Friday, June 4, 2010
One in Three Campaign

The violence in my family started very early. Shortly after our marriage I came home from work later than usual. I had had a few drinks with friends. I was confronted at the door with clenched feasts before my face and an angry voice. I was very young, 23, inexperienced and I felt threatened. I responded with a punch in her face. Her front tooth fell off. Despite immediate dental action trying to implant the tooth back she lost it. I was very sorry, ashamed, and I understood that I could not respond violently to her attacks.

Our marriage lasted 23 years and I paid dearly for that tooth but I never did hit her again. She was abusing me in many ways. Yelling and screaming was her regular weapon. I never did any housework well enough for her. When I did the shopping there was always something I bought that was wrong and it was worth shouting and nagging. Heavy objects were thrown at me a few times. I don’t know how I avoided being seriously injured. She tried to hit my head many times with long and heavy objects. My hands were bruised from taking the blows. Countless verbal abuses were used with real haterade. I have never heard such vulgar language from anybody else. Normally we were about the same weight, height and strength but in her rage she was much stronger and I always had to salvage myself with avoiding and escaping tactics. I remembered the tooth and could never retaliate.

We had 2 sons. When the older was about 15, he reacted once by holding her so she could not attack me when he saw her trying to hit my head with long and heavy piece of wood. It must have looked to him very dangerous as he never before reacted in any way to our fights. She went to see family and friends with the words “the son is holding and the father is beating”. Even though she did not have any bruises or any other marks of “beating”, only her words, nobody ever asked me or the sons about what really happened. They “knew” from her description. I think this was the effect of the ever present government campaign “Violence against women Australia says no”. The power of TV ads is very strong and everybody is programmed that “violence in the family = he is a perpetrator and she is a victim”.

Amazingly, she was always extremely careful to make sure that nobody from outside the house saw her shouting, being angry or violent. And nobody ever did. I often remember such a picture: she angrily and in a vulgar way complains about her friend, lets say Barbara, then the telephone rings. She picks up the phone and after a while, with a sweet voice says: “Oh, Barbara, we were just talking about you. How are you, darling?” I could never be able to be so hypocritical.

Sex? I had to beg for it always and usually when I bought something nice for her we had it but I was never allowed to ejaculate inside her. The sperm was too “yucky” for her to defile her “pure” body. I really don’t know how it happened that we had 2 sons plus 2 abortions.

Sometimes, when she had good days, I asked her: ”Why are you shouting at me and attacking me physically?” Her answer was always the same: “Because you are my husband. I have you for this reason.” I argued that I never agreed to be a victim, I never gave her licence to do that, and she promised before the altar to love me and care for me. She never had any answer to that.

I moved out twice and twice she tracked me down, was very remorseful and I came back. Eventually we decided to separate for good and we signed the agreement which I thought was fair. I said we could always swap places if she thought the agreement was not fair to her. It was like this:

- She was to stay in our house with both sons until the last of them would leave the house

- She was to pay the mortgage rates

- She was not to claim any child support from me

- I was to move out taking only my personal belongings

- If she was unhappy about this agreement I agreed to swap places with her.

I thought it was fair because we both worked, she even earned slightly more than me and our sons were 21 and 16, almost adults. Then she was left in the house with all the furniture and equipment and I had to start anew and buy everything again.

Well, it was only 3 months before I received letters from the Child Support Agency demanding support money for our younger son and from our bank informing me that our mortgage was not being repaid. As I found out later, our agreement was not valid legally and she was advised to ditch it.

An old lawyer from the Citizens Advice Bureau told me that if there is no VRO and no injunction was made by the Family Court about the household, I could simply take the truck, go to my house where she lived and take everything from the house, perhaps leaving her personal belongings. This is what I did. At this time both our sons were living with me already by their own choice and she had to pay the child support for the younger one to me.

The younger son was big and strong so he helped me to load the truck. She came from work and called the police but they could only ask me to leave some staff for her, they could not force me. The old lawyer was right. When the police were out the door she punched me in the face and my glasses fell off. I called the police back. My son was the witness so, very reluctantly, they had to charge her with common assault. Later she was found guilty and was fined $200 in the magistrates court.

I regretted then that our son had to go into court against his own mother but it was the only way to prove the truth of who was the perpetrator and who was a victim in our family. His mother turned against him for that as revenge.

Now I don’t regret anything as a few years later our oldest son committed suicide. He was involved in drugs but there is no doubt in my mind that the true underlying reason for this was violence in his family. Lack of self worth, lack of any help from other family members (my brother and his family lived in the same town), humiliation, lack of a role model from his father, my own suffering, humiliation, alienation from friends and family. All that contributed to his escape to drugs and tragic death.

The worst for me was the fact that all 3 of us being males had no chance of getting help from anywhere. Nobody wanted to know that a woman, the wife and the mother, was a perpetrator and 3 males were victims.

After separation and divorce I found to my surprise that there are women out there who actually like sex, they are loving, caring, not angry or shouting. In general, that there are normal women in the world. I really did not know that during 23 years of our marriage.

Before I migrated to Australia I was proud to be a man. I knew my role in society, I had good self-esteem, even though my wife was already violent to me. At that time it was not so often and society's awareness about family violence was different. Our Society was fighting against “Family Violence” not just against “Violence against women”. And I have always been against any form of violence so my integrity and self-esteem remained intact. In Australia this was simply impossible. According to everybody any violence in the family equals the schematic: she is a victim and he is a perpetrator. Full stop. This is very convenient for the Government and Police but is it fair? Is it true? It relieves everybody from any judgement but how can it be true? After all, both men and women are almost the same as human beings. Both can be angry, both can lie, both can hurt their partner. Why then such a simplistic solution to the problem of family violence in Australia? My God, politicians - wake up! This is not about a feud of men versus women. It is about a healthy society. How can it be healthy if we turn a blind eye to the truth? Why did you lose the balance and common sense for so many years? Maybe it is time to change, and return to a balance and equal rights for both genders.

Article originally appeared on One in Three Campaign (http://www.oneinthree.com.au/).
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