'People would say 'what lad would let a woman hit him?'" - Male victim of domestic abuse forced to flee his home with his four children
A father has told how he was forced to flee his home with his four children after his wife subjected them to 18 months of physical and mental abuse.
James (not his real name) explained that he was happily married for 15 years without incident.
However the 52-year-old told Independent.ie that things started to turn sour around a decade ago when his children were aged between seven and 14.
It started with relatively minor incidents and gradually escalated into horrific domestic abuse.
“She would shout at the children and start hitting them. When I would try to intervene she would hit me instead.
“It started slow but it escalated. We then got to a very dangerous situation,” he said.
Things almost turned fatal one night during a particularly violent incident.
“One night she was hitting the kids and I got in the middle and she hit me in the back of the head and I was knocked out cold.
“The children managed to drag me away and bring me upstairs but I was completely out of it. When I came around I didn’t remember anything at all. I could have been killed."
The father explained that he didn’t go to hospital on that occasion but admits that he should have. He still suffers with headaches which he attributes to the assault.
“I thought it would get better but it just kept getting worse,” he said.
Despite this he was still too afraid to speak out about the abuse because of the stigma. His wife was not an addict or an alcoholic and James believes she was motivated by power.
“There was an element of shame because I am in a local GAA football team. People would say ‘christ what lad would let a woman hit him?’
My wife was much smaller than me, a much smaller stature so they would never believe that she could hurt me.
“These people don’t think it will happen because it is not the norm. It’s a lot more widespread than you think and it happens to people from all walks of life.”
James said he was faced with a difficult situation where he knew that he needed to speak out to prevent a potentially fatal situation taking place.
Social workers were eventually called to the family’s home in the Midlands and they gave him a choice:
“They said if I didn’t leave with the kids then they were going to take the kids with them. We left with just the clothes on our backs.
“My wife wouldn’t let me in the house to collect our belongings. It was difficult because at the time the children were starting school and we had nothing."
He added: “It is a very scary place to be. It’s not easy to walk away from the woman you love.”
James got in touch with the charity AMEN and, with their help, was able to get his life and the lives of his children back on track.
“I should have left a lot sooner because one of the kids could have got very badly hurt or killed."
Asked what advice he might have for other men, James said: “I would tell people not to wait around for the problem, address the problem. A group like AMEN will put you on the right track. If it gets too messy it can get dangerous and people can get very badly hurt.
“Don’t be ashamed because you are not alone, it’s happening to many people.”
AMEN, a charity supporting male victims of domestic abuse, has been named as the Community Group of the Year at the People of the Year Awards, organised by Rehab.
Nominations are now open for the People of the Year Awards 2017 and you can nominate your hero here.
Other former winners include comedian Brendan O’Carroll, Olympian Katie Taylor, Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe, and Davitt Walsh.