Tue. Jun 18th, 2024

I never thought my friend could hit his wife until I moved in with them. Now I feel complicit

Tyler Mitchell By Tyler Mitchell Jun12,2024
Allan (not his real name) was in between homes when his mate said he could stay at his place, free of charge.
The offer felt kind and their friendship spanned 30 years, so he felt comfortable moving in. After years of friendship, his friend’s wife felt like a sister, and to their kids, he felt like an uncle.
But a few months into living with his friend, three decades of friendship was shattered in just one night.
Recounting the night that happened a few years ago, Allan claims: “She pushed through my bedroom door in tears, and she’s like, ‘he just smashed a painting over my head and pushed me to the ground and pulled my hair.’
“She was physically shaken and just in shock.”

In Allan’s eyes, the couple came across as best friends. They complemented each other and seemed to have minimal friction.

Two women hold up a sign at a protest

There have been nationwide rallies in April calling for action to end violence against women. Credit: SBS News

In the minutes after the incident, he found himself trying to grasp answers about what had happened.

“He came in and he went after me and started accusing me of knowing too much,” he said.
“Then he tells her to ‘get her shit together’ as if it’s her fault.”

Allan told SBS that his friend’s demeanour that night was unlike anything he’d ever seen from him before.

“He was almost a robotic human. The way he was talking, it almost felt calculated,” he said
Within 24 hours, Allan says he was told to leave the house, and feeling helpless, he left his “sister” behind, after she shut down conversations about how he could support her to leave.
“She was adamant that it was going to be fine and it was going to work,” he said.

“In the process and the aftermath, I felt responsible for some of it. I felt responsible for her because she was like my sister, and you don’t want to leave someone in that situation.”

‘We are who we hang out with’

While Allan’s contact with the couple fizzled out and their friendship ended, he still “felt complicit”.
Memories of the times his friend made questionable comments about their relationship now came barrelling towards him. Every time, Allan had let the comments slide.

In the months after, he found himself reevaluating all of his friendships.

“It kind of makes you judge yourself as well, because I’ve spent 30 years with these men, 30 years of my life, hanging out with these men, and this is how they behave,” Allan, 40, said.

“I thought, well, what’s my behaviour? Because we are who we hang out with. Have I behaved like this in the past? I’ve never physically gotten angry at a woman.

“I’ve never wanted to hit, push, strike, but in relationships, we lie, we gaslight people, we carry on without actually understanding what it was.”

I thought, well, what’s my behaviour? Because we are who we hang out with. Have I behaved like this in the past?

Allan

He analysed his friends’ interactions with their partners, their passing comments about women, thinking about what they said versus what they really meant, and all the times he might have enabled disrespect to women.
“I’ve remembered incidents of them and their partners, them saying things to their partners,” he said.
“We watch this happen all the time and don’t say, ‘hang on a second, mate’.”
Domestic abuse, also called domestic violence, is defined by the UN as a “pattern of behaviour in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner”. Abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic or psychological actions or threats.
Allan said so many men, himself included, accept wilful blindness, choosing not to rock the boat. Those days, he says, are behind him.

“It’s not all men. Okay. It’s not. But I’m sure we’ve all done something to some woman that’s been inappropriate. Even if we didn’t mean to do it,” Allan said.

The domestic violence numbers that don’t marry up

More than 90 per cent of Australians say that violence against women is a national problem, according to the 2021 National Community Attitudes Survey (NCAS), by Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS) in 2023.

VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN INFORGRAPHIC .jpg

Source: SBS

But less than half — only 47 per cent — believed it was a problem within their suburb or town.

Karen Bevan, the CEO of Full Stop Australia, which supports people who experience sexual, family, or domestic violence, said being sceptical that you could know a perpetrator is problematic because there isn’t one type of person who fits the label.
“This is my family, this is your family. This is my colleagues, this is your colleagues, these are the people we know. This is my mates from school,” Bevan said.
“I find it hard to say because I feel like I’m casting aspersions on the people I know, but actually we have to believe.”
One in three women (31 per cent) have experienced physical violence since the age of 15, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics
The same report found that one in four have experienced violence, emotional abuse, or economic abuse by a cohabitating partner since the age of 15.
This year alone, 28 women have been violently killed in Australia, almost all from intimate partners, according to research organisation Counting Dead Women.
Bevan says every interaction between friends, particularly male friends, counts.
And every time a problematic comment is allowed to pass by, men can be empowered by what they perceive as indifference from their friends, she said.
“People are testing boundaries and they’re trying stuff out, and we get immediate feedback from our peers that helps us decide what choices we make,” she said.
“When men are making those kinds of disrespectful comments about their partner, maybe in the language they use to describe their partner, it tests the bounds. [They think] ‘oh, this is okay.’ And it allows people to slowly widen the boundaries of what’s acceptable.”

She adds that victims may also feel discouraged to seek help after witnessing this.

“Their partners who are the victims of their violence, they’re also getting that feedback, well, ‘people think this is okay, nobody’s going to back me’,” Bevan said.

“That’s why we are always saying it’s so important for men to model, respond, step up in peer interactions.”

‘The standard you walk past is the standard you accept’

Having friends tolerate, condone or even perpetrate domestic or sexual violence is a key risk factor for someone to use violence themselves, Professor Michael Flood, a researcher at the Queensland University of Technology, said.
And as the saying goes, he says, “the standard you walk past is the standard you accept.”

“Another consistent finding is that men overestimate other men’s support for sexist and violent behaviour,” Flood said.

In other words, when men don’t speak up in group settings and find their other friends are not pulling a mate up on a problematic comment, they’re more likely to believe that their friends agree with a problematic comment – not that they also disagree but are staying quiet like themselves.

So should you end the friendship?

Flood said sometimes it might be more powerful to continue a friendship with men whose views you disagree with.
“Because you’ve got a friendship with them, you’ve got much more ability to shift their behaviour than some stranger or some advertising campaign,” he said.
This is because you know your friends and know what they’ll respond to, he added.
“Staying friends with them is an opportunity to support them in making change and to constructively, respectfully put pressure on them to do that.”
“[Some men have] got friends who as far as they can tell, all their exes were kind of ‘crazy b*tches’ and every woman who’s gone out with them hates them. Now, there may be a good reason for that. It may be that, in fact, there’s a serious persistent problem with their behaviour.”
For Allan, he says the most productive conversations he’s had on healthy relationships have been with his ex-partner.
He’s grateful for them, but when he thinks about domestic violence, which he sees clearly as a men’s issue, he recognises the irony when he says: “I think I’ve talked to more women about this than men.”
If you or someone you know is impacted by family and domestic violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit . In an emergency, call 000.
The Men’s Referral Service provides advice for men on domestic violence and can be contacted on 1300 766 491.
For counselling, advice and support for men who have anger, relationship or parenting issues, call the Men’s Referral Service on 1300 766 491.
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Tyler Mitchell

By Tyler Mitchell

Tyler is a renowned journalist with years of experience covering a wide range of topics including politics, entertainment, and technology. His insightful analysis and compelling storytelling have made him a trusted source for breaking news and expert commentary.

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One thought on “I never thought my friend could hit his wife until I moved in with them. Now I feel complicit”
  1. As a woman, this story breaks my heart. It’s devastating to witness such violence, especially from someone you’ve known for years. Allan did the right thing by speaking up and leaving. It’s crucial to take a stand against domestic abuse and support the victims.

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