On Tuesday 18th February 2014 at 3 O’Clock I arrived at Millennium House in Belfast City Center for my meeting with representatives from the Justice and Health Dept. Arriving and signing in as Forty Two is becoming normal in a strange sort of way, it feels good. it was as I sat waiting for the meeting to begin that i realised apart fro the bullet point notes and the host of unregulated information that swirls round my head I had no clear idea what I intended to say. I also had no clear idea what form the meeting would take. The one thing I was clear on was, whatever unfolded, I was ready for it.
So, I was ushered into the office and introductions were exchanged. Present were the two ladies I expected and we were joined by another Civil Servant who would take part in discussions and also act as scribe. It was immediately apparent that all three were very interested in the issues and hearing my story first hand. It was also explained that the reason for consultation on any document was so people that were likely to be affected by it or use any of the services provided could explain what would work and what would not, with some real word explanations of why.
First I explained the reason I was there was the same reason I do anything, in the hope that by explaining my experiences both during my abuse and since my escape I could help create understanding and change that would improve the lives of others that would surely experience a similar situation. I also stated that until men start coming forward in greater numbers and engaging with government bodies change would be impossible. The meeting quickly became a free flowing conversation that jumped between my recounting events and discussion on what legislation would help and any loopholes in the preposed new strategy around Domestic Abuse. I found this approach worked well for me and I think I put my points across well. My main concern was the new strategy document, and the recent Police Service of Northern Ireland looked to be very focused on preventing violence toward Women and Girls and the statement by Police that “by embedding Woman’s Aid in the service they ware putting the victims at the center of the strategy”. My point being that if you eliminate violence against women and girls, at best you will solve half the problem. I was assured the policy would be designed to serve all victims equally, and I honestly believe that is the objective of the people I spoke to. To that end the main issues and obstacles to male victims I put across were.
The only thing worse than living through a abusive relationship in a state of denial, is living through a abusive relationship with full knowledge of what is going on. If you want men to come forward and admit they are being abused, you must provide a escape route.
It must be financially viable to leave a relationship. Since I escaped I have paid around £16000 in bills associated with my former life, meaning I can not fund independent living.
It should not be a case that leaving your employment is the only way to attain housing benefits or legal aid.
It should not be the case that leaving abuse causes homelessness. On the subject of shelters I note that the Department of health are looking at what type of shelter is appropriate as apposed to if a shelter is needed. I stated that if I had another person to fill the other end of a pantomime horse I would turn up at the donkey sanctuary seeking access. Any form of shelter is better than no shelter at all. I also suggested a “drop in center” where victims could have some private space, the use of a desk ect to correspond with solicitors. This would also give the opportunity to meet others that have been through similar experiences. This space could also become a educational resource.
The current model pre supposes full custody to the mother. Until that changes the phrase “Well if you don’t like it you can go, but you will never see the children again” will win every argument and trap men in abusive relationships.
We have a clear understanding on where Abuse against Women and Girls begins, and that is zero tolerance. There is a blared line with men and nobody knows where the socially acceptable “nagging wife” stops and abuse starts. This needs set at zero tolerance.
There is a need to educate both men and women on what constitutes abuse against men.
It is not acceptable for a woman to be abusive, then say she is on her period. While it is understood that for some women there is a very real illness connected to there period, it is not acceptable to be abusive and not take responsibility for your actions.
The working definition of sexual abuse needs to take account of the fact that this can manifest its self by the denial of intimacy. Where a woman removes sexual contact for prolonged periods of time, which can be years, as a punishment this is also abuse. Acts such as after 13 months of withholding sex, taking of her trousers, lying on a bed and saying “we are going to have sex now, you have ten seconds to be ready” then putting her clothes on and continuing with her day when her tome frame is not met is abuse.
The use of the term “you’r not a real man” and versions there of is abusive and wrong. The use of this abusive term in television advertisements to denigrate men is unacceptable. I explained the term has been given credence by organasations that combat violence against women. The idea that men should sign a pledge, produced by women, to behave in a certain way and donate money to a woman’s charity in order to be a “real man” is totally unacceptable.
The police and court system know my ex abuser withheld correspondence from me after my escape. This action lead to my prosecution, no sanction was taken against her, and I had no legal redress. I doubt I am alone in this, these actions amount to court sanctioned abuse continuing after the relationship has ended. This needs to change.
Research shows that girls are 6 times more likely to be involved in cyber bullying, both as a perpetuator and a victim. This is interesting as the internet can be seen as a place of isolation, where actions do not affect “the real world”. This can also be the case when shutting your front door. The point was made that we always knew girls bullied girls. My point is by doing nothing when they are between the ages of 10 and 16, these girls ten years later will be abusing their partner behind closed doors. The aggressive nature needs addressed.
All of these points, and more were welcomed. I had a real feeling that I imparted some new knowledge to the people who are partly responsible developing strategy and bringing change to society. I also questioned the use of the “Hagemann White Model of factors contributing to violence against Women and Girls” in producing government policy.
That model is a cultural marxist document that states because women have been oppressed for so long in they need special measures to redress the balance. It is my case that if any group of people are oppressed in society today it is men. I point to the Lilly Allen song “Smile” and accompanying video that depicts stalking and violence toward a man. I point to Percy Sledge singing “When a man loves a woman” ………she can do no wrong, and demand he leave his friends, sleep out in the rain and only think about her wellbeing. I point to any beer advertisement you like, most make men look subservient and stupid. I point to Coronation Street running a storyline about a male victim of domestic violence and being celebrated for that. However what everyone else missed was a storyline running simultaneously. While everyone noticed Tyrone getting hit, the world missed Eileen stalking her partner, pestering him at the fire station he worked at to the point he was removed from duties. When he was returning to work, his Commander came and asked “was he allowed to come back to work”
The oppression that needs rectified does not exist.
I have also left the members a copy of two of my blog posts and one poem, Survive then Thrive in order that they see some issues I would not have time to talk about. I thanked the people for there time and interest in the issues and promised to send in a complete reply to the consultation document. This will help as they will have the correct ammunition to ask for the changes that are needed. I have no doubt this is the beginning of a long process, but it is truly a beginning.
“The more you refuse to hear my voice, the louder I will sing.”
Something inside so strong