Family Life: Pride and Love That Hid Wife's Violence; Domestic Abuse Isn't Just Something That Happens to Women - Men Can Suffer, Too. One Former Victim Tells Caroline Foulkes How 16 Years of Abuse by His Wife Drove Him to the Edge - and How He Has Coped Since

Article excerpt

Byline: Caroline Foulkes

Alfie knows about violence. It used to be part of his job. But he never expected it to come into his home, into his heart. He didn't even know he'd let it in there until it was too late.

It came so well disguised, buried beneath a smiling, beautiful face, a good figure, a voice that spoke words he wanted to hear.

It came wrapped in love. And it stuck an 18-inch meat skewer into his flesh.

Alfie is ex-army, bomb disposal unit. He's been a judo instructor, a kung fu instructor. The kind of man who can handle trouble. He's intelligent, too. Used to be a lecturer.

It didn't stop him being a victim of domestic abuse, though. The kind of abuse that breaks up your family until one of your children refuses contact with you. The kind of abuse that makes you believe it's all your fault. The kind of abuse that makes you drive to a lonely cliff top in the cold, early morning and try and walk over the edge.

Alfie thought he knew violence. He grew up with it.

'I come from a big family, and my father would regularly thrash us all with a belt. I remember being dragged out of bed in the middle of the night and him forcing us to watch while he held a gun to my mother's head. I swore I'd never be like him. You don't hit someone. Least of all a woman.'

Alfie left home when he was barely 15, joined the army. Later, he married, had a couple of kids.

'Then I met this woman, and for whatever reason the grass seemed greener on the other side.'

He thought she was beautiful, lovely. They eventually married. Then eight months after their wedding she announced she was spending a weekend in Paris with a friend. It turned out to be another man. When Alfie confronted her, she started throwing things around the room.

'I never thought anything of it. I just thought she was showing her temper, it was what she did.'

She promised it wouldn't happen again, that she would change.

And she did change. But not in the way she had promised. She had more affairs. Several times he came home to find her with another man while their two daughters played in another room. He confronted her again and again, but each time her reaction became stronger.

Then she threw a cricket bat at him. 'We'd been on holiday with my family and I'd had to come back home after a few days to sort out some business. While I was away she'd dumped our 11-month-old son on my mother and had gone off with a bouncer from a local club.

'When I confronted her about it she went spare. She drank a whole bottle of vodka in less than an hour, then started drinking wine. Then she threw the bat at me. I ducked. When she missed, she got angrier, turned over a table and started hitting me with a chair.'

He never told anyone about it. 'It was male pride. I was too pigheaded,' he explains. 'And I believed it was my fault. I was always working, always helping out with youth groups or working on some building project or other. She made me believe it was my fault, and I thought I deserved it.'

He stayed with her though. It's always easy to look at domestic violence from the outside and say 'Well why don't they leave?'. But you can never really know the answer to that until you've been there.

It was love that made Alfie stay. She smashed a bread board over his head, shattering it. He still loved her. She stuck an 18-inch metal skewer in his arm. He still loved her. She poured boiling water over his groin. He still loved her.

He'd cover up for her with their kids. He broke a window on purpose once, just so he could tell his son that was how his arm got slashed. …