This isn’t something I ever thought I would be writing as a War Veteran myself, equally it’s not going to be a subject that is well received by military past and present but it’s a subject I feel needs addressing. If you haven’t guessed by now I am speaking about Military past and present who are abusers and not a veteran abuser in the definition of a long term abuser although I’m sad to say this will no doubt also be the case with some.
I served with the British Army as an Infantry soldier and Commander for ten years, and in that time I had the honour of deploying all over the world including Northern Ireland, Bosnia and Iraq on operational tours. I am very proud to be a War Veteran and feel I have served my country well and with honour, pride and dignity and it does not please me to speak about Veterans in a negative way as to me a War Veteran should be like an old school Gentleman and held in high regard. A Veteran should carry himself with pride and swagger and should stand tall in the knowledge that he/she have served their time and the country sleeps peacefully thanks to the sacrifices of the British Armed Forces.
Maybe I was just very naïve having the above beliefs however its one of the reasons I wanted to become a soldier in the first place, to be well respected and to be a “Real Man.”
I left the Army in 2004 and by 2006 I had lost everything and everyone, got divorced, became bankrupt, isolated, lost my family and my friends, homeless unemployed, diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), attempted suicide, became a walking zombie where I could even be bothered to kill myself however I didn’t want to live either. I am embarrassed to say that my learnt behaviour will have certainly paid its part in my suffering and the suffering of those around me. I was an extremely angry man and chased after drama, hassle and anything that might give me the buzz I once had as a frontline Soldier. I became a taxi driver with a 7 seater cab and enjoyed throwing all 7 blokes out my cab just to start a fight. I was a biker with a sports motorbike and kept pushing the speed more and more, doing stupid tricks when to be fair I wasn’t even that good of a rider, I would do almost anything just to get a reaction and when you have no filter or fear the damage you can do can be everlasting, an example of this is my eldest brother dying of cancer, he had been suffering for 6 months and I never even knew, I wasn’t even told of his funeral by my family, I actually found out about my brother by an ex girlfriend via Facebook Messenger 3 weeks after his funeral. My “family” claim to be petrified of me even though I have never so much as raised my fist to any of them, however after 2 years of counselling and then a further 5 years of counselling courses I now feel that I understand why they are so afraid of me. The sad thing is that even though I have tried to build bridges several times over the past 16 or so years there is just too much water past by.
I finally recognised that I needed to change if I am to survive on civvy street, and truth be told after my family abandoning me and leaving me to die by not listening to my cries for help I thought to myself I could give up and die or I can piss them off and prove to them and the world that I am not who and what they had me labelled as. I picked myself up, and walked to the local college to get myself on a course, didn’t know what I wanted to do at the time but it was the Counselling Courses that stuck out at me and most probably saved my life, 5 years later I earn’t my BA Honours degree.
To my current knowledge I am still the only Front Line War Veteran Person Centred Counsellor at Degree level in the country, I was pigeon holed into working with Veterans as a Counsellor/Support Worker with various charities over the years. I ran the biggest contract in the North East who was supporting Veterans within the Criminal Justice System; this allowed me to enter various prisons to work with Veterans and also continue to work with them within their probation after leaving prison. I was appalled and somewhat shocked to find so many Veterans in prison and naively thought to myself that it would be more survival crimes than anything else, for example stealing to feed themselves or doing time for fighting on a night out kind of thing. I was even more alarmed to find Veterans on the Sex Offenders Register. I had learnt that you can find yourself on the register for showing your arse on a night out or having a piss down the back lane so thought to myself that will be the main reasons however I was wrong and ashamed to be a veteran.
Whilst working for the Changing Lives charity we had to attend a 2 day domestic abuse course and after doing 5 years of these kind of courses at Uni I genuinely really enjoy this kind of thing and find them very interesting. Listening to the speaker I was shocked and even embarrassed to realise that the very traits around domestic abuse is the very way I use to be as a soldier, Controlling, manipulative, aggressive mannerisms and even violent.
As the Veteran support lead I identified that surely we need to address these very traits within the armed forces in order to prevent so many of them ending up in prison as why would they act any different on civvy street if all they are doing is learnt behaviour?
Domestic abuse has always been a factor within the military however it is very much brushed over and “the stress of the job” excuse often given. I even went so far as to say to the speaker that myself use to be an abuser if I was to go off what the speaker said an abuser was and to be fair no doubt I was certainly controlling but this was because as a commander you take control of situations, however this obviously doesn’t transfer well onto civvy street and you can be experienced as controlling in a negative abusive way and that would be right in many ways and for many veterans. Equally I know from my own self awareness and feedback from others that I can be experienced as an aggressive man, however I am passionate about what I do and it’s that passion that back then (before I learnt how to tone it down) could come across as aggressive behaviour, it doesn’t help however when I’m 6”2 tall, have a skinhead, tattooed and isn’t known for smiling much. I only worked for Changing Lives for 6 weeks before being sacked as the manager didn’t like me and even said he could sack me just for not liking the boots I wore, he was a dick and also ex forces ironically (RAF).
I have grown so much since I left the forces and as previously stated completed my BA Honours Degree after 5 years of adult education, which if you know anything about Counselling courses it is largely made up of personal development and self awareness and its thanks to these courses, my personal experiences and listening to others that helped me see these negative traits within myself, I would however like to point out that I have never in my life hit a woman and hope to think I never would, but I have been controlling and manipulative in the past and can even still be from time to time even though I don’t mean to be, but I continue to listen and work hard daily to be the best real man and Veteran I can be and if even I need to acknowledge these weaknesses in myself even after so much personal development then it troubles me how veterans can be with no personal development and it’s this I feel that needs addressing with service leavers on the same level as the resettlement courses they undergo.
It would also be fair to say that this point that this isn’t just a Military thing and is also true of any institutionalised occupations, Police included however Abuse in any form is not acceptable for any reason regardless of background or profession and although Mr Nice guy doesn’t transfer well on a battle field, Veteran Abuser doesn’t transfer on Civvy Street and more needs to be done.