Young man says women aren't the only victims
A COURT reporter's role is black and white; the job is to write down the prosecution facts, the defence lawyers response and wait for the magistrate's verdict.
Once it's finished, the story goes to print ... there's no room for grey.
It's easy to pass judgement and make assumptions from the back of the courtroom watching a man plead guilty to domestic violence charges.
It's a scenario seen every day in the news, in the papers, or heard first-hand from the neighbours and it's causing desensitisation to one of society's biggest challenges.
Especially when it seems to keep recurring, over and over again here in Gladstone.
A man loses his job and falls into financial hardship. He takes out his frustrations both physically and emotionally on his partner in the form of verbal abuse or a beating.
Now studies show that men in the central Queensland region make up one-quarter of the population taking out domestic violence orders.
Men too, are the victims of this insidious, silent crime.
But we rarely see that on the news and, if it is shown, the general perception seems to be that he must have done something to antagonise her, right?
It's this grey area a young Gladstone man, who wishes to remain anonymous, has found himself trapped in for almost a year.
Afraid, not only of society's assumptions and the stereotype of males as the perpetrators of domestic violence, but terrified of being seen as a flat-out liar, the teenager has been quiet with his opinions.
The Observer sat down with him and members of his family to hear the other side of the story - the side not heard in the courtroom.
Domestic violence is almost an everyday occurrence in this relationship but the man said the issue wasn't as black and white as the media portrayed it.
There are always two sides.
He did not play the innocent card and said that he and his girlfriend were equally physical with each other.
When the pair first started dating about a year ago, they went through a honeymoon phase with the world at their feet.
Then things got complicated; they moved out and began to struggle financially, which caused arguments.
Fights lasted days rather than hours, issues of jealously, control and freedom began to occur more frequently. And then it started becoming physical.
She'd punch, he'd push, she'd slap and he'd hit back; it was a never-ending cycle.
How many times can a person be poked in the chest, slapped in the face or more specifically, kicked in the genitals before the human instinct kicks in to fight back?
This article is not to condone domestic violence or insinuate that it's okay to use violence as a reaction to violence.
However, it highlights the message this man and his family are trying to portray - that men involved in domestically violent relationships need to speak out and stop "copping it on the chin."
The man said he has a very close relationship with his family.
So close, that at times, family members have had to act as a physical force between him and his girlfriend.
The family agreed that the pair were "as bad as each other" when it came to fighting, but couldn't understand why the young man always took the blame.
"Really, it is because society is more prepared to hear that a woman was the victim, over a man," a family member said.
"The socially acceptable thing to do, it seems, when it comes to domestic violence, is that men just cop it and take it on the chin.
"Because it is more believable, it's easier and it's what has always been done."
Given the family's involvement with the issue, it sparked an interest to explore the domestic violence help and support options out there for men in Gladstone.
"But there are none," another member of the family said.
"It's clear to see that women have all the support under the sun, and so they should, but where is the support for men?
"What is available here in Gladstone for men affected by domestic violence?"
While there are some services available for men in the region, one of the man's family member's said they weren't specific to domestic violence and there needed to be a dedicated centre for men in Gladstone.
"We have the Gladstone Women's Health Centre ... where is the men's health centre?," he said.
"This is a very real issue that needs to be addressed."
He said the government should consider a domestic violence campaign, dedicated to male victims, showing that support was out there and available.
Another suggestion was to change the legislation surrounding domestic violence sentencing in the courtroom; making counselling mandatory.
"A fine, a good behaviour bond ... it does nothing to stop domestic violence," he said.
"Once it's paid, that's the final punishment...there's no further consequence.
"What needs to happen is a productive change - to tackle the reason through psychiatric and medical care, studies into why the domestic violence is occurring and taking measures to stop it before it occurs.
"Because from first-hand experience, when you are in a domestic violence scenario, you aren't thinking about anything else other than how angry you are.
"Nothing else matters."