Saturday, September 11, 2021

Domestic Violence Against Men

Today is a day of reflection for many. 9/11 used to be a day where I’d find myself very much brought back to 9/11/01, spending my day trying to get out of New York City the day, contemplating leaving my shoes behind and swimming across the Hudson to get home to Hoboken. Cell phone towers too congested to get in touch with friends working at the Twin Towers, having to wait days to know if they were ok and pleading with local police to sneak me on a Port Authority train carrying off-duty police back to Nee Jersey.

That unique smell of burning plastic and organic matter that covered the city drove me to move to Boston to start a mew life…unsuccessfully.

But what happened to me on 9/11/2018 had an even bigger impact on my life.

A day before, I was attacked by my then wife. As I had been routinely for 7 years. This time was worst as she attacked me by biting a piece of my lip off, spitting it at me, and scratching both sides of the back of my neck until they bled. 

As Alexander witness a previous attack by my ex wife in me, he had nightmares and couldn’t sleep that night. The next day, 9/18/2018, I returned home from bringing Alexander to kindergarten and my ex was still there…she didn’t go to work. 

She attacked me again, telling me to move out immediately and take all of my belongings. I packed a backpack with a change of clothes and Malia’s dog food and planned on staying at an Apartment Hotel for a night and come back the next day for calmer planning.

My ex wife had other plans. Despite me calling her father and having him on the phone the whole time in the background, she continued to attack me. For the rest of my life, I will remember her words: spitting in my face and saying “I will ruin you, I will ruin you!”.  

My bag wasn’t fully packed yet and she was so intent on my leaving at that very second, she called the police to get me out of the home. 

My bag now packed and Malia ready in her dog bag, I was ready to go when the police arrived. There were conversations in their “dialect” of labor class Chilean Spanish which for even many Chileans if difficult to understand.

But I heard them use the word “victima”. I interjected and said, “pardon, pero yo estoy el VICTIMO”. The good thing about Spanish is it’s easy to tell with the gender word structure that she was claiming she was the victim (victima) when the ONLY victim, as had been for 7 years, was me.

My ex disappeared to the back of the apartment to the bathroom for 5 minutes. When she came out, she had bruises on her face. I knew what was happening. She went to the bathroom, and did what so many other Chilean women have done for decades in a country where divorce was illegal until 2004: she hurt herself and made false claims that I had abused her.

Never in 7 years did I ever lay a hand on her. I never could. She is psychologically damaged, sick with a diagnosed borderline personality disorder. She has a history of suicide, has been institutionalized, went through electro shock treatment, and is medicated daily. As I’ve seen first hand throughout the relationship, if she missed a day of taking a pill, I’m would be physically attacked, threatened to take Alexander away from me, stuck in conversation loops for 3-4 hours where there was no resolution as a “yes, I understand what you are saying and how you feel” would send the conversation back to the beginning for her to go over all of her “points” again. 

Regardless, I went above and beyond as a father, a husband and a friend in comparison to a culture where men do literally nothing but work to contribute to the family. Every other family I know in Chile has a nanny. In Barcelona, my ex wife forced us to get a night nurse as she refused to take care of Alexander at night  as a newborn. When we moved to Chile and no longer had her night nurse, she told me I had to take care of Alexander. Every meal, every nighttime complaint by my baby boy, dressing for school, changing diapers, every drop off and pick up from Kindergarden, every grocery, prescription, everything was on me. Luckily my ex wife was willing to give Alexander a bath each night as a parental task.

What happened next that 9/11/2018 day was a nightmare. 

They put handcuffs on me and walked me to the police car. I had no understanding how this could be happening. 

I was brought first to the hospital where they evaluated the injuries I suffered and did the same to document the self-harm my ex did on herself.

Being Chile, where fathers have no rights,   my medical documents never made it to the court records…only her self-induced injuries.

I was brought to jail for holding next, st this point, around 10am. I was locked in a cell with another “criminal” for the next 10 hours. At night, I was transported to the basement cells which looked exactly like you’d expect from a medieval dungeon, complete with urine and spit all of the floors. I was given a old dirty sheet, as were the rest of the inmates in the room and told to sleep there. Regardless of being a pacifist, I had to puff up to fight off the others in the cell, using fear of the unknown about me as my defense to protect myself.

I did not sleep.

The morning came, and I was cuffed and brought to a windowless transport van, all metal benches. Others from the cell were included. We would stop at other police stations and pick up other violent criminals. It was clear they had all gone through this before as they were all sharing their stories of who they beat to get arrested. 

We arrived at the central processing where hundreds of other transport vans arrived at the court house. This is THE courthouse for Santiago with hundreds of small rooms for trials. 

I went through processing with thousands of criminals. It was a nightmare. Luckily and sadly, classism and racism is a problem in Chile and due to my being white, they sent me to my own holding cell, alone. Again, these are cement rooms, covered in mold, urine of the floors and water dripping down the walls.

Eventually I’d be moved to another cell, better conditions, where the you’d be able to meet with the court-appointed lawyers for 5 minutes before the hearing.

When I got in front of the judge, my court ordered lawyer spoke and the judge responded. The judge said that I’d be free to go if I plead guilty and willing to be put on probation for 1 year.

I refused. 

I could not lie and plead guilty to something they never happened.

I told them that no matter what the result, that my morality was more important. For me but more for the example I need to set for my son. Right is right. 

Courts move slow and it took 9 months, but there was a trial. The charges were dismissed once my layer presented the truth. I won.  And I didn’t even need to use the hundreds of hours of voice recordings of my ex admitting to her violent acts, documents I made her sign saying she’d never attack me again, threats to take Alexander away from me.

I’ve shared the struggles over the past 3 years. It seems endless. As soon as there is a step to move forward in strengthening my relationship with my son, my ex fabricates something new, even when there are witnesses proving she is making false claims.

I look back and think of what I could be for things to be different.

Walking away seems to easy to most, but when you have a child involved that is the center of your universe, you put up with domestic violence so you can be part of their life.

I did try. I DID goto the police and report my ex wife for her violence against me.

And it’s the worst feeling in the world when you bare your soul and ask for help and the police say there is nothing they can do to protect you or your baby because she has diplomatic immunity. It’s the worst legal loophole to ever exist. It strips people like me of basic human rights. The police told me I had the choice of leaving her and Alexander, or stay to be with Alexander. 

I chose to stay with Alexander and I do t regret it.

The irony is when I fast forward to this week. I had a court hearing as my ex is accusing ME of “domestic violence” because I am asking people in Chile via flyers, to help me find my son. I don’t know where he is, in Santiago, Arica, or out of the country. I have no updates and haven’t seen Alexander since March 6, 2021.

This is a lot to say. I needed to. Because there are so many other men out there who have suffered the same. Falsely accused in a system that generalizes based on a caveman mentality that men are dangerous and women are frail. 

The end result are tens of thousands of men around the world who suffer violence and are forced to make a choice: accept it and live in fear to be with your children or walk away and potentially never see you’re children again.

I made my choice. I stayed. And I’ll continue to fight for my little boy. I only
See him in my dreams now, and it’s the best part of my day. As sad as that sounds, it is a lone joy.

If you have any male friends who have domineering female partners, just know that you don’t know how much worse it might be behind closed doors. Share some positivity with those men because it’s very likely they are suffering.


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