The Alienated Parent – An Open Letter

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Alienated Parent - An Open Letter

To whom it may concern

I have now felt it relevant to put my thoughts into words. It appears that no matter how much discussion is held about this matter nothing seems to want, or able to shift the boulder that is blocking the way towards decency, rational thoughts and what is morally correct.
There are so many different ways of saying how much it hurts to be an alienated parent in a way that you might understand, but I can’t. So many times I have tried to look for an understanding or reason, and yet I am still at a loss. With each day break there is no change and yet when I try to sleep all I can see and hear is the child I have difficulty seeing. And this hurts.

Indeed, the pain of child birth is and has always been well documented and yet this is over within a moment. What is never mentioned and conveniently overlooked is the pain being felt by the alienated parent. This pain can, and does, last a life time and is, alas, at times fatal. By simple measure The Australian Men’s Health Forum published on the 19th November 2018 that one in two separated fathers have suicidal thoughts. How is this justified to continue with the loss of not just individuals but fathers, sons and brothers. And yet we continue to discuss the death rates of the plague that affected just 15% of the population many hundreds of years ago. Will our descendants be studying the state sponsored death rates imposed upon absent parents in years to come? I hope so, as this shame is too much for any so-called civilised state to justify. And yet, history has a habit of airbrushing uncomfortable truths that do not make comfortable reading.

The shame can easily be found by talking or listening. This process of alienation is not just set with the odd one or two parent’s but it is endemic and appears to effect every single absent parent I have ever met. By this standard it therefore stands up to scrutiny when I state, therefore, that no every absent parent is absent through choice. Far from it, studies carried out throughout the 1990s found that parents who reside with the child are also the gate keepers to access – regardless of how poorly this is policed by the authorities.

For those absent parents of whom are given small morsels of contact, can you clarify how to explain to a child who wants to see more of you that they can’t based on a person who holds a wrong opinion. The irony is that some of these gate keepers have sons who will one day become fathers themselves. Will the gatekeeper be able to justify their actions when their sons are stopped from seeing their children based on the premise of the precedence they had set a generation before. It may only be then, when the damage has been done, will the error of their ways come to the fore.

On an individual level how can a person think it is perfectly reasonable to develop ways or say untruths to stop a parent seeing their child. We consider that it is unreasonable to drink and drive, or to carry a knife. Yet nothing is mentioned of false accusers or parental kidnap. How does the idea of alienating an absent parent not equate to child neglect or abuse from fracturing the right of a child to accessing a loving parent, regardless of gender. And yet we are bombarded with news reports of rapists getting a say in how the child resulting from the assault is to be raised. How on earth does this measure up to the alienated parent whose only crime was to end a relationship with the other parent. Is it now time to state that crime does actually pay when trying to be there for your child/children is seen as an utter inconvenience and the state sees no reason to uphold such family values?

There have been numerous historical examples of when society has turned a blind eye to issues until it turns on them. Unfortunately, these problems still remain an individual problem but actually impacts upon everyone. With the removal of legal aid to support alienated parents access to the rights of law becomes a privilege and not a right (of which so many wars and conflicts have been fought over). But it is widely known the costs associated with a broken society and broken homes. The numbers of people in prison who had no access to their fathers or substance abusers who never knew their absent parents is immeasurable. But the authorities continue it to be right to stop access on the whim of one parent. If an alienated parent is successful to gain some form of access then the orders are often set out with a frame work of times – wouldn’t it be a good idea to set a frame work that is based both on a maximum and minimum time a parent can see their child. The loving alienated parent would undoubtably take the maximum where as the gatekeeping parent has to ensure the minimum?

With this in mind, throughout my fight to gain access to my daughter I refused to paint a negative picture of my daughter’s mother. Although time after time I was encouraged and expected to. For both social workers and lawyers, it became the norm and expected dirt to be dished like a tabloid newspaper revelling in sickening stories that never took place. Yet I took the stand that she was the mother of my precious little girl. Even after all of this time I will not tarnish her name and will never do so in the presence of anyone else, including my daughter. Perhaps my ex considered that I would, and created a time line of events to perhaps offset whatever I came forward with. I never did and never would, and it has cost me more than I probably could have got. But my integrity and decency remained and always will in the knowledge that my daughter will know she has a loving mother – and will one day know that she has an equally loving father.

In retrospect perhaps, we decided to fight too quickly, yet the recovery is too slow. What I do know is that the state will never kill the hen that lays the golden egg. As the system remains; children go without a wanting and loving parent social workers and lawyers are kept in employment and the law makers decide to keep the status quo because it has been proven to be too profitable to stop.
Maybe I might be wrong. There may be an authority out there of whom is willing to kill off the said golden laying hen for what is right. But I feel there is an element of either laziness or ill education of behalf of those in authority. Is it due to costs, staffing levels or is the alienated parent’s plea too low a priority? I consider that if a child’s physical needs are met then the child’s future emotional and stability is irrelevant – of which the over populated prisons appear to bear witness to.

My child is worth more than money and will always have access to my love of which has always overflowed to create pain of a breaking heart. It takes two to conceive and she will always have two parents wherever life takes her, or the choices that she will make. That fact will never be taken away. But by alienated parents not seeing them does not mean they are loved any less, it’s just that they are thought of more often.
So many things need to change for our children and for children as yet to be born. Too many of our children are being held to ransom by an expensive and elitist legal system. Too many children are told lies by the gatekeeper parent to instil a fear of a person that is unable to speak out. And all of us are paying the heavy price for the present system that is just not working. Afterall, who is actually benefiting from any of this? It’s not our children or the gatekeeping parent who may lay in bed at night wondering when the time of truth will come knocking on their door like an angry bailiff seeking to balance their books.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could take the reins of all alienated parents and ensure the rights of the child to both parents is ensured, protected and enforced if required.

Yours…..

Forward – Book on Fatherhood

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Forward - Book on Fatherhood

For many of you who have been following my blogs you may be aware that I have started research on my next book focusing on Fatherhood. For the eagle eyed you may notice some similarities with a blog I wrote in August 2018 about fatherhood. As time has progressed I have had the opportunity to develop what i wrote back then.

Below is the forward of the future book for you to read and consider. Of course, any feedback is welcome….

Forward

In one way or another we all want to be good fathers. Whether you are a lone, old, young, step, or natural father the pains and delights can come in equal measure. Perhaps in some ways depending upon your age we want to be caring, nurturing and involved with our children in ways our own fathers never were with us. The simple, and often over looked fact is that fatherhood cuts across so many social barriers such as race, class, ethnicity, religion and geographical locations. I have heard it said a number of times that fathers are a biological necessity, but a social accident. This train of thought was certainly present during the 20th century and most evident during the 21st. Unfortunately, this idea of fatherhood has seeped into our culture and many sections of society have both conformed and adopted this erroneous stance.

Parenting is not performed in isolation. It is intimately linked with all other aspects of everyday life. The social, economic, cultural and religious backgrounds often prevail in relation to family structures. Issues such as housing, poverty, health and employment play in conditioning a parents’ ability to nurture. Clearly these factors are equally true for both mothers and fathers and so require an even and equal response regardless of gender. But a parents’ love is unconditional, yet many fathers have to live with the threat of not seeing their children on the whim of the mother. This is re-enforced and promoted by a set of outdated and wrong research findings that have infiltrated and tainted the role and importance of the father.

The loss of legal aid for family matters is certainly a contributory factor to fathers being excluded from the equal parenting role. In effect state sponsored poverty may in fact be an aspect for paternal alienation. By putting the financial issue aside, the increasing role of the single father flies in the face of the bumbling idiot who has no idea what to do. In fact, many lone fathers are seen as hero like, unlike single mothers who are expected to be able to carry out such duties. And this is wrong. Interestingly, a study carried out by Alison Clarke-Stewart and Craig Hayward (Advantages of Father Custody and Contact for the Psychological well-being of School-Age Children – 1994) found that a substantial sample of 187 five to thirteen year old children, 72 in their fathers care and 115 in their mother’s, that the children in paternal care were doing better than those in a maternal home. These said children had higher self-esteem, less anxiety and depression and fewer ‘difficult’ behaviours. Furthermore, and interestingly, Clarke-Stewart and Hayward found that children did best when they were in paternal care and unexpectedly, the custodial parent was happier.

Throughout my time researching the concept of ‘the father’ it is easy to see that ‘fatherhood’ has become a political agenda within itself. Many right-wing fathers groups look to promote fathers rights as against mothers. A conservative approach to fatherhood is often based on Christian values in which the father works to provide for his nuclear family whilst the wife stays at home doing the nurturing. C. Passingham (Lone Fathers – One Parent Families. Pg 35 – 1975) described how important paid employment was to a mans self-respect. This was not just based on the fact that fathers could earn more and felt that poverty was as much a threat to children as was ‘inadequate’ parenting. But ‘providing’ during this period was what was expected of men. By todays standards, either due to economic necessity or for personal fulfilment many mothers are now opting to work. And it isn’t just for part-time, low level income roles. Many mothers are successfully taking on professional full time positions. As a result, it has also become far more evident that many fathers are also taking on more and more responsibilities for early infant and child care duties. In fact I consider that for some people it is essential to have two wage earners to maintain a certain standard of lifestyle once children arrive. Today, the idea of the nuclear family has lost its meaning. More and more people are moving away from their home towns and setting up new homes miles away from other family members. As a result, the historical duties of grandmothers, aunts and so on who very often took on the caring role, are becoming more diluted and gradually unrecognisable. The roles of these women have changed and there is no longer an assumption that they will be ‘there’ when you need them. People are working well into their retirement and so as a result more and more is expected from fathers and (even) grandfathers. It is not, in my opinion that fathers have been forced to do the parenting against their will, it is just that there is now more of an opportunity of which fathers are willing to grasp.

It also appears that psychological research has often ignored the role of fathers. One argument for this was that the social theories of parenting roles at the time had deeply penetrated the theories attached to parenthood. Theories can just be seen as the way the world works. But theories constrain the idea of concepts and notions. As a consequence early researchers had not just forgotten about fathers, they were completely ignored because they were considered to be less important than mothers. And so, the dominant (and wrong) theories were left to develop and fester unchallenged or addressed for decades. The two main protagonists within this field was Sigmund Freud (6 May 1856 – 23 September 1939) and John Bowlby (26 February 1907 – 2 September 1990). Both Freud and Bowlby may have differed in their approach and views on fatherhood but they both came to the same conclusion – mothers were the most important figures during infancy. In Bowlby’s paper entitled ‘The Nature of the Child’s Ties to his Mother’, he argued that maternal deprivation led to infants and children failing to adequately develop. Unfortunately, this view was also sanctioned by other theorists such as Rene Spitz and Margaret Ribble in ‘The Rights of Infants ‘- 1943. Bowlby’s later works pushed this concept further when he discussed attachment theories, which stated that infants come to prefer specific adults, namely the mother. His thoughts and considerations were based on the idea that a mother is biologically equipped to respond to an infant’s needs. As a result, Bowlby left the fathers out of the essential equation when it came to child rearing. Fathers, therefore, were seen as secondary and only required as a provider of the mothers needs. In fact, Bawlby and his research in my opinion, were and are deeply flawed and as a result threw a spanner in the fatherhood works (so to speak). The paper was certainly used for political purposes to claim any separation from the mother was harmful. It was also intended to discourage women from working and leaving their children in day-care. The government at the time, were concerned about maximising employment for returned and returning servicemen after the Second World War. In 1962 The World Health Organisation (WHO) published ‘Deprivation of Maternal Care: A Reassessment of its Effects’ to which Mary Ainsworth, Bowlby’s close colleague, contributed with his approval, to present the recent research and developments and to address misapprehensions. This publication also attempted to address the previous lack of evidence on the effects of paternal deprivation. This narrow (and in my opinion, wrong) view of parenting came to dominate Western cultures. However, a small group of cultures divide the role of child rearing equally. For example, the Trobrianders of Melanesia and the Aka Pygmies of Africa (to name just two examples) have adopted this equal sharing role. As a result, it would be fair to argue that the biological argument of parenting does not stand up to scrutiny. Animal studies have also shown that parenting is not just a female privilege. Marmosets and Tamarin monkeys are well known for playing a very active role of parenting from an early age. This is also seen in other monkey specimens such as Barbary Macaques of Asia and Rhesus monkeys (mainly native to South, Central and Southeast Asia).

During the time of addressing the issue of absent and feckless fathers of the 1980s and 90s nothing was known about the circumstances of non-resident fathers. Fatherhood, and in particular non-resident fatherhood, was not a particular area of academic interest. Therefore, child support policy makers were able to import crude (and often misguided) stereotypical ideas of the absent father into the academic vacuum without valid knowledge or research. In the original Child Support Agency (UK) White Paper the language therefore became revealing. Mothers became the ‘caring parent’, whilst fathers were the ‘absent parent’. The Children Act of 1989 also carried the vestiges of ignorance when it refused to give automatic parental responsibility to the unmarried father (although this has now changed). The consequence of all of this is was to construct the importance of fatherhood only in financial terms, a classic, if you like, of gender segregation; mothers being important for care and nurture and fathers for money and providing. It is only now following recent research into non-residential fathers that this type of stereotype of fathers is somewhat wide of the mark. As a backlash to this ideology the newspapers of the day made an issue of this with such articles as “New Daddies Girl” (The Times – Saturday 4th July 1998), “Founding Fathers” (The Times Magazine – Saturday 11th July 1998), “How to Survive the Split” (The Birmingham Evening Mail – Thursday 23rd July 1998) and so on. It became evident that a strong feeling of injustice was starting to develop amongst fathers and that their importance solely rested as a financial one. Alas, according to the National Association for Child Support Action (Pg 15 Lewis. R. (1998) National Association for Child Support Action News – Issue 2), it had been estimated that 45 suicides were directly attributable to child support legislation within its first year of implementation. As a result of the tragedies and the debarcle associated with the development of The Child Support Agency the government tried to push for a more “active family policy”. It stated that a parent should “never divorce their children” and gave lip service to the idea that fathers have a rightful role to play within a family and should never be “marginal to a child’s well-being”. Alas, the reality remains that for so many fathers these terms became words only and the family law courts are still choaked with fathers desperately battling to see their children.

The concept of fatherhood within my lifetime has seen a root and branch reform. During the 1970s any ideology associated with fatherhood was often connected to them either being a shadowy figure or a hapless no hoper who was ridiculed and seen as a comical figure amongst the ‘carry-on’ generation. But the new generation are (rightly) encouraged to be present at childbirth classes with his partner, attend the delivery and take responsibility for the care and feeding of the growing child on equal measure to the mother. Indeed, no longer is a father to be considered as a social accident but as a positive and active role model. However, ideas and stances can quickly change. Once the relationship is over between the parents the father is instantly labelled as useless, unhelpful, inept and incapable of doing what a ‘mother can do’. Even false accusations of violence is often upheld by social services based on no evidence. This is certainly the case when a new ‘father-figure’ steps into the family home to replace the natural father, who until that point more than likely, had a more active role – often dictated by the mother of whom the children automatically live with. Indeed, it is important to readdress and correct earlier myths about fatherhood and it must now be recognised that fathers really are having an active involvement with their children. Not through expectation but because we want to. It is impossible to conceivably argue that a father is good one moment and not the next based on a falling out with the mother.

Due to erroneous studies carried out by Bowlby et al, the children tend to be left in the physical care of the mother by default. As a result, many of the researches carried out about the effects on children following a divorce will and have been influenced by the mother. Moreover, as a result, many fathers contact with their children decreases over time. A mother will always be a mother yet an absent father seems to hold the title of ‘father’ by a licence allowed by the mother -ie if he remains in the relationship or if the mother allows access. The pain of not seeing a child is like mourning a death without a body or grave and this pain is often unbearable. It is not simply indifference or lack of interest on the part of fathers that accounts for a diminishing visitation pattern. The custodial parent’s attitude is often a factor. Between 25 and 50% of mothers may interfere with or make visitation more difficult. Just as we have seen in ‘stable’ relationships, the mothers are often seen as the gatekeepers in deciding the role of the father. As I have seen in so many cases the mother often decided to move on and sees the biological father as an inconvenience to their new plans. This results in a plan to keep the father at an uncompromised distance.
On rare occasions fathers do gain residential custody of their children. This of course is the exception and not the rule and is only granted when the mother is proven to be unfit. The term of the ‘best interest’ of the child is nothing more than lip service and there is a generalisation that the child will always live better with the mother unless proven otherwise. However, I would like you to consider the legal opinion from a New York Judge in the Levine v Levine case (pg45 of the transcript) in the 1970s;
The simple fact of being a mother does not by itself indicate a capacity or willingness to render a quality of care different from that which a father can provide… the best interest of the child doctrine [is] out of touch with contemporary thought about child development and male and female stereotypes.
For those fathers who gained custody it is often found that they are both older and come from a more secure financial back ground than their other male counterparts. J. Haskey (One Parent Families and their Dependent Children in Great Britain – 1998) pointed out that lone fathers tend to be older than lone mothers. The peak age for lone mothers sits in the early 30s range whereas lone fathers are found to be in their early 40s. This may be due to a majority of fathers finding themselves to be widowers or divorcees in later life.

Badinter, in her 1981 study entitled The Myth of Motherhood: An Historical View of the Maternal Instinct, suggested that the contemporary father is rejecting the authoritarian role of our forefathers and is trying to play a father/mother role. However, Laslett in his review of the said book argued (in the London Review of Books [19th August 1981]) that there was too little research to draw such conclusions. Although both points are valid it went to show that even by the early 1980s there was little, if any solid research into the role of fatherhood. However, one would like to suggest therefore, the idea of an involved fatherhood may have existed all along, but it has only recently become a fashionable research topic. Following a period of my own research it was noted that most family studies of the 1970s and early 80s were mother focused. For example, most data about fathers were more than likely collected by the mothers, who in turn became the investigators. Fathers, it appears were often out at work when the researchers gathered their evidence. However, the maternal role playing family is not ubiquitous, since many children do not grow up under the exclusive care of a mother. Furthermore, research carried out by Eiduson (Non-Traditional Families [1982]) for example, showed that both men and women can, and often do, reject the parenting styles of their parents. During my lifetime it has appeared that fathers have been portrayed as being uninvolved with the daily routines of childcare. It has been implied that the father was useless with the changing of nappies or hopeless at warming a bottle in readiness for a feed. This has re-enforced the idea that child rearing has, and always was, a female role. The mans role, as a result was to provide material and moral support to the mother and to be the breadwinner. Therefore, as being an inactive participant in the rearing of the children the father did indeed become the social accident. My own experiences of my fathers’ was varied and mixed. My adopted father was kind and loving but I don’t recall him dressing me or collecting me from school. In fact, he rarely cooked a meal but he had a positive effect on me – he was a good father. Whereas, my natural father was able to play a role that soon fizzled out when his true character emerged (I found him when I was 40) and as a father he was utterly useless – he was not there from the outset and failed to make any positive efforts when I found him.
I strongly doubt that the stereotypical view of fatherhood ever actually existed. Many historians (namely; Stearns, “Fatherhood in Historical Perspective: The Role of Social Change” and R.D. Parke, “Fatherhood and Families in Cultural Context) have both argued that this portrait of the uninvolved father is, at best, oversimplified and at worst utterly wrong. I am both sure and confident when I say that there has never been, and is not, one single type of father. Indeed, I accept that there are some fathers, like some mothers, who wish to remain uninvolved. But equally there have been fathers who have played an active and positive role in childrearing. It is also now accepted that some fathers do it alone. Like myself I raised my two sons alone for many years. I know I was seen, at the time, as the exception and not the norm. As a result access to resources and support for lone fathers during that period (1990s) was both difficult and limited. The joy of watching my children grow up was immeasurable but it was difficult when trying to integrate in a woman only monopoly of parenthood. I recall being once asked to leave a ‘mother and toddler’ group, because, as it said, it was for mothers. Although I am now aware that times have changed there is still an artificial atmosphere of questioning a fathers ability to raise his children.

At present we see concepts such as parental leave, flexible working and on site child care as female concerns. Obviously, I can sit back and say that these are not ‘women’ issues but ‘parental’ and should be addressed as such. These narrow based concerns appear to block a fathers ability to be as involved as the mother from the outset. The case for a change in public policy was made by Lars Jalmert of Stockholm University who reported that the gradual changes in Sweden as a result of the parental leave system had found that men were now living closer to their children than in previous generations.
With an attempt to bring in sweeping changes for parenting it is perhaps now right to look at gender roles differently. There needs to be an acknowledgement when it comes to parenting that there is a distinct difference between ‘gender’ and ‘sex’. Sex refers to biology – the simple differences between men and women. Whereas, gender identifies cultural differences perhaps better identified as masculine and feminine. Thus, gender is a social construct. Even when we can identify gender differences these are further divided when we take into account subcultural differences such as race, class, age, ethnicity and even sexual persuasion.
In the space of forty years or so the acceptance of fatherhood has moved from being inept and incapable to one whereby there is no reason to exclude. This is evident when today the father can be in the delivery suite whereas before, they only saw their new born behind a glass screen. This new approach, of course, flies in the still present (and convenient view for some) view that men are aggressors and violent and the mother is always soft and caring. Men, or to be specific, fathers, are not dangerous and incapable of rearing a child. In fact, the historical exclusion ensured that fathers were kept at an unjustifiable distance to feed a flawed research paper.

In 1982 J.H. Pleck in Husbands and Wives: Paid Work, Family Work and Adjustment, carried out research based on mothers attitudes to fathers. Interestingly it discovered that mothers did not want their husbands to be more involved with their children than they were. At the same time of this publication it was suggested that about 40% of fathers indicated that they would have liked to spend more time with their children than they were currently able to do so. Indeed, it has been suggested by social theorist such as M.E Lamb in ‘The changing role of fathers’ when he stated that it was the mothers who played a gatekeeping role by either supporting or inhibiting a fathers’ involvement with their children.

As a father and recent grandfather, I am glad to see that certain things have changed. My son does not experience the discrimination that I faced when taking his son out. However, we are still living in a period of uncertainty when it comes to how much a father is allowed to do. As stated, I raised my children alone for many years and they turned out to be okay even without the easy access of support groups and lack of both physical presence and financial support from their mother (she never paid a penny and the Child Support Agency openly admitted to not being able to chase absent mothers). With the rise of equal equality in the workplace the home cannot and should not be overlooked. It is wrong to claim that a mothers love is more important than a fathers equally as it is to say that a woman cannot do the same work as a man. Both are wrong but the discrimination of fathers still exists and does not seem to want to go away.

With modern developments and changing roles of mothers it may be worth considering the fact that the ‘new’ father is a product of evolution as apposed to revolution. The role of a father needs to be reassessed in the face of outdated and often incompatible social expectations. However, despite the slow rate of change and acceptance it is now clear that fathers can and do play an important role in the development of their children. With these differences in mind this book is set out to discuss fatherhood in its simplest terms. What does it mean to be a father when you fit into different categories? Of course, I can reflect upon my own experiences having fallen into categories such as, young, old, lone and married, step, adopted and natural. They have all come with their difficulties but have equally come with joys and pride. Thus, this book will try and help us consider the issues facing fatherhood as well as his wealth of experiences.



The End

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The End

The End

For an end to have an existence it must be the conclusion of something. The end of the day must have had a morning, and a death must have had a birth. Even the greatest oak trees started from a small acorn. But if I am to discuss the end of my story we must be aware of where it started. At the beginning of my first book (Silent Story) I made the unassuming comment that when I woke on that one Sunday morning, little did I know the night before that the world of which I once recognised would no longer exist by lunch time the following day.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The End

History Paths

Both the ancient Greeks and Romans believed that history was on a linier path and not circular. To put this simply, day to day experiences were independent of each other and they were of no consequence to what had happened before. By todays standards we are fully aware that events are indeed a consequence of events and actions that had happened before hand. If we think about the terrorist attacks that happened on 11th September 2001 they were not just an idea plucked out of thin air. There was a history attached to the ideology behind it all. The attacks took planning and logistics. These events were nearly identical to the 1605 terrorist plans associated with the gun powder plot to blow up the king and Parliament. Both plans were based on a religious, philosophical and the need to spread fear in the name of terror. Although the topic is not about terrorism both events shook the world so much that promises were made to learn and react and yet, the same events unfolded with 400 years apart.

Words

The journey associated with history is littered with events that are either not new or indeed repeated. Time after time I have witnessed great speakers talk about the events before, during and after the Jewish holocaust in the 20th century. And yet, each time these people speak they talk about learning from the past and avoiding the horrors that had happened before. However, in our own lifetimes we have seen ethnic cleansing, mass genocide and victimisations of minority groups repeated time after time all within the space of a few years. Therefore, you can argue that it is okay to study history but why bother if nothing has been learnt or heeded from these events. Therefore, it could be argued that the study of history is nothing more than a high brow soap opera with the obligatory bad character battling the good – and there are countless examples throughout time to give here.

Journey

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The End

When I reflect upon my journey following my abuse and life time struggles with depression it becomes clear that the peaks and troths, the bends and dips were and all part of the recovery. Yet like the impatient child seated in the back of the car it is inevitable that I will ask “are we there yet?” By giving the seated child analogy it is not the journey they dislike it is the arrival at the destination they are impatiently seeking.

Throughout my time struggling to get answers and seeking explanations, I have peered through the windows to discover cover-ups, uncomfortable apologies backed up with nothing more than formally typed letters, stereotypical conclusions, narrow minded protocols, systematic failures and ignorance by public bodies. I have discovered that the journey has not been pleasant but highly educational. The journey has shown me that although there are a lot of errors and faults in supporting male victims of domestic abuse and support for people with depression there is no impetus or encouragement to change. The David and Goliath struggles are far too big to tackle when those holding the cards are so deeply infused with narrow minded ignorance that change appears almost impossible.

Fear the truth

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The End

Over several months I have read and watched both recent and historical events of minorities who have suffered at the hands of the authorities. I have concluded by finding two facts. Firstly, as quoted by Socrates, “When the debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the losers” and secondly, People start to ridicule because they fear the truth. In both cases the fight to expose the truth is over shadowed by the fight to maintain your dignity in the face of hostility. In so many cases it has been the case that the bringer of facts has had to fight organisations such as the police, both criminal and family law courts, social services and so on. In every case I have attempted to raise the truth I have been stopped by convenient red tape, systematic protocols, and institutional ignorance that suits the blinkered stand-point of which they wish to operate by.

A lack of interest

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The End

Having now reached the end of the journey the car park looks very dull indeed. The dystopian future is filled with dread for our sons (and in part, daughters). In the twenty-first century we still lack the medical support for depression and above all the lack of interest or concern for male victims of domestic abuse. I have found that the future seems utterly disinterested in offering equal support for men who live with the daily horrors of a violent partner (whether heterosexual or not) or the rising numbers of men taking their own lives. There appears to be a complete lack of interest when men are discharged from hospitals following assaults to ensure they have a safe place to go home to. There is an utter lack of interest from the police who attend male victims who call out for help following the utter embarrassment to admit that they are victims. Social services and family law courts still and will forever favour the mothers over good and caring fathers.

A dystopian future

The real pain rests with the fact that no matter how hard a few voices have shouted out that enough is enough, absolutely nothing has changed in my life time. We can only conclude by stating that male lives just do not matter. Men are replaceable, expendable and unequal in the eyes of the law and in the role of a husband, father, brother or son. And this is where my argument holds so much importance because every wife, mother, sister or daughter has a male counterpart of which feels the same pains as them. It will be hard to bring up our sons telling them not to bother being in a relationship because the breakdown can and would destroy their lives. Or tell our fathers that they might as well put that rope around their necks because nothing will be done should you choose otherwise. This, as stated, is the dystopian future and my journey to this point has shown no impetus or need for change.

The end

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The End

However, I suppose that by concluding my work I have discovered that there are so many other men out there that have experienced what I have. It has brought me great comfort to know that by telling my story I have been able to be open and frank about my experiences. I am certainly wiser about the system and how it does not practice what it preaches. At the time of writing this I am still awaiting support from a police domestic abuse support officer two years after raising my concerns.

I suppose I can now see that I am stronger than I originally gave myself credit for. I have learnt that to survive the nightmare conditions I had found myself in, recovery must and does start from within. I have found that people who suffer with depression are often the kindest and (ironically) the happiest people you could know. Furthermore, having a dependency on an agency doing the right thing is a fallacy. But here lies the irony, by accepting these newly found facts and adjusting my stance to how society should respond I am now in such a better place. My happiness is genuine and my knowledge is stronger. So I suppose by concluding my work I would like to finish with two quotes from my favourite (and often misunderstood) philosopher, Friedrich Nietzche (1844 – 1900)

Insanity in individuals is rare – but in groups, nations and epochs, it is the rule.

And finally

What does not destroy me, makes me stronger.

 

Fatherhood

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Fatherhood

Whilst I recall my younger years I can remember always wanting to be a father. Admittedly, life didn’t always go to plan and I had found myself over time being a young father, an old father, an adopted father and a step father at various points in my life. Like most parents, I could say that although these roles had been rewarding they had also been difficult and often demanding.

Common thread

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Fatherhood

When I set out to write about fatherhood it took a great deal of time and consideration to identify a common thread. Like mother’s there are fathers of whom are; natural, adopted, step, young, old, disabled, fit and so on. However, I have heard it said a number of times that fathers are a biological necessity, but a social accident. This train of thought was certainly present during the 20th century and most evident during the 21st. Unfortunately, this idea of fatherhood has seeped into our culture and many sections of society have both conformed and adopted this stance.

C. Passingham (Lone Fathers – One Parent Families. Pg 35 – 1975) described how important paid employment was to a mans self-respect. This was not just based on the fact that fathers could earn more and felt that poverty was as much a threat to children as was ‘inadequate’ parenting. But ‘providing’ during this period was what was expected of men.

Useless and inept?

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Fatherhood

During my lifetime it has appeared that fathers have been portrayed as being uninvolved with the daily routines of childcare. It has been implied that the father was useless with the changing of nappies or hopeless at warming a bottle in readiness for a feed. This has re-enforced the idea that child rearing has, and always was, a female role. The mans role, as a result was to provide material and moral support to the mother and to be the breadwinner. Therefore, as being an inactive participant in the rearing of the children the father did indeed become the social accident. My own experiences of my fathers’ was varied and mixed. My adopted father was kind and loving but I don’t recall him dressing me or collecting me from school. In fact, he rarely cooked a meal but he had a positive effect on me – he was a good father. Whereas, my natural father was able to play a role that soon fizzled out when his true character emerged (I found him when I was 40) and as a father he was utterly useless – he was not there from the outset and failed to make any positive efforts when I found him.

Stereotype

I strongly doubt that this stereotypical view of fatherhood ever actually existed. Many historians (namely; Stearns, “Fatherhood in Historical Perspective: The Role of Social Change” and R.D. Parke, “ Fatherhood and Families in Cultural Context) have both argued that this portrait of the uninvolved father is, at best, oversimplified and at worst utterly wrong. I am both sure and confident when I say that there has never been, and is not, one single type of father. Indeed, I accept that there are some fathers (like some mothers) who wish to remain uninvolved. But equally there have been fathers who have played an active and positive role in childrearing. It is also now accepted that some fathers do it alone. Like myself I raised my two sons alone for many years. I know I was seen, at the time, as the exception and not the norm. As a result access to resources and support for lone fathers during that period (1990s) was both difficult and limited. The joy of watching my children grow up was immeasurable but it was difficult when trying to integrate in a woman only monopoly of parenthood. I recall being once asked to leave a ‘mother and toddler’ group, because, as it said, it was for mothers. Although I am now aware that times have changed there is still an artificial atmosphere of questioning a fathers ability to raise his children.

Economic reasons

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Fatherhood

By todays standards, either due to economic necessity or for personal fulfilment many mothers are now opting to work. And it isn’t just for part-time, low level income roles. Many mothers are successfully taking on professional full time positions. As a result, it has also become far more evident that many fathers are also taking on more and more responsibilities for early infant and child care duties. In fact I consider that for some people it is essential to have two wage earners to maintain a certain standard of lifestyle once children arrive.

Today, the idea of the nuclear family has lost its meaning. More and more people are moving away from their home towns and setting up new homes miles away from other family members. As a result, the historical duties of grandmothers, aunts and so on who very often took on the caring role, are becoming more diluted and gradually unrecognisable. The roles of these women have changed and there is no longer an assumption that they will be ‘there’ when you need them. People are working well into their retirement and so as a result more and more is expected from fathers and (even) grandfathers. It is not, in my opinion that fathers have been forced to do the parenting against their will, it is just that there is now more of an opportunity of which fathers are willing to grasp.

Other factors

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Fatherhood

Parenting is not performed in isolation. It is intimately linked with all other aspects of everyday life. The social, economic, cultural and religious backgrounds often prevail in relation to family structures. Issues such as housing, poverty, health and employment play in conditioning a parents’ ability to nurture. Clearly these factors are equally true for both mothers and fathers and so require an even and equal response regardless of gender. But a parents’ love is unconditional, yet many fathers have to live with the threat of not seeing their children on the whim of the mother. This is re-enforced and promoted by a set of outdated and wrong research findings that have infiltrated and tainted the role and importance of the father.

An active role (model)

The concept of fatherhood within my lifetime has seen a root and branch reform. During the 1970s any ideology associated with fatherhood was often connected to them either being a shadowy figure or a hapless no hoper who was ridiculed and seen as a comical figure amongst the ‘carry-on’ generation. But the new generation are (rightly) encouraged to be present at childbirth classes with his partner, attend the delivery and take responsibility for the care and feeding of the growing child on equal measure to the mother. Indeed, no longer is a father to be considered as a social accident but as a positive and active role model.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Fatherhood

However, and this really makes my blood boil, once the relationship is over between the parents the father is instantly labelled as useless, unhelpful, inept and incapable of doing what a ‘mother can do’. This is certainly the case when a new ‘father-figure’ steps into the family home to replace the natural father, who until that point more than likely, had a more active role – often dictated by the mother of whom the children automatically live with. Indeed, it is important to readdress and correct earlier myths about fatherhood and it must now be recognised that fathers really are having an active involvement with their children. Not through expectation but because we want to. It is impossible to conceivably argue that a father is good one moment and not the next based on a falling out with the mother.

Evolution not revolution

With modern developments and changing roles of mothers it may be worth considering the fact that the ‘new’ father is a product of evolution as apposed to revolution. The role of a father needs to be reassessed in the face of outdated and often incompatible social expectations. However, despite the slow rate of change and acceptance it is now clear that fathers can and do play an important role in the development of their children.

It appears that psychological research has often ignored the role of fathers. One argument for this was that the social theories of parenting roles at the time had deeply penetrated the theories attached to parenthood. Theories can just be seen as the way the world works. But theories constrain the idea of concepts and notions. As a consequence early researchers had not just forgotten about fathers, they were completely ignored because they were considered to be less important than mothers. And so, the dominant (and wrong) theories were left to develop and fester unchallenged or addressed for decades.  The two main protagonists within this field was Sigmund Freud (6 May 1856 – 23 September 1939) and John Bowlby (26 February 1907 – 2 September 1990).

An utterley flawed theory

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Fatherhood

Both Freud and Bowlby may have differed in their approach and views on fatherhood but they both came to the same conclusion – mothers were the most important figures during infancy. In Bowlby’s paper entitled ‘The Nature of the Child’s Ties to his Mother’, he argued that maternal deprivation led to infants and children failing to adequately develop. Unfortunately, this view was also sanctioned by other theorists such as Rene Spitz and Margaret Ribble in ‘The Rights of Infants ‘- 1943. Bowlby’s later works pushed this concept further when he discussed attachment theories, which stated that infants come to prefer specific adults, namely the mother. His thoughts and considerations were based on the idea that a mother is biologically equipped to respond to an infant’s needs. As a result, Bowlby left the fathers out of the essential equation when it came to child rearing. Fathers, therefore, were seen as secondary and only required as a provider of the mothers needs.

In fact, Bawlby and his research in my opinion, were and are deeply flawed and as a result threw a spanner in the fatherhood works (so to speak). The paper was certainly used for political purposes to claim any separation from the mother was harmful. It was also intended to discourage women from working and leaving their children in day-care. The government at the time, were concerned about maximising employment for returned and returning servicemen after the Second World War. In 1962 The World Health Organisation (WHO) published ‘Deprivation of Maternal Care: A Reassessment of its Effects’ to which Mary Ainsworth, Bowlby’s close colleague, contributed with his approval, to present the recent research and developments and to address misapprehensions. This publication also attempted to address the previous lack of evidence on the effects of paternal deprivation.

This narrow (and in my opinion, wrong) view of parenting came to dominate Western cultures. However, a small group of cultures divide the role of child rearing equally. For example, the Trobrianders of Melanesia and the Aka Pygmies of Africa (to name just two examples) have adopted this equal sharing role.  As a result, it would be fair to argue that the biological argument of parenting does not stand up to scrutiny. Animal studies have also shown that parenting is not just a female privilege. Marmosets and Tamarin monkeys are well known for playing a very active role of parenting from an early age. This is also seen in other monkey specimens such as Barbary Macaques of Asia and Rhesus monkeys (mainly native to South, Central and Southeast Asia).

A reason to exclude

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Fatherhood

In the space of forty years or so the acceptance of fatherhood has moved from being inept and incapable to one whereby there is no reason to exclude. This is evident when today the father can be in the delivery suite whereas before, they only saw their new born behind a glass screen. This new approach, of course, flies in the still present (and convenient view for some) view that men are aggressors and violent and the mother is always soft and caring. Men, or to be specific, fathers, are not dangerous and incapable of rearing a child. In fact, the historical exclusion ensured that fathers were kept at an unjustifiable distance to feed a flawed research paper.

In 1982 J.H. Pleck in Husbands and Wives: Paid Work, Family Work and Adjustment, carried out research based on mothers attitudes to fathers. Interestingly it discovered that mothers did not want their husbands to be more involved with their children than they were. At the same time of this publication it was suggested that about 40% of fathers indicated that they would have liked to spend more time with their children than they were currently able to do so. Indeed, it has been suggested by social theorist such as M.E Lamb in ‘The changing role of fathers’ when he stated that it was the mothers who played a gatekeeping role by either supporting or inhibiting a fathers’ involvement with their children.

Break-ups

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Fatherhood

For me to draw up an accurate number with regards to relationship breakdowns, I can only consider divorce rates. Co-habiting couples, by their very nature are difficult to assess and so as a result the figures of actual relationship breakdowns may be much higher than actually recorded. However, it cannot be denied that divorce rates are increasing. According to C. Sorrentino, ‘The Changing Family in International Perspective’, 1990, the divorce rate in the USA doubled between 1960 and 1986 and half of all marriages today will end in divorce. In the UK the rates of marital break-ups have increased six fold (with 62% of second marriages also failing).  Unfortunately, 60% of US divorces and 75% in the UK involve children. However, the final act of divorce may be the end of a disruptive line of events that not only disrupts the family home but can also have an impact upon the children.

Due to erroneous studies carried out by Bowlby et al, the children tend to be left in the physical care of the mother by default. As a result, many of the researches carried out about the effects on children following a divorce will and have been influenced by the mother. Moreover, as a result, many fathers contact with their children decreases over time. A mother will always be a mother yet an absent father seems to hold the title of ‘father’ by a licence allowed by the mother -ie if he remains in the relationship or if the mother allows access. The pain of not seeing a child is like mourning a death without a body or grave and this pain is often unbearable. It is not simply indifference or lack of interest on the part of fathers that accounts for a diminishing visitation pattern. The custodial parent’s attitude is often a factor. Between 25 and 50% of mother may interfere with or make visitation more difficult. Just as we have seen in ‘stable’ relationships, the mothers are often seen as the gatekeepers in deciding the role of the father. As I have seen in so many cases the mother often decided to move on and sees the biological father as an inconvenience to their new plans. This results in a plan to keep the father at an uncompromised distance.

An exception, not the rule

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Fatherhood

On rare occasions fathers do gain residential custody of their children. This of course is the exception and not the rule and is only granted when the mother is proven to be unfit. The term of the ‘best interest’ of the child is nothing more than lip service and there is a generalisation that the child will always live better with the mother unless proven otherwise. However, I would like you to consider the legal opinion from a New York Judge in the Levine v Levine case (pg45 of the transcript) in the 1970s;

The simple fact of being a mother does not by itself indicate a capacity or willingness to render a quality of care different from that which a father can provide… the best interest of the child doctrine [is] out of touch with contemporary thought about child development and male and female stereotypes.

For those fathers who gained custody it is often found that they are both older and come from a more secure financial back ground than their other male counterparts. J. Haskey (One Parent Families and their Dependent Children in Great Britain – 1998) pointed out that lone fathers tend to be older than lone mothers. The peak age for lone mothers sits in the early 30s range whereas lone fathers are found to be in their early 40s. This may be due to a majority of fathers finding themselves to be widowers or divorcees.

Access beyond poverty

The loss of legal aid for family matters is certainly a contributory factor to fathers being excluded from the equal parenting role. In effect state sponsored poverty may in fact be an aspect for paternal alienation. By putting the financial issue aside, the increasing role of the single father flies in the face of the bubbling idiot who has no idea what to do. In fact, many lone fathers are seen as hero like unlike single mothers who are expected to be able to carry out such duties. And this is wrong. Interestingly, a study carried out by Alison Clarke-Stewart and Craig Hayward (Advantages of Father Custody and Contact for the Psychological well-being of School-Age Children – 1994) found that a substantial sample of 187 five to thirteen year old children, 72 in their fathers care and 115 in their mother’s care that the children in paternal care were doing better than those in a maternal home. These said children had higher self-esteem, less anxiety and depression  and fewer ‘difficult’ behaviours. Furthermore, and interestingly, Clarke-Stewart and Hayward found that children did best when they were in paternal care and unexpectedly, the custodial parent was happier.

Home rights and work rights

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Fatherhood

As a father and recent grandfather, I am glad to see that certain things have changed. My son does not experience the discrimination that I faced when taking his son out. However, we are still living in a period of uncertainty when it comes to how much a father is allowed to do. As stated, I raised my children alone for many years and they turned out to be okay even without the easy access of support groups and lack of both physical presence and financial support from their mother (she never paid a penny and the Child Support Agency openly admitted to not being able to chase absent mothers). With the rise of equal equality in the workplace the home cannot and should not be overlooked. It is wrong to claim that a mothers love is more important than a fathers equally as it is to say that a woman cannot do the same work as a man. Both are wrong but the discrimination of fathers still exists and does not seem to want to go away.

The Power of a Poster

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Power of a Poster

A painfully Slow Process

I am now at the age whereby I realise that not everything is done instantly. This has come as a bit of a shock to me because as an ex member of the forces I have found that, although life in the forces is somewhat different to ‘civvie street’ life out here is slower and a lot less urgent.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Power of a Poster

During the end of my service in the RAF one of my NCO’s (non-commissioned officers) said of me that; if I needed something done, I didn’t care how it was done as long as it was on my desk when I needed it. As a result I have found life as a civilian frustrating and unjustifiably slow. If something needs to be done it does not require a committee or a series of phone-calls to end up back at the beginning to be told I have the wrong number (and so on).

In My Lifetime – Doubt it

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Power of a Poster

Alas, it is with a heavy heart when I consider the fact that the changes we urgently need may never be achieved in my life time. However, it was recently brought to my attention that there has been a recent drive highlighting the fact that men are also victims of domestic abuse. Of course, I am delighted that such an issue is starting to be acknowledged but a poster strategically placed still does not address the whole issue. Let me give another example, there would be uproar if 1 in 4 people were diagnosed with cancer but there was no treatment in the modern world for it. To give another analogy, we would never contemplate the idea of a sinking ship having no life boats.

But here rests my point. I am delighted that some form of statement of recognition is now out there but where is the support? Where is the equality in law for equal protection. Or, for that matter where are the refuges for male victims? Where is the access to a safe home on a council waiting list? Where, once the ability to leave the home is the equal parenting rights to our children?

Is that it, just a poster?

You may call me cynical, but as far as I see it the whole poster drive is a tick box exercise. It appeases the police who claim to administer the law equally. It appeases social services who claim to be equal and inclusive and it appeases the health service who claim to offer support and sanctuary. But alas, none of this is the case.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Power of a Poster

Many people think of domestic abuse as a physical assault by a man on a woman in their home. But the reality of domestic violence extends much further than that. The Inter-Ministerial Group on Domestic Violence has adopted the following Home Office definition: ‘Any incident of threatening behaviour, violence or abuse (psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional) between adults who are or have been intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender or sexuality.’ (Home Office)

Male Victims Do Not Exist

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Power of a Poster

In a document entitled Responding to domestic abuse: a handbook for health professionals – by the Department of Health 2005, states that; Responsibility for domestic abuse always lies with the perpetrator – never with the person who has been abused. At no point does it identify a specific gender as being either the perpetrator or victim yet, within the said document it clearly states on page 4 that it will not acknowledge male victims as; Consequently, this handbook focuses on women’s needs. To date the said office have failed to produce a male equivalent document, thirteen years after the publication of the first booklet mentioned above.

We will probably never know its true extent, because many male cases of domestic abuse go unreported. It is difficult – and often dangerous – for a victim to tell somebody that they are being abused by somebody close to them. But we do know it’s common.

Domestic Abuse Is A Health Issue For Men Too

With the recognition of a social problem must come some form of responsibility. Men are dying at an alarming rate. Okay, it is fair to argue that less men die at the hands of an abusive partner but men are killing themselves because they have reached the end of a dead end road. When there is no other option left but to return to the abusive home and become the perpetual victim to a violent partner that is one thing. But to be rejected by the law makers or to be refused a home based on your gender is another.

It doesn’t take much to type in ‘domestic abuse’ in any search engine to find reams of information aimed at female victims. Pages and pages will offer support and guidance and even direct you to places whereby you can get specialist information about specific things. Yet, in my hour of need there was nothing. Not a dot of information or help. After all, it has always been unacceptable for a male to be a victim either of domestic abuse or depression. And yet the only contribution to date to support a male victim is a poster.

A World Wide Disgrace

Well I don’t wish to make a stir but that poster offers very little in the way of true support. There needs to be an equal drive for supplying refuges or/and protection. Like I have previously said there would be uproar if this lack of provision or funding was found in any other walk of life. This present system is far from adequate and is a world wide disgrace.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Power of a Poster

I am aware that for generations men have been discouraged to talk about problems or concerns. Indeed, as a result the numbers of people reporting issues does not reflect the true facts about the issues concerning men. However, times have changed and not only are a younger generation of men stepping forward but we also have a younger generation of violent women making their mark. For generations men have also been discouraged to not discuss depression or moments of ‘weakness’ but the unacceptable rise of male suicides are not being recognised as a social concern.

When I was finally encouraged to come forward and share my story with the authorities it was a big step to take. However, I was under the influence that there would be some form of pay-off. If I openly talked about my experiences and present concerns I would be able to access support, help and advice. Yet, to date I have received next to nothing other than a number of counselling sessions provided by my work. I must therefore, acknowledge that I had been given some form of support but it does not match anything that was offered to my female equivalent. Yet, here I am saying how delighted I am to have witnessed a poster – yes just one poster.

Gender issues

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression The Power of a Poster

Similarly, although much of my writing refers to domestic abuse within heterosexual relationships, it’s important to acknowledge that lesbian and gay relationships are also affected by domestic abuse. Although abuse in same-sex relationships sometimes brings up different issues from those occurring in heterosexual relationships, it merits the same level of concern and the same professional, supportive response. Yet, I have had discussions with gay men who tell me that it is one thing to admit being in a gay relationship, but to admit being the victim of abuse by their partner is another.

Virtually every person in Britain uses the healthcare system at some point. If we create an environment in which men as well as women are likely to feel safe enough to reveal that they are being abused and can therefore access information, it can make a real difference for thousands of men and their families.

What do (all) survivors of domestic abuse want?

• To be safe. It is essential to know that a man has the same protection in law as a woman. A home must be a refuge from not only the outside world but also a haven from the threat of violence.
• To be believed, taken seriously and respected. From my own and many other men’s experiences this has not, and never was the case. The police fail to provide protection or advice to males. Furthermore, although more concealed now than ever before, no male victim of abuse is taken seriously and as a result lacks the respect the victim requires.
• Timely and proactive interventions such as routine enquiry and the provision of information. A safe haven on an equal standing as female victims is essential but lacking.
• Independent advocates (from the voluntary sector, for example) to oversee their case and liaise with the different agencies that provide them with support.
• A single person or agency to get help from so that they don’t have to keep repeating intimate details of their abuse.
• Options based on their circumstances explained to them clearly.
• Contact with other male survivors.
• To be kept informed of developments – such as when an abuser is released from a police station – although females don’t seem to either get arrested or have to explain their actions.
• Support to cope with the effects of abuse on them and their children.
• To have their views incorporated into services that are offered to them. Furthermore, respect and consideration for their plight.

But at least I can now conclude by saying – at least we now have a poster.

Exhaustion

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Exhaustion

Regardless of who you are, we have all had times when we wake after few hours sleep and spend the rest of the night rolling around the bed getting angry with ourselves because we cannot get back to sleep. But imagine if this pattern became a routine and you know fully well, that when you go to bed within a few hours you will be awake again repeating the events of the night before. But what makes matters worse is that the resulting tiredness effects moods, concentration, thoughts and even appetite. So, your body ends up lacking nourishment and craving rest. Like an alcoholic or a drug user craving their new fix an exhausted person desires rest. Yet, unlike the drink/drug user there is no ready access to gaining support. When it is announced that you are suffering with fatigue all is offered is having a lazy day on your day off. But it not as simple as that. The lead up to exhaustion is more complex than just getting your eight hours sleep at night. There are overlapping and related factors that need to be considered.

Same problem, different name.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Exhaustion

Like depression or domestic abuse, men fail to either recognise the signs or fail to admit that the problem exists. Indeed, following simple research I have found that exhaustion is extremely dangerous and is actually deadly. In some cases, exhaustion is a sign of an underlying disease, including cancer, low thyroid, anemia or other metabolic abnormalities, such as adrenal insufficiency. Exhaustion is commonly seen with depression and is a possible side effect of many prescription drugs, including beta blockers, muscle relaxants and mood stabilizers. However, given that depression also tends to involve lethargy and detachment, some have argued that burnout is just a stigma-free label for depression. In her book, Exhaustion: A History, Schaffner quotes one German newspaper article that claimed burnout is just a “luxury version” of depression for high-flying professionals. “Only losers become depressive,” the article continued. “Burnout is a diagnosis for winners, or, more specifically, for former winners.”

Suffer

Exhaustion, by any name, is hardly a new phenomenon. In the 1800s, women were said to suffer from hystero-neurasthenia, or “nervous exhaustion.” Triggers included excessive amounts of exercise, cohabitation, brain work and worries over motherhood, according to an 1887 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Women were also at risk if they worried too much about “impending or actual misfortune.”

In the 1950s, around the time women were having “nervous breakdowns,” scientists published research showing that it was, indeed, possible for business executives to suffer from exhaustion. Today the term burnout, which is characterized by emotional exhaustion, is recognized in Europe and is a common concern among those who work in the medical or humanitarian aid fields.

Four humours
Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Exhaustion

When Schaffner explored the historic literature, however, she found that people suffered from extreme fatigue long before the rise of the modern workplace. One of the earliest discussions of exhaustion was written by the Roman physician Galen (129 –  216 AD ). Like Hippocrates (460 –  370 BC), he believed that all physical and mental ailments could be traced to the relative balance of the four humours – blood, yellow bile, black bile and phlegm. A build-up of black bile, he said, slowed the body’s circulation and clogged up the brain’s pathways, bringing about lethargy, torpor, weariness, sluggishness and melancholy. Although by modern standards and knowledge we now know it has no scientific basis, the idea that our brains are filled with a tar-like liquid certainly captures the foggy, clouded thinking that many people with exhaustion report today.

By the time Christianity had taken hold of Western culture, exhaustion was seen as a sign of spiritual weakness. Schaffner points to the writing of Evagrius Ponticus in the 4th Century, which described the ‘noonday demon’, for instance, that leads the monk to stare listlessly out of the window. “It was very much seen as a lack of faith and a lack of willpower – the spirit versus the flesh.” Schaffner also discovered a case of a monk compulsively and restlessly seeking out his brethren for idle chit-chat rather than engaging in useful employment – Is this not too dissimilar to the way that 21st-century sufferers may find themselves compulsively checking social media?

Modern views – class struggles

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Exhaustion

Religious and astrological explanations continued to abound until the birth of modern medicine, when doctors began diagnosing symptoms of fatigue as ‘neurasthenia’. It is now understood that nerves transmit electrical signals, so perhaps someone with weak nerves may therefore dissipate energy like a badly insulated wire. Intellectual figures from Oscar Wilde to Charles Darwin, Thomas Mann and Virginia Woolf were all diagnosed with neurasthenia. Doctors blamed it on the social changes of the industrial revolution, although delicate nerves were also seen as a sign of refinement and intelligence – some patients languished with pride in their condition. As stated previously, exhaustion is associated with success. To give it another comparison the rich are eccentric but the poor are mad.

In modern, industrial nations, a problem is that the main treatment for exhaustion — sleep — is often seen as laziness and being lazy is a barrier to productivity. In 1960, the average adult received a luxurious amount of sleep at eight and a half hours sleep a night. Today, most people get by on an average of less than seven hours, and a substantial proportion sleep less than six hours, according to National Sleep Foundation data.

Inevitable?

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Exhaustion
But are periods of lethargy and detachment as inevitable a part of human life as head colds and hunger? There is no doubt that exhaustion is a pressing concern. A study of German doctors found that nearly 50% of physicians appeared to be suffering ‘burnout’, reporting, for instance, that they feel tired during every single hour of the day and that the mere thought of work in the morning left them feeling exhausted. Interestingly, men and women seem to deal with burnout in different ways: one recent Finnish survey found that male employees reporting exhaustion were far more likely to take extended sick leave than burned out women, for instance.

Like I have said at the begining, we have all had these moments. But to live with exhaustion is extremely difficult. Even more so when those around you do not have any idea what it is like. There have been times that I know I could not get through the day without a moments rest. In fact, the need to just stop often outweighs the need for food or drink. The need to sleep overshadows everything around me. As a result, a zombie like status emerges and the recognition of the world around you no longer makes sense or even exists. A sense of heaviness emerges and as a result the simplest of tasks literally sap any reserve energy out of you. Alongside the feelings of weariness also comes feelings of emotional despondency, disillusionment and hopelessness.

Although few countries tend to diagnosis neurasthenia today, the term is often used by doctors in China and Japan – again, with the occasional accusation that it is an alternative, stigma-free way of labelling depression.

Distinct

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Exhaustion  

In general, however, the two conditions are generally considered to be distinct. It is generally agreed that depression entails a loss of self-confidence, or even self-hatred or self-contempt, which is not the case for burnout, where the image of the self often remains unbroken. The anger felt in a burnout is generally not turned against the self but rather against the organisation or persons who are seen as the cause of the problem (for example, work or the ex). Nor should burnout be confused with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), which involves prolonged periods of excruciating physical and mental exhaustion for at least six months.



Some data suggest “vital exhaustion,” or a state of excessive fatigue, irritability and hopelessness, can be a risk factor for heart attacks and death. Dutch researchers found that people with high vital exhaustion scores were three times as likely to suffer a subsequent heart attack, perhaps because it increases blood clotting.

I suppose I could give you some obvious advice and suggest you visit the doctor should you develop these symptoms over a significant period. Indeed, you should. But the battle to disassociate ourselves from any form of illness seems to be the norm for many people. In essence, I should state that tiredness does indeed go hand in hand with depression. The two factors together, however, are a burden of which carries a heavy weight upon a daily existence and routine. True fatigue cannot be cured by sleep alone like telling a depressed person to pull themselves together. To me that is the same as telling an obese person to think themselves thin.

If I talk who will listen?

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression If I talk who will listen?

 

Nearly 25 years ago I won sole custody of my sons. Just saying it like that makes it sound so simple. But it wasn’t. I had to sacrifice a good career, battle with social services who had a single view of parenting and I had to face up to the realities of being a single father in a hostile environment to men.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression If I talk who will listen?
When I recall those times I remember feeling frustrated and isolated. I knew of no other single male fathers or other men who had or were battling social services to meet a logical conclusion.

The big world got smaller

The big difference then was that the mode of communication was very limited. The internet was still in its infancy and organisations like ‘Families Need Fathers’ could only be contacted either by post or by visiting their weekly meetings. I suppose I could argue that the world was a very narrow place when looking or seeking for help, guidance and support.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression If I talk who will listen?
Now with technological advances similar people can be contacted and groups be found within a moment. Furthermore, all of this can be done from the phone that sits in my pocket. All of these advances are something beyond my dreams back then – but here it is and it is wonderful.

The power of the internet

I must state that I have taken full advantage of the technology to hand and found it to be useful. I have links on various social networks. I have contacted groups from all over the world and spoke directly to individuals not only in my own country but from all around the globe.
However, I have found a common denominator. I have found that the art of being ignored by the authorities is not a single issue. It is prevalent all around the world.
Whilst I have researched, considered and delivered my findings and arguments I have found that the people who need to hear us are actively ignoring our calls.

The need to write

My writings have generally been about depression and domestic abuse from a male perspective. I set out to do this over twelve months ago because when I was looking for something there was nothing available. Yes, there is literature available about domestic abuse but only if you are female. The literature on depression is limited but tended to be clinical and lack the authentic experiences of a sufferer. As a result, I found it easy to combine, but I have found it frustrating not to be heard.

Over exposure?

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression If I talk who will listen?

It took a great step to open up. By writing about my views and experiences I was (and still am) leaving myself open to scrutiny. When I set out to write I decided that as there was very little out there, I would be a no hold barred writer and express and talk about anything and everything. After all, in my view and hour of need it was what I wanted to hear from someone else.
My point throughout has been that (mainly) men should open up and accept that enough is enough. It is not good enough to expect there to be no literature in doctors surgeries highlighting male victims of domestic abuse. It is also unacceptable for a male victim to be expected to sleep rough as there are no refuges available for men. It is also a life saving decision to express a need for help when the dark clouds of depression take hold.
Yet, and here is the rub. I had made contact with a number of organisations who had claimed to offer an ear of understanding.

In the kingdom of the blind…

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression If I talk who will listen?
I approached the police with my evidence of assaults and abuse. I also supplied them with facts from the Crown Prosecution Service about the lack of information received. The Crown Prosecution Service were informed and challenged about their views on male victims and the issues related to target setting prosecutions against men (and not women). I had also contacted a range of social services expressing my concerns related to male victims of abuse and their continued lack of resources for men.

Yet each and every one of them had either refused to comment or delivered a range of unexplainable and illogical excuses. Time and again I had received letters implying that I should either just go away or put these things down to experiences and move on. One example, was found in a letter I received from the police. It said;

…[the] meeting presented a further opportunity to articulate your concerns and observations and for me to report back on my considerations of the matter. I know you do not share my opinion but I retain the view…. Your allegations was dealt with represented a proportionate police response.

Let me put this into perspective then. I supplied the police with evidence such as diary accounts, text messages, emails, photographs and independent statements from independent witnesses (x3), Ambulance Service Managers and family members. And yet they decided to not take my case further. As a point of fact, they did not even pass my documents to the Crown prosecution Service for their consideration. Is this not a case, therefore, of cherry picking? And yet the full force of the law was placed onto me because my ex made a claim and it was backed up by her (none independent) daughter. Or to put it another way, there was no diary accounts, text messages, emails, photographs and independent statements from independent witnesses.

…the one eyed is king.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression If I talk who will listen?
I have taken the time and the opportunity to raise this concern with the police time and again and yet they stick by their guns still refusing to accept the fact that they have not applied the law equally. Or for that matter justly. I have also taken the time to express my concerns with the police for the lack of support for male victims of domestic abuse. To date the only response I have had about this matter is a paragraph in a letter stating;

…the availability of literature for male victims of domestic abuse could be enhanced.

I note that it says could and not should. In essence it makes no promise or effort to address the imbalance. Furthermore, when I stated in a previous letter that I have still not heard from a Domestic Abuse Support Officer (now 14 months after informing the police) I have still not had any response whatsoever. To quote from Mark Brooks from Mankind Initiative UK following the death of Mark Von Dongen “[is] it down to lack of competence and because… [I am] a man?”

A no win situation

With the lack of clear support and understanding of male victims it therefore, makes it even harder for men to come forward. In essence, with the present status quo the fact of the matter is that male lives just do not matter.

I now sit back in my chair and think about how far I have come. I am now in a good place and I consider myself to be happy. Yet all of this has been done with the support of friends and my own un-defeatist attitude. However, I have learnt that it is impossible to reason with the unreasonable. When you have an agency that are so stuck in their ways and are encouraged to be so there is no impetus to change. After all, why should they when they are meeting targets and individuals can be pushed aside and forgotten? Why should there be change when society is so silent about private injustices or plights?

If we close our eyes (and ears) it won’t exist

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression If I talk who will listen?

There is no requirements to support men when they have been painted (and remain so) as the perpetrator of all things evil and blue eyed, blonde haired claims are taken as the gospel when the facts show otherwise. Why should the police delve into an accusers past and find a pattern of abuse claims against other men?

The answer to all of this is simple. It is not politically correct to consider a male view. It is impossible for them to consider evidence as facts that fly in the face of a perceived consideration. Furthermore, a lone man trying to take a stand against an established authority is small fry and is easily pushed to the side with rhetoric and false appeasements.

Past its sell by date

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression If I talk who will listen?
Regardless of how the police and judiciary try to defend their lack of actions with regards to male victims of domestic abuse, the same old rhetoric about women being more likely to be victims of domestic abuse will keep getting rolled out. But why has no one stopped and considered that fact that this statistic is nearly 30 years old, and in my view, therefore, outdated. It would be inconceivable for a new study to be carried out as it would find that the police actions and lack of support does not fit with the real world of which they claim to police.

Well if you won’t listen, I will turn up the volume

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression If I talk who will listen?
I suppose I can consider that my journey is coming to an end. I am not waving a white flag and laying down my arms. Far from it. I suppose I am going to take a new and different stance on the matter of male victims of domestic abuse. I have focused on my own experiences with regards to the failure of the police. A new tactic is one whereby I can now go public. My knowledge and understanding of the system that chooses to ignore cannot overlook the fact that a sole voice can sound much louder when it has access to media and other men (and women) in similar situations that have felt ignored, forgotten and alas expendable.

Third world treatment for second class citizens in a first world nation

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Third world treatment for second class citizens in a first world nation

I could start and leave this blog by just saying it is all ‘disgraceful’. But that would be an utter injustice to what I have read in the news recently to leave it at just that.

Murder by any means

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Third world treatment for second class citizens in a first world nation

I have been following the case of Mark Von Dongen’s death. For those who are not in the know about this case some of the details can be found at; http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-44159192. To keep it brief Mark had acid thrown over him by his ex-girlfriend Berlinah Wallace.

Fifteen months after the incident that left him in permanent pain, paralysis, the loss of a leg, eye and ear, Mark took his own life via assisted suicide.

Legal view

From the legal point of view, I can understand why Wallace was acquitted of his murder but found guilty of throwing the acid. As has been said following her acquittal for murder she had no forethought about it leading to his death by assisted suicide, but her ignorance is no defence to realise that there would not have been a consequence to her actions.

Utter arrogance

From what I understand about Wallace and following the transcripts of the trial she will now be in a position to clearly state that she was found not guilty of murder. Her arrogance is beyond reprehensible and beyond arrogance.

Was it because he was a man?

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Third world treatment for second class citizens in a first world nation

However, what has been conveniently overlooked was the fact that time and again Mark had reported her abusive behaviour to the police. Three weeks prior to the attack he had called 999 to report his concerns about her behaviour and his concerns for his own safety. In fact, as a point of note her previous husband, Ray Wallace was reported as saying he considered himself lucky just to have had and ashtray thrown at him. It goes without saying that so many people knew what was going on but each and everyone failed him. And yes, the police are also culpable in that statement too.

To quote Mark Brooks from Mankind Initiative UK; … “was it down to lack of competence and because he was a man?”

Lets make the rules up as we go along

But the Wallace case is just another example of the third world treatment being handed out to male victims. A judge’s decision in May 2018 to spare Oxford University student Lavinia Woodward from going straight to prison (Judge Ian Pringle QC imposed a 10-month jail sentence, suspended for 18 months) for stabbing her boyfriend with a bread knife in his leg was reprehensible and indefensible.

Woodward, a student at the university’s Christ Church college, was to be sentenced earlier this year after admitting unlawful wounding, but the judge controversially gave her four months to prove herself and stay out of trouble.

When has gender been a defence?

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Third world treatment for second class citizens in a first world nation

In fact, it has almost become the norm for female abusers to walk free and as a result risks putting male victims of domestic abuse off coming forward. Mark Brooks, again commented that Woodward’s sentence as “unfair” and said she would have been expected to go to prison had she been a man. Again and again this poor treatment of male victims will enforce that view, that male victims are not taken as seriously as female victims.

The whole outcomes of these cases are unfair. We would expect a man who committed this type of crime to go to prison and rightly so, so the question has to be asked why it wasn’t this the case here.

Punishments

Sonja B. Starr conducted a study that found that men serve, on average, 63% longer prison sentences than women. However, the study does not purport to explain why this is the case (Starr, Sonja (August 2012). “Estimating Gender Disparities In Federal Criminal Cases”. Law and Economics Research Paper Series. 12 (18): 17). Warren Farrell also identifies twelve criminal defences that are only available to women (Farrell, Warren (2001). “Women who kill too much and the courts that free them: the twelve “female-only” defences”. The Myth of Male Power: Why Men Are The Disposable Sex. New York: Berkley Books. ISBN 9780425181447). Men’s rights advocates have argued that men being over-represented in both those who commit murder and the victims of murder is evidence that men are being harmed by outmoded cultural attitudes (Woolf, Quentin. “Our attitude to violence against men is out of date”. The Telegraph 2017) The National Coalition for Men states that killing a female rather than a male brings a longer sentence, even more than the increase observed by killing a white person rather than a black person (NCFM (18 April 2014). “Criminal Sentencing”. ncfm.org. National Coalition for Men.).

In the USA, Warren Farrell cites evidence that men receive harsher prison sentences and are more likely sentenced to death in the United States. He critiques society’s belief in women as more innocent and credible, as well as battered woman and infanticide defences.

Pick and choose

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Third world treatment for second class citizens in a first world nation

If we look again at the two cases mentioned. If a female had called the police the outcomes would have been very different indeed. Furthermore, like in my case, the police not only failed to address any of my concerns but went completely overboard for a statement that was proven to be a lie from the outset. In fact, whilst I think about it I am still waiting for someone from a domestic abuse unit to contact me to offer support – and this all happened over twelve months ago. Is my abuse not worthy of the respect or consideration that the authorities seem to supply to my female equivalent? The facts seem to prove this. The reality is that the courts are not applying the same mindset as they would for victims of all genders.

Pointless exercise

And yet the Crown Prosecution Service announced plans in early 2018 to encourage male victims of sexual and domestic abuse to come forward. Like myself, so many other men I have contacted about this debacle have also confirmed it was probably the worst thing they could ever have done. Firstly, you are not believed or considered that you may have asked for it. Secondly the CPS will never take the case forward. Thirdly, the support they claim to offer is not there (like I have just said, I am still awaiting contact from the Domestic Abuse Support groups over a year after reporting my attacks). Finally, and this is the best, both the CPS and the police have perfected the ability to deflect any sort of blame or ownership of incompetence.

This whole mindset of the judiciary and the police flies in the face of established legislation when it comes to fairness of the law. The 1647 Agreement of the People Act stated that “laws will apply equally to everyone and that there must be no discrimination on the grounds of tenure, estate, charter, degree, birth or place”. The 1975/6 Sex Discrimination Act and Race Relations Act was set out to make it an illegal act to discriminate against anyone on the grounds of their gender, or ethnicity. I just think that the general public and the judiciary seem to be singing from different hymn sheets.

Out of date statistic

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Third world treatment for second class citizens in a first world nation

Regardless of how they try to defend their third-class treatment the facts will not deflect from the fact that a man has died because of the actions of his violent partner, of whom, I hasten to add was already known to the police. Furthermore, this is just one example. And yet, the same old rhetoric about women being more likely to be victims of domestic abuse will keep getting rolled out to defend the indefensible. But why has no one stopped and considered that fact that that statistic is nearly 30 years old, and in my view, therefore, outdated.

Domestic violence committed by women against men is a problem that goes ignored and under-reported, in part because men are reluctant to describe themselves as victims. It appears that the judicial systems too easily accept false allegations of domestic violence by women against their male partners.  Men’s rights advocates (mainly in the US) have been critics of legal, policy and practical protections for abused women, campaigning for domestic violence shelters for battered men and for the legal system to be educated about women’s violence against men. Yet I find time after time domestic abuse leaflets are only ever aimed at female victims and I cannot name or identify one male refuge within eighty miles of my home address.

A circus… but who is the clown?

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Third world treatment for second class citizens in a first world nation

It has been suggested to me time after time that feminism has overshot its objective and harmed men. Men’s rights groups generally reject the notion that feminism is interested in men’s problems. Would it not be fair to consider that the banner of feminism has hidden the discrimination now faced by men? I really hope not, as every person I have spoken to declares their intention of equality for all. Yet, I have failed to see equality in the family and criminal courts. Or for that matter within the distribution of health equality and so on. How on earth has an ideology of sexual equality created such a monster that is costing the lives of men?

Family law is an area of deep concern for me. Men’s rights groups have argued that the legal system and family courts discriminate against men, especially in regard to child custody after divorce. I find it difficult to believe that men have the same contact rights or equitable shared parenting rights as their ex-spouse. I like so many other fathers have gone into financial hardship to get what should be an automatic right.

I often rest on my bed at night and wonder about the plight of those fathers and who do not and have not the access to funds to pay the court to enforce what is a supposed right. The saying that fathers have equal rights is just rhetoric as the truth is in the lack of enforced access for any father wishing to raise his children equally to the mother. When I have heard men’s groups ask for “rights” and “equality” in their discourse, framing custody issues as a matter of basic civil rights it is dismissed unless it is a financial benefit to someone (be it the mother or the lawyers). I would therefore cite that parental alienation syndrome as a reason to grant custody to fathers.

Health

Health issues faced by men and shorter life expectancies compared to women may be seen as evidence of discrimination and a third world treatment for second class citizens. There is a complete disparity in funding of men’s health issues as compared to women’s, noting that, for example, prostate cancer research receives less funding than breast-cancer research. Warren Farrell states that men are more likely to die from all 15 leading causes of death than women at all ages (Farrell, Warren (February 10, 2014). The Myth of Male Power: Why Men are The Disposable Sex (21st anniversary ed.). Chapter 7). Perhaps we now live in a society considers that men more disposable than women.

Homelessness

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Third world treatment for second class citizens in a first world nation

Homelessness is a gendered issue. In Britain, most homeless people are male (Poole, Glenn. “Homelessness is a gendered issue, and it mostly impacts men”. The Telegraph. Retrieved 5 March 2017). In the United States, 85% of homeless people are male (Farrell, Warren (2001). “Is male power really a myth? A first glance”. The Myth of Male Power: Why Men Are The Disposable Sex. New York: Berkley Books. ISBN 9780425181447).

It really is a disgrace

I started this post with the term “disgraceful”. And it is. Whatever stance or view you may take on this matter this is not just a male issue. It is our fathers, uncles, husbands, brothers, partners and sons who are ignored by the authorities in their hours of need. We have seen the death of one person due to the actions of a violent woman and the failure of the police to afford the same protection to that of a female. And we have also witnessed the lack of punishment for a man being stabbed by his female partner.

The poor standards of care given to men does indeed make them a second-class citizen when it comes to rights and protection. And this is not a third world country. This is my country. A country that is proud to declare that its laws are fair and equal. It’s just like Orwell once said, “everyone is equal, it’s just that some are more equal than others”.

Blood sports

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Blood sports

I don’t know much about TV around the world but in the UK we have a chat show whereby certain sections of society visit a TV studio and are mocked and ridiculed in front of a live audience about everyday things.  For any educated eye the viewer can tell that these people are clearly below the educational norm.

Lust for blood

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Blood sports

I have found it fascinating that society seems to do such awful things in the name of sport or entertainment. If we look at entertainment throughout the ages there has always been an us and them attitude. During the 18th century it was considered as entertainment to watch the mentally inflicted of whom were chained to walls and spend time ridiculing them. It was also considered a sport to watch defenceless animals get torn to pieces by dogs. Yet, and I have had this conversation before, blood sports such as fox hunting is acceptable as it is a higher social class of sport unlike bear-baiting of which was considered as a working-class pastime.

Possible equal outcomes

In my eyes a game of any sport should be levelled on an equal footing. I don’t follow football (or soccer for my American readers) but we attend sporting events as there is a 50/50 outcome. It excites us as we can either feel elated at a positive outcome – and perhaps take great comfort in our competitor’s failures. Or we could loose with the idea and thoughts that we could do better next time. I suppose this is the closest thing we could consider as modern-day tribalism. Our teams’ success is our success and the teams failure is our failure too.

Opium for the masses

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Blood sports

Sport is an opium for the masses. What good or purpose is kicking a ball around a pitch to get it into a net. Or for that matter why would anyone actually choose to watch curling, when it looks like glorified mopping on a sheet of ice. George Orwell once stated that “serious sport is war minus the shooting”. But the need for a gory end has ensured that boxing has remained and rugby triumphs as a sport for ‘men’. Oliver Cromwell when referring to a cheering crowd in 1654 said “the people would be just as noisy if they were going to see me hanged.”

Time after time I have heard people condemn and criticise such entertainments, but these TV shows draw in large numbers of viewers. For example, the Jeremy Kyle show aired its 1000th episode on the 1st March 2010 with daily viewing figures of 1.5 million. On 24 September 2007, a Manchester District Judge, Alan Berg, was sentencing a man who headbutted his love rival while appearing on the show. Judge Berg was reported as saying: “I have had the misfortune, very recently, of watching The Jeremy Kyle Show. It seems to me that the purpose of this show is to affect a morbid and depressing display of dysfunctional people whose lives are in turmoil”, and that it was “a plain disgrace which goes under the guise of entertainment”. He described it as “human bear-baiting” and added that “it should not surprise anyone that these people, some of whom have limited intellects, become aggressive with each other. This type of incident is exactly what the producers want. These self-righteous individuals should be in the dock with you. They pretend there is some kind of virtue in putting out a show like this.”

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Blood sports

Hero worship

But, like the talk show entertainment I mentioned earlier, and the brutality associated with contact sports, it is carefully orchestrated, condoned and encouraged by society unknowingly. Our fascination for violence dressed as entertainment goes back centuries. Roman gladiators would be hero worshipped like over paid footballers today and it was estimated that arenas dedicated to death drew in an estimated 80,000 people every day to each arena.

Going to court is the same as being thrown to the lions

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Blood sports

Like the witnesses at a gladiatorial death or screaming fans at a football stadium it is perceived as okay to scream all manner of obscenities that we would not normally allow outside of the arena. Yet, the irony is that it is allowed to happen in one of the highest offices within the country. The arena of the courtroom has allowed the destruction of careers, families and lives. Unlike the football match where there is a 50/50 chance of a successful outcome the British legal system is like the gladiatorial games where an unarmed victim is thrown to the lions. This lust for blood has fed into the psych of the Jeremy Kyle audience and the courtrooms where those who shout the loudest get the greatest plaudits.

The one who has made the most outlandish statements do not need to defend themselves. It is the weak (because of the gender stereotypes that associate certain behaviours with certain sexes) who are left defenceless in the constant onslaught of attacks in the courtroom by using the constant unproven trump card associated with abuse, masculinity, fatherhood etc.

Profits over people

But this blood sport is allowed to continue is profitable. Like the Alehouses where dog fighting was permitted, the landlord would operate a system whereby he would profit. The legal system establishes a system whereby the defence is attacked and supported with unfounded allegations. Furthermore, the attacks are supported and encouraged by social workers and the police. Ultimately, the defendant has to endure the torment and attacks before rolling over and passing away with the state supported carnage.

Win/win everytime

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Blood sports

As previously stated, George Orwell said “serious sport is war minus the shooting”. The arena of the courtroom is a war minus the bullets. Either way, there is a looser. But the irony sits with the fact that it is a constant win/win situation for the mother in the family court and the false accuser in a criminal court. In my situation my final defensive blow came from the magistrate who stated that there was absolutely no evidence to support her false claim. Yet the police were hellbent on a blood spill. Unreasonably it was my blood they were after.

Because I said so…

Unfortunately, I have seen this blood sport played out again and again in the family courts. A good father who has played a positive role model and offered unconditional warmth and love to his child is dismissed, thrown out and blocked from access to his children on the vicious, evil and malicious allegations of the mother who only needs to make one statement; “he is not a nice man” for the games to begin.

Lets (never) see that again from another angle

Unlike the end of the football match whereby the fans can go home and watch the re-runs. The legal arena makes the victims go home and never to wish to have a re-run of those experiences. Yet, there is always the same winners of whom know how to play the games although unfairly. Like the Gladiator who may have had to fight with unsuitable equipment or with a disadvantage of having an arm tied the disability of being a male ensures that men will never be on the winning side. The legal system is not an equal playing field, but the rewards offered to the winner is always at the cost of the human dignity of the falsely accused or the previously fit father who does not fit into the role expected or required of the embittered mother.

 

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Blood sports

If sport encourages the hatred of another, the present court system allows the destruction of a defendant based on unproven allegations in both criminal and family courts. We are outraged if we discover a sportsman has taken an unfair advantage to falsely win. But unfair advantages are made in the courts.If the rules of the games are to change then the language used also needs looking at. Just because a woman states she is a victim does not always equate to that being the case. And just because it is a male in the dock does not associate with him being an abuser or the violent partner in a failed relationship.

 

Stereotypes feed into injustice

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Stereotypes feed into injustice

With the advantage of social media and the ability to be able to spread ideas and thoughts further than ever before, certain topics become more visible.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Stereotypes feed into injustice

For several months I have followed (from a distance) the rise and calling out of injustice. From the start of time educated people have known that injustices have happened. We can identify with the scapegoating of the people who lived outside of social norms to be labelled as witches and treated as such with burning and hangings. Furthermore, we can identify with more modern events such as the holocaust of the 1930s and 40s. Again this injustice has been allowed to repeat in countries such as (formally) Yugoslavia, states in Africa and so on.

Two sides of the same coin

But is the idea of justice and injustice two sides of the same coin? Is it that injustice is simply a lack of justice?  If we expect to balance injustice then we need to address what we know to be justice. And this can be a difficult event to deal with when your idea of justice has been diluted and abused by those of whom should have done the right thing in the first place.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Stereotypes feed into injustice

The rules of injustice are difficult to comprehend to a law abiding society. From an early age a sense of justice and injustice is indoctrinated into us. A 2012 study published in Psychological Science found that even babies have a sense of injustice and dislike having it violated, even when they witness events that do not directly effect them (Maia Szalavitz (20th February 2012). “Even Babies Can Recognize What’s Fair: Babies as young as 19 months are affronted when they see displays of injustice”. Time Magazine).

Religious texts

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Stereotypes feed into injustice

It is even found within religious texts, for example, in the book of Deuteronomy, it explains that the godly person;

‘shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water… and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. The ungodly are not so; but are like chaff which the wind driveth away’.

Devastation

To be precise about this matter a feeling of injustice, on a personal level is devastating. A sense of injustice is a feeling that the rules of justice have been violated. These are rules which dictate that if we are honourable, we will be rewarded and that if we are bad, we will be punished.

Absurd

If in life we act correctly but still suffer at the hands of those who don’t we feel excluded from the rights of justice and therefore, vulnerable in every other walk of life. The whole world in which we have lived in seems absurd and unrecognisable.

Thinking on two fronts

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Stereotypes feed into injustice

It becomes expected that the victim of this nightmare thinks on two fronts. Firstly, you may think that you had done wrong without knowing and this is why you are being punished. Or, alternatively, you know that you have not done anything wrong and that you have fallen victim to a catastrophic failure in the administration of justice.

The voice of the majority

Time after time I have witnessed people coming forward to highlight the failings of the judicial service who still continue to deny that there is a problem. Yet in a supposedly democratic society the voice of the majority is being ignored by those of whom are in power not by selection but by privilege. How on earth can one value have a higher value that a principle of protection from an injustice. And here lies the fact that this is the case.

Burden

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Stereotypes feed into injustice

Injustice can be seen as the poor man’s burden. As previously stated in my blog entitled Legal (F)aid ,access to resources to fight injustice is somewhat limited. From that angle we can see that those at the bottom of the social ladder are left to fend for themselves.  So the ultimate realization of Social Darwinism is a real modern day problem. The weak will be left behind with the burden of injustice.

Profit and loss

I would like to think that human nature tries to avoid a world that is unjust, but alas, this is not so. With a justice system comes a profit and loss ideal. For example, like so many other false accusers they intend to gain from another person’s loss, be it either power over that person (as in the case of my ex), financial gain or out of just trying to save face following their own trial of lies. It is only social structures and organisations that choose justice for us. Hence, only an agent such as the legal system can be held accountable as it either supports the false accuser or not. This fact does indeed rest with (in the UK) the Crown Prosecution Service. To date, will all of the people I know who have found injustice not one of them have received an apology for their wrong doing (coming back to the point of doing good means nothing). It only happens when their errors have been made public and the CPS has nowhere to hide.

Ethical poison

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Stereotypes feed into injustice

It seems that the ethical injustice must derive from some ethical poison in the judgement of the hearer. From different points in history one might draw on many depressing examples of prejudices obviously relevant to the context of credibility judgement, such as the idea that women are irrational, blacks are intellectually inferior to whites, the working classes are the moral inferiors of the upper classes, and men are violent within relationships.  With this level of brainwashing it is little wonder that injustice is allowed to continue unabated. The suggestion I am heading for is that the ethical poison in question is that of prejudice.

Literature

But in order to furnish the readers imagination, let us turn to an example from literature that provides us with a historically truthful fiction.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Stereotypes feed into injustice

The example is from Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. The year is 1935, and the scene is set in a courtroom in Maycomb County, Alabama. The defendant is a young black man named Tom Robinson. He is charged with raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, whose family’s rundown house he passes every day on his way to work, situated as it is on the outskirts of town in the borderlands that divide where whites and black live.

From the outset it is obvious that Tom Robinson is entirely innocent. His defence lawyer, Atticus Finch, has proven beyond doubt that Robinson could not have beaten the Ewell girl so as to cause the sort of cuts and bruises she sustained that day, since whoever gave her the beating led with his left fist, whereas Tom Robinson’s left arm is disabled, having been injured in a machinery accident when he was a boy. The trial proceedings enact a straightforward struggle between the power of evidence and the power of racial prejudice, with the all-white jury’s judgement ultimately succumbing to the latter.

Presumption is a pre-requisite

But the psychology is subtle, and there is a great complexity of social meanings at work in determining the jury’s perception of Tom Robinson as a speaker. In a showdown between the word of a black man and that of a poor white girl, the courtroom air is thick with the ‘do’s and ‘don’t’s of racial politics. And yet, like so many other injustices the word of a small blue eyed female (my ex) carries more weight than the word of an innocent man. The presumption is made and the idea of guilt needs to be disproved.

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Stereotypes feed into injustice

This example of injustice carries on through the discursive moments of the book. When Mayella grabbed Tom Robinson he was at a loss already. If he pushed her away, then he would have been found to have assaulted her; yet if he is passive, he will equally be found to have assaulted her. So, he does the most neutral thing he can, which is to run, though knowing all the while that this action too will be taken as a sign of guilt.  The interrogation of Tom is suffused with the idea that his running away implies culpability:

‘…why did you run so fast?’

‘I says I was scared, suh.’

 ‘If you had a clear conscience, why were you scared?’

Domestic stereotype ideals

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Stereotypes feed into injustice

Even with all of the evidence to support Tom Robinson’s innocents he is still found guilty. It is perhaps worth remarking that even the most hateful prejudicial ideologies may be sustained not only by explicitly hateful thought and talk but also by more domestic stereotypical ideas that are almost cosy in comparison. For these types of people an alternative truth to their own ideas is largely unthinkable. And so, the ignorance is allowed to continue.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Stereotypes feed into injustice

By selecting an individual to a specific group (for example, if all men are violent abusers then an individual man is an abuser too) this becomes a form of ‘identity’ prejudice.  So, the influence of identity prejudice in a hearer’s credibility judgement is an operation of identity power. Thus, in such a case the influence of identity prejudice is a matter of one party or parties effectively controlling what another party does, says or thinks. So, a view of guilt depends upon collective conceptions of the social identities in play.

In our Mockingbird example, racial identity power is exercised in this way by members of the (white) jury as they make their deflated credibility judgements of Tom Robinson, with the result that he is unable to convey to them the knowledge he has of what happened at the Ewells’ place. This is the essential exercise of identity power in the courtroom that seals Tom’s fate.

Selection is ingrained

From these examples and thoughts it shows that your view of your position in a society that implies it protects the innocent is an irrelevant lie. For many our lives have been selected and chosen before we have even left the womb. Yet regardless of how we try to fight these prejudices they have become so ingrained within the social psyche that justice or injustice becomes irrelevant. It is your gender, sexuality, colour, religion and so on that predetermines the outcomes.