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Harry’s Law Highlights Abuse Against Men – A Very Real Occurrence
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Posted On: May 9, 2012
I applaud Hollywood for giving fair treatment to the very sensitive issue of male rape by a female in a recent episode of Harry’s Law on NBC.  The show began with one of the characters actually questioning if it’s possible to rape your partner in marriage, which shows society’s bias towards assuming all sex is consensual or expected to happen since one is married so there is no such thing as marital rape. Whether rape happens in marriage or in a dating relationship, or by a stranger, rape is rape. It’s a power struggle having nothing to do with sexual desire. Rape is about exerting control over another human being.

The second issue raised was whether it was even possible for a woman to rape a man. In this episode, the male character claimed he was raped because he was given a roofie type drug or Viagra with side effects that dropped his inhibitions and he was forced into something he did not want to do (and was mortified and humiliated to tell his wife).
Rape and male abuse by women is a very real occurrence but much less talked about because most men are too embarrassed to come forward. In the immigration context, this embarrassment is amplified by fear that they will lose their green card or status in the US if they come forward, under threat of retaliation from their wife. 
In the many cases I represent and the many men I speak to consultations in abusive marriages, the conduct of their wives in these marriages not only include rape, but humiliation in sexual relations and forced sexual performance under severe conditions. This is all done under the threat of deportation or even physical harm, if not by the woman sitting on top of the man’s chest beating him – then by threat of her brother, father, or uncle beating her husband up if he does not comply with her demands or do what she wants. In addition, many of these men fail to report the conduct of their wives because of the societal stigma of reporting abuse, especially when they live in a culture from countries such as India and Thailand where the man is expected to be the dominant and head of the family.

It is also often extremely difficult to remarry after an arranged marriage has fallen apart, let alone if allegations of abuse were the reason for the split.

  • Divorce, itself, brings shame in many cultures on the entire family and dissolving the marriage because of an abusive wife creates the stigma that the man is not a real man or capable of handing his private affairs and controlling his wife’s actions. 
  • A man can be in literal physical danger from his wife’s family if he returns to his home country – for bringing shame or hurting the wife’s reputation by reporting the abuse or telling anyone, making the threat of deportation that the wife uses to control him in the relationship –  that more scary and real for the immigrant husband, who often stays in an abusive relationship to avoid the cultural and physical dangers he would face back home.

Abuse against men can be physical, financial, and/or psychological/emotional.    The hardest part of my consultations is helping men recognize that they don’t have to live with the abuse. Many have never been married before and expect that all marriages are full of arguments, physical violence, yelling tirades, mood swings, and isolation from friends and family – because they know no other reality than what they’re living with their wife now.

Abused men can be manipulated in ways that aren’t typically used against women such as:

  • being blackmailed into providing for the wife’s family financially or 
  • being forced into unpaid labor for the wife’s family all under threat of being deported for noncompliance. 
  • Many times, men are stalked at work and harassed all day over the phone and in person by their wives and their wives’ family members that they lose productive jobs or are forced to quit because they can’t maintain their concentration. 
  • Abusive wives are also known to steal vital birth certificates, immigration documents including green cards, passports, and social security cards, of their spouses, as well as money and their husband’s credit cards to mandate obedience to their demands. 
Many times, abuse happens to very well-educated men who are  caught in situations they did not expect with a woman who turned into a different person after they married. They feel trapped and helpless to change their circumstances, with their abusive spouse dangling their immigration status over their heads.

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Attorney Heather L. Poole practices exclusively in the area of U.S. family-based immigration law and citizenship law. Heather is a nationally-published immigration author, frequent lecturer on immigration issues, and member & officer of the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s Southern California Chapter. For more information about Heather and the services offered, visit www.humanrightsattorney.com

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