Recorded at Nairne (Mt Barker), South Australia, 31 March 95
This interview is in two parts – you can also move directly to Part 2.
Background: D. is a working-class labourer in his late twenties, invited by B. to take part in this series of interviews. He is the father of three children, a boy currently aged eight, a girl of six and a boy of two years. With his second wife, who has two boys of her own, he has recently gained custody of the oldest boy. We asked him to describe his relationship with his ex-wife, but started by asking him what he thought ‘men’s issues’ would be.
The discussion was recorded in a fairly quiet environment, but not all text could be identified on the tape. Punctuation symbols such as commas, dashes and ‘…’ marks are used to indicate pauses as well as grammatical flow. Missing sections are shown by ‘//..//’; where the comment could be guessed at, it is similarly
enclosed in ‘// //’ marks; comments about context, or relevant actions, are shown in ‘[ ]’ braces.
B: What are men’s issues, what do you see as a ‘men’s issue’ for working-class blokes?
T: What would you describe as equality?
D: Equality? Of being treated fair… as a woman, or as an aboriginal, or whatever. You know… just equality in general.
T: You mean the man treated as a woman or as an aboriginal, is that what you’re saying?
D: Well, instead of… if you go to a government department or whatever, and you’re a man, and want to claim, you get the door slammed in your face. But if you’re a woman, [it’s] “what can we do for you”, virtually lay out the red carpet, and whatever they say is gospel. But if you’re a man, oh, you have to have good credibility as a person, you know, you have to be respectable to get anything; but if you’re a woman it doesn’t matter who you are, you can just walk in off the street and you can have any requirement and you can virtually get help. But if you’re a bloke and you come across someone who’s gay or whatever, usually a woman, you’ve got no hope in hell of getting anything. Now I just think that’s wrong. Just so wrong.
T: B. was saying earlier that you’d had difficulties at various times.
D: Oh, a couple, [laughs] but I don’t worry.
T: Yeah, that’s often what we say, but for example what I’m saying with this boy that we were talking about earlier [a separate case in Melbourne] who’s now about seventeen who was sexually molested by his half-sister when he was about six or seven, so he’s aware that he is unstable and actually quite dangerous, so one of our… for example if you start punishing him, you start punishing the guy for having been assaulted, one of the major feminist points is “don’t blame the victim”. Someone’s unstable as a result of serious psychological and sexual damage, then how do we handle them?
B: //..// at least they’re in touch with //..//, but these white blokes, they don’t have the education, they don’t have… often they do hard physical labour, they can’t afford to feel the softer emotions, they’d never be able to do the work. So what you end up with is a hole that’s full of shit and anger, and angry at the situation, who don’t have the tools to be able to feel with what you’ve been given, and who don’t even know why you’re feeling what you’re feeling. And who then explode, because you’ve had enough.
T: A couple of things, I’ve been sent a magazine, Women’s Action Alliance, we’ve been talking about…
D: Weird, bloody oath! [laughs]
T: This woman, there’s an interesting, very right-wing American woman by the name of Phyllis Schlafly, she talks about “feminism has been exposed for the anti-family, un-American notion that it is”, and I must admit I don’t know whether to wince or cry or laugh at this kind of comment, but she was commenting about American women soldiers, particularly mothers, going off to fight the Gulf War, and the damage that was being done to them and the children and everyone else. And what we had there was an adult woman’s handling of emotional language describing what it’s like to go off to war for the first time. And a lot of the stuff that we can’t get from guys, we’re getting from some of these women. So this woman is saying “I’ve built a wall of ice around my heart” – she’s got a new, literally seven-week old child – “I’ve built a wall of ice around my heart and I don’t know if my husband and my child will be able to melt it when I come back”. Her husband is saying…
B: Put on top of that, put on top of that, that even if you think about melting the wall of ice around your heart you’re a dickhead, and you’ve just about //..//.
T: Yes, I’m saying that the men simply don’t have the language because… this is a woman who this is happening to at age twenty-one, twenty-two. For a guy it’s typically happening at four, or earlier, and that’s simply, that’s when their emotional language is frozen, because a comment that was made by one of the others [in the article], this is talking about a woman going back to work far too soon after having had a child, and they become very cold and distant towards the child, and the doctor was saying “it’s not that they don’t care, it’s that it hurts too much to care”.
B: It’s also… it’s quite true, it’s like what I was saying to you earlier today… in fact that woman that we visited today was the one I said to, she watched the programme on the men’s group, and I said to her, “do you think that the men you know”, and I mentioned a lot of blokes – talking about H. [the woman we’d visited] now – I mean, that’s her life, just working-class blokes, “do you think blokes share the deep-and-meaningfuls with one another, have an opportunity to share their feelings”, and she says, “no, no, they don’t do that”. Then I said to her, as a working-class woman, “how would you go if you couldn’t do that?”, and she said, “well, it would drive me crazy! you’d die, you couldn’t live like that”. So I said, “what has happened to our guys, what has happened to our men, if they haven’t been allowed to do that? You as a woman are describing sort of, you know, you couldn’t cope without that, what has it done to our men? Is it any reason why… and now not just that, now we’ve told them that they’re bad, and working-class men are the worst, because they get that, the way they deal with the pain is getting on the grog, is fighting and getting out some of that anger and some of that frustration. It’s when you feel out… you know, working-class men, back in the early days, convict men sat in pubs and drank grog, in pubs, in early Australia and drank, drank the rum because they were… you know, the redcoats would come and get them, you know, just convicts, just ordinary working-class men who had no power in their life, even what little power they had was taken away from them. Why is it that Australia has the highest rate, amongst working-class people, of people buying their own homes? Because in the background we came from convict stock where everything was ripped off us, now the dream is, as a bloke, “I’m going to own something that no bastard is going to take from me! Nobody!”.
T: It gets really dangerous when it gets into stuff like, you back it up with guns – that’s when it gets really hairy.
B: Well maybe – and “coppers are all bastards, they all want to take stuff off you, everybody wants to take stuff off you, so you have to fight for survival”. So that’s what life is, life is one big fight for survival. That’s where working-class blokes’ heads are at. And you fight for what is yours – because if you don’t, it will be taken away from you.
T: It’s quite difficult to move from that perspective. What’s your experience on this?
D: Yeah, it is of… I’m kind of like a calmer person in meself in the last…
B: But back in them days, mate, what was happening in your head?
D: Ah, yeah, dudn’t matter how bad the shit got, I always got in there.
T: What was the shit?
D: “What was the shit?” [laughs]
T: Just describe some.
D: My first wife, she was sexually abused by her uncle for ten years as a child, and because of that, I believe, she developed a hate relationship for men in general.
T: And was this going before you met?
D: Yeah, oh yeah.
T: So you married someone who was essentially hating men.
D: At the time I didn’t know what she was like.
T: Did she know?
D: Oh yeah, she knew.
T: So why did she marry you?
D: ‘Cos I got her pregnant…! moral dignity… um… and, um… over a period of time she got more and more verbally and physically aggressive towards me… um…
T: Can you fill that in, give more experience?
D: Yeah, um…
T: Take any particular incident, describe one incident.
D: Well, one of her favourite things to do was to repeat an argument that we’d had, whether it was two years ago or two weeks ago, and ram it down my throat and go on and on and on about it for four or five hours, you know? There was a lot of times in the middle of the marriage when I’d come from work and I would be in the car and the windows of the car were up and I would hear her screaming at the children over that, and I would just back the car out and drive away. I wouldn’t go down the pub and get me head //..//, but I’d just drive away and just have time out, because I was terrified of the fact of going into my own house.
T: So you were frightened of going into your own house?
D: Oh, yeah! Terrified. For the last two years.
T: Two years. What effect did this have on things like your ability to work?
D: I was very irritable. You know, it didn’t take much for me to go off [laughs], someone looked at me twice I’d think about decking them, that sort of attitude. Fiery… um…
T: What was happening to your children?
D: They were getting verbal abuse…
D: And physical abuse.
T: What form did that take?
D: That took the form of, um… my children were that bad for their emotions, you know, they were wetting the bed, they were waking up every night because they couldn’t sleep, they couldn’t concentrate…
T: How old were they?
D: My son was four when the marriage broke up…
T: Your eldest son was four, your daughter was two?
D: Yeah, and my other son was about six months old.
T: Right. You said that was verbal abuse, but physically abuse as well, to you.
D: Yeah, um… she would, like, suck me in, you know, “come here”, give me a nice smile and whatever, and then I’d get about two feet away or whatever and she’d kneed me in the groin… you know… and there I’m doubled-up and she’s standing there laughing. Things like that. Throw plates, all sorts of stuff at me.
T: What had you done… to take the famous phrase, “what had you done to deserve this?”
D: Come home from work.
T: That was it. You’d just come home from work.
D: Yep! [laughs] Virtually, yeah. Payday – that was a good day of the week, I got a root that night, but the rest of the week I just got full of her shit.
T: Was she defining what you should do – was she saying “you should do this, you should do that”?
D: Yeah, everything was my fault, I was the arsehole, I was the bastard, I was this and I was that, and after two years of getting put down emotionally or physically //..// I thought, well, fuck it, if I’m an arsehole I may as well act like one, so I started acting like one.
T: So you started hitting back.
D: I didn’t hit her. I slapped her across the face once and I pushed her into a wardrobe once but I never actually hit her.
T: Both of those would be classified as hitting her.
D: Oh, yeah. But if I did actually hit her, I would have killed her. Y’know, I wouldn’t have stopped, I would have pounded her into a pulp.
T: So you held yourself back.
D: Oh, yeah. A lot of times I removed myself from the situation.
T: You removed yourself – describe?
D: Just got in the car and pissed off [laughs]. Just got out of it.
T: Did she take it out on the children, when you pissed off?
D: Yeah. Yeah.
T: So what happened to the children, when she’d been going at you, you said, and then you, quotes, ‘disappeared off’. What happened to the children? What did she do with her anger at this point?
D: Well, they would… she would pick them up off the ground and smack the living shit out of them, virtually, with her hand, or with an object, or…
T: An object?
D: Yeah. A cricket bat, a strap, a belt, a stick, whatever.
T: Did she use those on you?
T: So she only used them on the children?
T: Um… pick one incident, like you said, coming home from work, you’re in the car, okay? So describe exactly what’s happening as you go up the steps – you’re viewing it in hindsight so you can see the whole thing. You’ve just come home, you’ve come in the car. You’re now getting out of the car. What’s happening?
D: I can hear her screaming at the children – “do effing this an’ do effing that”, whatever. Screaming.
T: And none of them are over four years old.
T: The youngest is six months.
T: And there’s the two-year old. Who’s she screaming at mostly?
D: M…. me eldest boy.
T: So the four-year old. “Do this, do that”… “do effing this, do effing that”. Okay… you hear her screaming at the kids. What are you doing now?
D: I’m going through my head, “oh no, not again”. That’s what’s going through my head.
T: Are you worried about the safety of your children?
D: Yeah, I am, because of the belief that it’s not right to talk to anyone like that, not even a dog… I can recall a lot of times I’d go inside and, um, as soon as she knew I was home, the usual pattern was for her to transfer the yelling from the children to me, and blame me, you know.
T: So you’re being blamed for what the children have done.
D: Yeah. And I’m not there.
T: Okay. So keep on going. You’ve just come in through the door, she’s been yelling at M., and you said she transfers [it] to you. What’s she saying?
D: She’s saying “it’s all your effing fault, you’ve got it made, you’re not here all day, you don’t have to put up with this shit”, ra-ra-ra.
T: What have you said? Have you said anything as you’ve come in through the door?
D: Nothing. Nothing.
T: You’ve literally come in through the door and you haven’t
D: Yeah. Yeah.
T: So she’s heard you come in, she’s been yelling at M.. What has M. been doing, do you know?
D: He may not have packed up some of his toys on the bedroom floor or… he might have made a mess in the kitchen.
T: This is a four-year old.
D: A four-year old.
T: So you haven’t said anything as you’ve come in through the door. She’s yelling at him, and then she immediately transfers the yelling to you. So she’s saying “it’s all your effing fault”. Can you see this? – can probably see it all too clearly now, right? Describe what’s going on.
D: Usually… I try one of two things: I either approach her and ask her to calm down – you know, just say, look, this isn’t called for – and she will either break down and cry, and she that’s she’s sorry, or she’ll get worse.
T: So what happens when she breaks down and cries? What do you do when she breaks down and cries?
D: I comfort her, put my arms around her, put her head on my shoulders, and try to listen to why she is upset.
T: Why is she upset?
D: Basically because she cannot cope.
T: Is she going for any help for this at this time?
T: So she thinks she’s got to do it all on her own?
D: Well, she believed that everything was everybody else’s fault… still does. Nothing was her fault. It was all my fault, or it was my children’s fault, or it was someone else’s fault, but never hers.
T: So her method of coping is to say it’s somebody else’s fault.
D: Yeah. She could never, ever accept responsibility for anything which happened in her life, whether it be good or bad.
T: Good or bad? So not good as well… so she ‘doesn’t deserve’ anything either.
D: She’ll take praise! and she’ll walk around with her head held high, but she won’t acknowledge it.
T: So in other words she’s not receiving – she’s taking it, but she’s not receiving, if you can see the difference in this sense. So going back then, you would comfort her when she bursts out crying. Take the other scenario, where you said she gets worse. What’s happening?
D: What’s happening? I’m saying, “come on M., let’s get out of here”.
T: Right, so you’re saying you’re going to take the child out. You said she’s getting worse – what I’m saying is you said she’s getting worse, what does ‘getting worse’ look like?
D: Sometimes turning really red, like [laughs] the colour of that cover there. Swearing. And just screaming, that loud, that even if you turned the stereo up flat out you’d still hear her over the stereo. You can’t get a word in, it’s just impossible.
T: Do you raise your voice, to try to yell over her?
D: At some points, yeah.
T: In each of those incidents?
D: No, not all the time. In //..//…
T: So what are you saying to her?
D: “For Christ’s sake calm down! It’s just not worth it! Give it up! What are you upset about?!”
T: So you said she gets worse, but you said sometimes she’s throwing things at you or whatever. So is that what’s happening in this particular circumstance?
D: No, in this particular circumstance my son and I go down the garden, down the back yard, and we hide from her.
T: You both hide from her.
T: How do you hide from, if you’re just down the garden, how do you hide from someone who’s really quite big. Do you have… I mean, how do you hide from someone?
D: Well, we were hiding behind the sweet-corn patch, you know, in the garden, it was about three, four feet high, sweet-corn, we was hiding behind that, you know? And she comes out into the back yard, and screaming and swearing at the top of her lungs still, y’know, and all the neighbours…
T: What’s she saying?
D: “You’re an effing arsehole, you’re an effing cunt, ra-ra-ra”, just full-on, verbal abuse.
T: What state is M. in at this point?
D: He’s a nervous wreck.
T: No, in that particular circumstance, you’re at the other side of the sweet-corn patch…
D: He’s in my arms and he’s trembling.
T: Is he crying?
T: He’s trembling.
D: It’s like he’s in shock, more so than anything else. It’s like he’s in shock, and he’s just trembling, y’know? And could feel his whole body shaking.
T: So it’s how do you… I mean, how long does this last?
D: Sometimes up to two hours!
T: So she’s still yelling two hours later. What’s happening with your daughter and your other son at this time?
D: They’ve gone for cover. They’re hiding under their beds, or they’ve locked themselves in their bedrooms, or…
T: A two-year old? And a six-month old? Locking themselves in their bedrooms?
D: Got a little bolt-latch.
T: Right. Can they get out on their own?
D: Not so much J., he might be playing in the lounge-room, but yeah.
T: So… you said she’s… give me… Develop a situation where you said she’d kneed you in the nuts. What’s the lead-up to that? Go back about five minutes before this, what’s going on?
D: We were mucking around, having a good time? [questioning tone in voice] What I mean by mucking around, tickling each other, giggling and laughing, and… I don’t know what came over her, she must have had an evil thought or something, and I wore it.
T: This happened just once, or more than once?
T: Twice. And she…
D: Second time was a week after, or about three days after, I’d had a vasectomy, so my genitals were pretty sore, I mean they were all black and blue from the operation, and, er, she did it on purpose. And then she stood at the end of the bed and laughed at me, and then she got one of her girlfriends to come in the room, and laugh //along with her?//.
T: So she’s got another woman there, and you’re rolling… well, it would have hurt a lot…
D: Doubled-up on the bed, doubled-up on the bed, on the side.
T: You’re fully clothed?
T: And where’s the girlfriend come from?
D: From the kitchen.
T: Oh, so the girlfriend is in the house at the same time. Right. This girlfriend is… what’s the background, is she also working-class, or is there a particular…
D: Nah, she’s a single mother on a pension with one child. Just someone who… I’d actually introduced her to my wife at this point.
T: So there is an enjoyment in seeing a man in pain. Is that correct?
D: Well, yeah, I’d think so, going by that observation, yeah.
T: So they were laughing. Did they help you at all, or did they just leave you to it?
D: No, no, they just walked out, shut the door and left me there. Left me there.
T: How long between this incident and the time that you left? Did you leave the relationship, or did she?
D: I left the relationship, but she asked me to leave, and I went willingly.
T: And what’s happened with the children?
D: After fighting the courts, for four years, I’ve just got custody of my eldest son M.. And because they said it was a complex case – what they mean by that is that she’s saying I’m doing this, I’m doing that, and I’m saying “bullshit, she’s doing this and that” – they appointed a…
T: Give me an example of ‘this and that’?
D: Yeah, they appointed a solicitor for the children. She said I was being violent towards my children, I was molesting my children, doing all these bad things to my children, and I didn’t even know I was being accused of doing this…
T: Remembering that this is… that this will never have your name attached: have you?
T: That’s a difficult question to ask, and a very difficult question to answer, I’d remind you: so in what ways have you been violent to your children – verbally, physically, and in any other way?
D: I have been verbally violent towards my children in the marriage, with my first wife, because a lot of what I had to swallow with her as my wife affected everyone in the family.
T: Yes. So I’m just asking: what did you do? You said you were verbally violent.
D: I would sometimes yell at my children, in a way that wasn’t appropriate… um…
T: What had they done, that you then yelled about? What, if anything, did they do before you yelled at them?
D: They might have spilt a drink over, knocked a drink over at the dinner table, during meal… Just little things, you know, things that really aren’t worth being upset over.
T: What did you do under that circumstance? You yelled?
D: I might have called them a little shit, a little pig, or something, raised my voice to ’em…
T: What about physical violence, for example slapping a child, because it’s misbehaving?
D: I’d smack ’em round the bum with an open hand a lot of times. Not, like, continuously over one episode, they might get one or two smacks on the bum, like the times they had nappies on, so they’re at the younger age, just the shock of it more than anything else, rather than… that it didn’t even mark ’em. But there was an incident where my son had his fourth birthday and we bought him a little two-wheel BMX bike. And my wife had this obscenity [obsession?] for spitting and polishing everything in the house before she went to bed, so everything had to be crystal clean.
T: That’s her deciding to do that…
T: …not you telling her to do it?
D: No! [laughs] No way! No, I used to say, look, for Christ’s sake come to bed! And she’s up till two, three in the morning cleaning the house. I’d get up and start work at seven o’clock, M. wakes up at half-past seven, Mum’s in bed dead-dog tired, you know, totally out of it. M. gets on his bike, and he’s wheeling it out on the road. Now this is going on for three or four months. Now in those three or four months he nearly got hit by cars on a number of occasions – parents, mothers knocking on the door saying, “look, is this your child, for Christ’s sake keep him off the road, I nearly hit him”. And during that time I stopped him watching TV, I’d taken his bike away and put it in the back room for a week, you know. I said, “look, if you can’t stay off the road, I’m going to take your bike away”, things like that. Tried every form of punishment that I thought was reasonable, and then one day when I was coming home from work I saw him riding along the footpath in the front of a parked vehicle, out onto the road into the path of an oncoming vehicle. And this lady barely stops, she stops a few inches from him. And she was in hysterics, and she says, “where’s your mother?” So I say, “I’m his father, I’m terribly sorry, I’ll take care of it”. And I followed M. home, sent him back home along the footpath, and, er, followed him in to his room inside, and he had a little kid’s cricket bat on the floor, and I thought, well, why use my hand, I’ll hit him on the bum with the cricket bat, so that’s what I did. I hit him on the arse about six times. She made that I’d bruised his bum, she made a big scene out of it and told me to get out, that the marriage was finished. So I thought, fine, in a lot of ways, and I moved out of the house, and I’m, um…
T: So she’s been hitting them with the cricket bat?
D: Hmm. In the past she’d been doing so, yeah.
T: And you’ve done it once – this is the one time you’ve done it.
T: You are therefore the violent one, and you are therefore required to leave.
T: Right. When she hit him with the cricket bat, did it leave marks, perhaps bruises?
T: Okay. That’s all I’ll ask on that one. So what I’m asking again was, looking at the violence that you did to others. Now you’ve been working on this particular issue in your men’s group anyway. You’re not responsible for what she does, you are responsible for what you do. By responsible I don’t mean blame, I mean ‘what can you do about it’? That’s all. I don’t look at blame. I’m just looking at, what’s happened, what’s going on, what can we do to tidy up the mess? So coming back to this one again, you say that you’ve slapped her once, you’ve pushed her into a wardrobe once. Those two incidents, can you describe the lead-up to those, what’s going on. Give me the slap one first, what’s going on?
D: Oh… she actually had pushed me first… um…
T: Okay, before she’s pushing you, what’s going on with that? I’m trying to go back to the beginning of the argument.
D: A heated argument over something which she thought was really important which I thought was really weak, over something that had happened, I can’t really remember what it was.
T: You can’t now remember what it was.
D: No. I’ve blacked a lot, blanked a lot of this stuff out of my head, through choice I think. But yeah, she was going on and on and on and just wouldn’t shut up about this particular issue, and I grabbed her by the arms and I said, “look, for Christ’s sake will you shut up?!” So she reacts by “you can git out!” and she pushes me back into the corner of a mantlepiece, and gets me in the back, in the small of the back…
T: In the small of the back, yeah…
D: …in the kidneys, and it really hurt. And I thought, this is bullshit [wry laugh], so I pushed her back, and she went into the wardrobe and sort of went back against the wall, and then I walked out and got in the car and took off, //..//
T: So you were aware that you were at risk of doing her a lot of damage at this stage.
D: Oh, yeah.
T: So that was the one where you pushed her. Okay, let’s go to the one where you slapped her. What’s the lead-up to that, what’s going on there.
D: Again, I can’t really remember what the entire situation was about, but from what I can recall it was virtually similar to the other incident, you know. She had one hell of a foul mouth on her, and she was going off about something or other, which was trivial, again, for me, but she wanted to make an issue about it… and there was also one incident I can remember quite clearly where I’d given her five hundred dollars to pay bills – ETSA bill, telephone bill, and stuff like that, and I’d come home from work //that while?// and she’d said, yeah, I’d paid ’em, and I said great, that’s good, and then a week later I get the final notices in the mail. She hadn’t paid the //..// bills. When I asked her why, she said, well I’ve paid them. And I said, this is bullshit, someone’s lying here, and either you’re lying, or ETSA and Telecom are having me on, so what is it? “Oh, well, I needed some Tupperware, and I needed a new dress, and I needed some make-up, I needed this and I needed that” – but we never went anywhere for her to put all this shit on, to show it off, you know? As a rule we used to stay home – because we never had any money to go anywhere because she’d spent it before I’d earned it! And I saw red, and she said, “well, even though you earned the money, it’s up to me to spend it” – that was her attitude. And she just went on and on about that. But that was a situation which got pretty fiery too.
T: Right. No we were talking about the one where you said you’d slapped her. Was that the occasion?
D: I can’t recall. But that may have been around that time. I mean, there was…
T: So there was the two incidents that you can remember, where you pushed her once, and you slapped her once. Right.
D: And both times she called the police. Oh yeah…
T: What did the police do?
D: They came in, and they assessed the situation and… Actually she called the police over if we had a bad argument or fight, it was okay for her to dish shit out to me, but if I retaliated or stood up for myself, it was “that’s it, I can’t handle this, I’m calling the cops”, you know, and in the end all she does is…
T: How often, roughly how often…
D: Once every, once every three months, for the last two years.
T: Over the last two years. So about eight times. Right, what did the police do when they came?
D: In the end I’d just, as soon as I’d open the door, like I knew they’d come, all they had to do… there was one occasion when I actually grabbed hold of the phone and ripped it off the wall, you know? And all she had to do was to ring the police number and say that I was getting ready to shoot her or whatever, you know, and bang! they’d be there within five minutes, you know. And I used to say to the cops, “yeah mate, she’s in there, she’s fuckin’ black and blue, check her out”, and she’d be sitting in there blubbing and apart from that there’s nothing wrong with her. But I was the bastard, you know? And in the end I rung them up, the cops, and I said “look, y’know, git off my fuckin’ back, leave me alone”, y’know…
T: This is before you moved out, or after?
D: After. But they were still bugging me, like, if I pulled out of my driveway they’d be behind me, you know, they were stalking me, watching every move I made. I don’t know what she was telling them I was up to, but the police were absolutely – like they were stalking me.
T: Had she put an intervention order out on you?
D: She tried, but she didn’t have any grounds to do it, it wouldn’t have stood up in court.
T: So the police were looking for the grounds for her?
D: I think so.
T: But were you arrested at any time?
T: So you weren’t taken away. They came to there, they assessed the situation, and they left, leaving both of you there.
T: Right. Um… what was their general response? Can you describe their kind of comments, or whatever? Incidentally, were they both male? Were there two male police, or one male and one female, or what?
D: Oh, sometimes there was up to six police there. Generally, there was one cop that I seemed to come across quite a bit, and he’d been married, and he was married for the second time. And he was actually helpful and taking me aside and saying “look mate, it’s obvious to us that things aren’t working out, I mean, we can’t just keep coming back here for this shit all the time, and we don’t want to be here”, and I said, “well, I don’t fuckin’ want you here either, y’know!” [wry laugh]
T: You’re still trying to hold the relationship together [at this time]?
D: For the sake of the children.
T: For the sake of the children. Right. Um… do you think the children were… it was actually for the… do you think it was actually helping the children in that environment?
D: No. I think it made it worse.
T: Right. So do you think it helped them that you left? Did she get any quieter or better with the children?
D: No, she got worse.
T: What do you know of what happened to the children after you left?
D: What do I know? I know that when she moved out of the house…
T: So she moved out of the house?
D: She moved out of the house, because the house was owned by my parents, and we were renting it off of them. And I moved out of the house thinking it was best for the time being, and I moved back to my parents’ place and I camped in the shed and got out of the situation. And it was also the cops said “it’d be a good thing if you did remove yourself from the premises, because if you are here and anything else goes down…” They could see that I was on the verge of losing the plot.
T: So you, they, you recognised that you were at risk of losing it.
D: Oh yeah, yeah. But if I’d had a gun, mate, I’d have picked it up and fuckin’ gone berko [wry laugh], no worries.
T: So you’re glad there weren’t any guns around?
D: Oh, yeah.
T: Coming back to that question about what happened to the children after you left. Do you know what happened? Can you describe the kind of timetable of what happened?
D: She virtually cut me right off from them as much as she could. I didn’t see my children for about three months, she moved up the country with her mother, but I didn’t know where she was. I didn’t find out about that until later on. But if I rang her mother and asked her if she was there, or the children were there, she say “no, they’re not here, and if they were I wouldn’t tell you anyhow, but if you come up here my stepbrothers are going to have a piece of you, so I wouldn’t come near the place”, y’know. So I was getting verbally threatened by the family.
T: So you were cut off from your family. But I’m asking you, you said she got worse with the children. Do you know what happened to the children?
D: Yeah, well…
T: Were they getting abused?
D: Not… not so much, I think, when they were living with her mother – the mother used to look after the children, care for the children a lot, and she’d go out with her friends and go out to night-clubs and that sort of thing, so she had freedom, as much as she’d ever wanted, I think, but her downfall came when she got her own house in Murray Bridge, got a Housing Trust house, and she was bringing fellas home and screwing them in front of my kids. And then my son M. started molesting his brother and sister. And this went on for a year. And my daughter told me about it on an access visit. And then after that I took my children to the doctor and asked the doctor there, asked my children what was going on. About that stage my son J. was two, my daughter E. was four, and my son M. was six. And all three children told the doctor what was going on. M. admitted it…
T: Were you present at this? – at this time? Or was the doctor just talking with them?
D: No I was present.
T: The risk here of it being said that you were prompting the children. Were you doing this?
T: Right. You were just sitting back and letting them talk //..//
D: I actually…
T: So what did they say?
D: The doctor… What did the children say?
T: What did the children say.
D: J. said “M.’s been rude to me” and the doctor
said, “what has he been doing then?” and J. said “he’s been putting his wa-wa up my bum” and the doctor said, “what’s a wa-wa” and he said “his doodle!” – that’s how he identifies it – and then he [the doctor] said “when is this happening?”, and he said, “in the morning, before Mummy gets out of bed. M. climbs into bed with me and pulls my pants down and puts his wa-wa up my bum”. So then the doctor examined J.’s… bowels… you know, and that, and at first he couldn’t see anything wrong. So then he brought E. in.
T: So you’re talking to the children individually?
T: Right. Okay.
D: And she said, well, “M. puts his wa-wa up my gina” – she doesn’t say ‘vagina’, she says ‘gina’ – and he asked her when this was happening, and she said “sometimes, in the bath… sometimes at night at Mum’s when we’re just told to run a bath and left unsupervised, no-one to watch us, M. will get into the bath and climb on top of me and do this to me, and it hurts, and I don’t like it, and I cry out for help and Mum comes in and smacks M. and tells him not to be silly”, you know. And he examined E., and after talking to her for a while, and said that to him it was clear that there was some form of penetration because the vaginal wall had been widened, so it was clear to him that there had been some sort of sexual contact.
T: This is a six-year old.
D: Yeah. And he then brought M. in, and he was asked “did he do it”… well, first he was asked “has he got anything to say”… I forgot how the doctor put it, but he put it really good, “have you been doing things that you think you shouldn’t have been doing?” And M. said, “yeah, I’ve been rude”. And he said, “well, what do you mean by ‘being rude’?” And he said, “well, I’ve been putting my penis into E. and J.”. And over a period of time, eventually it all came out, you know, he admitted. Once he started spilling his guts he couldn’t hold it, he just let it all out.
T: He was actually allowed to describe it. But what state is he in [at this time], is he crying, or what?
D: He was on the verge of tears, because he knew what he’d done was wrong, but that same time he’s a very, um… very, very mixed-up boy that’s wanting some attention. He wants people to know that he’s not happy in the environment that he’s living in, and no bastard’s doing anything about it.
T: I mean, you’re angry now, and there’s no question about it, you’re very angry.
D: Oh, yeah.
T: I don’t know whether you want to start doing something to someone, so I apologise for winding you up in that way.
D: That’s all right. And then from that the doctor…
T: This is two years ago, is that right?
D: Yeah. And from that this doctor submits a report to Family and Community Services, and they don’t do a thing about it. They don’t go out and speak to her, they don’t do a damn thing. I go in there and I make a little noise and I strike this bitch there and she turns round and says to me, “children don’t do that sort of thing to each other. It’s impossible for siblings of that age to be sexually orientated, to do that to each other. It just does not happen”, you know? And she’s saying this to me and I’m saying “bull-shit!”, y’know?, and I get redder and redder and redder, and in the end I just turned round and walked out, because if I’d stayed there any longer I would have decked the bitch. Then… at… then about a month later, my daughter comes back on access, and she bursts into tears again. She said “oh Dad, it’s still going on”, and I said “what?”, and she said, “M.’s still being rude to me”. So I thought, “oh shit, here we go again”, so same thing again, I took the children to the hospital, saw a different doctor, he said to me “I’ve been in surgery for twelve hours, I don’t want to know about it”, I said “your getting paid, do your fuckin’ job, or else I’ll git someone here who can”, then he said “all right then, I’ll inspect them”, so… and he submitted a report. Again nothing was done. I submitted a report: again nothing was done. Same old bullshit: “this just does not happen”. From that…
T: Incidentally, do you find you’re being blamed for their abuse?
D: I was, in ’92. Um… she was taking the children to the Child Protection Unit at the Flinders Medical Centre, and on the way down she was telling my children to say, “Dad puts his penis up my bum” and all this shit.
T: So she’s telling the children to say this.
D: Yeah, she must have!
T: Do the children say this, or what?
D: They did, at first, but then, as it went on after they’d been spoken to by this child psychologist, the stories were so wishy-washy and that mixed-up that the psychologist could see it for what it was. And they had forensic scientists in examining my children’s clothing, they had video-tapes going taping the interviews…
T: So the children were actually going through quite a rough time.
T: Right. So there’s a claim being made that you are sexually abusing the children on access.
D: And I’m told by FACS – not by the Family Law court – by FACS that I’m not allowed to see my children. And I’m saying “for how long?”, and they’re saying “until we’ve finished our investigations”. Three months go by, and I’m ripping my hair out – I want to see my fuckin’ kids, y’know? -and so I rung up my ex and I said, “look, I want to see my children”, and she said, “that’s fine, they want to see you too. They’re driving me mad, they want their dad”. So I started having access again. Still have. But the thing that I was bitter about, number one, I was never told I was being investigated, and if so what for…
T: So you never knew effectively what the charges were for?
T: So you were effectively being investigated for a crime – a major crime at that…
D: Yeah! Yeah!
T: …and you were never informed.
D: No! I wasn’t told nothing. And I still haven’t been told nothing! The only reason I found out about it was that all the records had been sub-poena’d for trial to go to the Family Law court.
T: So you… it was going for trial. So you were effectively being taken to court without ever having been told about it.
D: No, not trial for having molested my children, trial to gain custody [of the children].
[end of first side of tape]
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