Tuesday, 28 August 2012


Fear becomes the over-riding factor when one feels trapped in an abusive relationship.  In the early stages of the relationship, fear didn’t exist.  I thought that there was trust and honesty.  When I met my ex-wife, I naturally assumed that everything she told me was the truth.  I believe now that she deliberately lied about certain events that would have led me to ask serious questions and discover her hidden character traits.  At the beginning of a new relationship, we don’t ask for confirmatory evidence.  We assume that we have been told the truth, unless we can clearly see through the lies.  If we uncover dishonesty, then invariably the relationship doesn’t continue.  My ex-wife has never been honest with herself, and I suspect that this is the reason why she can’t be honest with others.

The first time that I was exposed to her anger, I was shocked.  I’d not seen any behaviour like it leading up to that point.  I wasn’t fearful of her.  Although I was a victim to rather bizarre and unreasonable conduct, I made excuses for it.  However, there is NO excuse for Domestic Abuse in ANY form.   I accepted it initially because I thought that it was a one-off occurrence caused by stress and bereavement grief.  However, in my unconscious acceptance I allowed my ex-wife to continue abusing me and more extreme actions became part of daily living.  That’s when fear developed.

The first type of fear I recall experiencing was fear of being left alone with my ex-wife.  Her mood swings were so irrational and unpredictable that I dreaded going home after work.  Her aggression could be vented unprovoked.  However, in the presence of other people, she seemed calmer.  I would encourage family and friends to visit just because I feared those moments when we were on our own.  In those moments, nothing could placate her, I just learnt to let the anger burn itself out.  It was not a healthy way to live.

Although I thought that other people’s presence in the home brought some respite for me, I have now discovered as I have started sharing my experiences, that those family and friends that came dreaded doing so because of the things they witnessed my ex-wife say and do.   

As a male victim, I faced a bigger fear.  This was the fear of losing my children.  I felt I couldn’t leave the situation.  I couldn’t admit to what was happening at home.  I knew that society in large had no comprehension of men being victims of domestic abuse.  I had nowhere to go.  There wasn’t any place I could flee to with my children.  My children needed me and if I left, I had no way of providing any safety for them.  Again, in most broken relationships, the children stay with their mother.  And so, the fear of losing my children overweighed the fear of being left alone with her.

As the cycle of abuse continued through the years, I knew that I could not live in that relationship indefinitely.  I was then fearful of how people would respond to the end of the relationship.  Again, I put my children first trying to cushion them from the abuse inflicted on me that they saw and witnessed.  They would also be the ones most affected by the end of their parents’ marriage.   I was also fearful of losing all the security I had in my life.  By leaving the marriage, I would also lose my home and job.   I was then fearful about finding alternative employment.

Three years later, all fear has gone.  My life hasn’t the security it once had.  I can’t say that it has been easy.  It hasn’t but life is not a bed of roses.  Some of my fears proved well-founded.  

I lost my job and home.  I had nowhere to go or anywhere to work.  Some people struggle to accept that I was a victim of severe domestic abuse.  Some people I once considered friends have cut me off totally.  However, in adversity you discover who your true friends are and I certainly have.  My true friends have been very supportive and understanding of me and the journey I’m still on. 

And what of my main fear of losing my children?  My children now live with me and I’m immensely proud of the young people they’re growing to be.  As I’ve written, I’ve tried only to record the impact on my children when it’s relevant without disclosing too much detail.  They have their own stories that they may wish to tell one day.  That will be their decision.  I did everything I could so that I wouldn’t lose my children and so that I could keep them safe and as a result, we have a strong bond.  As a father, nothing else matters to me.  I now fear about my children’s future, but doesn’t every parent.  At least now, I know they have a good future.

Monday, 13 August 2012

The Impact of DV on children

While the statistics surrounding reported cases of Domestic Violence are frightening enough,  perhaps even more concerning is that 90% of domestic abuse is seen or heard by children.  Witnessing such violent parental behaviour on a regular may sadly convince children that this is a normal pattern of family life and that this must be the way that they behave in when they themselves become parents. And so a cycle of abuse is repeated. 
In years gone by, when marital separation was scarce and divorce even rarer, couples stayed together for the ‘sake of the children.’  Today, thinking has changed.  If two adults are grossly unhappy in a relationship, surely it is unhealthy for children to be caught in the middle of all the arguments.  It is far better to have two independent happier parents than a warring couple.  Improvements in the welfare system may have also made this more possible and empowered families to be able to survive as lone parent families.
As a father and victim of domestic abuse, I knew that there was nowhere I could flee to with my children.   There are plenty of Women’s and children refuge places available – there are few, if any, for males in similar instances.  I therefore had to cope as best I could.  I never wanted to be an absent father.  I didn’t want my children to be in a position where their father disappeared at an early stage in their lives, and they consequently blamed themselves for what had happened because they were too young to understand what had happened.
I never believed my children were at risk from my ex’s temper.  Physically, she had never threatened any of them in the same way I was victimised.  Verbally, she would lose control and rant in a fashion that I would question to myself, just who the adult and who was the one was behaving in childish manner.  Most of what happened to me, my children witnessed.  They heard more than they should have and they saw things their young eyes should not have had to see.  As an abused partner, my priority was the safety of my children.  If I could absorb all of the anger outpouring, then the children would be safe and I would still be protecting them as a father should. 
After a violent episode, either physically or verbally on me, I would talk to the children trying to rationalising what they had just witnessed.  I would assure them that I was okay.  I would then explain to them that their mother was unwell but it was difficult to explain because their mum didn’t realise how ill she was and the best that we all could do was to try and keep calm, hopefully not causing any stress that would trigger an aggressive reaction.     Even at this point, it had an effect on the children.  It wasn’t just myself that became very cautious in what I did and said at home.  The children became very sensitive and fearful of upsetting their mother.  The slightest childhood misdemeanor would cause them great anguish because they did not want to face the verbal tirade from their mother. 
I’d convinced myself that I was protecting the children.  It was a long journey coming to the point where I knew I had to get out for my own survival.  Bit by bit, my reasoning for staying, was stripped away.  The biggest wake-up call I received was a couple of days after the children had witnessed two hot dinners being thrown over me.  I was in the kitchen clearing up after a family dinner when the youngest child came in and without any warning, threw the remainder of his dinner over me.  I was extremely angry with him and shouted at him, only to see a rather baffled expression looking back at me which then transformed into an upset look once he realised how distraught his actions had made me.  On reflection, I realised that all he was doing was reproducing what he’d seen his mother do a few days earlier.  Behaviour is learnt and the last thing I wanted was a cycle of abuse to continue in future generations. 
Very soon after this, I left the martial home never returning.  The full story is told elsewhere in this blog (    ).  I had nowhere to go, and absolute nothing.  I ended up sleeping on my parents’ sofa in their bungalow for nearly two months.  I couldn’t take the children because there was nowhere I could take them.  All I could do was make sure that they were safe and knew that I would always be there for them. 
I encouraged the children to find someone that they could talk to independently.   The school they attended was very helpful in this regard and understanding.    I continuously assured them that I was always there for them and they could always talk to me without reproach.  Their young lives had been so traumatic that I wanted any stability they had to remain.  That stability was their schooling. 
The impact of witnessing Domestic Abuse remains and will always remain with them.  As soon as I could, I found a house to rent as close to their school as possible.  While I was trying to rebuild my life, the children remained with their mother, but I was continuously in contact making sure everyone was safe.  The eldest child was often picked on by her mother verbally, but as the years went on, was more able to stand up for herself.  The middle child is a pacifier by nature, trying everything to keep the peace.  The youngest child was extremely upset (as were all three) when I didn’t return home, blaming himself for what had happened but I was quick to let him know that it wasn’t his fault and that I loved him.  Once I was able to build up from nothing, the children felt they could take no more of their mother’s mood swings and choose to live with me. 
The ongoing impact on them is that they want as little contact with their mother as possible.  I know how they feel as I felt the same way for years.  However, as I consider myself as a reasonable and responsible parent, I am encouraging them to build bridges with their mother, but only on their terms.  I can do no more.  Sometimes, children are more resilient than we think and I hope that by being honest with them about all that happened will minimise the long-term impact of them seeing and hearing Domestic abuse.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Divorce Proceedings

At first, both Sandra and I had remained in the Church.  I reasoned that if I filed for divorce for any other grounds other than two year separation with consent, it would impact the children and the only thing I wanted to do was protect the children.  For example, if at the point of separation, I filed for unreasonable behaviour, the church would have to take disciplinary action of some sort against Sandra which could result in the children being uprooted from the stability they had. 
Around this time the church brought out a new policy about Marriage Separation because senior leaders were concerned at how many marriage break-ups were occurring between ministers.  With no official ruling, many separated ministers were remaining in a state of limbo, neither appearing to be moving towards reconciliation or divorce.  I was called for an interview to discuss this new policy and the interviewer was rather surprised at the positive way in which I interpreted the regulation.  I stated that it gave me some encouragement because the church was officially recognizing that ministers marriages can break down rather than sweeping the issue under the carpet.   This policy stated that if a separated minister hadn’t either reconciled or divorced in two years, then they would be relinquished of their ministerial duties.
I then told the interviewer that I would file for divorce on grounds of two years separation with consent with that time period was due.  They seemed relieved that this was the course I’d decided on.  I have no idea whether they also interviewed Sandra or indeed if so, what her response was.
A few months later, my indiscretion came to light.  I resigned as a minister. The church’s senior leaders decided to revoke my church membership.  This meant I no longer had or felt any loyalty to the church.
I was homeless, jobless, had no income and I had no idea where my life would now go.  As far as I was now concerned, anything I said to the church about my future intentions regarding Divorce was now invalid.  Keeping or breaking their regulation was of no consequence to me now.  If Sandra wanted a Divorce to keep her church leaders happy, then she could file the petition.  It made no difference to me.  I was working and yet had no money left by the time I paid out all my commitments.  If Sandra wanted a Divorce, then as far as I was concerned she could take the necessary steps to get one.
I found another job and started work.  Whilst in work, the two year period came and went. Sandra had made no effect to petition for Divorce.  By the policies the church were so keen to enforce (when it suited them!), they should have dismissed Sandra. 
I then received the caution from the Police, and disclosure of this to my employers led to my dismissal.  I was now without work and any income.  For closure, I also wanted some form of acknowledgement from Sandra, accepting the abuse she inflicted on me.
I was now eligible for Legal Aid, and so I saw a Solicitor and decided to file for divorce on grounds of Unreasonable Behaviour.  This way, I felt, I would get some form of admission from Sandra about her crimes against me.
I listed numerous instances of Unreasonable Behaviour and the petition was filed.  Sandra was given fourteen days to respond.  Interestingly, she didn’t deny the unreasonable behaviour.  However, her Solicitor advised that they should counter-petition on grounds of my unreasonable behaviour! 
My Solicitor felt that this was a bluff, but because I was using Legal Aid to pay for the costs, the divorce proceedings had to be carried out in the most economic manner.  I could contest their counter-petition but not on Legal Aid.  As I had no money available to do this, the Solicitor’s advice was to change my petition to two years separation with consent.
I later discovered that my unreasonable behaviour was kicking Sandra in my sleep!  Hardly possible, since most nights I ended up either sleeping on the floor or curled up in the fetal position as far to the edge of the bed as possible.  Kicking her would have been a physical impossibility!

Friday, 3 August 2012

Grounds for Divorce

After the separation between Sandra and myself, I looked into the criteria for divorce.  This I guess is something that no-one getting married feels that they will ever face.  However, statistics show that more marriages now end in divorce.  Despite that, I wasn’t conditioned to seek divorce after all the vows I made were ‘till death us do part.’  Glibly I could say that the marriage had died or the death of  love in the relationship had occurred but I knew that was not what the scribes who had penned the legal marriage ceremony had in mind.

What are Grounds for Divorce?

In England and Wales, you can only divorce if you have been married for at least one year.

To divorce in Scotland, you, or your spouse, must have lived in Scotland for the year preceding the divorce, or you must consider Scotland as your principal place of residence.

There is only one basic ground for divorce: the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. You can prove irretrievable breakdown by establishing one or more of the following 'facts' for divorce:

Fact A. Adultery

You must prove that, either through actual admission or through sufficient circumstantial evidence, your spouse has had sexual intercourse with another person of the opposite sex and that you find it intolerable to live with your spouse. If a sexual liaison short of sexual intercourse has taken place, it's suggested that the unreasonable behaviour ground is used.

In England & Wales, you can name the other person involved as a co-respondent but this isn't essential and can have serious consequences. Doing so can make the divorce proceedings more acrimonious, more complicated and more drawn out. It's, therefore, usually best to avoid naming a co-respondent. If you wish to name the other person in your divorce proceedings, it's best that you take legal advice before doing so. In Scotland, you must name the other person involved.

Adultery can be used as the basis for a divorce petition, whether you and your spouse are still living together or there has been a separation, but, in either case, not more than six months must have elapsed since you became aware of the adultery before the divorce petition is sent to the court.

Fact B. Unreasonable behaviour

You must show that your spouse has behaved in such a way that you cannot reasonably be expected to live with them. Unreasonable behaviour is now the most common fact on which to prove the ground for divorce in England and Wales. In an unreasonable behaviour divorce petition, the 'petitioner' (the person who starts the divorce proceedings) sets out a number of allegations against the 'respondent' (the person who receives the divorce petition).

These allegations might include references to excessive drinking or financial extravagance, for example; but it's worth bearing in mind that the court doesn't insist on really severe allegations of unreasonable behaviour in order to grant a divorce. Relatively mild allegations, such as devoting too much time to a career, having no common interests or pursuing a separate social life may well suffice. Using mild allegations may also make it easier to agree a divorce petition with your spouse in advance.

Fact C. Desertion

Where your spouse deserted you without your consent for a continuous period of at least two years; this fact is almost never used. This ground of divorce has recently been abolished in Scotland.

Fact D. 2-year separation (England & Wales) / 1-year separation (Scotland)

By consent you and your spouse have been living apart for at least two years in England and Wales, or one year in Scotland, immediately preceding the presentation of the petition (or ‘Initial Writ’ in Scotland) and you both agree to a divorce.

Fact E. 5-year separation (England & Wales) / 2-year separation (Scotland)

You and your spouse have been living apart for at least five years in England and Wales, or two years in Scotland, immediately preceding the presentation of the petition (or ‘Initial Writ’ in Scotland). In this instance, your spouse doesn't need to consent to the divorce.