The last time was not the first time.
Our kitchen and dining room was tiled, at the back of the house, and there was an island bench in the middle of the rooms running between the sink and kitchen bench and the large glass sliding doors to the back yard.
Only one door into the kitchen from the hallway.
We had a cheap old table, and cheap green chairs, small metal legs with little rubber ends on them, chairs made out of plastic moulds which I think now I haven’t seen for decades since.
The tiled floor is significant; Mum was in the kitchen making cordial for us, so when she was thrown to the floor by my father, the cordial was spilled everywhere. The tiled floor was wet, slightly sticky. The messy liquid was spread across the floor into the dining room as she was dragged around the island bench. Screaming to stop, kicking, thrashing around in an attempt to free her arms. I heard the screams and ran down the hallway to find my father trying to do what I assumed was break both Mums arms off, and slam her face into the floor.
It’s strange what you remember when you reflect on these moments. I remember the wet floor, I remember thinking that I should grab a knife so once mum had been dragged around the kitchen on the floor I could run past and grab a knife and jam it into my fathers back… But I thought he could take it off me and use it on Mum, or me… After all, I’m just a kid.
I’m yelling, Mum’s yelling. Paul's* eyes are black.
You don’t forget that look. I had seen it before, picked up by the throat and slammed into a wall, before being slapped across the wall by the face. I had seen it before. Sitting on my parents bed once before, I saw the blackness as I got an open hand across the face that sent me flying off the bed and into the doorway of the bedroom in one go. I saw the blackness as my father choked my mum in the same bed after she yelled at him for trying to knock my head off. I had seen it before many times. The blackness of the normally brown eyes is firmly etched into my brain, and will be forever I have no doubt.
The black eyes didn’t even barely look at me as he swatted me away the first time I went in to help mum. I didn’t get close. My father was a strong and powerful man in his right mind, let alone in the middle of a rage. So I did the only thing I could think to do after that, and I jumped on his back, trying to choke or pull him off or something. I was only 9 or something, so he pulled me off his back and threw me towards the large glass rear doors. I remember grabbing the chair to stop from flying through the window. I remember sliding in the liquid on the tiled floor. I remember seeing mum still on the floor, and as I hit the window, slowed by the chair, Paul opened the sliding door and threw Mum out.
I wanted to tell him he was a f*#king idiot. To tell him to f*#k off, to yell and scream, but I was terrified that something would happen, all I could manage was to yell at him that he was an idiot.
I remember all of that with such clarity, that it seems odd that I don’t remember how we all got out. I remember running down the hallway and getting my younger brother and sister to go out, and I remember being in our shitty little car ready to go, before mum went in to grab our dressing gowns because it was after dinner time and we were in our pyjamas.
If I go back into my mind’s eye for that time however, there are some details I left out. While I am deciding what to do, whether I will grab a knife, or jump on my fathers back, or scream or yell… My little brother and sister are in the doorway to the kitchen, crying and screaming. My baby brothers little face, chubby, crying, yelling. My little sisters little curls wild and all over her red, wet face, wild bits sticking to her face..
They are both being held back by a man.
Two of my father’s friends were there that night.
I don’t remember their names now, maybe one was Steve, maybe one wasn’t. But there were two of them. Two of Paul's latest drinking buddies. The drinking buddies changed fairly regularly, Paul liked the adulation of hangers on, and so he changed them regularly. I remember that that night they had brought a large, odd shaped bottle of a yellow liquor. I think now, upon reflection that it was some kind of home brew.
I remember the bottle, because one of the men was holding onto it, keeping it out of the way, as he stood in the kitchen just saying something like “Paul, Paul”. I remember he grabbed the bottle so it wouldn’t get knocked off the table during the violence.
I remember the other man taking my little brother and sister to the front of the house where the lounge room was. Away from the beating that was going on in the kitchen.
There were two men in my house that night.
Grown men, who watched someone try to beat my mother up. Grown men who watched another grown man attempt to throw his son through a window.
Often times, when we recount these stories or hear about them, the comment threads encourage people to ‘bash these weak bastards’ or ‘this guy should have his arms broken off’, things of that nature. Violence, for me, is not the answer to undo violence. I have come to a place of peace, by letting go any notion that a beating in any direction, to anybody, will undo the beating that I witnessed.
I think that perhaps in the macho-talk about how we should beat these guys up we miss the message that we should just do something. I don’t know anyone who thinks that what happened is ok, under any circumstance. There might be people who don’t know how to deal with it.
I am glad that I don’t have to walk around as one of the Unpolished men. These two men did nothing to get in the way, nothing to stop what was happening. They might not have been able to beat Paul into a pulp, or follow through on the tough talk that I see on the internet… but I can’t help but feel that they could have done something.
If you are going to be a polished man, if you are going to raise awareness, make sure that you are ready to raise a polished hand in the event that circumstances call on you to do it. Awareness is nothing without being able to speak up, call people out or get in the way of violence against children.
Don’t stand idly by.
Don’t walk around knowing that you should have stepped in, that you should have done more.
Don’t leave a child with the memory of your indifferent observation.
If you see the situation, help first, worry about what happens after.
Not be a hero. Not go in with the intention of beating a ‘child basher’ or a ‘woman basher’, and teaching them a lesson. Just get the people who need help away. Bravery is about doing the right thing, not the big thing. You don’t need to serve ‘justice’ on the spot, you simply need to help. In some way. In whatever capacity you can, depending on the situation and the circumstance.
It’s ok to be scared. The black eyes of a man in a rage are terrifying to everyone. You don’t have to confront them in a way that goes over and above removing the person who needs help from harm’s way. Just do the removing.
Be a Polished Man. Be a Good Man, and always, always Just Be Nice.
*name has been changed
Edit* Thank you to all who donated to my Polished Man Campaign page to raise awareness and funds to prevent violence against children.
For further information on how you can help if you witness or suspect domestic violence, visit www.dvrc.org.au
Please don't hesitate to share this blog if you feel like some people you know might get something out of a conversation like this, and thank you in advance.
Josh Reid Jones - Founder of The Just Be Nice Project and Odin Sports