SEEKING HELP: An intergenerational cycle of domestic violence came to an end when one Northern man turned his life around for the sake of his family, their welfare and their safety. RELATED:
In an ongoingBreaking the Silencefeature,The Examinerspentsix weeks speaking to the state’s leaders, young people, educators and community members to determine how we can put an end to domestic violence in Tasmania.
Society must changeReaching out for helpLeaders take a standThe violation of rightsOur next generationsIt is a sad tale whenthe abused becomes the abuser.
One Northernman knows this all too well.
Hewas a self-confessed domestic violence perpetrator for most of his adult life.
Over the course of two marriages, and relationships in between, the man, who could not be named, could no longer control his anger.
He is undeniablyashamed of his actions, of the relationships he lost and the scars he caused.
The man was living in a world of self-loathing, trapped deep in the cycle of depression and anxiety.
Today, he has repaired many of the relationships he thought he lost, but he will never forget his past.
“I have spent the last 20 years trying, not to justify my actions, but to understand them and their motivations,” he said.
“I look back on those days with great shame.”
The man was finally diagnosed and treated for the conditions when he was more than 50 years old, but the warning signs were there from childhood.
“It is a condition that reflects fear, intense fear, of being rejected and suffering disapproval,” he said.
“I remained a small child for almost 50 years, acting with all the petulance of a toddler – lashing out when I didn’t get my own way or when I felt powerless ordependant.”
Digging a bit deeper into the man’s violent past, it becomes clear that his younger years were not easy.
The same story we are told time and time again rears its head –the devastating cycle that is intergenerational domestic violence.
Theman was physically abused by his father and never felt protected by his mother.
“[My father]was a very angry person who lashed out physically when his anger arose. It was a response that I unfortunately learned,” he said.
“What I didn’t realise until he passed away was that he had experienced similar treatment from his father.
“The abused become the abusers over a period of generations.”
When the man lashed out, he descried itas an expression of anger with himself.
He had no self-esteem, no confidence and thoughthe would never be loved.
He was a man who felt let down by hisparents.
“When I lashed out at my wife, I was not only lashing out at myself, but my mother,” he said.
“I know there were times when I was profoundly aware that I was looking at my wife and seeing my mother.”
It took a few years but eventually, the man knew he could not continue to live life like this.
He found a psychiatrist who understood him,got prescribed the right medication and he started thelong road to recovery.
Today, the man described his daughter as his best friend, he has a close relationship with his son and when his motherdied, their relationship was at peace.
“Thankfully, the chains have been broken as my son is in no way an aggressive man.I thank his beautiful mother for that,” he said.
“Having been such an angry person I now comprehend the weakness that anger represents.
“Anger is all about fear.”
Theman wants to speak out to other men, to share his story, not to justify his actions, but tooffer help where it is sought.
“Children need to learn this stuff, how to cope, how to forgive, and how to understand their emotions,” he said.
“These matters contribute so much more to coherent society than traditional subjects.
“Violence is never, ever an appropriate reaction.”
He said we need more education,more resources and more help available so no family is forced to go throughwhat his did.
Deloraine social workerNarelle Whatley has spent much of the past three years looking at just how much exposure to domestic violence affects children into their adult life.
Ms Whatley is nearing the end of her University of Tasmania PhD research into the childhood effects of domestic abuse.
She said amongst the tales of heartbreak, or fear and anger, there were the often forgotten stories of strength and resilience.
“I wasn’t prepared for the stories to overlap into adulthood – how people take their experiences from childhood and make changes in their relationships in adulthood,” Ms Whatley said.
“It’s fear-invoking, it’s unpredictable, there’s a lot of tension everyday but there’s also alevel of responsibility.”
Ms Whatley said often, children are forced to grow into adult roles and take on more responsibility than many of their peers.
“They are responsible for the care of parents, siblings or themselves and there’s lots of planning.
“It’s a very active role that children have in that context, it’s more than just a place of fear, it’s a place of strategy and resources.”
Ms Whatley cameacross inspiring tales of courage and commitment to change – parents who sworethe cycle of domestic violence would end with them.
“When people had children, their whole idea of what they’re prepared to tolerate in adult relationships became extremely important,” she said.
“I found there was a real resolution not to be in that situation.”
So, if you are a domestic violence victim or perpetrator, remember there is help out there.
Not every tale has a sad ending and there is always time to free yourself from a destructive situation.
You are not alone.
Teach your childrenabout respectful relationships and equality, and practice what you preach.
Step up to be a leader.
Stop telling your children they throw like a girl and donot perpetuate a stereotypeshould have never existed in the first place.
Be the role model you wished you had.
As a community, it is our time to speak out–it is our time to once and for all, truly and finally stamp out domestic violence.
It has no place here.
If you or someone you know needs help, contact theFamily Violence Counselling and Support Service on1800 608 122,Support, Help and Empowerment on6278 9090 or theFamily Violence Response and Referral Line on1800 633 937.
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