In 2016, I was a lost father. I had no idea what was to come, it was uncharted territory. I was a male victim of domestic abuse.
I quit my job of seven years to try and give my son stability when his mother went back to work after her maternity leave ended. I thought I was doing everything right, but with co-parenting, there is not always a right or a wrong.
I was told by crown attorneys there was a good chance my son's mother would go to jail after her trial for the assault. She plead guilty, so there was no trial. But all of this happening made me know I had to act fast.
I made 38 calls or emails to shelters, family resource centres, abuse hotlines and public health agencies looking find help. Childcare, counselling, housing assistance; I was willing to attend anything.
What I didn't know is that there was nothing out there for me, literally no resources for fathers at all. Of the 38 people I reached out to, I got four responses. Three "we can't or won't help you" and one "here are two numbers to call, good luck."
Upon calling the two numbers given to me by the IWK—the first, a men's suicide hotline (which was no longer in existence, not that I even needed that resource) and the other, the North End Parent Resource Centre, had some parenting programs I could take.
I never would have guessed that three years after attending the Nobody's Perfect Parenting Program at the Centre, I would now be an employee there trained to facilitate multiple parenting programs just like the one I took back in 2016.
As a program development staff, my main role is to design, implement and facilitate programs designed for fathers, especially ones who are in a similar situation to what I once was. According to StatsCan, there were 393 reported cases of domestic assault in 2017 on women considered to be a spouse or partner, and only 35 on men. Since early 2017, through my work as a father's rights activist, I have had over 345 men tell me they were abused in some capacity by their female partner. In my eyes, the stats are not accurate—men don't tend to report their abuse.
Since January of this year, I have implemented the Daddy and Me program—to give dads a safe space to play and connect with their kids without any outside interference, the Dads Group—a peer support unit of fathers challenging the stereotypes that dads face on a daily basis, and my third creation—the Dads Matter Workshop series.
These monthly workshops are designed to get dads talking. Whether it's mental health, family court reform or what resources are out there for fathers, our plan is to create a hub of dads who can help navigate things like parenting help, divorce issues, mental health and much more.
It is our hope that creating a space for these types of conversations can improve the development of the father and child relationship in Nova Scotia and beyond.
The next workshop will be held at the North End Parent Resource Centre ( 5475 Uniacke Street) on Thursday October 24, with a focus on community resources and family law issues. The next two will be November 21, talking about mental health and fatherhood and December 19, talking about how to navigate family law and family court issues.
Jay Bruce works as program development staff at the North End Parent Resource Centre. As someone who lived in the area at a young age, he is happy to help fathers and parents who live in marginalized situations. A former touring musician and award-winning rapper, Bruce has been using his status to reach more fathers. He is the co-founder of DADS Canada, a not-for-profit group helping dads with crisis issues. He is also the Nova Scotia representative for Dads Central, a network focused on promoting father involvement in Canada.