Paul Francis McCuskey kicked his wife in the head after dragging her out of bed, he mopped blood from the floor but not from her face.
On one occasion he kicked her her so hard that she was left permanently blinded in the left eye.
On another occasion he hit her, dragged her from a car and kicked her pregnant stomach – she later miscarried.
Clearly Paul McCuskey is a wife beater but he is also a firefighter and in 2009 he was among a group of other firefighters who braved extremely dangerous conditions to get to an elderly woman living alone. The conditions were treacherous, life threatening even and McCuskey and his colleagues used handsaws to clear burning trees from their path. An act of bravery so true that everyone involved was recognised by the Royal Humane Society of Australasia for their bravery that night.
McCuskey could not receive his medal because he was in jail serving a five and a half year prison sentence. A year after the fires he pleaded guilty to continued brutal attacks on his wife. He was in jail for beating a vulnerable woman. Repeatedly. An act of extreme cowardice.
When McCuskey’s award was first questioned, the Royal Humane Society president said the organisation was not aware of his criminal history. Last week a review committee decided the award should stand.
A society spokesperson says “The main criterion of the society is to bestow bravery awards on those who risk their lives to save the lives of others. It has never been the role of the Society to judge award nominees on their probity either prior to or after their act of bravery.”
Jordan Baker news editor at The Australian Women’s Weekly writes
If we’re honest, most of us can be both brave and cowardly. But McCuskey’s actions went beyond cowardly.
He assaulted someone more vulnerable than him, someone unable to fight back, and someone he professed to love.
He hit her, dragged her from a car and kicked her in her pregnant belly (she later miscarried). He has left her, in her words, embarrassed, ashamed and fearful of going out in public alone. Not to mention blind in one eye.
When you weigh McCuskey’s lone act of bravery against his many of cowardice there is little ambiguity. He is a coward.
The decision suggests the Humane Society is not taking his crime as seriously as it should, especially as its gold medal for bravery went to a man who was stabbed eight times while saving two women from domestic violence. I wonder whether McCuskey’s citation would have been upheld if he’d been convicted of paedophilia or murder.
Domestic violence is at epidemic proportions. A woman is killed in Australia almost every week by a partner or former partner. A third of women who have had a male partner have experienced violence. But Australians still don’t take domestic violence seriously enough and the Royal Humane Society’s decision to uphold the certificate of merit only confirms this.
Domestic violence will never be treated with the gravity it deserves until this mask of respectability is torn off, and the men who perpetrate it are treated like low-life criminals rather than upstanding citizens with a tragic flaw.
Awarding a bravery award to Paul McCuskey insults his victim, every other victim of domestic violence in Australia, and the firefighters who deserve to enjoy their bravery award without the taint of McCuskey’s cowardice.
Do you think a man can be considered brave if he beats his wife? Should an award for bravery ever be given to a person who is guilty of acts of violent crime?