During my years of marriage and being on the receiving end of Domestic Abuse, I felt so alone. No one ever spoke about domestic violence. I had never heard anyone admit to either being a victim or perpetrator. I never came across any Domestic Violence awareness publicity. There was a silence of immense proportions around Domestic Violence that implied it wasn’t an issue anywhere. The inference I drew was that I was alone, very few people if any at all, would know what I was going through and have sufficient knowledge and experience to help.
I felt that I could never confide in anyone for fear of ridicule. In my experience, Domestic Violence is not about one partner exercising their superior physical strength, but rather about power and control driven by one partner’s insecurities. Since speaking out and telling my story, I have heard the rare comment failing to understand how a strapping man can be abused by a physically weaker woman? Most who have read or heard my story have grasped that Domestic Abuse runs deeper. Responding to violent behaviour with retaliatory violent behaviour is never the solution. With nowhere to turn or no one that could understand, where could I turn?
And so, for years, I bottled up my emotions. I put on a brave face. I once told people I’d walked into a rose bush to explain the deep scratch marks on my face. I absorbed all the insults and demeaning comments. Nobody knew my inner anguish. No one knew the pressure of trying to shield the children from their mother’s violent behaviour towards me that they witnessed. I wasn’t totally silent. Behind the closed door, I did speak up. After she had burnt out her anger, I would question the events that had just occurred. I would express my view that what had happened was not ‘normal’ behaviour and perhaps external help should be sought. The answer was always either denial or “You’re a man, you can cope with it.”
And so I kept my silence. I was and I felt totally alone. Ironically, many a time I would preach a message at church that contradicted this. “You are not alone, God is with you in your suffering.” A favourite illustration I often used was that “the promise “You are not alone,” is found 366 times in the Bible, one for every day of the year including leap year.” Such sermonizing may have pleased the congregation, but as I stood and preached that God was always with his people in their suffering and difficulties, my personal experience was that this God who Christians say is a God of love and loves even the worst ‘sinner’ had abandoned me and if he/she /it existed, had a very strange way of showing love to me.
I can understand Domestic Abuse victims being drawn to this message that the Christian God is with them and I know that were someone to walk into my church and share that they were a victim, well-meaning church-goers would assure them of their prayers and that their God would be with them. But is it enough?
That promise did not hold true for me. The only time I haven’t felt alone is when I can talk openly with people who have some understanding around the issues of domestic abuse or have sadly experienced it themselves. It pains me deeply that there is no or very little support for men and so I have formed a support group especially for men affected by Domestic Violence. You are not alone!