BY LILY CARDIS
It was a moment in Alexander Stokes’ life that he would never forget.
“I remember thinking to myself, ‘I am never going to let this happen again…I’m never going to get myself into a situation where I am fearful for my own life in my own home’.”
It happened 11 months into their seemingly fairy-tale romance, but looking back, Mr Stokes can see the abuse was not unexpected. He remembers fearfully huddling on his bed after a glass of icy water was thrown at his head.
“It was as if she was possessed and from a horror movie, she was out on the street at 2 AM screaming at me and calling me a cheater…I never did a thing, I was so dedicated to her but she’d built up this story in her head.”
At 31, Mr Stokes had welcomed his Peruvian girlfriend into his home. He had hoped she would be the woman he later married. He never thought he would be cautiously packing his bag, feeling unsafe to stay in his childhood home.
“I could wake up and have a knife in my chest or something like that so I thought it would be best for me to get out of there.”
He ended up spending the night in his car parked on the street outside his home. “I crept down to the front door in the darkness, skipping the stairs that I knew creaked and fumbled with the keys to get outside.”
Mr Stokes and his partner Danielle in 2015 at the Sydney Day of The Dead Festival
Friends have since told Mr Stokes that he has a negative view of the opposite sex, and he agrees. “I’m not likely to be someone to settle down again anytime soon because I am a bit pessimistic of relationships now.”
This pessimism is known well by Ben Junior who was married to his abuser.
Despite being separated for over a year, he is still eotionally affected today. “I’m still trying to make sense of the extent of it, I see the way I behave today and I can see that it is a reaction to what happened to me.”
Mr Junior reflects on the unhealthy relationship he had with his wife and how it escalated when they were holidaying in New Zealand.
“We were having a nice afternoon and I said something and she got angry and hit me,” he said.
“I decided to leave the house and walk down to Hungry Jacks, later she came down and confronted me, threw all my food in the bin and then ran off with my wallet.
“I had to chase after her down a highway, and you can imagine how bad that looks to the public who don’t understand the circumstances.”
His wife ran into the nearest police station and started to cry.
“I chased after her and told them that she had stolen my wallet and that I just wanted to get my property and leave.”
Mr Junior’s wife reported him to the police. They locked him in a cell and planned to keep him in overnight, ignoring his explanation of what had happened.
“They released me when she changed her mind hours later, but I had to stay in a backpackers that night.”
Like Mr Stokes, Mr Junior has also been labelled as a ‘woman hater’ by those unaware of the emotional and physical violence he was subjected to by his wife for over three years.
“This will always affect the way I look at relationships again, it’s the fact that I find it really hard to trust my judgment, I was so certain about it in my head but the facts were showing me the opposite on a daily basis.”
Mr Junior has not had a partner since his abuse and regularly uses drugs and alcohol to deal with his trauma.
“The abuse still affects me today on multiple levels actually, some days are worse than others,” he said.
According to the 2012 Australian Bureau of Statistics, Personal Safety Survey (PSS) by Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety, approximately one in 12 men reported experiencing at least one incident of violence by a female partner since the age of 15.This includes a live-in partner, girlfriend or female date.
Family and defence lawyer Wayne Pasterfield has worked on cases where male victims have applied for AVOs against their partners.
He said most people are still under the impression that men should be able to handle anything.
“I’ve worked on emotional abuse cases where women have cheated on their husbands and then keep bringing it up all the time and talk about the sexual prowess of the person they cheated with.”
Mr Pasterfield believes that there has always been a natural tendency for the court systems and police to favour females.
“I think that’s the main difficulty that male domestic violence victims have to overcome, the subconscious discrimination against them.”
However, Senior Constable John Tikiscy, the Crime Prevention Officer at Newtown Police Station disagrees that domestic violence should be considered a gender issue.
He maintains that there are no issues for male victims in relation to legal proceedings as there are no specific laws to differentiate them from female victims.
“It’s more about human rights and individual rights, it doesn’t matter if you are male or female…if you have been assaulted then you are the victim, It’s about treating them with the same respect you would for any other human being.”
He explains that domestic abuse comes in a myriad of forms that affect both male and female victims.
“It can be financial, physical, emotional and people can stop their partner’s from seeing their family…as you can see it’s not gender-specific as there is a broad range.
“We just want to make sure that people do realise that just because they don’t fit into the normal paradigm, it doesn’t mean that they can’t come forward to the police and report their matter so they can be serviced and taken care of and protected in every way.”
If you are a male experiencing domestic violence, contact Mensline Australia on 1300 789 978 or the National Domestic Violence Line on 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732).
One in Three Campaign
Male victims of domestic violence speak out on ABC Radio
Domestic Violence Resource Centre