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

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



T: ...under these circumstances. Does this girlfriend have any children of her own?

G: Yeah, she had two girls. And, er, she badly wanted to... she badly wanted to get into a permanent relationship herself...

T: And you're too badly burned to do so?

G: Ah, even now, I... See, we were not living together, but she was in Murray Bridge for three years - thereabouts, three years, two years - and we were seeing each other an' all, but I couldn't... couldn't bring myself to say "I love you", you know? And, er...

T: Why not?

G: Just too dangerous. Too permanent... you know? It's too... it's... like... setting guarantees that I guaranteed that I wanted to live with her for the rest of our life...

T: "Regardless of what degree she's trashing you"?

G: Regardless...

T: I mean, that's the risk for you, is that you've been in two relationships which have very dangerously trashed you, and which have caused enormous damage, and yet the commitment "I am here permanently" means that you're committing yourself to...

G: The thing is that I had too many hassles with my marriage before and I wasn't going to get myself back into, into the same hassles. I wasn't going to jump out of one fire into another fire.

T: Right, so that's about three years ago or so, three or four years ago. You said that you've somehow now gained custody of the children. How did that happen?

G: Right. Well I had a fair bit of support from this, er, lady, when she was here, and, er... she said "look, G., I know you can, y'know, look after the kids an' all that, I know how much you love your kids, and, um, you're, um..." y'know, she was quite sure that I could handle them after she'd...

T: She was telling you that you are okay as a parent.

G: Yeah, she was telling me that I'm okay, and she was fully supportive of me. And, er... yeah, and I talked to her mother - her mother is fairly religious and is a very honest person, and Y. [the girlfriend] is very honest as well, and, er, yeah, they sort of edged me along, they sort of built my, er, self-esteem up, virtually. And, er, made me realise...

T: You've got two women who are really helping you to recreate your self-esteem, but you're really still too damaged to be in a relationship.

G: I'm... even now I can't... I'm too frightened to make a relationship because, um... I've tried and tried...

T: Talking about then, you've got two women who are actually helping you recreate your self-esteem, getting you to validate your experience as a man. How do you come to be claiming custody of the children?

G: Right. When I went... Just after I left Whyalla, I went back to Whyalla to pick this lady up, pick this friend up to bring her down here, and I went up there with a trailer and loaded all the furniture on, and we were... her mother lived across the road from where I used to live, at Whyalla, where my ex-wife was living with my children, and my brother.

T: So she was living with your brother?

G: She was living with my brother for ten months after we split up. And she said, my ex-wife said to me, "G., the girls want to be with you, they are saying to me all the time they want to come and live with you". So I said, "fine, grab their gear and I'll load that on too and I'll take them back and I'll look after them". And just as we were about to go, the eldest daughter says, "ah, but what about the cat, Dad?" I hate cats! [laughter] you know?

T: The last straw! Yeah!

G: So I said, "no, the cat can... cat's not coming", and then the wife takes the eldest daughter in and has a talk to her, "oh the cat can stay here", and all that... I mean, the wife was giving me the kids, full stop. In fact I think it was for a twelve-month period, a twelve-month trial. And...

T: And at this time they're what age? The youngest one is about four?

G: At that stage? The youngest one was... eighteen months...

T: And the oldest was...

G: The youngest one, she kept the youngest one, but the two eldest ones, she wanted to get rid of. What she wanted was... she wasn't saying 'get rid of', but she wanted me to look after 'em. And, er, I thought, "wow! this is great!" and, anyway, she took the eldest one and had a talk to her and then come out - she'd actually written out a letter giving me... um...

T: Authority of custody?

G: Yeah, giving me authority of bringing [up] the kids, because I wasn't going to leave with the kids without a piece of paper, because the first thing that she could do was ring up the cops, and say "he's pinched me kids!"

T: Abducted the kids, yes.

G: Abducted the kids. And, so I covered my butt by getting her to write that letter. She wrote it herself, I didn't tell her what to write or anything. She just wrote down that I could and she's given me the okay to take the kids. And, er, signed it an' all, and then after K. [the eldest daughter] wanted the cat and she'd had a talk with her, she came back and said... What happened, she'd actually given me the kids, full stop, right? And when she come back she said, "right, you can have the kids for twelve months, as a twelve-month trial". And I said, "ah, yeah, all right" - better than not at all! - in case she changed her mind and I'm not having them at all! So, that was okay, she put in the date, and, er, then I got back to Murray Bridge with the girls, put 'em all into school, bought their school uniforms and all that sort of stuff, and then I thought, it's going to be absolutely terrible if I go to school one day to pick the kids up, and the kids are not gonna be there - because my ex is so unpredictable in what she's going to do. So I went in to the lawyers, and I started to fight for custody of the children. And they said, "ah no, you won't get it", y'know, waste of time.

T: Why are they saying you can't get it? Because you're male?

G: I don't whether it's because I'm male, or what, but they said, "no, you won't get it, because she's not trying to take the kids". And I said, "but I think she will, when she realises that it's quiet without the kids, y'know, that it's...", er... all that sort of stuff...

T: That it's empty?

G: That it's empty. And I said I'm sure she'll be back down to get the kids. You know, when she's had enough, had her free time, she'll be down. Anyway, I said, "look, try. See what you come up with." Anyway, she suggests that she write a letter to the ex-wife asking the ex-wife to give me custody of the children. So, anyway, as soon as the ex-wife got this letter, she jumped into the car, come down, takes the kids out of school, and then, I said, "well, what about fighting for custody now?", and she says, "ah, no, you can't, because you haven't got the kids any more". So, you know...

T: So before you can't have the kids because you're working. Then you've got the kids but you can't confirm custody. As soon as you've lost the kids, you can't have the kids because you haven't got the kids?

G: Because I haven't got the kids.

T: Right.

G: So, anyway, that was okay, everything calmed down after a while, and, er, of course I was distorted [distraught] again, because the kids were gone, the whole school was distorted because she'd gone into the kids, gone into the school swearing and abusing and threatening to run over people - nearly did run over the younger daughter's teacher - with the car...

T: Right! [wry laugh]

G: ...and the teachers were crying, and everyone was all upset, because they didn't know what was going on. They knew I didn't have custody or anything - I told them I was fighting for it. So, finished up... [comment to youngest daughter, who'd wandered into the interview at this point, and who was reaching for the tape-recorder] watch out, watch out, watch out! [daughter wanders off] ... finished up, I, er, was belting my head against a brick wall and getting nowhere. So... [more comments from daughter, who wants to go out of the side-door] ... by this time twelve months had passed, or ten months had passed, and she decided then she was leaving Whyalla, bringing the kids an' all down to... down to Victor Harbour - she was going to live at Victor Harbour - sold all the furniture, everything!

T: The furniture that she'd wanted so badly! [wry laugh]

G: Everything. And also everything that I'd worked for seven years and bought, and had left to make things easier for the kids, she'd sold it all - kids' toys, and... everything. Encyclopaedias, the works, y'know? And, er... things that were bought specifically for the kids to help the kids along in life, and, er, she just sold the lot, and moved down to Victor Harbour into a caravan. She lived in the caravan park...

T: Was she still with anyone at this time?

G: Yeah, my brother. Yeah. And as soon as she got settled into the caravan park she booted him out. So he, he was really distorted as well, I mean, and cheesed off, and he realised that he was only being used, and, er... anyway, he then left Victor Harbour and came back to Murray Bridge and had nowhere to live, so I offered him my flat to live in until he got himself sorted out. So then he lived with me for about three, four, maybe six months. And in this time I'm going off to visit me kids around once a month and, er...

T: How far is Victor Harbour from Murray Bridge?

G: It's only... a hundred k's or so...

T: A bit more than an hour's drive?

G: Yeah. They were living in the caravan park, right next to the caravan park was a school, so the kids were going to that school. It was a Christian school, and I thought, ah, yeah, that'll be a pretty good school for 'em to go to. And then I was getting phone calls from the headmaster saying, "you've got to do something about the kids, you've got to be paying maintenance", and I said, "I am paying maintenance" - 'cos I was working at that time - and, er, they were saying, "but she's telling us that you're not". [brief interruption about another interview appointment] I was getting phone calls from the headmaster saying "you've got to pay maintenance", I was telling them that I am paying maintenance, she's telling them that I'm not paying maintenance, and the kids, he's telling me that the kids are going to school with thongs on in the middle of winter, summer clothes on in the middle of winter, they're saying they're hungry all the time, and they're not being fed properly, and, um... "you as a parent, as a father, should be doing something about it, talk to the wife, do things". I said... eventually I said, "look, I've done all I can, I've been to court, I've trying doing this, I've tried doing that, and if I take it to court over something like this, they're going to see it as sour grapes, and there's nothing I can do about it". I said, "the only one who could do something about it would be you".

T: The 'you' being the school?

G: The school. And, with them having statutory obligations to make reports on things? I said to him, he has to, he's got to make a report of it. And he said, "leave it to me, if I decide to make a report, I will, if I don't, then I won't". That's the outcome. So, okay, I left it with him for a couple of weeks - no, a couple of days - and then I decided, "no, bugger it, he's not going to do it", because I could... you could sense, it was just a feeling I had...

T: Yeah, this guy is saying that you... I mean, his opinion is, you've obviously let the children down, the wife is telling the truth, and you're not.

G: Yup. Exactly. And, er... anyway... er, eventually, on that Friday, I thought, "well, I don't trust him, I don't think he's going to take a report of it" - just by the message I got over the phone. So, I rang up the Welfare, or the Social Security within the Welfare, DSW, in Victor Harbour, and I said, "look, the school's got, er, having a hassle with my ex-wife and children, they're supposed to be making a report and I don't think he's going to, I'd like youse to go to him and say 'you're supposed to be making a report'". So apparently they did, and then he made a report, but I don't know what was in the report or anything. Apparently the school gave her a fifty-dollar voucher to buy the appropriate uniform, school uniforms, or to start a payment on them, on the uniforms, and she laughed, and was... she was actually laughing about it to me, and boasting about how "ha-ha! the school's bloody sucked in" and giving her money, and she's gone and had money then for her smokes.

T: Yeah. What kind of smokes - do you mean cigarettes or other...?

G: Cigarettes. And, er, so then even when she moved into the caravan park, I said to the caravan park, you know, "be careful from her". They said "no, she's all right, she's really good"... yeah, but the truth will come out eventually. And eventually when she had left, she'd turned the tables up and got the kids to write filth all over, she'd written filth all over it, her boyfriend had written filth all over it...

T: So this was another boyfriend?

G: Yeah, this was a different boyfriend she had...

T: Not your brother?

G: No. She had... in this time she'd had three. And they're all around eighteen, twenty, where she's by this time was nearly thirty.

T: Interesting, because that's a reflection of what happened to you in your earlier life.

G: Yeah! That's right!

T: Interesting echo all the same. I just notice how these things tend to echo in cycles.

G: And I never really thought a lot about that, actually.

T: And the same is [where] she's using your brother, because he has the same...

G: Yeah! And he, he, I mean he... in the time that I was married, I always had a feeling she was carrying on with my brothers, you know, she was flirting with them. And she was. She was flirting with them quite often, and, er, trying to make me jealous and stuff like that. She was, she was making me jealous, but I wasn't taking the bait all the time, I wasn't getting upset, and I was saying, "well, okay, they're allowed to be friends".

T: So you're not trying to control who she sees?

G: Oh, no, I wasn't trying to control who she says - sees. And, I mean, at Lee Creek there was a strip-show, she wanted to go to the strip-show, and I thought, oh well, yeah, fair enough, she'd never been to one before as far as I knew, and so I let her go. And I had stories coming back out she'd been out with one of the strippers, having sex on a flight of steps with one of these strippers. And I...

T: Were these male strippers?

G: With male strippers. And, er, anyway, the woman that told me, her and my ex didn't get along too good.

T: Right, so you... it was a pretty suspect story.

G: Yeah. But I didn't hear about it, this woman didn't tell me until about twelve months after we'd split up, but my wife came home and said, "oh, you're gonna hear these stories about how I'm supposed to have been carrying on", but nothing came. So eventually I found out that it was all true, because she'd told me the story before anybody else did. And, er, I heard how she was missing, but I didn't actually hear then that she was naked with this stripper and having sex in the theatre on the floor.

T: Yeah. And... so, if we jump away from it, because obviously that hurts...

G: Yeah.

T: ...try [to] jump back to what's happening at the school.

G: At the... at the school, she got a bit upset because the school was contacting me and I was trying to do things for... to help, help things...

T: Which of course the school is required by law to do, because from their perspective you are betraying your children.

G: That's right. And they're... she's telling them I wasn't paying maintenance, which I was paying maintenance, and, er, y'know, everything was all my fault, er... and I'm such a useless father and all, and I'm to get off my butt and go and do something about it. And I said, "well, look, I've done what I can - talk to her, and I may as well talk to the wall". So, er, then she, I think, panicked...

T: And she moved out of the caravan park?

G: She moved out of the caravan park, moved from there to Runalla.

T: Which is how far away from the school?

G: Which is another fifty k's, I suppose?

T: So the girls weren't going to the same school, then.

G: No, then they changed to a different school. In the, in the period that the kids went to school, or in the period that I've left, the kids have been chopped and changed from school to school, seven different schools before I got custody of them.

T: So that's in a three-year period.

G: That's in a three-year period. I mean, of course that's from being changed from Our Lady's School, which they were in when I left Whyalla, to a different school because she didn't like that school, she didn't like the teachers there, er, to another school, and from that school down to Murray Bridge, from that school back to Whyalla, and then from that school down to Victor Harbour, and then from that school to another school in Victor Harbour...

T: ...to Runalla, and to...

G: Yeah, there was another school before Runalla, and they were only going to that one for a little while, and then they moved to Runalla, and then... in this period of time I've, I was supposed to have had access to the children, like, when things went to court... when they moved from Victor Harbour to Runalla, they gave me the children.

T: Who did? The...

G: The ex. Gave me the children. For two weeks. But when that two weeks was up, she still hadn't gotten back to me to where the kids had to go, all right? And eventually... apparently...

T: She was to have told you where the kids were to go?

G: She was supposed to ring me up and say where I had to take the kids back.

T: Right.

G: And she didn't do it. She apparently was still in Whyalla. I had found - somehow or another, I don't know how - but I'd found his father's mobile telephone number, so I rang him and I had contact with the boyfriend through his father's mobile telephone number - which they weren't very impressed with - and he said that I'm to drop the kids off at a certain address to him. And I didn't like him much in any case, bit of a bully and a bit of a roughneck, and I wasn't just dropping my kids off there while she wasn't there. So I kept them, and then it went back to court, it was made it looked like I had just kept the kids, right? And I had them for a month then before she'd got 'em. So that's stuffed my maintenance up as well, because I wasn't paying maintenance while I had the kids. And that...

T: So you were in fact paying maintenance and paying for the kids anyway?

G: I was paying... yeah, yeah. No... I wasn't paying...

T: ...but you were required to?

G: I was required to. And that's why I've still got to go to court.

T: Right. So for all the times that you've had the kids, you're still supposed to pay maintenance to her, even though she hasn't got them.

G: Yeah. And when I had the kids from when she gave them to me from Whyalla, I had them for approximately a month, of... Yeah. And while I had them I wasn't paying maintenance. I mean, it was a natural thing to stop paying maintenance in any case, because she'd given them to me. So, when they went back I was then... after that month, I was still being required to pay maintenance during that month that I had them.

T: Has she told the Welfare that you had them, [or] that she'd had them all the time?

G: No. She wouldn't tell them.

T: No, but has she told the Welfare that you've just stopped maintenance payments and she'd had the children anyway?

G: No.

T: She did say that the children were with you?

G: She... Well, I don't know whether she's told them or not.

T: So how do you come now, you've got this backwards-and-forwards going on, where the children are being thrown from pillar to post. How have you actually stabilised this and get //..// while this is going on?

G: Okay, okay. Um, when she's moved to Runalla, I was, I... when it went to court, I wanted access to the kids, so they said, right, you've got to have access every fortnight, on a weekend basis. So I had to drive from Murray Bridge to Runalla, pick the kids up...

T: Which is what, a hundred and fifty k's?

G: About a hundred k's. Drive back to Murray Bridge, have the access back home, drive back to Runalla on the Sunday, drop 'em off and drive back to Murray Bridge. So all the access was done on my own expenses, plus I had to pay maintenance. And there was absolutely no help whatsoever from the wife's side as far as access was concerned.

T: And every now and then she would just dump the children on you.

G: Every now and then she... in the past she'd just dumped them on me, yeah.

T: Were there any obstructions to your access?

G: Apart from the smacks in the mouth and stuff from her and her boyfriend...

T: So she was hitting you?

G: Oh yeah.

T: She and her boyfriend were both hitting you?

G: When I, when I, when I kept the children from not taking them back to him when she was at, was still at Whyalla, when she'd gone to Whyalla for a visit while they were moving from Victor Harbour to Runalla, um, he was pissed off with the fact that I didn't feel safe enough to take the kids to him, so when the courts ordered me to take the kids back to him and her, er, I copped it when I went back there - in front of the kids.

T: You copped it? Yeah, okay, what does 'copping it' look like?

G: Okay. 'Copping it' was punches from him into my face, slaps from her in my face, and I'd...

T: Are you hitting back?

G: No. No, I didn't, because I knew that - I mean, he was a bloody sight bigger than what I was in any case, even though he was younger, he was the type that, um, he wanted, he wanted a fight, you know, he was looking for a fight.

T: Right. So she's hitting you, he's hitting you, and...

G: That's right. And I'm still trying to keep everything calm, because I know the kids get upset as soon as there's fightin' and carryin' on. And the kids were getting upset, because Dad's getting the shit belted out of him. And I've said, "right, kids, just go out the back, don't worry about this", and I just turned around and walked back and got into the car and drove away.

T: Were you bleeding at this time?

G: No, I wasn't, it was only...

T: It was punches, rather than //..//. Just bruising?

G: Just bruising, that's all.

T: Out of interest, did you go to hospital to get the bruising treated?

G: No. No. I didn't make a report - this is the silly part about it, I didn't make reports of it, I didn't... I mean, I like things to go smooth, I like things to...

T: As, 'being punched up' is actually... keeping quiet about being punched up is 'keeping things smooth'?

G: That's keeping things running smooth. Eventually I went... after going back every fortnight for access, sometimes copping abuse from her and her boyfriend, er, I'd talk to 'em to try and sort things out and - as far as access and that's concerned - and, er, in this process I'm also trying to get custody as well, and, er, not getting anywhere, and then eventually I go to pick the kids up, and he's there, and he says [demonstrates a mocking voice], "oh, you're wasting your time, aren't you, they're not here, they're up at Whyalla having a party". And it just seemed strange, and I sort of sensed a bug. So I went... er... I then went home...

T: So tell me, you'd gone to there, and then being told that they aren't there anyway?

G: Yeah, I'd been told they're not there anyway, and so I rang up Whyalla and talked to her brother, and said "Have you got a party there somewhere? is A. there with the girls?" and he said "no". I thought, what the bloody hell's going on? And he sort of...

T: So the guy is mocking you, the boyfriend, saying "you've come all this way..."

G: Yeah. Yeah, he's saying, "ah, you stupid bastard, you come all this way to get the kids and they're not even here, ha-ha-ha!" - you know, just shit-stirring. And... anyway, I said, "ah well, fair enough", can't do anything - I mean, what can you do? Bust into his house and see if they're there? No, you can't do that, so you've gotta take his word for it. So you git back in the car and you drive all the way back up, and I made a phone call to Whyalla to check up, to find out what the hell was going on, and to say, "look, you've got a court order saying I'm to have custody - er, access - to the kids" And her brother said, "look, I don't know what's going on, but I think she's flying the coop, they're flying... they're tickin' off and going over to Tasmania to live". And I thought, "bloody hell, if they go over there I'll never ever see the kids", so I got onto my lawyer, worried about it all weekend, got onto my lawyer first thing Monday morning, and they got a court order into court, or from the court, saying that she is not to take the kids out of South Australia, and, er... um... the day that she got the actual court order was the day that they put the kids into the car and sent them to me by themselves - sorry, she put them into a taxi at about eight o'clock at night, and at nine o'clock they rocked up at my father's place in Murray Bridge.

T: Without [you] being informed - just arriving?

G: Without being informed.

T: They just arrived in a taxi...

G: They just arrived...

T: With any gear, or just themselves?

G: With a couple of bags with a few bits of clothing and that.

T: So again she's just dumped the children on you.

G: Just dumped the children onto me. She said, she'd said in her court papers, ah, that I'd arranged it all, that I'd, er, known all about it. I mean, when they turned up, I was off playing eight-ball, I didn't know about it until eleven o'clock when I got home, there were these kids sitting in my father's lounge-room - because I was living with my father at the time. And, er, because I was paying maintenance, and originally I was renting a flat, and I couldn't afford to, so to save money I moved in with my father. And then I was still paying maintenance, but not quite enough - you know, instead of paying a hundred and... two hundred and thirty-seven dollars or something, it was a hundred, two hundred and seven - something like that. And, er, um... anyway, I got home at eleven o'clock, and there the girls were, and they didn't know who paid the taxi or anything, but we presume she paid it before they left.

T: So she just 'offloaded'. And what's happened since then?

G: She jumped in the plane the next day and went off to Tasmania. I, we had it in court and, um, they granted me, inter, er...

T: 'Interim custody'?

G: Interim custody, and eventually it went back to court. She...we had, um... counselling over the phone while she was in Tasmania - nothing ever gets sorted out as far as that sort of thing is concerned - eventually she had to come back here to fight the... to fight the custody case...

T: Because she wanted the children back?

G: She wanted to take the children over there. And, um, er... I had all the past records - or not 'records', I didn't have any of them, actually, my lawyers had whatever information they could find from the caravan park owners, the school, the Welfare, all these little bits and pieces that all added up.

T: So she's had... so the children have had a very unstable environment.

G: The kids have had a very unstable environment. I've had 'em now for three years, and M. [one of the daughters] was so...

T: The eldest or the youngest?

G: The middle-aged one, the middle one. She was so far behind in school it wasn't funny, I've spent so much time with her to try and catch her up. I bought...

T: So she's had three years of constant change - before this, before you took custody?

G: Ah, the kids have had three years of jumpin' here and jumpin' there and not knowing what's going on, no boundaries, um... yeah... er... C. [the youngest daughter] at three was still in nappies. Twelve months before A. had said to me when I had access up during the Christmas holidays, "I'm toilet-training her, can you carry it on and toilet-train her", "yup, okay", so we did that, and twelve months later she's still in nappies when I got custody of the kids. So, um, yeah... and K. [the eldest daughter] was pretty distort, didn't know where she was, they were very quiet and, er, almost as if they're - oh what would you call it?

T: Very subdued?

G: Yeah... they're very shy and withdrawn - 'withdrawn's the word - and... so... anyway, while I'm trying to teach them to read, they're reading really quiet, and I'm saying, "that's no good, I can't hear you, you know, you gotta yell it at me". So...

T: So you're actually very much concerned about bringing them to be assertive.

G: Yeah, they were...

T: Because one of the questions I wanted to ask you was how is it as a single father with three relatively small daughters? I mean, that's part of the same question, that we're just moving into now [i.e. the present].

G: Yeah. It's... how do I feel?

T: And what difficulties do you face?

G Difficulties? One difficulty that I face is, um, everything I do I've got to be absolutely careful on, because I don't want to be put into the situation where eventually somebody's going to put in a complaint that I'm sexually abusing or abusing the children...

T: So you've got that as a constant threat over your head?

G: It's a constant threat. My ex-wife was apparently abused as a child and, er, when she has the children for access, her father actually spends time with the kids, which...

T: Which worries you?

G: Which worries the Christ out of me. But then I don't know whether that was all true, or whether it was just a lie from her.

T: Just another one of her... So you don't know whether it's another one of her... not so much 'lies' as 'imaginings'?

G: Imaginings, yeah.

T: So you feel you've got this... you were saying, pretty much a constant threat...

G: Well, you see...

T: ...implied threat rather than actual threat...

G: Yeah... and you see...

T: ... of an allegation of abuse, that you can't do anything about.

G: 'Abuse that I can't do anything about'? ... Yeah...

T: Well, for example, at any moment...

G: See, when I...

T: ...someone could say you're abusing the children.

G: Yeah, I'm... if... if there's actually any allegations of myself, um, abusing the children, sexually abusing the children or physically abusing them, um, I would find it devastating because how do you prove that you're not? Y'know... well, you can't! And, if somebody says you are, the first thing that's going to happen is they're going take the kids away from me, give them to her, and then - 'cos 'possession is nine-tenths of the law', idn't it, so they say? - and then I've got to try and fight to get them back again.

T: In an environment where, according to her own statement - if she claims she was sexually abused and her environment is with her father who's supposed to be the sexual abuser - then it's actually putting the children back into an unsafe environment.

G: That's putting the children back into...

T: So how does access work? Because what access does she have? Is she back here now, at this stage?

G: Yeah, she's been back here ever since she left over here. She put in her court orders, court papers saying that she couldn't go back because, er, of financial - no, because... yeah, financial reasons and, um, her and her boyfriend just split up.

T: Right, so she hasn't gone //..//...

G: But within a week, within a week from when she came back here, um, she was with another fella up at Whyalla in any case!

T: So in fact she's, she's never been, never been in paid employment...

G: No.

T: ...so she's actually relying on a succession of boyfriends to keep her...

G: Oh, sure...

T: ...or your maintenance payments. And your maintenance payments have stopped, because the children aren't there.

G: Actually, in the last two years, she's been on unemployment benefit - since I've had the children, she's been on unemployment benefit and living with her boyfriend that she's with now. And he's working, and has been for the last eighteen months, and she's still on unemployment benefit. And at the moment I'm going through a... it started out as a custody/access...

T: I, I need an explanation here: is that actually a fraud?

G: Yes.

T: It is. Right. Good.

G: Yes. She's saying in... she's been saying for the last two and a half years she's been living with her mother at [specified address], but she's actually been living at, um...

T: Don't give me addresses on the tape.

G: No, right. She's been living with her boyfriend. Right? And I talked to her Christmas time about it, and she said, "ah, but I'm all covered because I've paid for the connection an' all on Mum's phone". That's in her name, and that's her guarantee...

T: That's her guarantee. Because the bill is addressed to her, that's it.

G: That's it! And it is - they can't do anything because...

T: So she can actually... she can maintain... it becomes a permanent, practically a permanent fraud, because she's done one thing, namely connected a telephone.

G: Yeah. Yeah.

T: Right.

G: And the telephone is her guarantee that she's going to get away with it. She's been getting away with it for two and a half years. And, er... I mean, I've sort of dropped hints to the Welfare, but you have to fill out all papers and stuff like that, which I have eventually done, and, um... at the moment I'm going through, um, an access thing - I've been giving her heaps and heaps of access, all and more of what the court order said to give her...

T: What is the court order?

G: The court order is alternate holidays for a full holiday - right? - term holidays, and half of Christmas holidays. And...

T: And what about //..//?

G: ...and telephone access...

T: What about fortnightly?

G: Weekly telephone access.

T: No, no, I meant being with her, spending time with at fortnightly intervals... or is it only school holidays?

G: Oh, no. No, it's only school holidays, every alternate school holidays.

T: Plus half of Christmas.

G: Plus half of Christmas. And she's been getting that and more, right? I've been giving her mutual agreement holiday access, if she gives me, um... if she lets me know a week or a fortnight before she comes down, but if I've got anything arranged, major, for the children to do on that weekend, I'm to say no, she can't have it. Which hasn't occurred as yet.

T: But the point is that you are giving notification, you're saying "I require notification because I've got to plan for the children's lives".

G: Yes. Definitely.

T: You can't have an instant change of plan of the children's lives.

G: I cannot have an instant change of plan... I can change it at an instant if what they was going to do on that weekend didn't matter. Like, if I've got a major trip, like we'd been to Kangaroo Island at one stage, fishing, with the children, and if she rang up a fortnight before that and said, "oh, I want the kids this fortnight", I would say no, because it's a major thing, it's all paid for and everything, can't be... can't get a refund...

T: And that hasn't actually happened yet?

G: It hasn't happened yet.

T: So there is an agreement that's holding at the moment.

G: No.

T: It's just... I mean, is that agreement holding? I mean, she hasn't broken that agreement now. She hasn't barged in...

G: No. She hasn't even agreed on that agreement.

T: Right.

G: I'm going through a custody thing at the moment, and half the stuff that she's wanted, well, she was getting in any case. And one thing...

T: And she was claiming that she wasn't getting it?

G: She's claiming she's not getting any access at all, or very little, right? She said [that] in three years she's had fifty-one days, fifty-two days. In three years she's had a hundred and twenty-two days - and that's worked out on my records that I've taken each time.

T: So there's a different... Are you being believed, or is she being believed?

G: Well...

T: Because it's literally word against word.

G: I think... I think, I think in the courts she's being believed.

T: Right. So you feel yourself at risk again.

G: Yeah.

T: You've provided as stable an environment as you can...

G: I've provided as stable an environment as I can for the children, and I've helped them along with their schooling, if they've had troubles I've encouraged them, er... to do the right thing all the time. I encourage them not to swear at home or anywhere - they do not swear at home... now on access visits at some stage the ex-wife has complained to me that the girls are swearing, and I'm to stop them from from swearing, and I'm to control 'em while they're at her house...

T: So again, you are supposed magically to control their behaviour in her environment, when you have an environment where they don't swear.

G: Yeah. But when they're with her, I mean, she swears like a trooper, all her family swears like troopers, and I wrote her a letter explaining to... where I think, because she was putting the blame onto me that the girls are swearing. I wrote her a letter...

T: But she's swearing... her family are swearing... they [the girls] don't swear in your household...

G: No.

T: ...you make that a rule, and you make that a rule for yourself also.

G: That's right. I make that a rule of myself. Now and then, if I get very...

T: So now you are somehow... you are responsible for their swearing in that household.

G: That's right. And... she's... yeah, put it back onto me. And I wrote her... I thought about it for a while, because she asked me to control the kids a bit more, so I wrote and said, "yes, I will try to control them a little bit more", and I wrote her a letter, telling... explaining to her why the kids - why I think the kids are swearing at her place, and it's because they're in an environment while they're at her place where there's bad language going on all the time, and they are... picking up on the vibes that it's okay.

T: Yeah, they're speaking in the language, they're speaking in the language that is local!

G: That's right. It's okay, at her place they're picking up the vibes that it's okay to swear, because Mum swears and everybody swears. And their Mum swears just about every second, every second word.

T: Yup.

G: And, um... yeah. But at the moment, with this access thing, last - I mean, I couldn't get... I couldn't get Legal Aid, she's got Legal Aid because of the fact that she's...

T: She's claiming unemployment [benefit], therefore she's entitled to Legal Aid.

G: Yeah, she's entitled to it - which she shouldn't be. But I'm a pensioner, and I can't get Legal Aid.

T: You can't get Legal Aid, even though you're a pensioner?

G: I'm a pensioner, and they won't give me Legal Aid. My lawyer's checked up when I first started having to go to court, and they said, "look, they won't give you Legal Aid because they're not going for enough, they're not fighting for enough in the courts", and part of what she wanted was for me, when I go to visit, oh, when I go up to Whyalla, if I have to go Whyalla, I'm to drop the kids off at her place the moment I get there, and I'm not to pick the kids up until the moment I'm about to leave Lee... Whyalla, so I couldn't take the kids to visit anybody up there at all.

T: That's a legal agreement, or an agreement which //..//?

G: That's what she's trying to get as a court order. And because I didn't agree on that, the court order didn't actually go through. I agreed on... like, she chose... she tried... she wanted to change...

T: Why is she saying this? What is the reason for this? Is there someone she doesn't want them seeing in Whyalla?

G: Yeah, there's Y., the lady, the former girlfriend...

T: The former girlfriend - you're not living with her any more, are you?

G: No. No.

T: Your former girlfriend - she [i.e. the ex-wife] is trying to make sure the children don't see her?

G: She moved back up to Whyalla - the former girlfriend moved back to Whyalla two years ago to do studies, right, so when I go to pick the kids up from Whyalla - because I have to drive the kids up to Whyalla, she comes down to Murray Bridge to pick the kids up for access - for me to pick 'em up...

[end of second side of tape]

T: ...about this rather tight restriction on Whyalla...

G: No, no, this is what's going to happen...

T: ...I'm talking about the reason for this exclusion on Whyalla is so that they, so that the girls can't see this other, the other woman, who you're not in relationship with other than as a colleague...

G: ...she's a friend...

T: ...well... yeah, a 'friend' as opposed to a 'girlfriend'. And the girls have a good relationship with her, and she's trying to prevent this happening.

G: That's right.

T: Right. Okay. So you were saying the other point was what a lot of the guys were going through.

G: Yeah. A lot of men go through, during their, um, separation, right? now when I left, the wife came to me, and all she wanted... she came to me on full-on abuse and slappin' my face and threatening to - like, I'd bought a motorcycle when I left, and she threatened to push the motorcycle over, and she's slapping me and telling me to slap her - you know, that's the one major thing she wanted me to do...

T: Right, so she's constantly pushing for you to hit her?

G: She was constantly pushing for me to hit her, that's all she wanted...

T: But she's slapping you, she's hitting you around, and saying, "hit me, hit me"?

G: Pushing me, slapping me, punching me, just to get me to punch her. And I didn't. And I said, "no way, because that's all you want me to do". And it was right, that was what she wanted me to do. So she walked up to my bike, it was a VF1000, pretty big heavy bike, and pushed the thing over on a concrete floor, and bent the bloody... the handlebars and stuff like that.


T: Did you hit her then?

G: Pardon?

T: Did you hit her then?

G: No. Because I knew that that was what she wanted me to do. And I...

T: Any idea why she wanted you to do that?

G: Yeah. Yeah. So that she could put in a restraining order against me, so that she could have me up for abuse, um... or...

T: So she's attacked, she's damaging your property, she's attacking you, and she's constantly saying "hit me"?

G: Yeah. //..//

T: And the reason is... She's slapping you around, she's punching you, she's pushing you around, she's damaging your property...

G: She was provoking me to get angry and to punch her, hit her...

T: Right. So she's requiring you to be responsible, or to take the blame, for what is actually her abuse of you.

G: Exactly.

T: And the fact that you don't respond, is she taking that as abuse, the fact you don't respond?

G: I think it really upset her more that I didn't do what she wanted me to do.

T: So it upset her more that you didn't hit her?

G: Yeah. Because if I'd hit her, which is what she wanted me to do, she had more leg to be able to say that I was a wife-basher, and, um... yeah, and I'd have found everything I'd do from there on would have been thrown out of court or whatever if I was a wife-basher.

T: So there's two classic ones, which are 'you are a wife-basher', or 'you are a sexual abuser of children'. You're really afraid of the second one.

G: Yeah.

T: Because that's threatening you all the time.

G: It's a threat hanging over me all the time...

T: Particularly as a father, a single father of girls.

G: Particularly as a single father of girls, if you see what I mean, because if I was at, er, I was told I was doing this, how can a bloke prove he's not?

T: There's, there's no way - you are guilty until proved innocent...

G: That's right...

T: ...and there's actually no way formally in law - the reason why the law is built as 'you are innocent until proven guilty' is because there is never a method, no way ever, that anyone can be proven innocent. You can prove someone guilty, but you can never prove them innocent, because there's never the evidence available, there's always some circumstance in which you can say that 'you were there', and that is immediately in doubt.

G: It sure is.

T: So that... Interestingly, in Scottish law there's the concept of 'not proven' [pronounced 'prohven'], there's three possible verdicts: innocent - or not guilty - not proven, guilty. So that they accept that...

G: What's 'proven'?

T: Proven [pronounced 'prooven']. In that it has not been proved, there is insufficient evidence to prove, the thing remains in doubt, but they cannot act on the basis of you being guilty, because it is in doubt.

G: Well, the thing is, if she puts in a complaint that I'm abusing the children, or sexually abusing the children, the first thing that's going to happen is that the children are going to go straight from my care to her care.

T: Yeah. And you say you have concerns, from things that she herself has said, that that is actually a sexually abusive environment.

G: Yeah.

T: So you've [wry laugh] got a very real fear there.

G: [quietly] That's right.

T: Yeah. You don't know whether she was lying about that, or had made up a story about that...

G: Well, I don't know whether she was, she was... because there was a lot of things in the seven years that we were married, there was a lot of things that was coming out that were, were lies, you know, where you just can't...

T: ...where you can't tell what's true and what's not?

G: You couldn't tell what's true and what's not with her, no. Eventually things came obvious that what she'd said was, was lies, y'know, but at the time she really makes it sound convincing, y'know, so you've believe her, you know?

T: Right. But you're saying that this is something that you've seen with a lot of guys, these things about "hit me, hit me"...

G: I've seen with the, um...

T: ...they're slapping the guy around, and the guy is not responding...

G: Yeah. And you know, the silly part about it is, if I hit her, the first thing that would have been done was an arr[est], a report being made on it, right? But with her hitting me, because I'm the type that wants things to run smooth, and everything to be all okay...

T: So you're willing to accept abuse in order for 'anything for a quiet life'?

G: I have been willing to accept abuse... I mean, how often have you seen blokes back off because somebody's abusing them, somebody's yelling, because a woman is yelling and screaming or is upset, you know? I would rather walk away from a woman that is upset than to lay her out.

T: So a woman who's throwing things, you'd just walk away?

G: I'd... yeah. You're right, I'd just walk away.

T: And would you report it, if someone's coming at you?

G: Well, I've never... I never have reported it.

T: But you've been hit around quite a few times?

G: Heaps and heaps of times.

T: Heaps and heaps of times. You've given me two examples, can you give me some others? In a... this is a seven-year relationship, right?

G: That... she'd... hit... me?

T: Where she had hit you and you had not responded.

G: Yeah...

T: Or any of the other things like destroying property.

G: Well, there was one stage we were having a bit of a hassle where a bloke had come to pick up, um... a cassette player - no, video tapes, and she'd just got out of the bath, or some bloody thing, and she had this skimpy little towel on, and she was telling me how this guy had been standing at the door and she walked over and picked up this thing and taking it over [demonstrates bending over], I mean, she was, she was... trying to make me jealous, right? And um... I had said, "well, if that's what happened, well, fair enough, but, um, y'know, he'd have been able to see all beaver an'all hanging out the bottom of your towel", and because I didn't sort of get upset, she then went and belted on the, er... oh, she threw the, the, she grabbed hold of the couch - we had a modular couch, lounge - she grabbed hold of one and threw it against the wall and put a hole in the wall, and then went up to the wall unit, which had glasses an' all, that were given, given to her as gifts and that, and belted that, and all the glasses shot up in the air and come down and all broke - they didn't all broke, some of them broke - but that was just the way it happened.

T: So that... sort of... he'd looked... she said "he'd looked at me" and so on, and you weren't responding particularly...

G: ...and I wasn't, I wasn't responding - because you don't, I didn't know whether it was, um... I mean, I felt like she was trying to make me jealous, and I wasn't going to react. And, er...

T: But what was the issue? Was she saying that she felt he'd been staring at her, or something, and you should have done something about it?

G: No, it was just like making me, trying to make me jealous...

T: Like "he was looking at me but you won't"? That sort of thing, or what?

G: No... Because... I mean, we, we had a fairly good sort of a sex relationship an' all that, you know...

T: Oh, okay...

G: ...and... I think it was more to try to stir me up, you know? Piss me off, get me upset?

T: Right. So you said... she's smashing things there, but she's not, she's not actually hitting you.

G: No. She wasn't actually hitting me. And... I can't really think of... Oh, the main times she was sort of hitting me was if I'd gone to pick the children up from access she was hitting me. Um... yeah...

T: So she was hitting you, the boyfriend was hitting you, and you weren't hitting back.

G: And I wasn't hitting back.

T: And you never reported any of this?

G: No, I didn't.

T: Did you put... you didn't put this in your reports to the Family Court?

G: I'm pretty sure I put it in the reports, 'cos I...

T: You have put it into the report to the Family Court now.

G: Well, even when it happened.

T: So you did put it, you did report it then.

G: Yeah. Well, I didn't really rep[ort it], I didn't go to the police and make a report of it. I didn't actually make a report of it, I just added it in my, er... court papers.

T: The required court papers.

G: Yeah. And... I reckon what I've done was told my lawyers about it, but they didn't actually put it in because it would've... would make things look like I was adding it in there to make it better, sound better on my behalf.

T: So if you, if you... so if she says that you're abusing her, that sounds better for her. If you say that she's abusing you, that sounds worse for you?

G: That's what... that's how I've...

T: If she says you're verbally abusing her, when she comes for the children, that's better for her, because she's being abused.

G: Yeah, that's right.

T: But if you say, if you say that she's physically abusing you when you come to the children, and you put that in a report, that is actually worse for you?

G: It's worse for me.

T: You should not be being abused?

G: Because I shouldn't be making... I should not be making reports, I shouldn't be, um...

T: So if she...

G: So if she... if I made a report, if I put that in a court paper, and she denied it, it would make it look as if I was making things worse.

T: So whatever happens, she's the one who's telling the truth, and you're the one who's lying - in every case?

G: Definitely.

T: Right. Okay. So we've got a situation where the woman has a position of whatever she says, she is being believed...

G: Yeah!

T: ....whatever you say, if it's in contradiction, you are telling... you are the one who's lying?

G: I've gotta prove that I'm, er, telling the truth, each time. And...

T: The onus is on you to prove that you're telling the truth, and in many circumstances there's no way you can.

G: That's right.

T: Okay. Well, that's one of the problems we've got. Yeah. That's time to finish, I think. Thanks very much indeed.

[end of segment]