If there is anything I have learned on my journey, it is that domestic abuse can happen to anybody. That person across from you on the tube who looks well dressed or who has a smiley companion with them, they could be leading a private life of torture, abuse and control. You see the man who beats his wife in secret is careful to cover his tracks and makes sure his victim does the same. The woman who attacks her husband with a knife or her fists leaving him with marks on his arm, is protected by societies medieval perception that a man is too strong and proud to ever let a woman beat him. We live in a global world where domestic abuse is rampant across all countries, ages, sexes, races, religions and classes. In many communities it is ignored at best, accepted, or worst still ridiculed and riddled with victim blaming. If there is any chance that speaking up against your partner could shun or cause shame to your family members or religious group, then the victim has no option but to retreat back into the desolate and very dangerous, hidden abusive cycle.
The man I loved with all my heart hit me, tormented me, blamed me, deprived me and almost killed me, yet all along I was his “gift from the universe”, his “sweetie”. The heavier I became during pregnancy, the increasingly violent, aggressive and frequent his attacks became and as my fear grew, the stronger the demands became for specific meals, dress codes, personal hygiene, and access to my finances. If I cried, I was accused of being “Hollywood” or “thinking with my head and not my heart”. That in it’s self would become a reason to punish and physically attack me further, to “slap it out of me”. In the end, out of sheer and utter fear, I lost my voice, my tears and my smile. A shadow of my former self, no more than an empty shell.
Leaving was the hardest thing I have ever had to do but as he hit me whilst I held our three day old son, I knew in that moment that I could no longer protect my children and that they would possibly end up without a mother. The police didn’t take me very seriously despite playing them a recording I had on my phone of him describing to me how I would be disfigured and promising to kill me and never have a sleepless night. People I cared about and considered friends would say things like “didn’t you see the signs?”, “you must have liked the drama”, “why did it take you so long to leave?”, “didn’t you learn your lesson after the first time?”. The social worker assigned to me undermined my parenting skills for allowing my children near a dangerous man, and I felt set to loose them too. This is the point where many victims crack under immense pressure and return to the abusive situations that confirm to them they are worth nothing and that’s where they begin to believe they belong. All hope is lost.
I was lucky; I had Solace Women’s Aid to support my emotional feelings of love and betrayal, their experience providing them the knowledge that given time and education, the brainwashing I had undergone would heal back to a realistic view of the situation. The support I received from Solace was the reason that today I am starting my own charity to help victims of domestic abuse and am not slumped in a corner, alone and struggling to cope. We must ensure that people continue to receive the quality of services that I did. Lives depend on it.