Working as a Domestic Abuse Practitioner can be a varied role, we support many people from all different backgrounds and circumstances, we do not judge we help and support. Since lockdown we have seen an increase in men coming forward, without us they would be otherwise ‘suffering in silence’. Please take a few moments to read Andy’s story* (*all names have been changed to protect the identity). You do not need to ‘Man up’ as Andy rightfully says, please reach out, you can be just as brave too!! We are waiting to help.
It seems strange writing about my experiences. Writing about things that I never thought could or would happen to me. I’m just an everyday Joe, wife and two children, living in a 3 bed semi. Well here goes….
I had been happily married for about 8 years. Usual sorts of up and downs, stresses and strains. My wife had always suffered to varying degrees of poor mental health. Things like anxiety, depression. But as a couple we managed our way through.
For many reasons my wife’s mental health started to deteriorate. It started where a couple of days a week she would not be able to do things, go out, she would be extremely upset and emotional. I would always gauge things by the number of good days vs bad days. As time went on things got worse the bad days started to exceed the good. With this her behaviour became ever more extreme. My wife had started drinking too. This meant that when the children got back from school she was not always in a position to care for them. I had to arrange for after school clubs and for grandparents to have the children until I got back from work.
Over the next 4 years, as a family we did our best to make things right, to fix the problems. I encouraged my wife countless times to seek additional help and support. She was already receiving counselling and could never see what more could be done.
Time passed and with that her behaviour got worst. She started arguing with me, shouting and screaming obscenities at me. She would shout and scream even if I was not in the room. She’d accuse me of having affairs, question why I went to work when I did, who I worked with and so on.
She would be crying and upset but would not tell me why. She would just constantly tell me “you don’t get it”. I’d ask her what it is I don’t get but that would be met with swearing and shouting. Calling me names and telling me to “man up”.
This carried on for about two years. Then things got worse still. She would not be able to sleep so would wander around the house switching lights on, swearing and cursing about anything and everything. This would go on late into the night. 11,12 sometimes 1am. She would wake the children up with her swearing and shouting. I would do my best to try and calm her down. But more often than not was met with more verbal abuse.
We would argue. I would shout back. Then she would threaten to call the police and tell them that I had abused her. I would back away scared that the police would believe her. My wife is a small lady. I could not risk the children being taken from me. My wife certainly was not able to look after them.
At this point I was holding down a full-time job, cooking for me and the children, shopping, homework and dealing with my wife. I would also talk to the children, try to explain what was happening. Explain that Mummy was not well. Five out of seven days where bad.
I was struggling to hold things together. I felt lost, alone. No one could help. What could I do? How could I fix this?
I had tried to get help for my wife, but the answer was always the same. Unless she asks for help then they cannot help. I decided to get help for me. I went to the GP. I explained how I was feeling, stress and anxiety. We talked and then I just talked and did not stop until I had told her everything of my home life. I played a recording I had of one of the screaming sessions by my wife. The GP calmly said that she thought I might be a victim of emotional abuse. What? I was just doing my best to help my wife. Me, being abused? I couldn’t get my head around it. The GP was very understanding. The GP gave me a phone number of a support group.
I left the doctors thinking that once again no one can really help. The help for me was counselling, a support worker. Hmmm, I was not convinced.
I did not call the number for a couple of weeks. I thought that things could improve. I could try different things. Of course, I was wrong. Everything stayed the same.
I made the call and arranged for a call back from Next Chapter. I took the call, not knowing what to expect and not really expecting much. I answered the phone to Shelly, my saviour. Yes, a powerful word but justified. Shelly talked to me, listened, did not judge, understood. She was kind. She was genuinely interested in me and my problems and wanted to help.
I came away from that first call feeling a little better. I had someone in my corner who understood what I was feeling, my concerns and worries.
Then, Covid-19 happened. Full lock down. No school. Working from home. Couldn’t visit family. This was a nightmare. 24/7 in the same house with my wife and everything that entailed.
Things started ok. Better than ok. It seemed that the pandemic had given her something to focus on. This was short lived. She started drinking more. Using outings with the children as an opportunity to drink. She was emotional, irrational. Her counselling had now stopped too so she was more lost than normal.
Thank god I had Shelly. Each week I would find a way to speak with her. She was my sounding board, my sense check, reassurance. We would talk about what had gone on that week. The good, the bad, the insane. Over the weeks Shelly was able to give me advise on how to deal with the situation I was in. She explained what to do should my wife call the police and not to worry and she would be there to help. We talked through housing, legal aspects of separation, childcare, and most importantly how this situation was not normal or good and that I should not have to put up with it.
I felt relieved. I had help. I was not at fault here. I could not fix my wife. I could help myself and my children out of this.
It was Sunday late afternoon. I was ill. A stress related illness. I had asked my wife to take care of the children whilst I took a short nap. I was exhausted. The previous night the wife had kept me and the eldest up till gone 1am. Shouting, crying, swearing, lights on/off. Anyhow, I asked her to just watch the kids whilst I had a nap. Well this was not going to happen. She started arguing with me. I could not tell you what about. Just shouting at me. Something snapped inside me. I got up, I told the kids to pack their cases, I gathered us up and went to leave. The wife was shouting and crying now. Threatening to call the police. I told her to go ahead. I was confident that I knew what to do thanks to Shelly. She threatened to tell the police that I was abusing her. I continued to get ready to leave.
The wife than called the police. Whilst I was watching her, she was telling the police that I was kidnapping the children, that I had abused, that I was threatening her. I was saying to her that I hadn’t and that she was lying. I got the kids in the car and left.
I took the children to their grandparents. Then I returned to the house. I needed to explain to the police what was going on. They needed to hear my side of the story. Again, I felt secure in the knowledge from the conversations with Shelly that I would be ok. And if I needed it, Shelly could support me.
The police were already at the house as I arrived. I knocked on the door and told them who I was. They seemed a little surprised to see me. I explained to the police the history, the situation, my support from Next Chapter. They understood and said I had done the right thing. They took my details. They asked me to leave.
I did just that. I had left my wife. I felt exhausted, drained, relieved, empowered. I had done the impossible in the middle of lockdown. Wow. You da’ man!!
I called Shelly the next day. Explained it all. I was telling my friend what had happened. I had so many questions, worries. No real idea what to do next. That was ok though as I had the support of my family and Shelly. I could get through this.
The children and I were safe, secure and out of a terrible situation. It was going to be ok. My ‘Next Chapter’ starts here………
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