Illawarra Mercury, Australia, by Michele Tydd, December 18, 2010. Section: News, Page: 5

AN Austinmer father says he is angry and bewildered by a judge’s comments to brand him a sook for going to police after his former partner assaulted him in front of their eight-year-old son.

Judge Paul Conlon upheld Tanya Austin’s appeal over a lower court conviction for the assault and said police should have told Martin Mondzheyovsky to “man up”.

“What really concerns me is the way the judge trivialised a clear-cut case of domestic violence and belittled me for reporting the assault,” Mr Mondzheyovsky said yesterday.

“I’m a law-abiding citizen and believe in women’s rights, but I also believe men are entitled to the same protection when it comes to this sort of thing.”

The organisation Dads in Distress (DID) has come out in support of Mr Mondzheyovsky and described Judge Conlon’s comments as “appalling”.

DID western Sydney co-ordinator Phil York said, in his opinion, Judge Conlon’s comments “send a clear message to society [that] men who report domestic violence to police are wimps”.

In Wollongong Local Court in October, Ms Austin, 35, pleaded guilty to assaulting Mr Mondzheyovsky and said she became resentful when her former partner told her how much he had enjoyed a surfing holiday to Bali while she was struggling to raise their son.

She told Magistrate Les Mabbutt that Mr Mondzheyovsky paid little support, although yesterday he strongly denied this.

She admitted to repeatedly poking him in the face and throwing the full plastic bottle of tonic water which struck him in the face.

“You have given a number of excuses … but you lost your temper and violence is never the answer,” Mr Mabbutt said.

He rejected her plea to not record a conviction and also placed her on a 12-month good behaviour bond.

At the appeal hearing earlier this month, Judge Conlon scoffed at the notion Mr Mondzheyovsky was “trembling and crying” as a result of “being struck by a plastic bottle”.

“Oh, boo hoo. The bloke should have been told by police to man up,” he said.

“She has really been left with the total responsibility of bringing up their child. She receives little financial support [from him] … [and yet] he decided to take himself off on a wonderful surfing holiday and then told her all about it.”

Judge Conlon said it was an “easy case” for him to throw out, and added that the fact Mr Mondzheyovsky had the temerity to even call police after the incident was very telling of his character.

He apologised to Ms Austin for being charged in the first place and dismissed the matter.

Mr Mondzheyovsky, 40, a floor sander, said he had had to be convinced by family to report the assault but he felt better for having done so.

“The judge’s comments were upsetting, but I’m more disappointed that the process has let me down and flagged for other men in my situation that they are less of a man to turn to the system for help.

“Police were great, the magistrate got it right and then things fell apart in the higher court when I wasn’t even given the chance to address the court on the financial claims [raised by Ms Austin], or why I was crying at the time.

“I had been attacked in front of my son who was distressed and crying, and I just had to take it to prevent the situation from escalating any further, so yes, of course I was upset.

“One of my main concerns is that my son will learn all the wrong things from it … that men are only men if they sit there and take the abuse, or worse turn into a perpetrator himself.”

Mr Mondzheyovsky said the other thing the court failed to touch on was ensuring his former partner addressed her violence.

“She is my son’s prime carer and I love him to the end of the earth, so yeah, that’s what is weighing on my mind right now.”

Mr Mondzheyovsky is considering taking the matter further with the help of DID.

Mr York said this issue had attracted national attention on the Men’s Rights Agency website.

“This affects more men than people think,” Mr York said.

“I have examples within all my groups of men who have been both physically and mentally abused in their relationships.

“However, this is the first I’ve seen where a court has overturned a previous decision in regards to being a victim of domestic violence, particularly when the woman has pleaded guilty.

“A number of men throughout Australia have responded to this case on the website and the overwhelming theme that runs through all the comments is despair that their pain is so under-valued.”