My name’s Dave. I know people are more used to hearing that it’s women who are abused in a relationship, and maybe this is more common, but it does happen to men too.
I met my wife-to-be about thirteen years ago. Straightaway she seemed very clingy and constantly required reassurance that I loved her, but I wasn’t too worried by this as she’d had a difficult childhood with parents who didn’t seem to care that much about her.
We were married a year after we met. It was then that the real problems started, her personality seemed to change overnight. Instead of becoming more secure and less needy – as I’d hoped she would – she became obsessively jealous and had to control everything I did.
It was about two weeks after we were married that she first hit me. It seems stupid now, but I can’t really remember what she hit me for. Perhaps I was being slow or didn’t do something the way she wanted, I don’t know.
After that it became more and more frequent, most days she would find a ‘reason’ to hit me (although I can’t really call it a reason as I often hardly knew what she shouting about). She would shout and curse at me for ages, calling me stupid and threatening to leave me. At the same time, she would threaten to kill herself if I left her!
Usually she’d hit and kick me on my arms, chest and legs, I only ever got a bruise that showed on my face once or twice.
I felt very ashamed that she was treating me this way, I knew that I should leave the relationship but couldn’t bring myself to confront her. Somehow, I think the control she had over me made it very hard for me to do things I knew she’d disapprove of. I don’t really understand it even now.
I never told anyone what went on, and certainly never told my friends, I used to just pretend that things were OK.
After about a year of this she said she wanted to have a baby. Alarm bells started ringing in my head – I knew this wasn’t right but somehow couldn’t tell her. She changed her behaviour and began to treat me like she had when we first met.
Hoping things were getting better, and afraid to refuse, I agreed. Our daughter, Sharon, was born two years after we were married.
But as soon as Sharon was born the violence restarted worse than ever. I used to just ‘switch off’ into my own world when she was raging at me, it was the only way I could cope. She was jealous of her daughter – sometimes I’d be changing a nappy and she would just hit me and demand attention for herself. I simply concentrated on getting through each day and caring for Sharon.
After two more years I just couldn’t take this any longer. I didn’t want Sharon to be raised in this environment and somehow told my wife I wanted a divorce.
All hell broke loose. She threatened to tell the Police I’d raped her if I didn’t do what she wanted. At last I finally got the courage to escape, leaving everything.
I was distraught to be leaving Sharon, but it was the only way I could think to give her a ‘normal’(non-violent) life. After that, my wife only allowed me to see Sharon for a few hours a week, and when she found a new boyfriend a year later, she just stopped all contact.
I went to the courts to get access, but my wife just lied and said I’d been violent to her so the courts denied any contact. It’s very hard to deal with my ex-wife, I’m so traumatised, every time I deal with her I start to cry and shake.
I tried again in court a few years later, it was an uphill struggle all the way. Sharon was too frightened of her mum to tell the social worker that she wanted to spend more time with me. She doesn’t like her step-dad and has run away from home twice, coming straight to me.
I’m now seeing her every other weekend, she’s 10 now, and can’t wait until she’s 12 so she can get her wishes listened to. The time we spend together is like a sanctuary for us both.
My solicitor tells me that if the domestic violence were the other way around – with me hitting my wife – I would probably never see my daughter again. But violence from the mother is ignored by the courts. I suppose it just doesn’t fit their simplistic ideas about domestic violence in the home and women always being the victim.
Although her mother hasn’t been physically violent towards Sharon, I’m always there for her and remain vigilant in case it starts. Hopefully we can get through the next years without major problems, until Sharon can make choices for herself.
I don’t want Sharon to hate her mother. She loves her mum, but knows only too well what she’s like. She wants to live with me and still see a lot of her mum. Not too difficult surely?
Nobody – of either sex – should have to put up with domestic violence in a relationship. If the system weren’t so gender biased, I’m sure Sharon would be much safer now and I wouldn’t feel like we are both still being abused every day.
I’m just looking forward to the time when Sharon can make her own choices.
(Identifying features have been changed to protect the individuals involved).