The torment of a battered husband

TALL, fighting fit serviceman, Robert (*not his real name) seemed an unlikely victim of domestic violence. Behind closed doors he suffered more than a decade of abuse from his former wife.

By Amanda Cresswell

TALL, fighting fit serviceman, Robert (*not his real name) seemed an unlikely victim of domestic violence. Behind closed doors he suffered more than a decade of abuse from his former wife. Male victims of domestic violence rarely speak out. But today Robert breaks his silence and talks exclusively to The Evening Star.

STRIPPED of his dignity, humiliated and a broken man, Robert sat and ate his dinner from a dirty cat bowl. His controlling wife stood over him ready to lash out at him.

The former fun-loving, handsome serviceman had lost his circle of friends and his wife had cut-off all contact with his family. Isolated and alone he was reduced to a suicidal wreck.


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A few years later Robert was kicked so badly in the groin he had to have one of his testicles removed. He's now 58 and remarried with a young family, but the memories still haunt him.

We've all heard of battered wives. But rarely do we hear of the males being victims of violence in the home. It is just swept under the carpet as if it never happens and rarely is it reported to police. Male victims tend to suffer in silence.

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Even now Robert still finds it difficult to talk about it and at one-point stops the conversation entirely, unable to continue.

Middle-class, ex-public school and a towering 6 ft, Robert looks an unlikely victim of domestic violence.

His life took a downhill plunge after he was bowled over by the attractive, seemingly fun loving woman two years his junior. But days after the wedding in 1967 the woman he loved turned nasty.

He and his new wife had just moved into a new flat and a female work colleague helped Robert to move in the last of his belongings. His wife found out about it and flipped.

"She had a pot full of boiling water and covered my belongings with it," said Robert, who has children and a grandchild living in Ipswich. The thing that suffered most was a tailor made coat which today would be worth about £1,000. It was ruined.

"Another time I was on my way to work with these enormous scratches on my face. My boss said: "Oh, the cat's had a go at you again?" I didn't know whether he knew, or not, but I didn't talk about it. It was just too embarrassing.

"Attacks were regular. Mostly she just used her hands and there were also attacks on property. I had a flying log book, which was ripped to shreds, photos disappeared.

"She once drove down the street with a big chunk of my clothes and was throwing them out the window as she went along."

Home life got worse, not better.

She'd deprive him of sleep. He'd fall asleep and she would prod him awake again so he'd turn up exhausted. He'd also go without food for days on end.

His wife would also regularly fling him out onto the street, or downstairs to sleep, in a freezing house.

"I would never get stabbed," he said. "She was into hitting, kicking. She learned after a little while to make sure the marks were on my body, where people couldn't see them. I got use to carrying the pain about. After a while I would switch off.

You'd say why have lunch in an unclean cat dish? I don't know. She'd say she'd do this or that if I didn't do it. It was just one of hundreds of degrading things. It is difficult to take about it."

" You see the whole thing moves forward in tiny increments.

"It gets worse and worse slowly and you don't realise how debilitated you have become.

"I once wrote everything down and showed it to a lawyer and asked does this constitute grounds for divorce? He asked how many divorces do you want?"

As well physical abuse he would endure psychological abuse – his wife would invent stories, try to turn his two children against him and make wild accusations at his workplace.

"Why would someone take all this?" he asks. "The big motivation was if you throw enough love at it, it would get better. I kept finding different ways of explaining the problem and finding a solution, thinking I could just give it one more go and see if this will cure it. To me marriage was for life. I also had two precious children and I couldn't have abandoned them.

"We are taught never to hit women. If a man is attacked by a man you would give as good as you get. But not if it is a woman, so it was difficult to do anything to fight back." There was the fear that if he did call the police they would arrest him instead.

Medics came to the conclusion his wife had a personality disorder and would have to voluntary agree to psychiatric care. Robert felt he was fighting a losing battle.

The final straw came when efforts at marriage guidance failed and Robert begged his boss for a posting.

"I just out of that marriage with just two suitcases and important documents. I realised I wasn't who I am any more. The real me enjoyed life.

"I should have got divorced earlier and tried to keep the children. But the way the process is this was unlikely to happen."

But he has put the past behind him and rebuilt his life and is now happily remarried. "I would encourage anyone who goes through this to talk to someone about it."

Weblinks

A site dedicated to victims of female violence:

http://man2man.themenscenter.com/

Samaritans: www.samaritans.org.uk/

Mankind – an organisation set up to remove discrimination against men and establish a fairer society between men and women. Covers domestic abuse.

http://www.mankind.org.uk/

How to spot the female abuser in our home

1. She's a liar. By this means she feels less inadequate and more in control.

2. She passes the buck. Unable to accept responsibility for her own actions everything becomes "your fault" or "their fault."

3. She invents stories to discredit you.

4. She uses kids against you.

5. She will throw you out constantly.

6. She will scream in your face for hours

7. She will physically abuse you.

8. Exaggeration. She needs to show you up as the bad one while you become the innocent little victim.

9. Emotional/mental abuse

10. Destroying your possessions

11. Turning the children against you

12. Accusing you of stalking her

13. She is an expert manipulator

14. Scanning. You may see on TV in a drama a woman deliberately burn all the photographs of her partner and his kids. You remark it was a sick thing to do. Later the abuser does it to you.

Marianne Fellowes, responsible for dealing with domestic violence in Suffolk, said: "Domestic violence is mainly a crime against women. But we hope to raise awareness to the whole community and encourage all victims to report it so they can receive support and so that the perpetrator can be held responsible for the crime.

"Of 534 victims of reported incidents in April to June 2002 in Suffolk, included in that are 23 husbands, 34 boyfriends and seven fathers. But this does compare with 156 wives, 211 girlfriends and 31 mothers during the period.

"None reporting from which ever gender is a very serious issue and could lead to further and worse violence to take place.

"On average a victim is assaulted by a partner or ex-partner 35 times before reporting it to police.

"Between April 1997 and March 2002 there were 29 homicides in Suffolk. Of these ten of the 15 females and one of the 14 males were linked to domestic violence.

"One homicide per year since 1997 and three per year in the last three years show the trend is increasing.

"Overall 16 percent of all victims who report being abused are men." She said of these figures some involve men in gay relationships.

Robert Whiston, chairman of Mankind, which is to set up a helpline for battered men headed by Steve Fitzgerald, said the general perception is that a men can look after himself, which is not necessarily the case if the woman is "going at it hell for leather" and using weapons.

Men are not good at admitting they are the victims.

He said the system lets men down, particularly in divorce cases, where the woman often ends up with the house and the kids.

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