“I drew a line in the sand and thought to myself don’t cross it and when she did I forgave her and then I drew another line and so on until I had what looked like train tracks off into the horizon until I couldn't remember where I started.”
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"The system worked to empower my ex-wife to be more abusive as there was no support for me as a male experiencing family violence."
Craig was diagnosed with viral encephalitis causing his right side to become paralysed. As he could no longer work, he became dependant on his wife for financial and personal support. She quickly dismissed his illness and saw it as laziness denying him the aides he required for day-to-day personal care such as a shower chair.
Her anger quickly escalated and despite him being spat on, physically, verbally and financially abused, severely bitten and threatened to be stabbed neither the Department of Community Services New South Wales Domestic Hotline or the Australian Human Rights Commission could help Craig as these organisations only help women. The only aid the local Community Services Centre was to offer him was an anger management course despite Craig being the victim.
Having no support and little options, he moved out of the family home leaving his children with what he termed the perpetrator. He spent three months living in the back of his van before moving in with his brother.
According to Craig, "there are hidden victims in society that of men and children being abused by women." He believes it is imperative that society acknowledges this if family violence is to be taken seriously.
"The main tool of abuse is my daughter." According to Chris, his relationship breakup was amicable. There was no arguing or fighting. There was an informal agreement regarding access and child support for his daughter. "Everything was fine for the next nine months until I entered into another relationship. Immediately access to my daughter was blocked."
Up to this point Chris was seeing his daughter four days a week but then suddenly no one would be home or his daughter was constantly "too ill" when he came to pick her up. This happened on numerous occasions. Chris went to Family Law Court and during this time received personal threats and his car was damaged on two occasions. He was accused of several crimes where police questioned him and searched his home without charges.
"We received Family Law Court orders that were open orders where we were to communicate and facilitate access together as adults. I have parental rights but the orders kept being breached." Chris has been through the Family Law Courts three times sending him bankrupt. "It was hard to watch my daughter suffering during this time because of the divide between the parents. She was seven at the time and confused and depressed. It was affecting her schooling and emotional development. I committed parental Harakiri and stopped seeing her."
Chris's daughter is now 13. A friend of her mother's helped him to gain contact with her again. They "secretly" met after a six year break for two visits and had daily contact for two weeks. Chris's daughter decided to tell her mother she was seeing her father. Contact stopped immediately.
Chris is filing for court proceedings for a fourth time to gain legal access to his daughter. With little money, he is attempting to meet the legal costs by running a crowdfunding campaign.
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She would start a fight over anything. I was physically assaulted numerous times being kicked and punched but mainly there was significant psychological abuse.
For the last six to eight weeks of our relationship she intentionally tried to upset me to get some sort of a response that could be conceived as abuse and when she didn’t get it she left with the children regardless.“ Ryan contacted the police to report his family missing and shortly afterwards was arrested for assault. His wife claimed to have left because of assault despite no physical proof. “I had done nothing wrong but she was able to obtain an AVO (Apprehended Violence Order) which gave her the power to keep the kids.
Children have a basic right to connect with both parents yet I’m going to face a lengthy trial to fight for such rights. It’s been three years since I’ve seen my kids - my youngest daughter doesn’t even know me.“
Ryan believes that domestic violence policies have become so extreme they are devoid of any common sense. He contacted the Domestic Violence Helpline who told him they could not help because he was male. He was referred from one group to another with virtually no assistance.
“'It is what it is' was a term coined to me many times by both support services and the law system. Men are treated like Apartheid just because the colour of your skin was different; your race determined whether you were a good human being. If you’re born male, we legislate to say you’re instantly violent.
We also have a system where if a man goes to the police for help in family violence, they are not taken seriously and this is reinforced with the absence of services for men. The law is gender bias and that’s not equality.
Hundreds of millions are spent on women’s services, shelters and next to nothing on men. Next time you vote for a politician, ask about their policy of family violence and if it’s not gender neutral you shouldn’t be voting for them.”
"I didn’t think I was in a domestic violence situation – I just thought I had a fight and my partner has hurt me – I didn’t put it in a framework."
"As a man experiencing emotional abuse, I have nowhere to go and have no support - I have lost my identity and am totally disempowered."
As a social worker, Greg has seen the consequences of male and female intimate partner violence however he never thought it could happen to him.
One night after several months in a same sex relationship, Greg was physically assaulted by his partner. “We’d been out to a nightclub and had a bit to drink and we started to argue over something that I can’t even remember. He started being really violent toward me – hitting and punching me. It came out of nowhere. I was in shock and disbelief that someone could do that to their partner.
Greg remained in the relationship believing it would never happen again and things would get better. However, Greg started to see odd behaviours in his partner. “He adopted different personas one based on his first name, the second on his middle name. The middle named person was the one that wasn’t a very nice person. They were the one to get drunk and aggressive.”
According to Greg, this side of his partner would engage in emotional abuse such as trying to embarrass and belittle him whilst out in public and at home. “He would say things that knowingly would upset me and I think in a strange way, I could put up with the physical abuse - it was the physiological stuff of making me feel bad about myself and lowering my self esteem I found difficult to overcome.
“Another night, he was this other person and I said something that picked up on that. Again there was a huge fight, which turned violent in which he punched me and broke my nose. I believe he also had a knife, which really scared me so I locked myself in the bathroom. Afterwards he would apologise and promised to be a better person. I look back now and think that I was so stupid but it’s that thing I constantly hear from both men and women victims of domestic violence that things will get better. It gets to the point when you realise they won’t get better. For me, the turning point was when I learnt of his mental health problem and he refused treatment. He was moving rapidly to losing his grip on reality - I believed his mental health was really deteriorating. I no longer felt safe in that relationship.”
Greg was able to have his partner admitted to a psychiatric hospital, which provided the escape Greg needed as he felt his partner would pursue him. “I moved interstate. We never saw each other again.”