by Jesica Medellin, www.wsusignpost.com features editor
Issue date: 2/1/2006
When Todd Stone married his wife in 1987, he had no idea that she would physically abuse him.
Stone is a Weber State University alumnus; he graduated in 1990 with a degree in accounting. Stone went to school on a work scholarship and was mainly supported by his parents during his schooling.
Todd Stone, WSU alumnus, sits with his mother, Annabelle Stone, during a Men and Fathers 4 Justice meeting. Men and Fathers 4 Justice supports men like Stone who have been through domestic violence and divorce. PHOTO BY ANNE WIGHT THE SIGNPOST
Stone said his wife never seemed very happy; he thought if he could just give her more money and a bigger house she would be happy. He moved his family to Salt Lake and got a better job, then his parents put his wife through school at Salt Lake Community College for six years.
Stone recalls when his wife threw a golf ball at him and scratched his face multiple times, making him bleed.
"All these times I thought 'who do I go to?' You don't report that you've got hit by your wife," Stone said.
Lt. Loring Draper of Ogden City police department said that there are few male domestic violence cases that come through.
"They're [men] not going to call the cops because a girl hit them, that's what I think," Draper said. "There are initial procedures we have to go through."
Draper said that these procedures include offering the victim phone numbers for help.
For a short period, Stone and his family lived with his mother. During these times, Annabelle Stone witnessed her son being verbally and physically abused. The abuse wasn't just toward Stone; his neighbors saw his wife physically and verbally abusing his children when he wasn't home, according to Stone.
"One time my wife picked me up at work, and I wanted to stop at the hardware store," Stone said. "She threw a hissy fit in the car, and as we were heading towards the hardware store, she lets go of the steering wheel and is just beating me to a pulp. The car drifted into the oncoming traffic with the three kids in the back seat."
Stone was lost. He had no idea what to do. After 13 years of both verbal and physical abuse, Stone finally had enough. He went to Salt Lake Legal Services and filed for a protective order. According to Stone, legal services told him, 'You don't need one, you're a man.'
Soon after, Stone's wife filed a protective order against him and it was granted.
"She knew that if she got a protective order, she could get me kicked out of the house, and when she filed for divorce she would keep the children; that is the only thing that would hurt me," Stone said. "I can remember two times in our lives when we were arguing; I can remember the fire in her eyes. She said that one she would kill me, and two that she would take the kids and I would never see them again. I was scared of her."
Kevin Sullivan, a general practice attorney believes that the domestic violence act protective order gets abused.
"They let women push these protective orders without proof, often they are used for one upmanship, to get custody of the house or the kids," Sullivan said. "They're (the law) assuming that you won't lie when you fill out these affidavits."
If a woman does lie on an affidavit it is 20 days until a hearing is held.
Stone said that neighbors were afraid of his wife and wouldn't write a letter to the court in his defense until after she moved.
"One of the kids, the youngest, came to Grandma and asked, 'Grandma, why does mommy make daddy bleed so much, why does mommy hate you so much, why is mommy so mean?" Stone said. "The middle daughter sat out on a fence one day just crying, wishing she could run away from her mom, She said 'I wish mommy wouldn't swear at us so much. I wish we could just run away.'"
There's a dual standard according to Stone, that dads don't deserve as much sympathy as moms do.
Though Stone's story is unique, he is not alone. Many members of the Men and Father's 4 Justice group have been through similar situations and believe in domestic violence situations, custody cases for men are discriminated against.
"The Violence Against Women Act is a perfect example of bias against men. It's wrong, it's illegal, and it's unjust," Alan Millard, former WSU adjunct professor and member, said.
The group believes that just because men cannot physically reproduce themselves, it doesn't mean that they should have no say in their children's futures. The group believes that the laws, if applied right, would be OK according to Millard.
As the law stands right now, men do not have to sign for abortions or adoptions. When custody is distributed, the majority of the time women get primary custody of their children. The group agrees that this is how most men would want it, but there are a few cases like Stone's that warrant a different outcome.
Stone's wife proceeded to take their children out of state without telling Stone. She broke the custodial order that demanded she leave the kids in the state of Utah if she chose to leave.
Molly Prentice, manager of the Domestic Violence Shelter in Davis County, reports that only three men came to the shelter last year. Whenever doing a presentation, they always say that they are open to both men and women who need help.
"We do not turn away anyone based on gender," Prentice said.
The shelter harbored 256 women last year, a considerably larger amount than men, but Prentice said it does help having the male resources the shelter provides.
"It's less expensive than going to a hotel," Prentice said. The shelter does put men up in a hotel for a maximum of one month; women can stay in the shelter for one month. During this time, the victims of domestic violence can save money to put a deposit down on a place of their own.
Prentice agrees that the numbers are not correct in men's domestic violence cases because men do not come forward as often as women do.
This seems to be the overall consensus among the Men and Fathers 4 Justice group. Society has typecast men into being stronger than women and always being the bad guy, so men are afraid to come forward in cases of domestic violence.
Stone's children were taken from the state of Utah in October of 2005, and he has not seen them since. Though he has a general idea of where they are, he says, the fact remains that his ex-wife violated a court order and not much is being done about it.
You can reach reporter Jesica Medellin by calling 801-626-7621.
The reporting done in this story did not include an interview with the ex-wife. Currently Stone does not know exactly where she is. The Signpost does not advocate only men's rights. Domestic violence against anyone is a crime and should be prosecuted; any victim of domestic violence is brave for coming forward and encouraged to do so.