We seldom talk about mental health and male victims of domestic violence. And yet, I see it all in his eyes, in the traumatic look of someone going through a crisis. Mark’s story is one of the unrecognised ones: the male victim of domestic violence. We hear it so much, it makes one want to cry: men don’t get abused. The police and the courts hardly recognise it. I’ve heard it enough.
Mental health and crime
Mark’s wife lost her temper regularly. His daughter witnessed it. His neighbours witnessed it. The last time was the last time. The knife came out and he ran. It was somewhat difficult not to snigger as he recounted his story – among other things she stabbed his car. It’s one of those things that’s difficult because absurd, to visualise.
The litany of abuse is extensive, but he bears no ill-will. He knows what it is all about. Her state of mind is not good and her mental health problems are unaddressed. But now she’s facing prison, and he says “she won’t survive prison, she won’t”. I frown and nod: “Yeah, she probably won’t”.
Mark’s friend, Sally, looks terrified: “she needs help, not punishment”. Her words bounce around my brain, triggering memories of events in my life that echo through time and space. “She’ll get two years. We must withdraw the statements”.
The discussion continued. Mark and Sally aren’t criminologists, psychologists or philosophers. They are just two ordinary people who are facing pretty ordinary things. An altercation, prompted as they both insist, by severe mental health difficulties. The results? The police arrived and charges were pressed. What sort of society treats mental health difficulties by making them worse? This is bemusing beyond belief.
An inhumane system
I explain, with some trepidation, that were they to withdraw their statements, the CPS would probably continue nonetheless. “But it will kill her!” Sally replies. “They don’t care” is all I can muster as a response. Mark and I agree, there is no humanity in the system, there is no reason either. It’s just a bureaucracy and as such does not and cannot care.
Mark isn’t some weak “survivor” who has been emotionally blackmailed into wanting to withdraw charges. He’s just a reasonable person. His mind reasons logically – he knows enough about prison to know the impact it’ll have on his wife, and is coherent enough to realise increasing mental health problems doesn’t solve mental health problems.
I didn’t leave the conversation hopeful. I expect, from what they told me, there is a high chance in a year or so she will be no more than a statistic. Another corpse they find in prison or, at best, another crushed soul with no hope for the future.