Remember those tv advertisements that ran over the past few years about Violence Against Women? I'm not sure if they're still on the idiot box, but they were powerful indictments on how women are frequently bashed and raped in domestic situations. Strong stuff. They offered up a number of solutions and alternatives for women who needed to flee abusers. The tag line was: "Violence Against Women? Australia says no!" Great weren't they?
I hated them. With a passion. Thought that they were not only demeaning but also ignorant and insulting.
Because they put forward an ostrich approach to domestic violence - the way the ads were presented domestic violence and sexual abuse only happens against women. men are immune. They're all superman when it comes to these kinds of things. Men don't get bashed, or raped, only women do. I always thought that the ads should have gone further and shown men in situations of domestic violence and ran the proper tag line: "Domestic Violence? Australia Says No!" Men are just as prone to this kind of thing as anyone else. Only an idiot from the early 19th century would think otherwise.
Case in point. We had a guy come in not so long ago with two little kids. The kids looked terrified but relaxed when the guy gave them some paper and a few pens. "It's alright," he told them, "mummy won't look for us here." Strange, I thought. This wasn't a small guy. He was at least six foot three and 16 stone and it wasn't fat. He showed me his ID - he's a licensed security guard for one of the most reputable companies in Australia - not the usual crowd control gorilla that you find at a concert, this guy was one step away from being a cop. He was well presented, other than the black eye and the long scratch down his cheek and neck.
"I need help. I've just fled a domestic violence situation last night. Banana City* won't accept me because I'm a man. What can you do?" I ran through our usual options and outlined what could be done. He went away and came back, he'd found a place, got the paperwork done and presented it all to be processed. While we waited he began to talk.
"It all began about three years ago," he said. "She went really funny all of a sudden and demanded that I move out of the house proper and live in the carport. I said, 'Hang on...' and with that she threw a pan at me, in front of the kids. BANG off my head. I started towards her and she said she'd call the cops and say I bashed her if I didn't do what she said. I thought, ok, I'll give it a bit of time then, let her cool off, and off I went. That was my first mistake.
"Every night I'd come home I'd have to sleep in the carport. I wasn't allowed to move the car, mind you, I had to sleep with it. Hot summers, cold winters, it didn't matter. This went on for a while and then the abuse really kicked in. We'd be having dinner and she'd haul off and start smashing me in the face, in front of the kids. I'd tell her to stop, no dice. She'd scream at me that I was useless and if I hit her she'd call the cops. The smallest things would set her off - a dirty glass in the sink. A weed in the driveway. Sand in the kids shoes. She'd wait til the kids went to bed and then start bashing and threatening me. I'd go the carport because at least there I was safe.
"Then it got really bad. If I tried to talk she'd spit at me. She'd swear, threaten and assault me. Dishes, glassware, you name it. She made me transfer all my money into her account and not pay the bills, then I'd get slapped about for the bills not being paid. Couldn't win that one. Then she'd say how she was going to take the kids away, that she'd call the cops and tell them that I'd been bashing her. I'm no idiot, I know that if she did that then the cops would come and arrest me, no matter what I said, so I had to take that threat seriously.
"The end came when she went really crazy. In one week she bashed me in front of the kids every night. The last night she went for me with a knife. That was it. I thought about taking her out, just being done with it all, but then the kids. What would happen to them? And what would they learn? As I was thinking this I hesitated and she stabbed me in the ribs. Superficial, but it was enough for me to get the knife and throw it away. Then the glass came and cracked on my head, she got some cut glass and began to carve me up. 'F*ck this, I'm gone!' I thought, so I ran into the next room, locked her in, grabbed her purse with the keycards in it, grabbed the kids and bolted. I went straight to the cops, filed a report and promptly passed out.
"When I woke up I was in the ER department being treated. Two cops were there wanting to ask me questions. They told me that they'd been to see her and that she'd claimed that I'd attacked her. They took a statement and asked did I believe the kids were in danger. I replied yes, my heart sank, this was it, the cops would side with her. Then one of the cops, a female, leant over and said, 'We don't believe her. She hasn't got a mark on her and you're here. Seriously, if you'd bashed her like she says you did then she'd be downstairs with a DFKDFC** sticker on her.' I got the kids and fled. Now I'm here."
This stuff happens all too frequently and the shame is that the bulk of the agencies set up to assist are geared more towards women then they are the wider community. Women and men are bashed and raped by men and women every day.
Domestic Violence, we all should say no. I'd love to see those tv ads reworked to reflect what's happening in the community of today, as opposed to what was believed back in the 1960s.
*Banana City - well known advocate service whereby if you're fleeing a domestic violence situation they'll help. Not sure why they turned this guy down, but he was insistent that it was because he's a man. Might be something in it. I've seen people on the phones break down and cry after being told that not only will they not be helped, but that the best thing for them is to go back home and wait it out. Great advice, and people think we're bad.
**DFKDFC - years ago a doctor pal of mine used to insist that this expression was doctors jargon for 'Don't F*cking Know, Don't F*king Care' and was written on charts of people who were loopy or faking it as a code. Anyone wanna verify that? I've got others.