Dissertation Abstracts

Intimate Partner Abuse and Male Identity: Experiences and Perspectives of Abused Men in Zimbabwe

Author: Justice M Medzani, jmmedzani@gmail.com
Department: Sociology
University: University of Pretoria, South Africa
Supervisor: Zitha Mokomane
Year of completion: In progress
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: Intimate partner abuse , gender-based violence , male identity; , Zimbabwe
Areas of Research: Family Research , Women in Society , Human Rights and Global Justice


Drawing primarily on post-structural feminist conceptualisations of identity and power, this study explored Zimbabwean men’s comprehension of their own experiences of women-perpetrated abuse and the ways they construct meanings of such experiences in view of their masculine identities. To achieve this, the study specifically focused on five aspects: 1. The common conceptualizations of male identity in Zimbabwe; 2. The forms of women-perpetrated abuse experienced by men in Zimbabwe; 3. Male victims’ perceptions of abuse perpetrated by women; 4. Strategies employed by the victims in response to the abuse; 5. The support needs of men who have been abused by women who are their intimate partners. Interpretive phenomenology underpinned the qualitative approach adopted in this study. The main data sources were key informant interviews with selected individuals who, as part of their official jobs provided various services to abused men; semi-structured in-depth interviews with married and cohabiting men who had, in their recent past, been abused by their female intimate partners; focus group discussions with younger and older community members to solicit societal views on the markers of male identity in the Zimbabwean context. Tele-observation, which entails following television, social media websites and other media coverage of events and issues relating to the topic under investigation was adopted as an auxiliary method of capturing societal views on male identity and the types of abuse men are often subjected to by women in Zimbabwe. One of the main findings of the study is that there is no single form of male identity in Zimbabwe. Rather, male identity is fragmented, fluid and unstable. It is also marked by vulnerability that emanates from the reliance among men on third parties, among other sources, to define what constitute manhood. The study also revealed that vulnerability among men is demonstrated when they experience the different types of women-perpetrated abuse which include emotional, physical, sexual, psychological, economic and legal abuse, inter alia. Despite the inherent multiplicity of meanings derived by male victims from their experiences of intimate partner abuse (IPA), the perceptions that stood out are that; IPA is an expression of women’s power through both direct and indirect ways; and that women-perpetrated IPA is a basis for victims’ questioned identity (masculinity). It emerged that there are multiple coping mechanisms adopted by male victims, which in this study are categorised into primary and secondary coping strategies. The former includes seeking help from the justice system, family and friends, and civil society and faith-based organizations. The latter, on the other hand, entails individual actions such as alcohol abuse, home-desertion, suicidal thoughts and divorce. All in all, these coping options were shown to be ineffective and/or limited. To this end, the support needs of men abused by their female intimate partners were identified as informational support – regarding possible remedial actions they may consider, emotional support, instrumental support such as provision of temporary shelters, support through media coverage of cases of abuse against men, legal support and spiritual support. The overall conclusion of the study is that inclusive approaches, interventions and programmes, which are open to acknowledging that persons of all genders can be victims or perpetrators of IPA, need to be adopted in the fight against IPA and all other forms of gender-based violence. The thesis concludes with recommendations for policy, practice and future research.