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Mark's personal story

I was in my second relationship for 18 years having left my wife for this new relationship. Whilst my 2 children came and went in rotation, I spent most of my time with the new partner and her 2 children.

I became ever-more aware over time how difficult her circumstances had been whilst growing up, and the extent of the physical, sexual and emotional abuse she had suffered over many years, prior to our meeting. I am, as it turns out, a bit of a “rescuer,” and I was certain that she would be safe with me. And for a time things went well.

Her children were more outspoken and defiant than my own, and would unite against me and criticise me and call me names. My partner began to show an explosive side, and had difficulty managing her emotions and words at times. They seemed to be able to be mostly civil when my own children were with me. But that was only half of the time. I felt that I had chosen them knowing of past abuse, so it was my job to try to assist in any way I could and be forgiving as I could.

The violence however, began to escalate. Periodically there would be dramatic confrontations with me on one side and 1, 2 or 3 of them against me. Biting, scratching, punching…from them, not me. Apologies were thin on the ground. “When I run out of words I use my fists”. I was pushed through a plate glass door and survived. Into a painting which shattered the glass. Hair-pulling. Broken rib, multiple black eyes, bloodied face, many blows to the head, threatened with stabbing, thrown plates, tennis racket blows, upturned furniture, smashed with a metal scooter, (lucky I got my forearm in the way or it would have been my head.) She punched, or threatened to punch a number of my friends. Yes, there were physical altercations, pushing and shoving occurred. Yes I slapped her once with an open hand. I felt so sad, criticised and disrespected and it overcame me. I felt terrible afterwards. The projection from them was that I was the major problem, but violence has not ever been part of the rest of my life or any other relationships. I thought they would work it out sooner or later.

I didn’t feel there was any place to turn for support with this. All publicity was focused on battered women and kids. I called the Men’s Helpline in desperation. But the counsellor was very nice even though I was not the standard case he would normally deal with! I know it is in the minority of DV cases, but there seemed to be no specialised support mechanisms for what I was going through. Why did I stay only to be bashed again, sooner or later? I thought of it as a test of my unconditional love. “Maybe now, that I had been so damaged, they will finally see the error of their ways and return the love I had given for 18 years”. Just pathetic, really.

The make-up sex was always really great though and I was convinced this was how love goes, and I’d put it behind me and move forward.

As a man, it is embarrassing to say you have been beaten by a young girl, a young man, your woman. So you downplay it. I resolved to handle things better, to find ways to avert these problems arising before they became so heated. The yelling and name-calling was painful enough, but at least I could go to work visibly unscathed the following day. Often there would be a further stream of swearing and verbal abuse just before I went to work the following morning. My pleas regarding this only seemed to fuel her on. So I would turn up for work quite often really struggling but no option than to just carry on regardless, got to feed people and pay the mortgage.

In the end she left me, after her daughter died of a drug overdose. It is only now that I have begun to process and question how I learned to accept the abuse from 3 people who I loved, and the cumulative effect on me after many episodes over 18 years. What was I thinking?

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