My first idea was to write on the subject of conjugal violence.
By Delphine Caubet
I wanted to know what goes on inside the head of a man who mistreats his spouse.
After several interviews and a lot of information collecting, I had to concede to two truths. First of all, conjugal violence doesn’t at all resemble the stereotype of a misogynous man who beats his wife. Secondly, the reality has changed. There’s a new sort of violence: mutual violence.
According to Quebec’s Public Security ministry, about 55% of all conjugal violence infractions in 2012 were level one, which means they were an assault in which force was employed against the victim without consent. The law does not specify what type of force was used. Threats and harassment made up 26% of infractions committed that same year.
If this article seeks to understand conjugal violence, the first people affected shouldn’t be ignored.
According to Sylvie Langlais, director of the Regroupement des maisons pour femmes victimes de violence conjugale, an association of women’s shelters, it’s principally about power and control. The man wants the woman to do something without negotiating. Conjugal violence is equal to a reign of terror.
When we ask Langlais about the progression of mutual violence in couples, she says that there is less physical violence and more psychological violence these days. She says we should pay attention to when we use the phrase “mutual violence.”
“The term is poorly defined,” she says. For the man it means control; for the woman, defense. “Many of the women we see here say that they didn’t have any choice,” explains Langlais. “The husband wouldn’t see reason, and it had to stop.”
On the issue of the increasingly judicial nature of conjugal violence, Langlais criticizes the justice system for not accounting for psychological violence. “With the justice system, it’s only about what they can see,” she says.
Who’s Telling the Truth?
“For some, violence is a choice, but that’s not always 100% true,” says Clément Guèvremont of Option, an organization that helps violent spouses and their spouses. That question unleashes the greatest emotion among those debating the subject.
For Yves Nantel of Service d’aide aux conjoints (an organization that helps violent men), the problem of what causes conjugal violence often gets swamped by ideology. Some speak of the patriarchal society; others raise indirect factors, some cite social factors… Everyone has a part of the truth. Day-by-day, Nantel sees elements of depression as major factors.
Josée Desjardins of Donne-toi une chance (give yourself a chance), a help service for men with violence and other psychological issues, has seen all sorts of cases. Some have a patriarchal view of the couple, others have mental issues. But the priority is always the safety of the woman.
First seen in Reflet de Société, Vol. 27 no. 2, printemps (spring) 2019, pages 8 – 9.