When Nguyen Duc Tung turned to hug his wife, she scolded and kicked him out of bed, saying: “You are like an animal, don’t touch me”.
He took the pillow to the living room and slept on the couch.
“This house has become hell on earth for me,” the 35-year-old living in the central Nghe An Province says.
He used to be a construction worker and his wife, Hang, used to run a small shop at home.
But after having their third child in 2016, life became difficult, and she borrowed some money and found an agent to get her a job in Taiwan.
Tung stayed back to cook and take care of their kids, and the family relied on the money Hang sent back.
Though their economy did not improve much, the couple’s marital relationship started to deteriorate.
She would visit home for two weeks a year, but their estrangement only grew.
“She would complain that I stink and am a freeloader, and she was the only one making money in the house.”
After saving some money, Hang returned to Vietnam and opened a large grocery store.
Tung still does the housework, drives his children to and from school and assists his wife with imports and delivery.
Their sex life has improved since her return, but whenever Hang is angry or frustrated about something, she yells and chastises him.
One time when she had a disagreement with her mother-in-law and Tung did not defend her, she scolded him and did not let him sleep on the bed that night.
She glares at him whenever he makes mistakes and even kicks him in the back.
Tung’s situation contains three elements of “reverse” abuse, a term many people use half-jokingly to refer to husbands facing domestic violence: physical, sexual (forbidden or forced relationship) and psychological.
Truong Anh Tuan, a lawmaker from Nam Dinh Province, speaking about the issue of gender equality during a National Assembly discussion in November 2017, said: “There are many cases of men being beaten, rejected or embargoed by their wives. But because of their self-esteem, these men do not dare to seek help.
“When it comes to gender equality, people think of women and forget about men.”
La Linh Nga, director of the Center For Research And Application Of Psychological Science In Education in Hanoi, says: “Women are frequently subject to both mental and physical abuse, whereas men are more frequently subject to emotional abuse.”
According to a Ministry of Public Security report in 2013, 20 percent of victims of domestic violence were men.
Another study published by the Nghe An Department of Culture and Sports in 2017 found 58 of 601 victims of domestic violence were men.
A U.S. study of 8,000 couples between 1975 and 1985 found the rate of physical assault was the same for both men and women.
Elizabeth Bates, a researcher at the University of Cumbria in the U.K., says society does not recognize that men can be victims of domestic abuse and violence.
She expresses concern that the story of men being abused by their wives is sometimes depicted in comedic contexts on television. Men are discouraged from seeking help because they are afraid that no one will believe them, she adds.
Nguyen Duc, 47, a Ho Chi Minh City doctor, says being unable to share his marital problems with anyone makes it stressful and he does not know where to seek help.
His wife makes generous use of vulgar language when they have an argument. Once he arrived home late from work, and Tu, his wife, did not make dinner and was glued to her phone, making him angry.
When he asked her why she just picked up a fruit knife that was on the table and threw it at him. Fortunately, he was able to evade it.
He has knee stiffness and difficulty walking. Once when his wife told him to pick up the children he refused because he was afraid he would fall in the middle of the road.
“I wish I don’t have a husband like you,” she said viciously.
“What she said hurt me a lot since I was in pain with an illness.”
He says that she now sleeps with the children and leaves home early and returns late to avoid facing him and eating with him.
A survey by the Institute for Social Development Studies (ISDS), a non-profit organization, of over 2,500 men aged 18-64 in 2018-2019 found the rate of abuse by wives was 4 percent, or half the rate of abuse by husbands.
Tung of Nghe An reveals he takes sleeping pills or drinks alcohol.
“Having no career or money and being looked down upon by my wife and children is harrowing.”
A quarter of the men in the ISDS survey, like Tung, admitted to feeling pressure, financial in 80 percent of the cases, and about their career in 70 percent of them.
According to Hoang Anh Tu, a public speaker and journalist, men who are abused by their wives often resort to alcohol or in turn abuse the wife and children when they can no longer stand it. This results in a vicious circle and a deadlock.
Tran Van Hung, 41, of Thanh Hoa Province is frequently chided by the local women’s association for abusing his wife and daughter.
The last time officials visited Hung’s house to resolve a squabble, he told them: “I promise I’ll stop being violent with my wife. But please tell the women’s association to advise my wife to be less mean and angry.”
Hung works 14-hour days and frequently until midnight as a mechanic, but says when he gets home his wife would often ask “Why can’t you teach Ty to study?” and accuse him of being illiterate.
“You are not handicapped, why can’t you help sweep the house?” is another of her constant refrains, he says.
She would take a dig at him by telling her son: “You should learn how to do housework or else in future your wife will disparage you.”
Sometimes when he is drunk, Hung takes out his frustration by grabbing his wife’s hair and slapping her.
Tu says society and men themselves should forget gender stereotypes and take a more objective view of domestic violence if the situation is to be changed.
“The story of men experiencing domestic violence is a reality that society must address instead of laughing and mocking”.
Nga says that instead of feeling ashamed about being a victim of domestic violence and hiding it, men should confide in close family members such as parents and siblings-in-law or mutual friends.
As for Tung, he plans to file for divorce. He says he adores his children but believes nevertheless that it is time for him to be free.
He is considering a move to Hanoi to find a job.
“She told me I want to move to Hanoi because I have a mistress,” he sighed.
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