Mathew
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
One in Three Campaign

I see many of the stories on here and can relate to the many forms of domestic violence perpetrated in our community. Before I get into my story I would like to touch on the subject. It is my considered opinion that while we genderise domestic violence there will never be equality within service provision or justice until the focus is on victims. Domestic violence should be in terms of victims and not sexual orientation.

Secondly, and this might on the surface appear amusing, but really highlights the ignorance surrounding Male specific D/V, the amusing part is before I knew of this website I actually came across a poster that is used on the front page of this site, "It's amazing what my wife can do with a frying pan." In my role as a community worker took this poster to the local D/V committee meeting, to say I was shocked at the laughter that came from what was apparently a professional group of people's obvious disregard for the subject matter was to say the least dumbfounding. But more amazing reactions were to follow: "this is just women fighting back," "What did they do for the woman to hit them," "Oh they probably deserved it". Really, are you kidding me? These people are supposed to be community leaders.

Anyway to my story and I guess it's one that has been told over and over again. I lived in a defacto relationship for a number of years, and I would lie if I said that it was a bad relationship from the start, mine in fact was pleasant enough for a number of years. We had four sons together, however after the birth of our second son she became addicted to bingo, morning, afternoon and night. The real violence started after one day we had been out looking to buy a new car, we got home rather late and the kids were tired and hungry, as I pulled into our driveway my partner asked me to drive her to bingo. My mistake was to say no. Now I'm not a small guy and I have a few tats but I was beaten by this five foot five inch person I did not recognise as my partner.

The neighbours on hearing the noise called the police. I was questioned and even though I was beaten I felt like the perpetrator. This pattern of behaviour continued on for the next ten years. She would hold a knife to the children's throats and then call the police, I would be questioned (thankfully the children were of an age where they could tell the police what happened), but she was never arrested. I was full of bruises bleeding on many occasions, she was never arrested.

The end finally came when one day she went off to bingo and didn't come home all weekend. I found her at bingo with some other man. This was almost a relief for me and the very next day I applied for custody of our sons and was - believe it or not - granted temporary custody.

If I thought being a victim of D/V was tough it was nothing compared to what was to come. Dept of Community Services would check on me on a daily basis, night and day I was harassed by them (I'll let you know why in a sec). I was a good father, up early, prepared my children's clothes for school, got them up, gave them breakfast, made sure they all had a bath then dressed and off we would go to school. Now I also had to give up work to take care of 4 young boys, at this time there was no social security payments for single dads. My friends gave me part time work during school hours to help me out.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, after a period of time the boys' mother decided to contest the custody and a court date was set. When I attended court, I kid you not, even though she was living in a refuge and had no possessions, no fixed address, nothing, she was awarded full custody. Remember I would let you know something? Well apparently sleeping with the DOCS worker works in your favour!

Many years of heartbreak were to follow. She would disappear with the boys and I wouldn't be able to see them. I paid my maintenance loyally but it was never good enough. She would drag me into court for whatever she could. If the boys ran away form home she would have the police arrest me for kidnapping. When I brought the boys presents she would sell them. When I went to the courts and DOCS to work out a way of making sure my boys were getting the maintenance they dismissed me.

I was told if your wife or partner leaves you, you must be either a wife beater, an alcoholic, drug abuser or child molester. Never once did the courts listen to my concerns as a father / dad. It may have been because I couldn't afford legal representation, I don't know, but I was invisible as a father to the courts.

Fortunately that all behind me now, the boys are all grown up and have families of their own, and yes they do have issues because out of all this they suffered the most. The unfortunate side of all this is now none of them have a relationship with their mother. You may ask "why should they?" Well it's simple: whether perpetrator, victim, child, adult, or bystander we are all victims of and affected by D/V.

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