'You just sit there like a punching bag': 1 man's story of intimate partner abuse

'You just sit there like a punching bag': 1 man's story of intimate partner abuse

He was smitten at first, so overwhelmed by her beauty that he believed she was out of his league.

Perhaps, he says, that's why he overlooked signs of his new partner's controlling behaviour.

Over time, the man realized she was an alcoholic. Bringing up the topic of her drinking would lead to arguments, and one day, she punched him.

"As a man, we're taught never hit back, so you just sit there like a punching bag and you take it, and it's shameful for me to admit, shameful for me to admit as a cop," said the man, a Daybreak listener whose identity CBC agreed to withhold in order to protect his children.

"Richard," a veteran police officer, is in his 40s. He now works on investigations but often responded to domestic abuse calls early in his career.

'Oh my God, I'm one of them'

After hearing part of Daybreak's series about relationship violence, Richard reached out to share his experience living with a violent intimate partner.

- MORE IN THIS SERIES: Why a Montreal dad is talking to his sons about relationship violence

He said it was a shock to realize that his partner was abusing him.

"Not just verbally, not just psychologically, but ultimately physically as well, and the realization, almost subconsciously, that, 'Oh my God, I'm one of them' — and then, 'How do I get out of it?'" he said.

He has a son and a daughter, both preteens, and he has a healthy relationship with their mother, his ex-wife.

It was a new relationship that started a few years ago that turned violent.

He and his now ex-girlfriend, who also had children from a previous relationship, each sold their homes, bought a home together and were living as a blended family.

He eventually realized she consumed one to three bottles of wine a day.

'Just beating on my head'

She punched him with "two hammer fists, left and right, just beating on my head," he said. 

After that first incident, she didn't hit him again for six months, so he hoped it was just a "bad day."

But it happened again and again, each time the interval in between attacks getting shorter. He recognized he was experiencing the cycle of violence. 

"Promising [she'll] never do it again and the escalating violence, which is what we read about in violence against women as well," he said.

Richard never bruised from the punching, but he has photos of scratches all over his back from an incident when he was trying to get out of the house.

"They're not deep, they're not life-threatening, but I was bleeding from eight or 10 different places on my back, on my neck, on my face where she was clawing at me, trying to get me not to leave," he said.

Women Aware

That's an image that sounds familiar to June Michell, abuse survivor and founder of Women Aware, an organization that provides long-term support to people living with intimate partner violence.

Michell says her organization has been approached by men in the past, either about their own situation or on behalf of a friend.

One man specifically expressed concern over scars on his friend's back.

"This is not a women's issue, this is a societal issue. It's clearly touching everybody now, it probably always has been but never been brought forward or spoken about — let's keep on speaking out," Michell said.

Michell acknowledged that she is not aware of shelters specifically for men who are victims of intimate partner violence.

But she says there are many resources for people in violent relationships, and Women Aware is available to help both men and women access those resources.

Hard to leave

Richard, like many survivors of intimate partner violence, hesitated to leave his relationship because there was so much to figure out.

"How do I get my kids and myself to a safe spot and still be able to afford to feed them on a weekly basis? And how do I pay two mortgages or a mortgage and a rent?"

A family member was able to help financially, and Richard found a temporary place to live. He'll move into a new home next week.

Thanks to his healthy relationship with his kids' mother, he rearranged the co-parenting agreement so his kids would no longer come in contact with his violent partner. 

He believes they do not know about the physical violence.

"They certainly saw the emotional and the controlling behaviour, and I regret that," he said.

'Trust level is shattered'

He said he is proud that they saw him standing up for himself toward the end.

But he now wants nothing to do with romantic relationships.

"My trust level is shattered. There's nothing there, zero trust," he said.

He does, however, want other men with abusive partners to know they are not alone. He is considering one day, perhaps, starting up a support group.

"I think it's time. More needs to be done ... to make sure the help that both genders need is available."


- SURVIVORS: Talk to your kids about youth relationship violence, survivor says

- TEACHERS: Teaching teens about healthy relationships & the cycle of violence

- STUDENTS: Teach teens the warning signs of dating violence early, students say