Men and domestic violence: interview D (pt.2)

This is the continuation of Interview with D - one of a series of anonymous interviews on men's experience of domestic violence and abusive relationships.

T: //..// in the Family Court. Were you applying for custody of the children?

D: Yes.

T: So these things had been sub-poena'd by your lawyer.

D: All this time, y'see, I couldn't get Legal Aid. I couldn't get Legal Aid, and she...

T: Why not?

D: Because they didn't think I had a strong enough case. Everything was circumstantial, and they believed, the court believed, that if I was sincere in what I was saying, Family and Community Services would remove the children from the mother's care; if not //?//, would at least submit a report on my behalf of their opinion as to how the children were being cared for, and as far as they were concerned, the children were fine, and the mother was terrific!

T: Right. You said something earlier about that you believed that, or did you know, or did you believe, that she was having sex with men in front of the children?

D: I know she was having sex in front of the children.

T: How do you know this?

D: 'Cos at the time I can remember my son coming on an access visit, telling me that he saw his mother on top of a man, naked, bouncing up and down.

T: Right.

D: And prior to that my son had never seen anything like that in his life.

T: Right. So he was then five? Four?

D: Four. Four and a half.

T: Right. So, was he looking through the door, or was it in a public space?

D: Two occasions he told me about: one was where the bedroom door was wide open, and he walked down the passage and just stood in the doorway and watched in astonishment, for a few minutes or whatever; and the second occasion was where he walked into the house and they were going for it in the middle of the lounge-room floor.

T: Right. Okay... um... So what's happening now with regard to, with regard to... - you said you've got custody of M., or you were gaining custody of M.?

D: Oh, I've got custody of him now, yes.

T: So in a way you've effectively prevented the problems with M. from continuing, because you're separating the two, the two children apart. What effect is this having on your children, the loss of their brother, effectively?

D: At this stage it's early days, because it's only been a month, but from what I've observed I think that the other two children want to live with me, more so now than they ever have.

T: Right. What effect is this having on your ex-wife, do you know? As in, if they're saying they want to, what is her response?

D: I don't have any contact with her, I don't have any verbal contact with her at all.

T: So how do you get access?

D: My mother picks my children up...

T: So you don't see her at all?

D: ...or my current wife picks the children up.

T: Are you forbidden from seeing your ex-wife?

D: No. Um... the court...

T: Is there an intervention order that prevents you?

D: Yeah, through the Family Law court. Because of the verbal abuse that my wife was dishing out before she would let the children go for access in the past. I mean it was a seven o'clock pick-up on a Friday night, you were lucky if you got out of there by twenty past seven with the children because she would stand there and rant and rave and belittle me until the children were virtually nervous wrecks, before you were allowed to take the children for access.

T: Right. Belittling - describe?

D: "That mongrel bastard, arsehole, cunt, whatever, ra-ra-ra, did this, did that, the bastard won't leave me alone" - but I haven't been near her, y'know! Shit like that, you know, just, just //stir// me up, have a go at me, trying to get me to act in a violent way. She wanted a reaction...

T: So she wants you to act in a violent way?

D: She wants some reaction. And I don't give her any. And then that gets her going more.

T: Right. What are you doing in this? You're coming for the children, so you're coming to the door, what's happening in that environment? You've come to the door, now what happens?

D: Usually the children are half-way through being bathed, they're never ready on time, and she will stand in the doorway and abuse me.

T: So who's finishing off the bath?

D: The de-facto.

T: Right.

D: Her de-facto, um... is finishing off the bath, getting the children ready, or whatever, and she's standing in the doorway abusing me. Then when the children are ready I've still got to wait about another ten minutes until she's finished having her piece before I can leave with the children.

T: Right So what I was asking is what are you doing, what are you saying at this time?

D: Nothin'.

T: So you're just standing there...

D: I'm just standing there coppin' it.

T: Are you inside the door, or outside?

D: No, outside, outside, under the verandah.

T: So if you're outside the door, with the children, how come you're standing there for ten minutes?

D: No, she's standing in the doorway, holding the children, stopping the children from coming out, and they're standing behind her, and she's abusing me through the screen door.

T: Right... um... Is she still living at her mother's at this time?

D: No, she's in a Housing Trust house.

T: Oh, she's in a Housing Trust house. Okay... the de-facto... this is the guy that M. has seen, seen her with...?

D: Yeah...

T: ... or were there other men as well?

D: There was other men as well, yeah.

T: Right... Almost run out of things to ask... Um... I'm sorry if this has wound you up, but it's giving a fairly clear description of your perspective on this.

D: Yeah, and...

T: So you said she's, she's wanting you to get violent. How do you know this?

D: Yeah... because that's what she's telling everybody. She's telling the police, and she's telling Family and Community Services, I'm such a bastard, I'm so violent, I'm so bad - but I've got no history of assault, I've got no history of abusing anyone - but I'm such a bastard, y'know? She's excited by violence, unless she gets a reaction she's not happy.

T: Give me that again: she's excited by violence. Can you expand that a bit?

D: Yeah... Well, the only... well, she'll go on and on and on like a pork chop until she gets a reaction.

T: And any reaction will do? That's a question.

D: The more aggressive the reaction the better, I think. And then you're the biggest bastard under the sun, and she shoves that down your throat then, y'know? "You're such a bastard, you hit me" or "you said this" or "you did that", she makes you feel like total scum and puts herself up on a pedestal with the Queen, making herself look good and you a mongrel.

T: So she's gone to quite... I mean, what you're saying is she's pushing all the time to get a response.

D: Yeah.

T: Once she's... so she's... what's she saying, I mean is she saying... Give me an example an example of what she's saying when you say she wants you to be violent. Can you give me something more about what she's saying? I know she'll swear at you, but what else? How do you know she's actually asking for a violent response?

D: She'll say something that'll cut really deep. I mean everyone's got things that you can say to them that they may know about you that are personal that are really going to cut deep, you know.

T: Remembering that this is going to appear in a transcript, but without your name attached, can you... I know it's uncomfortable... can you give me some examples of things she actually says?

D: She actually says to me - 'cos I'm an adopted child - she actually says to me "you must have been a fuckin' ugly baby, because that's why they threw you in the garbage bin, no-one wanted you", you know, stuff like that. Stuff that's really going to cut deep.

T: Okay. Give me some more examples like that.

D: It's hard for me because it's been four years. Four years [laughs] of bliss, you know!

T: Yes, but you said you've still got access every - what - two weeks?

D: Yes, but for the last two years my mother's picked my children up to give them access.

T: Right. So were you ordered not to go there, or did you...

D: No, I chose not to go there because I got sick of seeing my children come for access as emotional wrecks!

T: Right. Does your mother get abused?

D: Yes, she did.

T: Did, or does?

D: She doesn't any more...

T: Why not?

D: ...because of the order that has been made, that when I pick the children up for access, or whoever goes to the house, she is to remain in the residence, there is to be no verbal contact between her, my mother or my current wife or me. She's not allowed to speak to us - any of us. And with the //..//

T: How did this happen, that she's ordered to do that?

D: How did this happen?

T: Yeah.

D: Because of the affidavits we did at the court.

T: So you put in affidavits to the court that you are being sworn at, and yelled at, and so on.

D: Yeah. In our affidavits, in preparation for trial, y'know, we did all of that.

T: So... your mother and your new wife... what was your current wife's response? Did she go with you to pick up the children?

D: Yeah.

T: Right. What was her response? Can you give me an idea as to what her response was to the kind of language your ex-wife was using?

D: She just said she's never, ever heard another woman speak like that in her life.

T: Was any of that addressed to her, or only to you? - the language that your ex-wife was using.

D: Y'know, she addressed a lot of towards my new wife, yeah.

T: Give an example of what she's saying to your new wife.

D: Ah, that your children are ugly, effin' ugly, all this sort of thing, y'know, just emotional put-downs. Not so much attacking her but attacking her boys, because she knows that's gonna hurt. If, if you wanna hurt her, ...

T: So your current wife has children of her own?

D: Uh-huh. [pause] It's just she plays childish mind-games, she's very heartless and cruel. My new wife's impression of her was that she's just a psychotic fruitcake, because she doesn't think about what she says, and she's got no moral standards or dignity or remorse...

T: So whose idea was it to put the... I mean, who... did... The affidavits, when you put in a new case, to change the conditions, who asked for that? Was it you, or your new wife, or your mother, or who?

D: It was the solicitor, or the barrister, for the children, that changed the conditions.

T: So the children are effectively wards of court, they still have a barrister acting in their interest.

D: Yeah.

T: Was he or she present... is it he or she, by the way?

D: It's a she.

T: It's a she.

D: There's a solicitor and a barrister for my children.

T: Right, so they're technically wards of court, in that sense. I don't know what the formal word is here, but in Britain it's a 'ward of court'...

D: Right.

T: They're literally being observed, they're being observed and managed by the court. So was the solicitor or barrister present at some of these hand-overs?

D: No.

T: So you've just informed her of what's going on?

D: Through my affidavits, yeah. I've also had B. come with me on access pick-ups and drop-offs, also C. who's the Family Support co-ordinator up at Murray Bridge, she's come with me...

T: So what's happened on those occasions?

D: On those occasions? Actually there was one occasion, where I took this lady with me, C., and my ex couldn't have been nicer, butter wouldn't have melted in the mouth, y'know? And...

T: Did she know who C. was?

D: No. C. introduced herself to my ex, but she wouldn't have known who she was prior to her coming to the front door. And when she left she said, "oh, don't worry about M.'s bruises, he's had a few spills off of his bike", y'know? And I thought, ah well, kids are kids, you know, fair enough, and as soon as we've pulled up in the driveway, M. says, "oh, have a look at what Mum did to me, Dad!", and lifts up the back of his shirt and shows me a bruise about this long [about 12cm long] where he'd been hit with a stick, around his kidney area, y'know, and I just said, "hey, C., just have a look at this". She did, and it was reported to FACS, who reported it to the cops. They just said it was a grey area of discipline, and couldn't really do anything about it, but she was cautioned.

T: So she was cautioned.

D: Mm. But it's still going on.

T: It's still going on.

D: My son's going...

T: So's she's still got access - she of course has access to M..

D: Yeah, this weekend.

T: Right.

D: So he probably got a flogging before he went to bed tonight.

T: Describe?

D: He probably got belted before he went to bed.

T: Because he's not been there? Or what is the reasoning for this? You believe this to be so because there've been past incidents of this?

D: Oh yeah. First access visit he got thrown against the wall, come back with a mark on the top of his head up here. By the de-facto.

T: By the de-facto, in this case. What is his mother doing in this circumstance, do you know? Is she protecting him from the de-facto?

D: No, she stirs the de-facto up till he reacts.

T: And he reacts by attacking the child.

D: Yeah.

T: This is your belief, or this is what M. says, or what?

D: This is fact.

T: How do you know it?

D: Because that's exactly what she was like with me!

T: So it's still a belief rather than a fact. You haven't been present.

D: No.

T: Right. So it's... it' haven't... I'm asking you... I mean, you believe this to be so, but you don't have... you have not had direct, literally, evidence, as in 'that which is seen'?

D: No.

T: You haven't. So, you... has M. said anything about this?

D: Oh, yeah.

T: So what's he been saying?

D: He told me exactly what's been going on.

T: Which is?

D: Well... that he made a mess in his bedroom on his first access visit, he was asked to clean it up...

T: Mess? In what sense? Was it that he wet his pants, or just untidy?

D: Just untidy. Um... and his attitude is, "no, I don't have to", because he's been sworn at and verbally abused and put down for four years by his mother and the de-facto that much that he's got no moral dignity or respect for them.

T: So he's age eight now, he's now eight?

D: He's eight now. And he hates their guts. He literally hates his mother. He has spoken to me about picking up a knife, and going into her bedroom, and stabbing her to death in her sleep. He's...

T: So he's actually quite at risk. He's actually at quite a risk of doing something dangerous.

D: Mm, he spoke to me of setting fire to the house, stuff like that. He's spoken to me about committing suicide, stepping out in front of a bus or a truck.

T: Which of course is very much what he was doing with the bicycle.

D: Standing outside holding a piece of wire up of the air on a stormy night, hoping to get struck by lightning.

T: Right. This is things he's been saying to you?

D: Yeah.

T: Right.

D: Not so much now with the suicide, but when he was around six, six and a half, when he was being examined by these people that were supposed to be helping him, and his mother's pumping all this shit into his head, she emotionally really screwed him up.

T: Yeah. Do you feel you're to blame for this?

D: No.

T: How do you respond? What's your attitude?

D: I don't... I don't... I don't feel I'm to blame, because...

T: Have you felt to blame for this?

D: I did for a long time, yeah.

T: You said 'for a long time'. When did you start moving out
of that space?

D: After I did a domestic violence course after my marriage was busted up.

T: Were you sent to the domestic violence course?

D: No, I volunteered to go...

T: Right.

D: ...after the incident with hitting my son with the cricket bat, and the marriage broke up and everything, and I just... I was on the verge of suicide, y'know.

T: Right.

D: I was dreaming about it, I was thinking about it twenty-four hours a day, I was eating it, y'know, virtually. And the only thing that stopped me from doing it was the love that I had for my children, and what I knew they had for me.

T: Yeah. So the domestic violence course: what happened on the domestic violence course?

D: I learnt about self-anger management, I learnt about the difference between passive, assertive and aggressive. I learnt about the cycles.

T: Cycles?

D: Cycles of relationships where everything's great, you make love, it's like a honeymoon, and then you git through the stage where you start denying that anything's wrong, you know, and then you get to a stage where you start to feel angry, and you're starting about negative thoughts, and then you feel, "well, if she doesn't shut up I'm going to clock her one", so then you clock her one, and all the sort of... So you learn about the cycles, right? And... um...

T: Did that make sense to you?

D: Yeah, it did, really good sense. And you have to set goals for yourself, y'know? And one of my goals was that I wasn't never, ever going to be involved in a situation with another person that was like that, y'know? The second goal was to try and find someone who loved me for who I was, not something that I wasn't. And thirdly, was to change as a person, to become a better man in myself, and a better dad. And... um... dudn't matter how bad things git now, I don't get into 'em. [wry laugh] Well, I do get at them, [laughs] everyone's got their...

T: Well, you were pretty upset [while speaking], and... How are you managing your anger, then? What do you do with your anger?

D: What do I do with my anger? I just swallow it. [wry laugh].

T: Yeah, but where does it go? It eventually has to come out somewhere. Where does it go?

D: Well, for a long time I used to go to the gym and do weights, I used to release a lot of it that way. And then, in the end, brain overload set in - I don't know what you'd call it, but I just couldn't, I couldn't switch off, I couldn't go to the gym and concentrate because I was too worried about my children, worried about their welfare and their well-being...

T: What kind of work do you do?

D: then I focussed my energy on going to the school, doing activities with my children in their classrooms, and that way, at least, then if they were getting knocked around at home or whatever, I would find out about it within a day or two days at the most, y'know.

T: What can you do about it?

D: Go and knock on FACS's door! Or I try and stir as much shit...

T: Oh, of course, yes, FACS, Family and Children's Services, yes.

D: ...and I try to stir as much shit as I can. Not like, go and bash on people's doors and say, "listen, arsehole, you gotto do something about this", but go up and make genuine complaints. But at least if they don't do anything it's still on record.

T: Umm... you said 'brain overload set in'. And I was asking, very briefly, what kind of work do you do, and what kind of effect has this had on your work?

D: Mainly manual labouring jobs that I've had over two years, whatever I can do with my hands, but the effect that it's had on me, I've had to give up work for two years.

T: So you've been on a pension for two years.

D: Well, my wife's been on a pension, she's been supporting me. She works part-time, and I've been living on her income. Because if I went under my name, I'd have to pay child support, because I actually earn more than eight thousand dollars a year. So I've gone on under her. I'm her beneficiary, of my wife.

T: So you're a 'dependent spouse'.

D: Yeah.

T: Right. So you're the home-parent.

D: Mm.

T: Yeah.

D: And now that the trial's all over... Well, the court's still monitoring everything, but...

T: But they would do, yes.

D: But, see, the good thing about it was, it made me feel better, was that in the end Legal Aid was pulled on her.

T: So she had Legal Aid?

D: She had Legal Aid all along, for four years she had Legal Aid. They granted her funding to stir shit, virtually, which is all she did, and in the end they saw it for what it was, and the Legal Services Commission pulled her funding away to represent her in the trial, and were going to back me all the way. And she had one of three options: she had to find about forty thousand to pay a barrister, represent herself, was the second one - she hasn't go the brains to do that - or concede defeat and hand him over.

T: So that's just for one child.

D: Just the one child - I only pursued custody of M., because that's all my current wife can take on. You know, we had to be realistic about it.

T: Right. What's happened to the other children now that M. isn't there? You don't know yet?

D: I don't know really. Umm... the solicitor for the children is monitoring progress of all three children every four months for the next sixteen months, which means she'll be ringing up the schools where the children are going, talking to the teachers and the principals, finding out how the children are progressing, if they're progressing for a child of their age, or if they're average, going backwards, y'know, whatever. And it may well turn out that if my other two children aren't keeping up to the level of the other children, oh, [yawns], 'scuse me, in the classroom, umm... the Legal Services Commission may take her back to court and take the other two children off her as well.

T: Well, but if they take her off her, are they going into care, or would they be coming to you?

D: They'd be coming to me.

T: And if they come to you, what support...

D: I mean, providing I want them, or can cope with them.

T: Yeah. Your house you've got can't cope with them, or what? Your... your wife has two children, two boys?

D: Yeah.

T: What age?

D: Eight and nine.

T: So the same age as your son, as M..

D: Mm.

T: Yeah, it's early days, obviously, to see what's happened yet. Right.

D: But I think one of the things that I was angry, and still am angry in a lot of ways, but I mean I've gotta, I can't go along with this shit or it'll destroy me? I've got to put it behind me and get on with my life. I think one of the things that I've been very angry about all along was the fact that she knew M. was doing this to his brother and sister, but she never did anything about it, she never got any help for the kid, she never spoke to anyone about it, she denied it, and if anything was said about sexualised behaviour, well it's their father's fault.

T: Well of course it would be in a way, if she's been sexually abused for a long period herself it would be a kind of payback.

D: Yuh, I believe in some ways that she's that twisted that she allowed this to go on to try and really fuck me up. I really do think that.

T: No, I'm thinking of something slightly different, is that if she's been really sexually abused, sexual abuse would in some ways seem like normal behaviour. It would also in some ways validate her beliefs about men in general, for that to happen.

D: The uncle that did it to her's never been charged, still sits down and has Christmas dinner with the family every year, and it's all virtually been swept under the carpet. And that to me is very... that makes me bitter also.

T: Yeah, so she hasn't had any validation, or any support for what happened about her?

D: No. And when it has been offered, she's denied it.

T: So she's denied it?

D: Yeah.

T: So how do you know it happened?

D: I confronted her uncle about it. I wanted to tear his head off when I found out. I was already married to her and M. was already born when I found out about what had gone on.

T: How did you find out?

D: She told me.

T: And from then on she denied its happening.

D: She didn't deny it happening. She will admit to it happening, but she won't have her uncle charged for it. It's up to her, if she wants to press charges or what, she can press charges tomorrow.

T: What support has she had? - for example, has she gone to anyone like the Domestic Violence and Incest Resource...

D: No, no. No-one!

T: So she's not gone...

D: No-one. It happened to her mother, her father, her grandfather abused her mother - he was in the war, he come out of the war an alcoholic - and possibly abused his son, which is her uncle, he was the youngest child of the family, and he abused his niece. And the cycle goes on and on.

T: Right, she hasn't actually... she hasn't gone for any support or help.

D: No. And if she has asked for help or support earlier on, my general understanding of that was her mother turned around and said, "well, don't be so stupid", y'know...

T: Because it happened to her as well?

D: [in a sarcastic tone] "It happened to her, she's dealt with it, she's fine", she reckons, so what's good for the goose...

T: The famous phrase "she'll be right [mate]"

D: Yeah, "she'll be right"...

T: Right. So she's been severely abused, and she's hasn't gone for help. She hasn't... has she known that help was available?

D: Yeah! But as far as she was concerned she...

T: Why hasn't she gone for help?

D: She "doesn't need it". She believes what her mother has told her, that "she'll be right". You know, "you haven't got a problem, it's everybody else out there in the world, they're the ones that are fuckin' crazy, but you're fine!"

T: Right.

D: And she actually believes that, she really believes that.

T: What... um... is... In Melbourne there's the Domestic Violence and Incest Resource Centre, is there an equivalent here?

D: I guess there might be, you'd have to ask B. about that.

T: Yes. But your wife doesn't know about it?

D: Well, she doesn't want to know about it. I mean, um... when I was married to her, T., I pleaded and begged her to get help for her temper and her anger, y'know?

T: So she's got very, very strong anger and she hasn't got any help.

D: No. Um...

T: Why is she not dealing with the anger? Is there a statement that it's wrong to be angry, or that it doesn't happen, or what? Does she believe that she wasn't angry?

D: I believe that she doesn't think she is angry, I believe that she also doesn't think she's got a problem.

T: Is she aware that she... was she ever aware that she was assaulting the children?

D: [pause] Yeah? Yeah, I believe she dud, she was... because if she didn't think she wasn't, she would admit it when she was questioned about it, but she's never admitted it, she's always denied it. So in that respect, yeah, I think...

T: Do you believe that she didn't know she was doing it, or do you believe that she was, that she did, and denied it.

D: Yeah! yeah. She knew she was doing it all right.

T: And she denied it.

D: And she denied it.

T: Not that she didn't know she was doing it. Right. Because I've come across a number of cases where women literally didn't know they were doing it.

D: Mm. I don't know, I don't know, I haven't sunk that far into her head to get that, you know, to give you an accurate answer on that one.

T: I've actually come across it very often - more often than I'd like to admit. For most of the men I've dealt with, they're very aware of being violent; most of the women I've talked with have not been aware of being violent. If you were... to realise that she was quite possibly unaware that she was violent, would that change your own perspective?

D: No. No way. No.

T: You're still angry.

D: Oh yeah, fuckin' oath... [wry laugh]

T: Do you blame her?

D: No, I don't blame her, I felt sorry for her for a long time. Now I just feel numb, y'know? In fact if I git talking about it I start feeling a lot of hate, and then I feel really, really angry with myself! [laughs] 'Cos it stirs me up, it really does.

T: I do apologise...

D: Yuh, I know...

T: understand why I'm doing this.

D: Yeah. She... um... I just... hey... it's fuckin' wrong, having kids gitting messed up like that. I want to become a men's support worker, like I said to B., because if I can handle what I've been goin' through, I can handle anything! And he said to me, "yeah, but you'll come across some shit that'll fuck you up", and...

T: Well, you'll come across some cases that are very very similar...

D: Yeah! [wry laugh] And I don't know how I'll cope with that! [laughs]

T: For example, again, jumping sideways slightly, your present wife, how did you meet up with her? And how has she coped? Because you would have been very angry - how did she cope, how did she help you?

D: When I met my wife I was working on a re-seal contract, and I was working on the Stop sign, I had to stop the traffic when they did a run of the bitumen trailer, and, um, she was in the second car. And, um, she said "I've gotta go, I've gotta go", and I said "sorry, you've got to wait about ten minutes", and she said "oh, I've got to get home", and I said "why?", and she said "oh, I'm waiting for a phone call", and I said "who from? your boyfriend?", and she said "no, I haven't got one, I've been on my own for two years". And I thought "yabba-dabba-doo! here we go!", so, we just, sort of, got to know each other for about two or three weeks, seeing each other on the weekends and stuff, and I had a picnic with the parents and stuff, and they were Catholic - still are Catholic - and, um, after knowing them for one day, they decided I was no good. So they gave her an ultimatum: at the age of twenty-five they told her, "either you disown him or we'll disown you". But she said "you can all go to hell, I've wanted to say this for a long time", because they'd virtually manipulated her as a person - she wasn't allowed to be herself, she wasn't allowed to do her own thing, when they'd come to visit her they'd go through all the cupboards in her house, see how much, what food she'd bought. Now it didn't matter what she did, nothing was good enough, so she told 'em to go take a jump. Which I felt bad about in some ways - your parents are your parents, regardless of whether they're good, bad, black or white, brilliant or whatever - whatever they've done, they're still your parents. That was two years ago now, and we've never looked back, we lived together together for about eight months, she moved down after that argument with her parents, because her sister had gone through her house and ransacked her house and anything that her parents or her sister had given to her right throughout her life, they just took it.

T: Right.

D: They just ransacked the house and just went through everything and took everything and anything...

T: That's theft!

D: Yeah.

T: Yeah. Okay. So that she knew... I mean, when did she know there were problems with the children? Pretty well straight away, I suppose?

D: Ah, yeah, right from the word go.

T: So you were pretty angry. So how did she handle your anger, and how did you manage your anger? - or had you - oh, you'd already gone on the domestic violence course by then.

D: I... I was... actually, I was dealing with my shit really well at that stage. Um... because basically I think my hardest... I was... I was angry in the respect, T., that no-one was listening to me. This shit was going on and no-one was listening to me. But I wasn't, um, angry with myself, I was... I was... in conflict with myself.

T: Right. So, people weren't listening to you. When [your wife] L. got involved, were they listening to her?

D: "When J." [name correction]

T: J., sorry, J. That's right, I thought it was L.

D: Yeah, they started to, for a while, but then, um, they didn't act on it either. She was still...

T: Right. So she was no more listened to than you were, in practice.

D: No. Not by FACS, no. And in fact when my daughter, she told J. for the first time, when this shit was going on. J. was the first one to be told about it and she went with me to the doctor, y'know, and she also went with me to FACS, but they still wouldn't take her word for it. As far as they were concerned it was just me pumping a heap of shit into my children's head and trying to make it sound bad for the mother.

T: Right. So as far as they were concerned, you are faking up assault, you are faking, providing fake evi[dence]... Again, what you were saying about the mother pumping shit into the child, they're saying you're doing the same.

D: You have to be one sick bastard to do that, to make your children say that about their brother and sister, you'd have to be one sick bastard.

T: There are 'sick bastards' around...

D: Yeah.

T: Unfortunately.

D: [wry laugh] Yeah, I know, but that's, but then again that's exactly what my ex was doing in '92. If she had her way I would have been looking through bars. I would have been fucked up the arse by blokes that had AIDS, or I would have been bashed to a pulp, possibly killed, murdered in jail, for something that I've never ever done.

T: So it was only the case, that what the children were saying didn't hold up, that didn't have you in jail. And you didn't know about this until after.

D: Well, in the end, they didn't have a foundation for their case, y'know, they didn't have enough. The stories that the children told were conflicting, they just didn't match up, they were all wishy-washy, y'know?

T: So that, for example, in Britain, and again I don't know what it is here, the suspicion that you are an abuser is sufficient for them to prevent you ever seeing your children - or any children - again. Is that... does that apply in this state?

D: Don't know. If it did, if it did, well, when even when FACS found out that I was going to be having access to my children again, they rang me up and they just told me straight out, "look, we don't want you to see your children", and they were ringing up my ex-wife and telling her, "look, don't give him access, just do not let him see the children".

T: Right, so they were acting as... that even though the stories were conflicting, the allegations were totally factual, the only thing that was wrong was conflicting evidence from the children.

D: Mm.

T: Right. What did they say when they said 'we don't want you to see the children'? Did they say literally "we believe you [are]... or so-and-so is going on and we don't want you to see the children", or what?

D: No, they said to me, "we are conducting an investigation with your children, and when the investigation is finished, we'll notify you and we'll let you know when you can start having access with your children again". And I said "why?", I said, I said "hang on, I'll be there in a few minutes", hung the phone up and I went down there, and I said to this prick, I said "listen, you, you point the finger at me for doing anything, you make sure you fuckin' well have concrete, because if you haven't I'll sue the arse off of you bastard", y'know? I told him face to face that I'd done nothing wrong, and "you make sure, that if you keep something, you make it stick, because if you don't, I'll have your arse". I told him straight out.

T: Well, fairly obviously, that's the kind of response he's going to get from anyone, because the problem is that a lot of men who are... for example, a man who was denying and denying and denying and denying held up until they provided him with, they 'showed him the semen-stained letter', quote. So from their perspective, any man who's doing that will be denying it.

D: Oh yeah!

T: So... did they actually inform you what the investigation was about?

D: ...the investigation? No!

T: Just that they are doing an investigation...

D: To this day, T., they still haven't told me anything. The only reason I know what was going on was because all this evidence had been sub-poena'd for the trial, and when I was waiting to see my barrister to do my affidavit, they gave me my file and said "if you want to have a read, you can". So I started reading through it, and that's when I found all this shit - what my children were saying, who was interviewing them, when it was going on, y'know, and all this, y'know?

T: So you had no information at all, you were just simply, you were informed that you did not have access to the children, that an investigation...

D: I was told that I couldn't see my children //..//

T: This was FACS, who told you this?

D: Yes. And I said to them, my reaction to them was "this
is bullshit, you can't tell me not to have access! I've got no piece of paper from the Family Law Court of Australia saying I can't see my children"...

T: ...and they said?

D: And they were virtually pleading with me, "look, please co-operate", y'know, "you could hinder our investigations", y'know. And I didn't know what to think, y'know', 'cos I hadn't done anything! [wry laugh] You know! But they assured me, y'know, over the phone, they assured me quite sincerely that once their investigations were finished they would let me know.

T: They said that there were investigations, but did they tell you what the investigations were about?

D: No, they didn't.

T: So they phoned you up, and they just said, they're doing investigations, and they don't want you to have access to the children. Is that pretty much what they said?

D: That's it, that's it. That was it. They wouldn't say what it was about or anything.

T: Sure. Just a minute.


B: ...from my perspective, from working with you, okay? Because I want you to hear those stories but I want to have my say in terms of working-class men. If that happens to a working-class man, with the limited ability to understand what's going on...

T: The only way he can speak is with his hands.

B: ...that there are no services, the only way he has of solving it is either to hurt physically somebody else to stop it, in the only way he knows how, okay? or, to take himself out of the pain of the situation is to deal with himself in his way - to take drugs, to drink copious amounts of alcohol - mostly alcohol - to deal with the pain so he doesn't have to //..//, because it's too painful //..// part of the frustrating thing is not knowing how to deal with it. And, and for middle-class to upper class men, they have begun the process of self-development, they have begun to find they have at least some resources, but the working-class men aredisempowered both at a personal level and disempowered societally. And when this stuff happens they've nothing, they've no safety net, they have no way of dealing with it, even less than you. And that's my concern, in terms of working with working-class men, they have particular concerns and particular struggles, that men were to //..//. This is the bottom
line for what the men's movement boys are on about, for all its mytho-political...

T: Mytho-poetic stuff, yes, sure...

B: ...this is the bottom line.

T: This is a personal question. You were listening to some extent to what I was doing. Were you happy with the way I was doing it?

B: Yes. //..//

T: Yes, obviously. But have you been happy with the way I've been asking these questions?

B: Yes.

D: Yeah, um...

T: Because I'm concerned about this, because it's been a practice session to some extent.

D: You could go down home in the morning and ask my wife what sort of a night's sleep I've had tonight, and she'll probably tell you I tossed and turned, kicked and punched [wry laugh] and probably copped a couple back meself!

B: Because you're stirred up.

D: Because I'm stirred up, yeah. [wry laugh]

T: Yeah, and I'm aware of that. Can I, can I offer an apology, as well as to you. You understand why we're doing this?

D: I just, um... yeah. I mean, it's... um... the thing is about men's groups, the thing I like about them is that we don't want to take anything away from women. We don't want to belittle them, kick them in the guts or take anything away from them, we're just saying, "hey, look, we're men, we're fuckin' human too, and we want to //just invite you are?//, have the same //respect//, and equality, as what you have"

B: Be validated, mate. That your feelings and your thoughts were valid.

T: For example, the fact that your ex-wife has had no support whatsoever to deal with her problems is to me a major issue, but it's nothing to do with you. It's a societal level...

D: She was a major...

T: You did nothing to stop her getting that support - in fact you've done the opposite, you pleaded with her, you said, to go and get support.

D: Yeah, I did. I still have, up to the marriage breakdown, on a number of occasions.

T: I was saying that we can see... I always look at this from just simply a human perspective, if someone is badly damaged, they need help. And if you look at the kind of support... okay, it's nothing like good enough, the kind of technical support that is available to vets [military veterans], the stuff that - well, okay, you know how useless it is, but at least there's a pretence of it...

D: She, she went through a number of cycles after the marriage broke down, she started drinking bourbon, fuckin' two bottles a day, getting pissed out of her brain, a lot of the stuff I don't even know. Then she went through the stage where she turned anorexic, and she was admitted into hospital for two weeks because she was that weak she couldn't pick [infant son] J. up. I'm sorry [about stating names].

T: It's all right. Perhaps it's okay to use yours, your name [B.], because it doesn't matter, because you're the co-ordinator for this. You're not giving any stories here, and if that's okay with you I won't use any stories from you because then your voice doesn't come through.

B: I'm happy with that. The only thing I guess I'd like to give is my perspective as a worker...

T: But your perspective as a worker is perfectly okay to have your name on it.

B: ...and I'd like to do that because of these stories. Because I think it's important that the stories from men are taught to men, and also that as a worker that I hear your cry. The overall issues, I think...

T: Well, we'll have time to do that, because I mean what we're planning to do tomorrow is talk about, to go around with a mike in hand and wander around and just get some of the comments up. Again, if you could do that, I want you to write down the person's name, say I can say, this is K., this Z., assign them codes on the tape, and I want to cross-reference them, but I don't want to use a real name for obvious reasons, because some of this stuff we will need to be asking directly "what violence have you done?"

D: Absolutely.

T: Because what I'm try to get [is] a total perspective on the whole problem, and therefore it needs to be, for the moment... I mean, the courts may make a big number about it, but I want these tapes to end up in a secure environment, so that... well, I mean, in many cases it will have gone through a court already, who will have heard only one side of the story, but I want to get it in a non-blaming, non-punitive environment where we can just say, "what's gone down?". And then we can start building up from that.

B: //..//

T: Exactly. We then put it //together// with the women's story, and we've then got something closer to a real story.

B: //..// listen to it //..//

T: [to D.] I'll ask you this one: do you feel heard by what I've said?

D: Yeah...

T: Some.. probably not enough?

D: Doesn't make me feel any better! [laughs] You know! I mean, actually, when I've done...

T: It's shit. It is shit.

D: Yeah, actually, when I started going to the men's group, and I started talking about it, you know, after a while I said, I said to B., "look, mate, this isn't for me", I said "I'm actually more angry than what I was when I started going", because I'd learned to put that shit behind me, I'd learned to, um...

T: Yeah, but 'putting it behind me' isn't dealing with it...

B: ...pushed down inside...

[end of tape]