Paul Nelson reveals how he became a "deadbeat dad".
---This is article #92 in our series of #100Voices4Men and boys
Make no mistake. Domestic Violence (DV) legislation and mechanisms designed to protect victims work well. The law and all those that work inside it, its custodians and enforcers, do their jobs pretty well. Some tick boxes to ensure process is followed, others dogmatically pursue this cause celebre with religious fervour. They are there to protect the weak, and they will do that job to the best of their ability, and then some.
I know what they are thinking. It’s not hard, just one look at their faces. I sense their disgust and its hard to look them in the eye. I know how they view me. The female DV specialist police officer pushes me into an interview room and demonstrates that I have no patriarchal advantage here; right now right here in this moment, she shows me who has the power.
24hrs Earlier; the police arrive and I am sat in the kitchen. A female police officer walks upstairs to speak to my wife. I can hear her break into painful wails of relief as her armed protector arrives. I sit silently downstairs, stunned by what had just taken place. Trying to make sense of it all. I recall the next hour as if it were a slow motion movie. A silent movie with the players each speaking, their lips moving but I hear no sound. And then my head breaks the surface and the sound rushes back in. The male police officers take me to their car. I’m there at the station and I’m now being interviewed.
No, I don’t want a solicitor. I don’t think I’ve done anything all that wrong. At least I don’t think I have? Where’s my wife?
She been taken somewhere safe and the children are with her.
Can I see the children?
No, thats not going to happen. You need to talk to us first and then we’ll decide what happens from here. We strongly advise you to get a solicitor.
Are they nuts, why would I want or need a solicitor?
This is all a misunderstanding. My wife and I love each other. This will all blow over. You’ll see. Its happened before but it never went this far. Can you have a word with her for me and ask her if we can sort this out.
Not this time, its gone too far. She doesn't want to hear from me and is, I find later, receiving assistance from a free solicitor specialising in domestic violence funded by a women's group.
I am not arrested or charged, I came to the station willingly. As soon as I am released I make it as far as the next corner and throw up into an alley way. I've never been interviewed before, certainly not like this and it’s taken 3 hrs. I’ve been interrogated and its a first for me. I’m just not used to it. The shock and fear prompts retching on an empty stomach. I’m struggling to breath and it hurts. There are others on the street but they seem scared of me. I notice the spatters of blood down my shirt and realise I look a mess. I catch my breath and the dizziness subsides. Its cold and I need to go home. To our now silent and empty home. I don't know where my wife and children are.
Another day, another interview and then the call. Mr Nelson? Yes. I am a court bailiff. I am informing you that you have been issued a Non Molestation Order and must not go back to or approach the matrimonial home, and you must not make contact of any kind with your wife and children. Do you understand? I say yes but I do not, not really. This type of thing doesn’t happen to me. Its others you hear about. Not me, not us.
Shock is a word few understand until they have experienced it.
My perfect world has come to an abrupt end and I have not been given the letter of notice to allow me to prepare. I have nowhere to turn. ‘Our’ friends no longer return my calls. I realise she's told them. I feel humiliated and scared of peoples reaction. One neighbour rescues me, he doesn’t ask too many questions and sees I am not built to deal with this challenge. He offers me a sofa for the night. I couldn’t sleep so I needn't have bothered. This then becomes my new living arrangement. I move from sofa to sofa, and later into the back of a van that a friend lends to me. Pretty tough for a guy that is otherwise used to the luxuries afforded by a high level career in the city. I’m able to collect my things when she is out of the house. The police officer helps throw my designer suits into a black bin liner. They are crumpled and a perfect metaphor for my new existence.
2010 - 2012:
My ban seeing the children is now established and permanent. Contact orders were ignored by my wife and there’s no way to enforce them; not in the real world. Only on BBC news items that like to promote how good our family law system is. It always makes angry when I see these because it is propaganda, but I suspect some of these journo’s actually believe it. They would not if they walked a mile in my shoes.
Our home is gone, sold. The proceeds in their entirety passed to my wife. My elderly father who is in care has his life savings removed and passed to my wife. Its complex to explain but my wifes lawyers work their magic and I am unable to afford representation on an ongoing basis. I endure my punishment and that of an innocent man in his 80’s because a family court judge says this is what fair looks like.
I can’t face walking past our old home because of what it represents. Its easier to go somewhere different to hide from the shame and the pain of it all. The haunting voices of my children taunt me if I dare pass by our old home. So I don’t but I’ve tried a few times. This is where my last child came back to from the maternity ward, where she ran and played with her bigger sisters in the garden. My abiding memory, the exquisite sound of their squealing and giggling. Three girls. Ages 4 to 13.
All is silent and empty now.
I have lost my job. The stress of the break up, the psychological and financial strain of family court. The rumours of my crimes make it worse. I desperately want to see my daughters. My repeated attempts to do so always fail, if not through judicial indifference then to a mother who flatly refuses to abide by the court order. People in my work and across my industry hear the story. The shame is complete. A do gooder has anonymously called around and kicked off the rumour mill, the word spreads like an uncontrollable fire. People view me differently when they see me as a bad man, a beater and molester of wife and children. Worse things too but I can’t bring myself to share them here. They are truly appalling to think let alone share. We don’t like or need your type around here is the new order of the day.
I can’t afford a car anymore, my clothes wear and I unable to replace them. How do you go from successful city man to virtual tramp in just 2-3 years? Sometimes, on a good day I even laugh at my own miserable transformation. Friends in and around my stockbroker village mostly turn their backs on me and the calls and texts are rarely returned. A few nervously befriend me but ensure it’s not too well known. I am a pariah. No one wants to be associated with my kind of man. I’m introduced to the term deadbeat dad - I am the man David Cameron Prime Minister spoke of on Fathers day 2011. Some have the balls to say it to my face; usually women who see it as their job to stand up for other women. I don’t know what to say to them; they’ve already judged me and usually their decision is final. There’s more to our story I want to say to them, equally there's more story than time and their interest allows. They know me better than I know myself.
Humans are hardy creatures and I become accustomed to the occasional aggression thrown my way; oddly, I find myself admiring their conviction, their morals and stand. But it hurts. It helps to conclude that I must deserve this existence for my crime, that even my dying father deserves to be striped of all he has as a final punishment and ‘deathblow’ to me.
I reach a particularly low point and upon hearing an idea from a friend, I stop eating. A self imposed punishment with no clear aim or reason. Eleven days in and I’m 9.5 kilos lighter. I start eating again. It would have been quite easy to not do so. I think I made the right decision.
To continue reading Paul's story see: Anatomy of a Deadbeat Dad part two
-- Picture credit: PinkMoose
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