“Invisible Violence”: Translation into English of the article “Die verschwiegene Gewalt”

This is a translation into English of the article “Die verschwiegene Gewalt”, published on 8 September 2016 in the Reutlinger General-Anzeiger by Markus Hehn. Because articles of this quality about men affected by domestic violence and the people who try to help them are a rarity I decided to make this article accessible to non-German speakers.

Advice: The Pfullingen (town in South Germany) psychologist Sandra Hermann supports men who have been beaten and humiliated

PFULLINGEN. The girls night is in full swing and the chick flick on tv is reaching its dramatic peak. With feverish excitement the four women are holding each other by their hands as the pretty woman is having a go at her husband. When she suddenly slaps the guy the women in the sofa scream in delight.

And while one woman quickly rewinds the movie for another round of fun the other three dig in to the sweets on the table in front of them. The scene ends with a cheerful off-stage voice saying »Always a moment to celebrate«.

While Sandra Hermann gets the commercial’s punchline she does not think it is funny at all. Just imagine a group of men roaring with laughter when a woman is slapped on tv, she points out: „Would we still laugh if the roles were reversed?“

Fear of being seen as victims

For the psychologist from Pfullingen the video is just among instances of violence against men being portrayed as admissible. In her daily work she witnesses men suffering from physical and emotional violence, happening most of the time in their own homes.

»Many men do not even seek counselling though«, she says, »because they are worried that they will not be believed.« The stereotype of men as the dominant sex makes it harder as well to admit to themselves that they are being battered. »At all ages men receive less help which makes them think they have to go through it alone.« When a victim does come round to seeking help and consults Sandra Hermann her first concern is to explore all options while being an active listener. Whether a police report will be filed or whether he will come to therapy with his partner depends on the individual case.

Hermann points out what can be done, »what will be done will be decided by her clients though« Her clients are generally 30 years and above. There is no upper limit though, neither when it comes to age, nor the types of violence with which men see themselves confronted.

This ranges from physical violence in nursing care to emotional violence in relationships and includes insults, such as »You loser«, threats, such as »If you do that you will never see your children again« or frequently monitoring the mobile phone.

Men’s counselling network

In order to be able to help more men Hermann joined the »Men’s counselling network« in April this year. Its website lists contact points that are free of charge across the whole of Germany. Sandra Hermann is one among three in Baden-Württemberg, who are offering these entry point consultancy services on a voluntary basis.

Since the other spots are in Karlsruhe and Heidelberg, Hermann’s catchment area from Pfullingen is substantive. It’s only the absence of publicity that keeps her from being overrun.

The importance of publicity

Hermann though works on changing that. Public outreach is a major part of her efforts. »It’s a top priority«, she says. In that the 42 year old is supported by Andrea Sautter. The lawyer heads the Reutlingen branch of the »Weißer Ring«, a German non-profit that supports victims of crimes and their families – that obviously inludes men.

Sautter – together with Sandra Hermann – wants to create public awareness for the issue of violence against men. »Even the people affected often have a distorted image«, she says. Practical actions include displaying leaflets at police stations. »That is so important«, Hermann adds, »in order that people know that they are not alone and that help is available.«

It is important for the two women to emphasize that this is no backlash against the services for women. They use the example of shelters to stress this point. While the roughly 400 refugees for women across Germany are publically funded the four accommodation facilities offered by the men’s counselling network are funded exclusively through private donations. Hermann and Sautter state that there are not too many services for women but too few for men. They would wish for more support on the part of the public authorities, but there seems to be a lack of funds and political will.

That is why not much research is carried out in this area. Conversely the lack of knowledge is used to justify that there is no need for domestic violence shelters for men. Argumentatively, a vicious cycle, Herman states with disappointment. The problem: »There is no lobby and studies are costly.«

At this point Hermann recommends a look at our European neighbors. In the Swiss town of Brugg exists a men’s shelter where public funding is working. Clear-cut figures are proof of the demand: there are 60 to 70 monthly requests.

Breaking a taboo

Sandra Hermann has mixed feelings when looking at the future. The topic of male victims of violence is still taboo. She knows that it will take time before the general public will become receptive to this issue. »I am hoping for everyone affected that things will change«, says Hermann. »Because as things are right now it’s all distorted and one-sided. But when people want to live together help can never be one-sided.« (GEA)


Why #women against Feminism is the best thing that ever happened to women

Just a very quick note as I seriously need to catch up on some sleep. After living for one week according to US American time, i.e. staying up until the morning and then getting a couple of hours sleep before work I am beginning to feel like a zombie. I don’t think Twitter is something that I would like to take part in on a regular basis. It is is really difficult to make a solid argument in 160 characters. It all tends to just end in people arguing, as people only reinterate very basic points while they do not have enough space to reason their points. Most exchanges end after a couple of angry tweets. The one good thing that happened is that I have a met a few like minded people, who have confirmed my suspicion that the media repoorting we receive in Europe about Pakistan and India does not reflect reality. I hope to stay in touch with these people and learn more from them about the different challenges that men and women, girls and boys face in India and Pakistan.

In the meantime I just want to send a virtual hug to the woman who started the tumbl blog http://womenagainstfeminism.tumblr.com/ and facebook group https://www.facebook.com/WomenAgainstFeminism?fref=ts and the people who started the hahstag on Twitter. I am actually not sure who that was but it seems to have made all the difference as within days we have gotten a real movement together. So many women who used to sit in their homes and think they were the only ones who thought that something was very wrong with the established narrative about men and women. So many women who tried to point out these issues in discussions on social media and were confronted with nasty insults, accusations of being a fake female profile of a frustrated men and worst of all blockings. It is not without reason that on my ‘about’ page I have a picture of myself as a six year old peeking through the just demolished Berlin wall. Free speech is sacred to me. Take away my voice and you will have my wrath. Well, you won’t be able to hear my wrath obviously as you have blocked me from communicating with you and thus blocked yourself from hearing my words. I had heard Karen Straughan say before that the world of Feminism is a giant echo chamber. People who voice any dissenting opinion are first harassed and then blocked entirely.  At first I wanted to go on commenting on the facebook page of the Guardian (a formerly intellectual newspaper, last summer I would still carry a copy proudly around with me to show how educated I am 😉 ) to show that I am not afraid of the people who come on, don’t comment on the article and instead just write slurs about me. But then I began to realise that there was not much point in commenting anymore as there were too many holes in the comment thread. I could see people refer to other comments and noticed that I could not see these comments. The good things was that at this point I decided to use my blog again which had lain idle for almost a year, as I had created it with the intention of creating a positive image about Pakistan because what the media in Europe and the rest of the world presents is so utterly negative. But then it tuened out that I am not a Feminist 😉 It’s used as a metaphor and I am glad I can use it here as everywhere else I would now have hate rain down on me. I could simply not exchange a one sided negative view of Pakistan with a one sided positive one. The metaphor is not completely correct as it suggests that there was ever a very negative view of women out there which I would vehemently disagree with. In the past it was socially not accepted for women to do certain things and the same was true for men in regard to other things. Personally I have always felt that as a woman and former girl I have more freedom to cross societal boundaries than men do. I would think the same was true throughout history. Today it’s completely normal for women to work in Europe while stay at home fathers still get funny looks. And even in times in history when it wasn’t common for women to work there were woman working but men staying home with their children while the woman was the breadwinner? Not really.

I have this idea that people labelled me a man because that made it easier for them to insult me. Insulting a man is accepted but with a woman you are supposed to be courteous. When it happened for the first time I felt very hurt. But when I heard from Karen Straughan that the reason why she started videoblogging is that people were constantly accusing her of being a man, I was not so worried anymore. I adore her and so … 😀 I have also larned to take the accusations with a pinch of salt.


Feminists don't get sarcasm

This was on Friday last week. While this Linda woman has been searching me out on every article that I commented on on the fb page of the Guardian I came back to this article on Saturday – where she had left some Feminist talking points in the comments again – but had left my comments alone. It’s too early to say whether her constant harassment is over but I would generally say from my experience over the weekend (where I decided to miss two glorious German summer days in order to support #womenagainstfeminism) I would say that social media has become a much safer space, where people can share opinions without having to fear harassment and blocking. I am endlessly grateful for that to the poeple who got this movement going! When Feminists argue nowadays that I should be thankful to Feminists because without them I would not have a voice, I would not be allowed to have an own opinion, I can only say that very much the opposite of this is true! Without #womenagainstfeminism I did not have a voice. Not on social media and I was increasingly worried that I might have ruined my career by voicing my opinions as Feminism is so ingrained in our society, especially in the areas of life where people should know better than to blindly follow ideologies (I am seriously not sure if my work experience / placement with a German political foundation in Pakistan is still in).

women's page wants peace

On Friday morning I saw this post about peace and wanted to comment that sharing divisive memes with misinformation was no way of achieving peace. I had liked this fb page a few years ago because I support women’s rights. I support women’s rights and men’s rights! But they had recently shared some things that were obviusly not factual and I had done my duty and corrected them. But it apparently they are not looking for dialogue but are only a way one way channel, where they spread their message and if you don’t accept it you get blocked. That is Feminism – accept our message or stay silent!

Blimey, Feminists are still doing their thing on July 29th: accusing me of being a man and want to block me

twitter people want to block name erased

A Brandenburger is not just a burned pancake

Brandenburg is my home county and even though I love hopping on the city train to spend time in the multi cultural, arty, vibrant capitol of Germany  that’s on my birth certificate, I couldn’t really ever give up the clear lakes, surrounded by lush green forests (where we’ll traditionally go mush room foraging in the autumn) and the spacious avenues where one can cycle without being run over by cars. Now, on Saturday I learned that on top of all these advantages Brandenburg also enjoys the third highest amount of sunshine in all of Germany. But being a Brandenburger comes with responsibility. Responsibility for the sadly high number of people who don’t want to share the lakes, beaches and the sunshine. During these elections it has become clear again that we do have a problem and there is no point in denying it. When one reads that there is more racism in former East Germany one quickly gets into a defensive position – just like those people who didn’t like Malala pointing out the shortfalls of Pakistan in securing access to education for everyone – it’s so easy to say that there have also been attacks on asylum seeker’s homes in West Germany. But that doesn’t help anyone. Pointing the finger at others will not change anything. It will not make Brandenburg any more livable. It will not make it possible for me to take my international friends to the lake in which I learned to swim.


And it will also not allow Brandenburg to develop. The county is currently bleeding out. Young people have been leaving ever since the early 1990s when after German re-unification businesses were closed and the economy went haywire. Where children used to play, you only see old people today. In some areas people don’t have access to basic services anymore as the population has thinned out so much that here is not enough demand. What my county needs is young people coming in and bringing the place back to live. But instead the local population is driven by prejudice and xenophobia and revolting against any outsiders. What in Pakistan is called Taliban is here called NPD. They are different in name and while one has long beards and the other clean shaven heads (speaking of stereotypes). But both have very ‘clear’ ideologies that basically consist of conforming people to a very narrow idea of what a human being should be like. In fact, the criteria of what it shouldn’t be like like more in number than those for what people should be like. Both base their outlook of the world on clearly defining their enemies. They both can only exist because of their enemies. The hatred towards supposedly alien people – be they Christians or foreigners – is all that keeps their followers together. The societies that they want to create will never be peaceful. They are solely based on hate and terror. That’s why we need to educate people to learn to resist the temptations of these pied pipers.


Walls past and present

Let's go and see for myself what's behind our real and imaginary walls

Let’s go and see for myself what’s behind our real and imaginary walls

When I was little, all around me walls were coming down. Stone walls that had been erected long after imaginary walls between ‘them’ and ‘us’ had already been established in people’s minds. The wall was there to protect us from the evil Capitalists on the other side. Funnily enough the shotguns were pointed at us. It was one of us who was gunned down when attempting to cross to the other side. The ‘others’ were allowed to visit and even stay if they had wished so. It was ‘our’ people whom ‘our’ government was spying on in a big way. But the wall was there to protect us.

Likewise in my dad’s child hood, people had suddenly discovered that their neighbours belonged to some mysterious and alien culture. Thus, they had to be eliminated. Strangely, soon after nobody was safe from elimination any more. After one division had been firmly established, others were soon to follow. First it was the Jews, then, soon it was everyone who didn’t nod emphatically when the dark haired Austrian ‘spoke’.  Imaginary walls were being erected between each and every person.

When I was little, I was happy that the cold war was ending. Of course, I wasn’t consciously aware of that at the time but as I tasted freedom, munched my first Döner, started falling asleep to the sweet sounds of the English language that were incomprehensibly coming out of my radio like from another world, I knew that from now on we could travel everywhere and see with our own eyes how people were living there. No more stories about the miserable lives of people who were living a life style that was irreconcilable with our. People from whom we had to be kept away ‘for our own protection’.

But then Samuel P. Huntingdon came and exclaimed that once again there were people who were practising an alien culture which was a threat to our own. It was already the time of cheap travel and almost the time of broadband internet. And he wasn’t even screaming as loud as the Austrian, who had been turned down at art school and later had most artists killed who couldn’t flee the country quickly enough. Surely, people should have laughed about that political strategist who was apparently worried about losing his job in a post cold war world. After all Francis Fukiyama had exclaimed the end of history, the end of all conflicts. But once again people suddenly discovered that their neighbours belonged to some mysterious and alien culture. Once again they decided to listen to the fear mongering instead of going and seeing for themselves. I went to Pakistan and in five weeks I couldn’t find anything there to be afraid of.

However, my next door neighbour in my block of flats in Potsdam really does belong to a mysterious and alien culture. While most people that I  know strongly follow a culture that appreciates fresh and clean air (we like to get out of the house as much as possible to go swimming, running, cycling etc.) and obviously like to dry our clothes in the fresh air on the balcony instead of in the dusty attic. But these weirdos like to take a bunch of dirty dried plant leaves, set fire to them and put them into their mouth. Even though this is really weird, It would tolerate it (Potsdamers have to be tolerant, due to the King’s Tolerance Edict from 1685). Yet, our cultures clash vehemently on the balcony, when we can’t sit there to enjoy the fresh air and my laundry smells of burned leaves instead of fresh air. What to do? Should I inform the German Secret Service about our Clash of Cultures? Should I at least write an influential article about it in Foreign Policy magazine? I am sure late Sam Huntingdon would appreciate that I am using his example to find clashes of cultures all around me and don’t start to naively think that we might just all be human beings and since we’re all a little different but still the same, we might just get along :O


The Reluctant Fundamentalist I

… or how my presentation about Lahore was hijacked by questions about how people acted and felt towards me in Pakistan

I should have really written this at the beginning of July after my four day Post-colonialism seminar on The Reluctant Fundamentalist at uni. But then I got carried away on facebook as it is so much easier to write short snippets on which you get instant feedback, than writing a longer article without knowing how it will be received and without being able to set misunderstandings straight right away.

However, it’s never to late to share my experience with my class fellows, average German students of Anglophone Literature and culture, who know relatively little about Pakistan but often get to hear in the news how Pakistanis despise the US or ‘the West’ in general. As I was re-reading ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’ just before the seminar

At this post card shop in front of Lahore Museum, we met a group of students on a school excursion who asked us where we were from and then told us that "they had come all the way from Karachi." ;-)  So had we. ;-)

At this post card shop in front of Lahore Museum, we met a group of students on a school excursion who asked us where we were from and then told us that “they had come all the way from Karachi.” 😉 So had we. 😉

– the first time I had basically gulped it down – I realised that the others wouldn’t be be able to imagine the setting in Lahore as strongly as I had been, having travelled there only half a year earlier. Thus, I started to mark all parts in the text that featured Lahore and then looked through my holiday snaps in order to provide the real images to go with the fictional text. A slightly painstaking but enjoyable task, that I hadn’t quite finished, when it occurred to me that it’s usually the people that make a place. Thus, I spent the next five hours conducting an interview with the sheikh of Gulberg. Hehe, a real Lahori in the 64th generation to go with the book.

But as I sleep walked into class the next morning, I discovered that technology had let me down a bit as the interview sounded very broken and was barely comprehensible. The pictures and videos went well, but people were more interested in how I had been treated as ‘a Westerner’.  Since prejudice is the theme of The Reluctant Fundamentalist, it was actually a fitting question. But also one that I enjoyed answering, as my tired brain didn’t have to think much.

I had never felt so welcome anywhere ever in my life before. People were friendly and very hospitable to me. Wherever I went, everyone greeted me with a smile on their face. I was fed the best food and even given gifts by some people. One day, when my friend and I were staying at her uncle’s place in Okara, he took us to meet some friends of his. They couldn’t speak English but they gave me a scarf. I was treated like a celebrity. As I was beaming with the joy of my memories, I could see in the surprised faces of my class fellows that they couldn’t quite believe that I was talking about Pakistan. After all, I didn’t have German written on my forehead. People could have just as well thought that I was American and thrown rotten eggs at me. But no, they were just so happy that someone had braced the danger to come and see their beautiful country. Especially Lahore had once teemed with tourists. And it is a real shame that they are staying away. I just couldn’t believe my luck at the things that I was seeing, where I would have normally had to fight for space against hordes of other tourists. I wrote into many a guest book, feeling like an ambassador or such.
Only my friends were mean and put me on the first night through the torture of shoe shopping. It’s my worst nightmare on a a normal day, but with jet lag and preceding dress shopping, I was soon at the end of my wits when all pairs that I liked ended up being to small. Yet, when I had finally found one that was okay in width, the shop people adapted the length and then gave me tourist discount. What a contrast to the tourist premium that one normally gets charged on holidays abroad.

Proudly cycling through Potsdam in my Karachi sandals :D

Proudly cycling through Potsdam in my Karachi sandals 😀