A REAL MAN

These are men who have been isolated from their children. Men who have had to ask for permission to see their friends. Some have been accused of everything from incest to drug abuse. Others have been beaten, bitten, shouted at and degraded to such an extent that they have lost faith in themselves. These are men who are in a deep crisis and need help to get up again.

According to research made in 2018 by the National Institute of Public Health in Denmark approximately 57.000 Danes are every year exposed to physical domestic violence. Every third of them is a man. Nevertheless, the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, better known as the Istanbul Convention mostly apply to women andthe countries of EU can choose whether or not to apply the convention to men, childrenand the elderly who are victims of domestic violence.

Violence in close relationships is most often associated with the man's violence against the woman. Therefore, violence in close relationships committed against men is often invisible. Many of the men who receive help from The Men's Center, which is one ofthe few offers that exist for men in crisis in Denmark, have lived in relationships characterized by control, manipulationand violence - often without even being aware of it.

The men's stories testify that when men fall, they fall deep. One of thereasons is that many men carry a fear of not being taken seriously or beingbelieved by their surroundings and therefore choose to be silent. “A real man does not need help”, the men say. But what does it mean to be a real man?


Kenneth, 38 year

“It’s very stressful and hard not to be a part of my daughter’s life right now.”

Kenneth became a father at an early age with a girlfriend he had just met. There are many conflicts between them. Mutually, they have not been nice to each other.

As they separate, his struggle to be allowed to see his daughter begins. Several times the ex-girlfriend  stops the contact from one day to the next.

They have been through the Family Court many times, where Kenneth is granted visitation, but still the ex-girlfriend will not let him see his daughter.

The ex-girlfriend accuses Kenneth of being mentally ill and both physically and mentally violent, but this is rejected by the Family Court due to lack of evidence.

(the sound is in Danish)

Lasse, 69 years

”We were married for 35 years – that’s half a life.”

Lasse’s wife is to inherit a great fortune, which they want to secure in the best way. Therefore, he takes on all the couple’s debt. They trust each other.

After some turbulent years with too much alcohol and a bad relationship, she leaves Lasse.

From one day to another, he stands without a home and with the debt in his name.

The whole situation shakes Lasse so much, that he ends up in a  psychiatric emergency room.

”I was so far out, that I couldn’t remember what has been said 15 minutes earlier, when I watched tv. I simply couldn’t concentrate on anything.”

(the sound is in Danish)

Father and son

The men who live at the Men’s Centers were offered a weekend with their children out in nature.

A weekend where the problems went away just for a while.

They slept in shelters, chopped, made bonfires and got to know sounds and smells from both animals and plants.

The trip was arranged and financed by the Danish Nature Agency.


Mikael, 48 years

“I couldn’t promise that my children wouldn’t receive blood if anything happened to them.”

Michael’s entire family are Jehovah’s Witnesses. As Mikael will not deny his children blood transfusions, his wife wants a divorce.

Today, he has stepped out of Jehovah’s Witnesses, but that has left him very alone. When he meets former friends or family on the street, they walk a big circle around him.

Mikael’s teenage son says at one point that he wants to live with his father. According to Mikael, this creates a fear with the mother that their two younger daughters might decide to follow.

It causes the ex-wife to keep the girls from seeing their father for so long that the youngest daughter of nine years no longer knows Mikael.

“I think my ex-wife sees it as her duty to protect our children from me.”

(the sound is in Danish)

Jan, 45 years

“The man Jan was gone”.

He had a good job, two cars in the driveway, a nice house and a wonderful family. That was the framework for Jan’s life – at least he thought.

His wife suddenly wants a divorce. From there, it starts to crash for Jan.

He loses the house and his job because the worries take up too much space. At the same time, Jan struggles to see his children.

Due to parental conflicts, the State Administration ends up awarding the ex-wife a 10-4 scheme, which she wants, to create peace for the children.

Jan feels powerless and is left with the feeling that no matter what he says, it is not good enough.

He loses 20 kilos in the process.

(Sound is in Danish)

JEG ÆLSKER JAR • BÆ • TO

(I love you both)

The note is carried by one of the men from the Men’s Center in his purse every day.

Kim, 43 years

“I didn’t talk to anyone. That was my way of dealing with the situation.”

Kim is awakened by his wife in a violent way. Instinctively, he strikes out and hits her with a flat hand in the back of her head. There has been no violent episodes between them in the past.

As a result, Kim’s wife moves directly to the crisis center with their children. Back in the house, Kim sits alone wondering what just happened.

Kim does not have much family, so most of his circle of friends were his wife’s family and friends.

The ex-wife does not want to hand over their daughter to Kim for seven weeks, so they end up in court to find a solution to the visitation arrangement.

“Even though I kind of got a victory with the judge’s words saying, that she should behave a like an adult, it was not great at all.”

Now she has applied for full custody, so Kim will soon be at the Family Court again.

(Sound is in Danish)



Love you Dad

The heart is made by a daughter to her father. It hangs on the door to the room of one of the men at the Men’s Center.

“The condition of the rooms says a lot about how the men feel. A messy room often indicates that the man is having a difficult period", says principal, Christina Kirkegaard. 

Thabo, 49 years

”I was scared of her violent temper and that the situation would escalate.”

Thabo is in an arranged marriage. The relationship between him and his wife is full of conflicts, with many quarrels, so Thabo often goes to the library to get away.

Together they have three kids, whom he loves dearly. One day, one of the conflicts escalates and Thabo leaves so that the kids will not have to experience their problems.

She reports him for domestic violence and they end up in court. She changes her statement in court and since there is no evidence, the charges are dropped.

For one and a half months after this, Thabo sleeps at his friend’s or on the metro, as he is scared to come home.

NOTE: Thabo is not his real name. He is anonymous for the sake of his wife, his children and family and therefore the interview is narrated by someone else.

(Sound is in Danish)




Søren, 63 years

“I don’t know why I didn’t tell anyone. I really don’t know.”

She stands on the edge of the bed and looks down at Søren, who is lying on the floor. He bleeds from his face after countless kicks, punches and bites.

She jumps up and lands on Søren’s chest, which gives in. Three broken ribs and a punctured lung.

At first, it was just shouting, screaming and slamming doors, but over time, it developed into physical violence against him. And it got worse and worse.

The next day she always apologized, and Søren forgave her every time.

“Of course I didn’t like her violent side, but when she was sober, she was a really sweet girl.”

Eventually, however, it became too much and Søren tried to escape.

(the sound is in Danish)



Allan, 55 years

“It’s hard to climb the ladder when you just sink into the mud at every step.”

Allan and his family moved out of their apartment and into a terraced house, which was more kid-friendly. He did not think about whether he was on the lease.

“Well, I was a gullible fool who didn’t think of that kind of stuff.”

But when his wife wanted a divorce, it became very important.

Suddenly he was without a house or car and had to move into his caravan. It was in the cold, autumn months.

“I don’t have much family, so I didn’t know where to go.”

It was a defeat for Allan to have to ask for help. He believed that as a man he had to be strong and manage on his own.

(Sound is in Danish)


Ahmed, 26 years

“My father was just beneath God. I actually feared my father until he kicked the fear out of me.”

Both Ahmed’s parents carry heavy luggage with them from a war in their home country. The father has been shot several times and let his traumas affect the children at home in the form of physical and psychological
violence.

Today Ahmed finds it difficult to connect with others and is rarely in the same place for long. He has been married three times, and the most recent divorce resulted in him ending up homeless and then at the Men’s Center.

After Ahmed became a father himself, it dawned on him how difficult his own father must have had it. Today, he has forgiven him, but Ahmed is still struggling to create relationships with people.

“I do not blame him, even though it doesn’t excuse his behaviour.”

(Sound is in Danish)


When dad cannot see his children

When parents break up, the mother becomes the resident parent in 86% of cases according to Statistics Denmark. The resident parent can decide upon general circumstances in the child’s daily life, including where in the country the residence will be.

The Men’s Center experiences that when a parent is isolated from their children, or is in danger of completely losing contact with the children for a longer period of time, it can lead to strong crisis reactions.

Many of the men at the Men’s Center face repeated threats of not seeing their children, and often struggle to get partial custody and contact with the children.

Sonnie, 36 years

“She left messages for my son saying how bad a father I was.”

Sonnie moves to a new neighborhood where he meets an old acquaintance. She is very forward and soon starts giving him gifts and sending him a lot of messages.

When he does not react, there is a violent backlash, she shouts at him and knocks on his door.

To begin with, Sonnie does not think much about it, but it develops into stalking. Slowly, an inner alarm system builds up in his body.

Is she cycling towards him? Will she be around the corner the next minute? Every time he goes around in the neighborhood, he fears seeing her.

When she involves his son, it becomes too much for Sonnie and immediately moves away.

(the sound is in Danish)



Nicolai, 29 years

“When you’re sad every day, you get really exhausted and tired.”

After a breakup, Nicolai’s ex-girlfriend deprived him of the right to see his son. She has sought full custody on the grounds that Nicolai has subjected her to physical and mental violence as well as breach of agreements.

Nicolai can prove that he has not broken their agreements as he has messages that can back him up, and there have never been reports or signs of harm proving that the charges against him are true.

“It is practically impossible for me to disprove the allegations of violence.”

The absence from his son affected Nicolai so much that he began to make mistakes at his job. He was fired and could therefore not pay for the bills in the house.

For Nicolai, it was an impossible struggle, which resulted in homelessness for two to three months, living from day to day.

(the sound is in Danish)

Daniel, 30 years

“When I got clean, I was suddenly completely naked, because I was going to work on something that I hadn’t done since I was 12.”

The emotions are the worst, Daniel thinks. He has been used to being able to control them with chemistry.

Daniel grew up in a home where both his parents were addicts and he has spent most of his life being a criminal and left to fend for himself.

When he finished the treatments against his addiction, he did not know where to go.

“I didn’t really have anything to come home to. I had no family or friends who were normal.”

It was not the rehabilitation or the treatments, which were difficult for Daniel; instead, it was to build a new life. He knew nothing else.

(the sound is in Danish)

It will be good again!

Ali, 52 years

”I have to find a future for myself because I don’t want my son to see a ruined and broken dad.”

It all started with a love story.

Together with a Danish woman, Ali got a son. But then everything changed.

“It was as if we didn’t speak the same language anymore.”

Ali and his wife ended up getting a divorce, and therefore, Ali is alone without a network in Denmark.

“Every day I have to fight to get just a moment with my son.”

The last year and a half has been mostly about survival for Ali. Today, he has no time with his son and is considering going home to find the energy to keep fighting.

(the sound is in English)



Kasper, 24 years

“I was addicted to her. It was a little sick at one point.”

Kasper has lived in the same small town all his life. Next to his own and his girlfriend’s family.

He and his girlfriend spent all their time together, and the circle of friends became smaller and smaller over time.

Due to an injury, Kasper lost his job. He just managed to sell his house before he lost his girlfriend too.

It was very hard for Kasper and he stood alone without knowing where to go.

Everything he owned was in the trunk of his car, and so he more or less ended up living in it.

“I did nothing but drive around. Just to get away. Away from it all.”

(the sound is in Danish)

Because you are so sweet and nice

The majority of the men in The Men’s center have children. Their drawings and letters decorate the walls of their temporary homes while the men work to find a foothold again.



Morten, 39 years

“I had a hard time saying no and often ended up saying nothing instead of defending my opinions.”

In Morten and his wife’s marriage, it was she who planned everything, and it was she who made most of the decisions.

Eventually, he had to ask for permission to see his friends and pursue his hobby. It slowly made Morten feel like he was losing himself.

“The bad things simply filled so much that I could not bring myself to ask for help.”

Today they are divorced, but together they have three children, whom they share custody over.

“I really have to be careful about letting my ex-wife decide when I can see my children, because then I can easily be pushed out of their lives. And I already feel I am that right now.”

(the sound is in Danish)


Martin, 37 years

”I’m not allowed to talk directly to my kids because of my ex-wife. All
conversation with them is by email with her as an intermediary.”

Martin was accused by his ex-wife for violence and insults against his children and therefore had to undergo a large number of investigations and tests.

All the tests went in Martin’s favor, but his ex-wife still chose to bring the
charges against him to the public authorities again.

Several times, the ex-wife accused him of violence and insults, and each time, he was acquitted by the authorities.

After many times in the State Administration, the authorities choose to suspend Martin’s visitation arrangements to create peace for the children.

“I’m scared they’ll grow up with the understanding, that I don’t want them.
And nothing could be more wrong.”

(the sound is in Danish)

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