The Women’s Coalition of St. Croix hosted a virtual forum Wednesday evening on the male perspective of domestic violence. The forum focused on both sides of the equation: the victim and the perpetrator. WCSC Executive Director Clema Lewis and Co-Director Carolyn Forno were joined by AARP Associate State Director of Advocacy and Community Outreach Pamela Toussaint.
Lewis opened the forum, “We thought we were helping the men when we started the Men’s Coalition, but I guess that wasn’t enough. It is both interesting and critical that we highlight the male victim and the male perpetrator.”
You are not alone, Lewis said. “The Family Resource Center provides services to all
Victims, regardless of race, age, national background, creed, or gender. We provide service to everybody,” she said.
Lewis said men are more reluctant to report abuse than females. They are the hidden victims, as we term the children. “Domestic violence can happen in any relationship, whether heterosexual or same-sex — it happens to people from all cultures, ages, races, and occupations. The forum will also focus on elderly men who are victimized, and we will learn about what men do and what they need,” Lewis said.
The theme for the forum is Evey1KnowsSome1 who is a victim.
Toussaint introduced Carnell Troutman of the Health Department’s Mental Health Division, Batterer Intervention Manager, and director of the Men’s Coalition of the V.I.
Troutman began his presentation with the definition of domestic violence as intimate partner violence, which is a pattern that exists over a period of time. It is a means of control with acts of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse, which is a learned behavior throughout cultures and families. An abuser watches relationships as they occur in their family, whether good or bad, he said.
Domestic violence is not caused by alcohol or drugs, genetics, illness, anger, stress, or problems in a relationship. It is the perpetrator wanting to gain control over the victim.
He can use a variety of tactics: emotional, verbal, spiritual or cultural, sexual, and physical, Troutman told the attendees.
A perpetrator starts off subtly, and then his actions increase. There is a common conception that an abuser is easy to spot. They are not, Troutman said. He may look like a handsome prince, a doctor, a minister, a coach, or your next-door neighbor — someone too good to be true. He has a guise. His other side is very different from what it seems.
Abusers are master manipulators. They wait until they are behind closed doors with their victim to show their abusive side, Troutman continued.
Troutman shared common characteristics of the abuser. He is controlling, charming, jealous, inconsistent, manipulative, threatening, demanding, and more. Questions one might ask: Was the perpetrator physically or psychologically abused as a child? Was his mother abused by his father? Is he known to display violence against others? Does he lose his temper easily or frequently? The answers to these questions may not define him as a perpetrator, but it means he has the potential, Troutman said.
Abusive partners can go on to have healthy relationships if they accept responsibility for their actions, Troutman said. “They can learn healthy, non-violent ways to interact with their partners.”
Alex Simon presented the male perspective of a domestic violence survivor. Simon worked for AT&T, among other enterprises, throughout his career. Currently, he is the Learning and Development Training Specialist at ITS ConGlobal in Housten, Texas. Simon is also a professional dancer and choreographer and the founder and artistic director of Cruzan Dance Company since 2003.
Simon opened his presentation expressing that fear and intimidation were his experiences while being married to his husband.
“Domestic violence can take on many forms,” he said. “Men are victimized more often, but they don’t come forward. It can be dangerous and deadly. The ‘Me Too’ movement has been tagged by the female, but males can also be victims of male abuse.”
Men remain silent about their abuse because they are afraid of recurring backlash, Simon said. The following applies to the reasons for their silence: They believe the police would not take them seriously or do anything about it. They are told you are not a man if you can’t take it. She didn’t come at you for any reason. It’s not abuse if she didn’t leave a mark on you.
Simon met his husband in 2018. “It seemed like a fairy tale. We both fell in love and proceeded into nuptials in less than five months. I could say it was love at first sight. I took a leap of faith and convinced myself that he was the one,” Simon said.
“The Colombian prince who charmed my heart to move in his direction suddenly showed me a different side of him. I had not taken the time to know him a bit longer. I didn’t listen to my inner voice, my intuition, or my friends and family who raised the red flag,” Simon recalled.
Simon could not escape the highs and lows of humiliation, control, distrust, and the stress of emotional and mental abuse, which finally led up to physical abuse. He took care of all the finances, maintaining both households in the U.S. and in Colombia. “It never seemed enough for him. His selfish and ungrateful actions led to so many arguments. I was working so hard. There were so many nights of despair and unhappiness. I could not understand why this was happening to me. Months ago, I was fine — single — but I was happy,” he said.
Simon thought that getting married would change everything for the better, but instead, it changed for the worst, he said. The more he invested in his husband, the more his finances were affected negatively. Simon became depressed. There were many incidents of humiliation from his husband abandoning him several times, and there were remorseful words exchanged between each of them. “I felt like a robot — programmed to meet his needs and to forget anything that had to do with my hopes and dreams,” Simon said.
The verbal abuse was always when no one was around, Simon noted. [This is one of the characteristics of the perpetrator that Troutman shared in his presentation.]
Simon described their second anniversary trip to Colombia in 2021 as a series of incidents that climaxed into his husband choking him and pounding his head against a concrete floor. The injuries were visible, but Simon did not press charges when the police arrived. “I still loved him, and I was in total fear of what could happen next. Would I see my mom again? It was one of the most painful and traumatic episodes of my life,” he said.
Simon shared information that can point the finger at someone who is or can potentially be a domestic violence abuser. Abuse knows no gender or socioeconomic status.
Physical abuse is not the only kind of abuse. At the center of abuse, there is always power and control, and entitlement. The abuser always blames the partner. Frequently, abusers are very charming when they are in public. The abuser does not look like a batterer. The charming person and the person at home are often two totally different people. The abused person can often sense when the switch occurs.
Red flags to observe are constant put downs of the victim, jealousy, monitoring finances, refusal to take care of expenses, withholding food, physically forcing sex, violence during sex, and many other characteristics.
There are plenty of resources. The cycle will continue until the victim gets help.
The Women’s Coalition of St. Croix and the US National Domestic Violence Hotline
are free and confidential and open 24 hours.
Simon closed his presentation with, “I am Alex Simon. I am a domestic violence survivor.”
Jackson Purkey presented the elder abuse story of the male victim. Purkey is an FBI agent of 30 years who has worked for 20 years covering St. Croix, St. Thomas, and St. John. His work in White Collar Crime highlights the elder abuse he shared and mimics what the two previous presenters shared. It is a crossover, he said.
Purkey focuses on the elder male victim, who is the target of fraud via mail, computer, phone, TV, and radio. There are numerous scams that ask for money, fake emails purporting to be from the IRS or banks, investments, mortgages, lotteries — all claiming that you have won money, but you must pay something to receive the money.
There are grandparent scams that will claim the victim’s grandchild needs money. The victim should not send money to anyone who is unknown to him. The grandchild’s parents or the police should be notified.
The romance scam will target an elder male who is widowed or divorced and is looking for companionship. When the victim goes to the website, the perpetrator will usually give fraudulent information and figure out the victim’s vulnerabilities, and will very quickly develop the victim’s trust. The scam could be a male pretending to be a female using a false photo. The victim falls in love, and the perpetrator will convince them to send money for an airline ticket because she is stranded overseas. Don’t send money to anyone you don’t know or have not met in person. Do not send compromising photographs or information that a perpetrator can later use for blackmail. Some victims fall for scams more than once and are embarrassed, so they isolate themselves from their families. This sometimes leads to depression and, unfortunately, to suicide.
“Learn to ask questions, don’t withdraw money from your bank account, don’t change your will, and don’t fall in love,” Purkey said.
There also are family members who scam the elderly. They come around when they know the elder is receiving their Social Security or their retirement money. They ask for a few dollars that can grow into hundreds and then thousands of dollars. Sometimes the family member becomes a caregiver and helps out in the home, so the victim feels obligated to give money. Then it develops into the elder giving the power of attorney to the caregiver. Eventually, the caregiver does not continue taking care of the elder, who suffers emotionally. There are unpaid bills, large withdrawals, high-value items in the home missing, and a change of personality in the elder. Friends of the perpetrator begin to hang around the home, and the victim no longer speaks for himself. The abuser speaks for him.
Avoid these issues by safeguarding your financial information. Make sure your attorney is aware of your lifestyle. Order a credit report. Identify suspicious activities in your bank account. Never sign anything without professional help, Purkey said.
Question 1 in the chat asked: How does the abuser recognize that he or she needs help when they think they are not doing anything wrong? Troutman answered, “They can see what others are doing through the 12 forms of domestic violence.” Lewis said, “Sometimes they get it, and sometimes, they don’t. Most perpetrators have a court order and go to jail or to Batterers Management. Sometimes it takes batterers to step forward to get help.”
Question 2 in the chat asked: How do you move on to have healthy relationships when you’ve been abused? Simon said, “It isn’t easy. You blame yourself. I invested in myself.
I started loving myself. When you give yourself to someone emotionally and spiritually, you have to detach yourself from that person and pour it back into yourself like pure water. Surround yourself with the positive. Heal within yourself.” Lewis said, “Get counseling. See a therapist. Take your power back. Attend a support group with other survivors. There’s no lack of services.” Troutman said, “They have no idea of a healthy relationship. You must provide a picture of a healthy relationship.”
Toussaint said, “AARP has been taking a hard look at the uptick since the pandemic of our elders being abused. We’re looking at the laws on the books since 2008 that have put protection in place for the elderly and the disabled. The amendment in 2019 was only for financial exploitation. There are other forms of abuse. We will be looking for partners in 2023 to join to fight to get the bill amended, looking at all forms of abuse and making it comprehensive with stricter laws to put a stop to abuse now and forever.”
Lewis closed the forum, “Whether a male victim or a male perpetrator, domestic violence has no gender. If we’re going to help people, we have to help everybody.”