IT BEGAN SHORTLY after my partner became pregnant. It seemed as if an erratic attitude – that she could ‘let go’ and behave whatever way she wanted – began to manifest itself, with the constant excuse that hormones were to blame.
It started with unfeasible demands, such as requesting a second car while I was the only one in the house working and one car was all that was required, or choosing baby names without me and becoming very aggressive if I did not like a name. When demands were not met, a period of two to three days of verbal abuse and mental abuse would begin. I would not accept the abuse, and when she decided that she wanted to be friends and have a happy home again, I said that it was possible, but that the recent behaviour would have to be addressed. When I stood my ground on this, another bout of verbal abuse ensued. For example: “you’re a useless partner”,”you cannot provide for your family”, etc.
I continued to stand my ground and insist that we seek relationship counselling. She would only agree to this in the evenings when she knew the councillor’s office was closed, and the next morning would refuse to attend the session with me. Eventually, the abuse turned into physical abuse. On one occasion she punched me in the face numerous times while I was asking her not to yank her daughter, who had recently had an operation, up the stairs recklessly while shouting at her. I left that night, despite it being my home also.
In an effort to get me back to the house, I suffered threats that I would never see the child, that she would have an abortion. I still stood my ground and stayed away. Consequently, she had an abortion and never informed me; I had to hear from a third party.
I felt a strong sense of duty
My thought process at the time was that my partner was pregnant so, morally, I could not just walk away. I felt a strong sense of duty towards her existing child and our unborn child, as any decent human would. To me, children are not assets to be used in arguments or to receive welfare payments and child maintenance.
I felt trapped somewhat as my solicitor told me the bare facts – that my ex-partner would have custody of the child and that I would have to wait for approximately two years to receive limited access through the courts. This was known by my ex-partner, and was used as a threat towards me constantly. She was also aware that I wanted to raise the unborn child and, again, used this to try and manipulate me and the situation as she knew the law and society were on her side.
I know that her group of friends think similarly, and whereas this behaviour would generally be considered strange, I was shocked at the number of males and females who accepted it and attempted to portray me as having abandoned my ex-partner. It really was an eye-opener as to the reality of what Irish society deems acceptable behaviour in such a situation.
I was a victim
I was far from afraid of the stigma as I was clear in my head that I was a victim of not only abuse, but also assault. I reported the incident to the Gardai. A female Garda actually tried to persuade me to return to my ex-partner, and suggested that she could have a chat with her to assist in mending the relationship. At that point, I told the Garda that this was not acceptable – that if a woman presented herself with such a claim, the man would be arrested within hours; at least an investigation would take place.
I think this highlights the lack of training and support available across society for our various public services for dealing with men who come forward with their incidents. This particular Garda clearly was inept through lack of training, experience and common sense.
She spread lies about me
My family and close friends were amazingly supportive. They reinforced in me that my future was bright, and that I should stand my ground and do the right thing: stay away from my ex-partner, do not contact her unless necessary, work through my solicitor and do not get dragged into the fight that she was clearly trying to bring about in order to portray me as the abuser. She actually spread lies about me that I had in fact hit her. Without giving details, I am a very large, fit man and she is a slim woman; had I hit her, the signs would be there for all to see. Yet no such evidence was ever even requested or spoken about. I find it amazing that the general reaction by society was to spread the rumour as scandal rather than ask for evidence. We should seriously look at ourselves.
In my opinion, all victims of domestic abuse should be encouraged to approach the Gardai. The Gardai should receive training on how to deal with such a situation appropriately; pressing charges against any person accused, with sufficient evidence, of domestic abuse, regardless of gender. We need a zero tolerance approach to this issue.
Let me be clear, the Gardai are obliged to protect their fellow citizens, not to return them to harm’s way. As for other organisations, I am not sure what we can do as I am quite a strong person and dealt with this relying on the great support of my family and friends, and the professional advice of my solicitor.
Should a man not be entitled to equal access to his child?
I also feel that the law discriminates against men in this area. Why are women automatically granted custody of the child when born? Should a man not be entitled to equal access to his child when born, regardless of the status of the relationship between the mother and father? Of course he should! Although, naturally, factors such as breast feeding in the early months need to be allowed for.
Statistics presented in the media lean towards coverage of child and woman abuse – but how could we possibly have statistics regarding abuse of males when the Gardai, and other bodies, effectively treat the issue as a non-issue and try to return the abused to his abuser? I have never struck a woman, yet I have been struck on a number of occasions by women. These occasions were in social settings with alcohol involved and far from as serious as domestic abuse in the home.
Please do not misunderstand me; I love women and see men and women as absolutely equal. However, society seems to think it is OK for a woman to actually slap a man across the face for whatever reason. It is actually laughed off. For example, if you give an opinion on a delicate subject that people might not agree with, it may and has resulted in a slap across the face or a kick in the shins. Reverse the situation; what would the outcome be?