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Tuesday
Sep072010

Don

I am a single-working father, raising two young boys on my own. After enduring years of physical and mental abuse from my ex-wife, I decided to end my marriage; uncertain of what the future would hold for my boys and I. I went into "family" court asking for official custody of the boys, nothing else, so that I could repair the damage inflicted on them at such a young age by my former abuser. I left with said custody - and a financial future for my sons which is frighteningly bleak. If I am lucky, the boys and I will get through this without going bankrupt.

Without carrying on about the horrendous bias and destruction being inflicted upon men all across Canada by "family" court, the other tragedy which I have come to realise through this experience is that there is a cover-up occurring within our government. A cover-up that has been executed so well that most people, even those that are living through its' horrors, don't even know it is present. I am referring to the domestic violence myth.

When you mention "domestic violence" to anyone, they immediately picture women or children (most likely young girls at that) being yelled at, beaten and otherwise abused by some horrible husband and/or father. I am certain you thought the same when I mentioned it. Like everyone else, you have been led to believe that "domestic violence" is one-way; males abusing females. The media is full of such images, yet void of anything regarding women abusing men. There are hundreds of shelters, employing thousands of people and receiving millions of tax-payers' dollars in funding, for women and children seeking refuge from some horrible man. There is one shelter in this entire country (receiving zero dollars in public funding) for men, with or without their children, trying to escape an abusive spouse. There are even school districts which are training their teachers how to spot potential "future-abusers" in young boys; without paying any attention to abusive tendencies in the other gender. This has all been by design, not accident.

The government's own study, conducted by Statistics Canada in 2005, showed that just under half (46 percent) of all inter-partner domestic violence is actually committed by women against men. I would bet my paycheque that nine out of ten people in this country did not know that such a study was even conducted; let alone that this was one of the key findings. All the public has seen is a propagation of the stereotypical male-on-female domestic violence image.

Whether or not my boys and I go bankrupt for having ended my former abuser's reign-of-terror, I take comfort in knowing that they will become neither abuser nor abused now that I am in control. This has been my main objective throughout this horror. The other goal which I have inadvertently accepted is to expose the domestic violence "myth". To this end, I will tell you my story.

In front of others, she was the "perfect wife" and "perfect mother". I played along like a good little husband; afraid to indicate otherwise for fear of retribution later. Behind the walls of the house, however, I was being kicked, scratched, hit, belittled, worked like a dog and blamed for all of her problems. The point where I hit back for the first (and only) time was the very same day that I sought counselling for myself; ensuring that, no matter what may happen, my boys would at least have one functioning parent.

There had been many assaults, too many to count. Just as horrible, though, was the mental abuse. Many people would not be able to appreciate how horrible mental abuse can be unless they have lived through it. For those that don't understand it, the only parallel I can draw is to imagine military boot camp from some of the television shows or movies you may have seen. Mental abuse from your spouse can break you down in exactly the same way.

To help keep myself sane, I started a diary on our computer (locked with a password of course, so she would never be able to read it). Through the worst of the abuse, my diary grew to over 70 pages in length (single-spaced pages); most of which was written while she was sleeping. Inside, I would tell of everything that was horrible that she had done to me that particular day.

One daily entry in my diary talked about her insisting I help with our son (we only had our first child at the time) from the moment I returned from work until she went to bed (as I did every day); yet insisting that I stay up to clean up the mess that she had left for me in the kitchen (from the entire day). It took me until 2:30 in the morning, but I managed to clean everything up. I was tired, and knew that work would be tough that day (on three hours sleep) but, at the same time, there was a feeling of comfort; knowing that there was no way she could be upset at me about anything when she woke up. Just as I was getting ready to go up to bed, she came down from the bedroom. With a look of anger on her face, she walked over to the kitchen. I was terrified. She picked up the dish cloth from the left side of the sink, slammed it down on the right side of the sink then grumbled at me angrily, only inches from my face, "This goes over here!!!". Saying nothing else, she went back upstairs and got back into bed. I cried. I actually cried; silently of course, so that I wouldn't give her any other reason to get mad at me.

Another diary entry described my Fathers' Day experience in 2004. The night before, I was up until past midnight (for the same reason mentioned above). As I went to bed, I promised myself I would not give her any reason to be angry at me the next day; curious to see if she would actually be civil to me on, of all days, Fathers' Day. Morning came. I woke up to the sound of her looking after our son. I was amazed she had actually let me sleep a whole thirty minutes after she woke up. She said nothing when I came downstairs from the bedroom. I started interacting with my child. She barked at me to stop interfering with her routine. I got myself a bowl of cereal then sat at the table with my family. She made some remark about how it must be nice to be able to get breakfast for myself. Without saying anything, I obediently went back into the kitchen and prepared something for her to eat. When I placed it in front of her, she got up from the table angrily, telling me to forget about it - I was too late. She then took our child upstairs. I sat alone at the kitchen table.

The day carried on in much the same way; with me still wondering if I was ever going to hear the words "Happy Fathers Day". Sometime that afternoon, she brought out two wrapped gifts. I thought this was going to be the turning point in the day. She placed the gifts, and our son, in the middle of the living room then sat down beside them. Looking over her shoulder at me, she still said nothing. I sat down with them; expecting this is what I was being ordered to do. She then placed each of the gifts in front of my son and opened them up; saying to my son in a sweet, motherly voice, "These are for Daddy".

Later that night, a friend called. When I answered the phone, the first words she said were, "Happy Fathers Day Don!". At that point, I realised I had gone the entire day in my own home, among my family, without having had anyone say those words (or even be civil) to me. The feeling in my stomach was indescribable. Still, I was afraid to even tell this friend what it was that was bothering me; in case my abuser overheard. It didn't work. The look on my face was all she needed to get angry at me; insisting on knowing who was on the phone and why I looked so upset. As much as I didn't want to fight, I ended up getting raked over the coals and smacked around for half an hour before she finally gave up, took our child upstairs and fell asleep with him in our bed.

When a person is enduring abuse as horrible as this, they are in survival mode; just trying to get through each day - hopefully, without being punished, humiliated or attacked. You inherently stop paying attention to your own needs. Such was the case with me. Near the end of 2004, I started noticing I was more tired than usual. With what was going on at home, I guess I wasn't too surprised. I was also having some twitching in my arms and legs, and the occasional dizzy spell. Again, I thought it was just stress. The few times I did mention something to my abuser about how I was feeling, I was scorned. How dare I be so self-centred; only caring about myself instead of concentrating on helping her. When I finally did go to a doctor, in early 2005, it was discovered that I had an egg-sized cyst growing in the middle of my skull. I was scheduled for brain surgery within three weeks' time.

There was a lull in her abuse of me in the six weeks that I was off work following my surgery. Shortly after I returned to work though, she returned to her old ways. A few days later, while I was feeding one of our boys (we had two by then) some dry Cheerio's, she started insisting that I let him pick the Cheerio's out of the cup rather than me taking them out and placing them in front of him. I (foolishly) ignored her demands and continued what I was doing. When she grew more irate, I picked up our son and started walking down to the bedroom so that I could avoid a confrontation. She attacked me from behind while I was carrying our son. I set him down, turned around and hollered at her to stop. When her fist connected across the side of my head, there was a sharp pain and immediate ringing in my ear. Wincing, I stood up and hollered at her again. She did the same to the other side of my head. After yelling at her one more time, she began wailing across my head with both arms. I grabbed my coat and left for work before there was any more violence in front of the boys.

Later that day, when the pain and ringing hadn't subsided, I went to the hospital. After naively trying to tell the doctor that I didn't know what was wrong, telling him some story about how I woke up with a strange feeling in my ear, I eventually told the truth.

Having already been charged with one count of assault against me, and subsequently released on twelve months probation (less than a year earlier), I knew that reporting this incident to the RCMP would result in her being charged again - and left with a criminal record. Over the next couple days, I tried convincing her to sit down and talk with me; explaining there was something very important we needed to discuss. She eventually conceded; insisting that I tell her over breakfast with the boys present. I looked at her and calmly said "When you hit me two nights ago, you fractured my eardrum." She stared at me for about five seconds then said, with a cold look on her face, "You deserved it!". She then returned to having her breakfast.

I calmly grabbed my jacket, walked out of the house and drove to the RCMP station where I reported her latest assault on me (and breach of her probation). She was arrested and removed from the home. She spent a couple days in jail then moved around various places for the next few weeks; all the while putting lots of pressure on me to let her back into the home. She explained how she was in counselling, felt sorry for what she did, promised it would never happen again, etc. I eventually gave in and let her back into the home. However, her remorse ended a few weeks later and, in the middle of another one of her “episodes”, I asked her to leave and have not let her back into the home since.

When I went to "family" court, all I wanted was official custody; so I wouldn't have to worry about how I was going to get the boys back if she ever decided to run with them. I didn't want money, or to point blame; all I wanted was the approval of the courts to carry on raising the boys the way they deserved. The problem is that she had no intention of keeping it this simple. After I supposedly ruined her life, she had one thing on her mind - revenge; and the perfect vehicle with which to enact it - "family" court. Consequently, the boys and I have been ordered to pay her more money than we have every month. I have become another "Deadbeat Dad" statistic; still owing her the $15000 in spousal support that she supposedly "earned" between the time she was removed from the home by Criminal Court process and the judge's decision. I have also incurred $30000 in legal fees trying to get my divorce and have the original (erroneous) spousal support decision corrected. Unfortunately (for the boys), with the way the system is set up, she has no incentive to settle anything; having been granted a nice monthly bonus (in the form of spousal support) from now until 2033 as well as unlimited (and free) legal services - courtesy of Legal Aid. She won't even agree to the divorce (almost three years after she was removed from the home). As a result, the only financial support that two young boys have (me) is now bordering on bankruptcy.

I was a good husband and father while our family was together; and I did everything a person could be expected to do in order to try holding it together. A point came, though, where I realised it was beyond my control and I could no longer worry about "rescuing" her (my former abuser). My priority had to be salvaging my boys' sanity and childhoods; making sure that they did not end up repeating the cycle (as the abuser or the abused). This decision will likely cost us (the boys included) our life savings – but I have no regrets. If we are ever to eradicate domestic violence in this country, there are a couple things that need to be changed:

i) “family” court needs to be fixed (so that men are not punished so brutally for trying to end the abuse they are enduring); and

ii) the current “one-sided” view of domestic violence needs to be updated to include all of the male victims that are enduring abuse (most of them silently because they are afraid to speak up).

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