizens agreed that there is a need for a serious discourse. We need to talk and for the sake of our men and family, we need to do it now. He told me the story: there seems to be an increasing number of our men in the diaspora going through this ordeal and are reluctant to seek help. Speaking to some of his friends, many in their 40s and 50s all confirmed that: men find it difficult to discuss their problems with close friends and family. As a result, they are even more reluctant to seek help at all. Due to prolonged hardship and internalised emotional trauma, some unfortunately, do not see any other way out and they end up taking their lives because of the shame.
Matthew said, that, some men are ashamed to admit it but, that they are victims of emotional abuse and this is something that is often not talked about within our society and community. After all, it is always understood that men should be able to deal with their own problems.
Let me stress that women are more likely to be victims of physical and emotional abuse. Statistics support that women are more likely to be victims of gender based violence.
Domestic violence is a serious problem, with one national survey finding that close to a third of all of Nigerian women have experienced physical violence, which encompasses battery, marital rape and murder at the hands of their intimate partners. But the same survey found that 43% of women believe a husband is justified in beating his wife for a number of reasons, including going out without telling him, or neglecting the children.
As we now know, there is definitely an uphill trend of more men being emotionally abused, worse still, killed by their spouse. Year in, year out, we are witnessing an alarming level across the diaspora and at home far too higher rate to ignore. This is a black thing, not just a Nigerian thing.
Matthews’s book: Men who suffer from emotional abuse; silent suffering, sheds a light on the phenomena.
This is happening to men in particular, who go home to get a wife and then settle abroad. According to his book, the abuse starts when the wives are about to or have received their papers or residency; they begin to make spurious accusations, then routinely emotionally or physically abuse, goad the man, threaten to take the children away, threaten to call the authorities and make him homeless and then make several calls to the authorities in order to make claims that the man is the aggressor.
The issue here is: It is always perceived that the man is the aggressor so automatically the man gets arrested, removed from the family home, told not to return, or contact his family, and with due process, he may get a caution or a criminal record- all this has a domino effect: could cost him his job, his family, his home and means of living. It could affect his physical and mental health, which impact his job and livelihood.
This modus operandi seems to be too commonplace for it to be a rarity; he said it is almost like there is a manual and it is tearing families apart and the emotionally abused man, in particular, comes out of this worse off as he grapples in silence with the abuse.
Emotional abuse chips away at a person’s feelings of self-worth and independence.
The children are victims too, and are pawns in this unfortunate situation, they become silent witnesses and they have to deal with this on a daily basis and this experience will affect them in later years. They will become emotionally scarred if this is not fully addressed.
The break up definitely will have a long term effect on the children and the cycle abuse is likely to be repeated passed from one generation to the next.
There are a lot of damaged children in such abusive relationships so there are no winners here.
And the man in an abusive relationship often rides a lonely train, he often hides the emotional scars in public as if nothing is wrong and when he gets home, he deals with the reality: day in and day out, of this emotional abuse, there is no respite and it begins to fester, eating away at his being. He can either crumble or lash out. He becomes an expert in living two lives and keeping the secret and remaining silent, dare not confide in people. This is a heavy burden to carry alone. Who would believe that this man is the victim? He lives with the shame if found out, that he cannot keep the family together and the secret has a serious impact on his emotional health. Men are conditioned to be strong and to keep every emotion in. This is not healthy; it will affect the person both physically and emotionally.
For those who are experiencing emotional abuse; it is important to get help and get help earlier rather than later.
Do not be tempted to retaliate, it may lead to arrest and a criminal record, protect the children and contact the emergency services.
Always get evidence of the abuse, report to the police and get a copy of the police report. This will come in handy later on. Keep a journal of all abuse with a clear record of dates, times, and any witnesses. Include a photographic record of your injuries and make sure your doctor or hospital also documents your injuries.
Remember, medical personnel are unlikely to ask if a man has been a victim of domestic violence, so be honest and let them know the cause of the injuries.
Have a safe plan; confide in a trusted friend, identify a place to stay, keep copies of important documents outside the home.
Seek legal advice and get a restraining order against the abuser. Get support from family and friends.
Most of all, there is life after an abusive relationship and it should not define the person and it will take a while to trust again, but there is life after.
Time really does heal all wounds.
Matthew’s book is available in some select bookshops in Nigeria, Abuja and Lagos.
Anyone willing to purchase a copy of the book in the UK or Nigeria can email the sales team at [email protected]
‘Being a role model is the most powerful form of educating…too often fathers neglect it because they get so caught up in making a living they forget to make a life’.-John Wooden
Men, please check your health
Blood pressure. Men should have their blood pressure checked once every 2 years beginning at age 20. If your blood pressure is higher than normal (120/80), 145/90 is high so see your healthcare provider and it may need checking it more often. Modify your diet, reduce your stress, reduce alcohol and smoking, cut down on fat, drink more water, improve your sleep pattern and do some physical activity like walking about 10,000 steps five times a week.
Cholesterol. Most men should have their cholesterol checked every 4 to 6 years beginning at age 20. If you have an increased risk of heart disease or stroke, check it more often.
Prostate Health-Men 50 years of age and older should talk about screening for prostate cancer with their doctor. As Africans are more prone to have a family history of prostate cancer so should discuss screening at age 45. Regularly monitor with screening.
Blood glucose test- Screening usually starts at age 45 and is normally done every 3 years. Screenings may begin earlier or be done more frequently if you are at risk for diabetes (for example, being overweight or having high blood pressure and/or high cholesterol).or there is a family history of diabetes.