Bullying creates bullies

He stands alone in the corner and stares into the distance, and to get him out of this trance, his wife tip-toes around him, trying to reach out to him.

He stands alone in the corner and stares into the distance, and to get him out of this trance, his wife tip-toes around him, trying to reach out to him.

On a good day his response would be a groaning denial laced with abusive retaliation. On days when he has it rough, her attempt would pay off in a flurry of punches, because spouses of men suffering abuse elsewhere, pay for it at home.

Psychologist Lungisa Mthiyane says: "Just like it's often portrayed in the movies, men who suffer abuse of any sort would rather die with the secret than confide [in anyone] because to admit to their secretly demeaning life is like admitting failure to control their lives."

They also have two common factors that work to their disadvantage: pride and an inability to express themselves.

Mthiyane says that spouses of men who have bullies in their life in the form of their boss, mother, landlord or even their former wife should not wait for the worst to happen.

"Once the signs are there, you can only imagine the turmoil inside that man.

"I have found that most spouses whose brunt-bearing tales ended up in homicide, saw the signs before the disaster," Mthiyane says.

Dokie Mothiba, the national director of the Family and Marriage Society of South Africa (Famsa) says that spouses of aggrieved men have to be prepared to help their men get professional help.

"These wives must seek professional intervention because once a man's pride has been damaged, the last person he is prepared to confide in is a woman.

"Men are raised to put on a brave front when in the company of women and this is what kills them slowly and turns their women into their enemies when these women reach out to them."

The last thing sufferers of emotional abuse want is a woman fighting their battles for them.

"This to the victim confirms his powerlessness," warns Mthiyane.

"Bullying causes injury to health and makes you ill because when your self-esteem has been tampered with, your mental health takes a nose dive, hence the tendency to snap at the slightest provocation."

Mthiyane urges spouses to act quickly on observing the following signs or symptoms:

l constant high levels of stress and anxiety;

l frequent illness such as flu, coughs, chest, ear, nose and throat infections;

l aches and pains in the joints and muscles and back ache;

l headaches and migraines, exhaustion;

l sleeplessness, nightmares, waking early and waking up feeling tired;

l flashbacks and replays, obsessiveness, being unable to get the bullying out of mind;

l skin problems such as eczema;

l poor concentration, forgetfulness, especially about trivial day-to-day things;

l sweating, shaking, palpitations, panic attacks and so forth.

Since these are ingredients for disaster, spouses, though they might declare themselves to be victims of terror at home, are advised to seek help for the victim-turned-terroriser if only to make sure he doesn't end up killing someone or himself.

"Physical abuse is a sickness on its own and to eradicate this mental disorder means that partners of these patients need to seek help on their behalf or suffer greater consequences," Mthiyane warns.

l Famsa: Tel: 011-975-7106; e-mail: famsa@global.co.za.

l SA Family Life Centre: Tel: 011-788-4784.

l POWA (People Opposing Women Abuse) - Tel: 011-642-4345 (national office).

l Life Line: 011-728-1347 (branches nationwide).