Like father, like son: how the damage from emotional abuse gets passed down

Like father, like son: how the damage from emotional abuse gets passed down thumbnail

“Shut the f**k up,” screams the three-year-old.

“No. You shut the f**k up,” screams his six-year-old sibling in reply.

The mother turns to me and, with a brittle laugh, says, “I keep asking my husband not to say that in front of the kids.”

Within my immediate social circle there are husbands who explode with rage when the house isn’t spotless and their clothes are not washed and ironed.

There’s a husband who tells his wife that her post-baby body is too revolting to have sex with, and there are several men who won’t allow their wives to talk on the phone when they’re home.

One man controls his wife’s spending to such an extent she can’t even buy her friend a birthday card. Another taught his son to apologise to his mother by saying that she is “young, skinny and beautiful”, thereby sending the message that these are the most important characteristics in a woman.

And there’s one who controls his wife by refusing to look after his own children when his wife upsets him.

I could go on. This is the common parlance of mother’s networks, both online and face-to-face. Women strategise and swap books like Why Does He Do That?: Inside the minds of angry and controlling men and sometimes their husband’s behaviour is so normalised they don’t even recognise it as abuse.

And every single one of these men would see themselves as a “nice guy”. They would be outraged at the very suggestion that they are anything but decent and loving family men.

They’d never recognise themselves in images of controlling or manipulative men, much less discussions about domestic abuse. Since they’ve never hit a woman, domestic violence is something that other men do.

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