I just got off the phone from another dad: devastated, crying, sobbing, absolutely gutted. “How can the mother of my children be so hurtful? I don’t understand it”, he said between the tears. “I just want to see my kids. How hard is that?”
Yesterday I was counselling one of our guys not to react. He was receiving abusive SMSes on his mobile that were particularly distressing to him. Not onem but many. He had gone up to the police station and reported it, and was told to just ignore them. Change your number, he was told. I wonder, if it had been a woman making the complaint, I reckon he would have an AVO placed upon him before he could dial 000. Sad isn’t it, the way our system works?
Anyway, here I was telling him not to react. That’s what she’s looking for, I told him, for you to react. And then the next day I get an email from a woman who said,
“When you men can do a tenth of what a mother does for her child, and hold down a job to boot, then get up and say something. Until then, check how you treated your ex-wives and what you can do to be a better husband and keep your aggressiveness to those who are stupid enough to listen.”
Well, what did I do? I reacted. Lesson learnt!
It’s this very thing that gets most of us males in trouble. We react. In a lot of cases, our ex-partners have learnt where all our buttons are, and exactly how to press them to get the reaction they want. It’s how we react to that button-pushing that gets us in trouble!
I know of many cases where a guy has been pushed and shoved or smacked across the face or kicked in the ‘you-know-whats’, and his natural reaction is to defend himself. It only takes a shove, a smack and ‘bingo’, regardless of self-defence, you’re gone. AVO time!
Yet try it from the other angle. Imagine a male walking into a police station complaining of his wife assaulting him. What do you think would happen? They laugh at him.
Today is White Ribbon Day, which is an International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Woman, with the aim of the campaign to include men and boys in the effort to end gender-based violence.
In their press statement, Unifem and Womenspeak state that men who choose to wear a white ribbon recognise the role they have to play in ending violence against women, and acknowledge that they too will benefit from a world free of violence against women. A world that is based on gender equality.
Recently, I was told by a dad how his wife had stabbed him several times after being embroiled in an argument, She had threatened to kill him and also the children. Neighbours had heard the commotion, and police and ambulance were called.
As they were loading dad into the ambulance, he frantically pleaded with police to protect his children. The officers stated that they had settled mum down and that all would be OK. All he could think of on the way to the hospital was, were his kids going to be alive when he got out?
What do you think would happen if this story was the other way around, and it was mum being loaded into the ambulance? It doesn’t take much imagination, does it? Six months later this same woman served gaol time for pulling a gun on and threatening to shoot her ex and family.
Dads in Distress Inc deplores violence of any kind. We simply state that there are three sides to any story: his, hers and the truth. We try and come to that truth within our meetings.
I believe these ribbons should be black and white, because believe it or not, the system isn’t, and until we get some fairness and some understanding, it never will be. There is pain on both sides of the fence. Yes, there are dads out there that shouldn’t be, and believe it or not, there are mums in the same category.
Violence is perpetrated against both sides, and we need to recognise that before we can have gender equality, because it’s by no means equal at the moment. Being a male — and especially a dad — in today’s society is fraught with danger. Sad, isn’t it?
[Photo by Alex Green