The night my sleeping son was beaten by his partner, the police refused to believe him, treated him as the aggressor and took him outside to ‘calm down’.
To watch, as a mother, my son suffer through the deepest despair has been beyond horrendous.
Some years ago, I met his then-new partner and, despite some niggling doubts about her, hoped for the best. I watched with delight as my first grandchild was born but my mother’s ‘sixth sense’ told me my son’s home life wasn’t all sunshine and lollipops. I then discovered small things.
That one night my son had been woken by his partner who was belting him because she thought he wasn’t giving her enough attention. That often he was prevented from sleeping. That he was often on the end of texting barrages from her demanding to know where he was every minute of the day. That she threatened to disappear with the children.
I slowly watched my son, my child who was so happy, turn into a shell of his former self. He told me had been to a doctor and been prescribed anti-depressants. He steadily withdrew from me and his wider family because it was just too hard for him to answer the obvious questions.
My family has been torn apart in a nightmare caused by a woman who has happily and wilfully abused the system by various means including violence to control my son.
The night my sleeping son was jumped on and beaten, he called the police because his violent partner was screaming at the top of her voice and he was terrified the neighbours would think it was him hurting her.
Who do you think the police took outside to ‘calm down’? Not her, the aggressor. Why? Well I guess being a softly spoken, petite brunette helps when the real victim is my 6ft son. The police just assumed.
It’s not the only or last time he tried to get some protection from her violence either. At various times he was laughed at by police, dismissed by them and told it really wasn’t a priority or he clearly didn't need their protection. And once, he was told to be a man! He has asked the police countless times to record incidents of his partner’s violence against him. They wouldn’t.
Why, in an age where sex discrimination and gender bias are rabidly opposed, is there a presumption that men can’t be victims of domestic violence, that they are always the perpetrators?
My son and his partner had another baby. My son works hard and he worked even harder to prevent his children coming from ‘a broken home’. He provided well and his partner had the luxury of not having to work and choosing to be a stay at home mum and pursuing some study. Despite this told her friends that he was ‘gaslighting’ her. Of course, being male, he was assumed to be the aggressor.
As a man my son is not allowed to show any emotion but has to remain perfectly calm or be accused of domestic violence. Eventually his relationship became unbearable and he left the home. He had no choice. For over a year after, his relationship with his ex was civil, he paid regular child support (and still does), mowed her lawn, went and looked after her and the children for several days if she was ill, went to her aid if she called, provided extra money when she ran out – anything to maintain some form of normality for his children.
Then the threats began. She was going to get a new boyfriend, and he was going to be the kids’ father. She was going to stop my son seeing them. She hinted constantly that the only way to prevent that was for my son to move back in with her.
My son formed a new relationship, something he had avoided for a long time. He was also recommended for promotion at his work. His life was looking quite good until his ex found out about the relationship. She told him he had to return to her ‘or else.’
When he refused to rekindle their relationship, she was furious. She told him he would be sorry. And her punishment was to fabricate a domestic violence charge against him. Some weeks later, he was informed by police that she had lodged a complaint that he had been violent and they were taking this very seriously. My son attended the police station and spoke with the officer who had recorded the complaint. He followed my son outside and told him that yes, off the record - he knows she’s lying, but the political pressure to clamp down on domestic violence after the number of deaths in the state, meant they were forced to pursue every complaint, even if from the evidence in front of them it was clearly fabricated. So much for our judicial system!
Then it began in earnest. We have evidence on video from a dashcam of an incident between them during changeover, which she later claimed was harassment. Soon after my son was called to the police station and charged with breach of a domestic violence order. It didn’t matter that he didn’t even raise his voice, that the video showed no more than a conversation, the police weren’t interested in the video evidence. The mother felt threatened, even though they were in a public place, surrounded by people. And she’s small and cries very, very well.
Under the new legislation, this breach is a criminal charge which threatens his entire future. But his ex would say that, if he agrees to leave his current relationship and return to her, she will drop it all. She’s so terrified of him, but only if he isn’t living with her!! Such crap.
My son needed a lawyer. The cost was enormous but his ex somehow qualified for legal aid. Go figure.
My son appeared countless times before the Magistrates Court to answer to the charge of Breach Domestic Violence order. The magistrate seemed genuinely surprised at the first appearance when he clearly stated, “Not guilty,” in answer to the ‘how do you plead?’ question. Does nobody fight these charges? So, the case would be set for yet another mention, three weeks later.
Then came the time when my son’s former partner launched into a barrage in a telephone call, saying that he had to go back to her or suffer the consequences. He took the recording, and all the rest of his evidence, to the local police station. And pleaded for help. Saying that he was at the end of his tether with being blackmailed into a relationship with her. Finally, a sympathetic police officer! One who didn’t automatically assume he was guilty just because he is male.
The officer suggested there was sufficient to have a breach filed on her for her threats. And he suggested requesting a non-contact clause to his DVO against her. But this was never done. The sympathetic policeman was overruled by a senior officer who refused to take action against the woman. He refused to help my son because he is male.
The original charge from her first allegation was ultimately dropped, due to insufficient evidence. But the DVO, which was the result of this charge, and the breach of that, still stood, a situation I am still mystified by. If the original charge was dropped due to insufficient evidence, then how does a DVO resulting from that original charge remain?
Last year my son had to self-represent himself to answer the original DV motion. His ex-partner arrived at court with a publicly funded lawyer and a publicly funded barrister. My son, with no legal training, had to spend 7 hours in a court room against a barrister. He lost.
My son is broken and his job that he worked so hard for is in jeopardy. All because of the amount of time he has had to take to clear his name and the emotional anguish of fighting a system which considers him guilty just because of his gender.
This is not justice. Our courts are clogged with vexatious complaints so the police can look productive for the media and the government can appear to be serious about domestic violence.
As for my family, we are battling a system where men are considered guilty until proven innocent, and even then considered probably guilty anyway, and you need to sell a kidney to fund your defence.
There was a huge toll on us because of this. I had to take time away from my own business to devote to it, my son has had to have countless time off work, not to mention the mental anguish of feeling like you are screaming your lungs out in the middle of the street, but nobody can hear you. I’m desperately concerned for my son, who is almost unable to work because of the stress. He will possibly lose the job he has thrown countless extra hours into. Is this justice?
I will condemn domestic violence to my last breath. I know many who have been victims, sadly. But there needs to be just as much condemnation of those who see false accusation as a means to an end. I am imploring you to raise this very contentious, but frightening issue. Someone has to believe this story has merit. Someone has to take up the fight for men. We can’t have degenerated into a society that believes half our population has no rights because of their gender. I am angered beyond words that a fabricated complaint was then used by his ex-partner to gain advantage in the Family Court, with Centrelink, with the Child Support Agency. Where is the justice that women who lie in this way are so amply rewarded? The financial reward is such a powerful motivator, encouraging this type of behaviour. The domestic violence allegation led to my son having less time with his children and then Child Support Agency immediately increased the child support payments due to the change in ‘nights in care”. She now “earns” more than he does.
The fabricated accusation was also used to force my son into supervised access to his sons for their “protection”. To be considered some sort of monster who could harm his child was almost too much to bear for a loving father.
Where is the justice for my son? Where is the justice for my grandchildren? How do you answer a 4-year-old pleading to be allowed to stay with the daddy he loves? The little boy saying, “Please daddy, please can I stay with you. Please.” The devastation on the face of my son when he had to refuse but couldn’t explain why, will haunt me forever.
Read more stories from mothers of sons who have faced injustice here