updated 10 Jun 2013, 23:11
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Why abuse happens

Why are men more likely to abuse women?

It has to do with the way men are socialised and the gender issue of needing to be dominant.

When they feel they are not respected and are losing control, they can resort to violence to regain control.

Some think it’s acceptable to hit their wives because their fathers hit their mothers. Others use their religious beliefs to justify “disciplining” their wives.

Why do some women stay in abusive relationships?

If abuse does not happen constantly, many feel they still love the men and hope that they will change.

Sometimes, it's also the fear that the man will kill himself or hurt the children if she leaves him.

Other times, women feel it's safer to stay in the relationship because of the children and economic reasons.

Do the abusers know that what they are doing is wrong?

These men know that inflicting physical violence is wrong, but they still do it. They often say they lost control or that they had no choice.

Are abusers less aware of psychological or emotional violence?

Many men don’t recognise such acts as violent. There was a case of a man who confined his wife for 15 years. He was afraid she would mix with the wrong company.

Once, she left the house to buy something. When he found out, he hit her with a clothes pole. Some men keep constant tabs on their wives, justifying it as an act of love.

We have to educate such people that this behaviour is not only controlling, but also a form of violence.

How do the abusers react when confronted?

They are often in denial and will minimise their behaviour. For example, one man said he only “tapped” his wife. But he had broken her nose and she had to be hospitalised.

Abusers also blame the victims for provoking or nagging at them.

How can counselling help abusers?

We listen to them and help them take responsibility for their actions.

The idea of change has to begin with them. They learn that there are nonviolent ways to express themselves.

How can counselling help those who are being abused?

Apart from looking to their safety and protection, we empower them and try to solve their issues.

If they are afraid to go home, we explore options like seeking help from family members, or going to a shelter.

â–  Mrs Seah Kheng Yeow, head of family development and community relations with Pave, has been counselling abusers and their victims for over 20 years. She shares with The New Paper on Sunday how abuse can occur in relationships.

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