I met my wife who was a single mum of 3 boys in 1997 and we married later that year in December. Over the years I was to become a father of 2 more boys.
On the 17th of October 2007 at 2:45pm I collapsed at the farm I worked on paralysed on the right side with a high temperature of 40.9 c (105 F) I was found about an hour and a half afterwards and taken to hospital where I was to stay for the next 52 days. I was eventually diagnosed with viral encephalitis and I was to relearn to walk and do many things that we take for granted…such as walking, getting out of a chair and showering.
The virus affected my strength, noticeably my right side. I had problems with my right leg that would often freeze up and stay dead for a period of time between 10 seconds to a few hours. I developed uncontrollable shakes if I was to over exercise and had chronic fatigue where I would need to sleep after 10 – 15 minutes in the gym. Another symptom that was even more disturbing was the partial amnesia that caused me to forget many significant things from my past. For example I was to walk into my sister in laws home and remark on their new kitchen…only to be informed that it was 3 years old and I had been in it many times before. Another time I asked a friend how his sisters kids were…only to be informed that one of the kids had drowned at least 10 years previously… I had known this, but it was new information to me…
Another side effect is that it affected me in that I cannot remember lists…if you tell me 3 things to do I will only be able to remember 1 or 2 of them.
Upon release from hospital I was given a walking stick and was supposed to acquire a shower stool to make sure I was able to shower safely. The cost was $65 to buy one and my wife said that I would have to cope without one as we couldnt afford it.A rehabilitation nurse came to visit the home and sat both of us down and explained the processes needed to be put into place to make sure I managed fatigue and mobility issues… the major one with Christmas coming up that I would have to go shopping in a wheel chair.
The morning we went to go Christmas shopping I asked my wife if I could have some money to buy the kids some presents. She replied to me, “No… a real man would not be begging his wife for money….a real man would be out earning his own”
This remark cut deep to my heart. It struck deep into the very core of my identity as a man. I was struggling with the major life changes that had happened to me and it was as if she had belted me with a lump of 4*2 in the inner man. I remember saying a prayer that went like this, Lord I know you heard every thing that just happened…all I want is some money to buy some presents for the family…We went shopping and I met a man from church who said to me, Craig, I”m glad I met you today, I have carried this around for you and he gave me $100. When I told my wife what happened she wanted me to hand it over to her saying, You dont deserve to have any money, you have to give it to me.
I replied that I was going to use it to bless the boys over the Christmas Holidays and use it to see a movie or something else.
Over the next 12 months I was to hear this comment about not being a real man many times in many varied forms. I slowly gained some strength and resumed my interest in woodwork and slowly made some kids furniture. Tables, chairs and toys. I was only able to manage about 40 minutes a day in the garage and so progress was slow..but over a couple of months I made a few things and decided to try and sell some at a local market. Nothing sold, but I was asked to make a book shelf for some people who were ok about the extended time it would take me to build it.
I started to make the book shelf using the materials I had in the garage and needed to get some more from the hardware to finish it… I asked my wife for some money to go and get the materials I needed and was told…You have a garage full of stuff…use what you have…I’m not giving you a cent… a real man would have made some money selling what he made by now…
I replied saying I didn’t have what I needed mainly being some sandpaper, putty, the right screws and stain and that I wouldn’t be able to finish it without those materials… a week later she told me…I have the utmost contempt for you… you promised these people a bookshelf and you won’t finish it… a real man would finish what he began… I replied about how I could finish it within the week if she gave me some money to do so and she said..No go and earn your own money…be a real man and go and get a real job
I was told many times that I was cursed by God, that he didn’t hear my prayers. On two occasions she organised some people to come around to exorcise the devil from me, telling me a few minutes before they come what she had done….
I was slowly manipulated and ostracised from family and friends. Often told that even my family didn’t want anything to do with me, nor did my friends. For me to shower safely I would sit on the shower floor…one day she came to the shower door telling me that I was only acting, that the doctors didn’t know what they were on about, that there was nothing wrong with me. She knew better and she was going to force me to go and work and be a real man whether I liked it or not.( In 12 years of marriage my wife had never worked until I fell sick)
Her words were like bullets entering into me…the barage of words striking me deep and I curled into a fetal position crying out to God to make her stop, that I couldn’t handle her words and actions any more.
I also suffered some level of post traumatic stress and depression. I would often wake up of a night with dreams that I was paralysed and unable to move or call out for help, having flash backs of the time I collapsed. My doctor gave me some antidepressants which I tried, but couldn’t handle the taste.. and went off them within the week. I actually felt better about talking about the issues of being sick with another guy at church…though I was not able to talk about the way my wife was treating me.
I was thinking about writing a book and started to plan and plot a kids book with the boys. Again my wife said..who are you to write a book, you’re not good enough to write a book. She would often tear up my writings, come and stand over me and throw things at me, often threatening that one day she would stab me with a knife.
Eventually she did hit me, punching me in the head. I became so frightened of her that I could only bear to talk to her for a few minutes before fearing she would go into one of her rages. Eventually I sat down with our church pastor and told him what was going on and he laughed at me saying he didn’t believe things were as bad as they were, but they would pay for us to have counselling.
At counselling I would share what was going on and my wife would sit there saying I was lying and mentally ill…then on the way home would verbally abuse me for mentioning what was going on saying it was none of the counsellors business….that it was me who needed fixing up not her. The counsellor gave us some homework to do in the form of journelling a letter and in it tell each other exactly what it was we wanted to say to each other… with strict instructions that we were not to read each others letters….
My wife found mine and ripped it out of the journal and gave it to the ladies and elders at church to read saying look at the letter I had written to her… it was from this point that I was ostracised by the church….I was thinking of resuming some study at a bible college and thought perhaps I could get a room at the college. My pastor got wind of what I was thinking and rang me saying…Craig..I’m good friends with the college president and I will make sure if you leave your family that you will never be able to minister within our organisation ever again…and you will not be allowed to continue any study what so ever..
This tore me apart inside. I had no money. Even though I was on government benefits my wife took all of it. I had nowhere to go… and I was dying inside. I was like a ball of lead. I had no joy. There were times that I thought of taking my life, though I made the decision no matter what I would not do that….as I had only the year before set up a shire wide suicide prevention and awareness network and had counselled a few people over the years from doing so…
Finally a crunch came where I was bitten on the wrist…deep to the bone. In trying to restrain my wife from harming me further I shoved her and she fell hitting her head on the couch. She rang the police about my abusing her and on their arrival ranted about my mental illness and she had my anti depressant tablets to prove it… when the police heard my story and asked if that was right she said yes…and then they asked me if I wanted her charged with assualt and again I said no! … on their suggestion to move out of the house I threw some things into my Kia Pregio van and moved out of the house and lived in the back of my van for the next 5 or so weeks.
I tried the department of housing..they put me on a waiting list and I am still waiting a year later for a house to be made available. There was no where for me to turn…and so I became numb, barely able to live. Suffering from mobility, fatigue and memory problems combined with the issues involved from being abused for so long and I became a recluse.
As a man who suffered domestic violence I found there was no where for me to turn. Few people believed me. The public brochures that the nsw government department have dealing with domestic abuse make out that it is the man who is the abuser…the other brochure talking about abuse in society says…”Women, children and others…” are liable to suffer abuse…. the question I ask is…who are the others?
My name is Craig Bennet and I am a survivor of domestic abuse and this has been some of my story.
Photo Credit: Flickr
First Published: https://mencanbeabusedtoo.wordpress.com/my-story-part-1/