Today I’m sharing a guest post with you from a victim of domestic abuse. I’m pleased to say I’ve never suffered from domestic abuse myself, but domestic abuse will effect one in four women and one in six men in their lifetimes. Every week two women in the UK are murdered as a result of domestic abuse.
This story is a long one and times it is a tough read, but, ultimately, it is an inspiring story of a very brave and strong woman.
It’s been many months, since I finally worked up the courage to leave my husband, after years of domestic abuse.
The abuse began as emotional abuse. My husband would constantly tell me that I was fat and ugly or make nasty comments about intimate parts of my body. Comments which weren’t true, but when you hear them that often, you begin to think they are. Anything to knock my confidence. He’d tell his friends I was “out shagging” every time I went to work, despite the fact that I’d never cheated on him. He’d say he had no life and was never “allowed out”, but the truth was that I often begged him to go out, to get a hobby, to do things in the evenings. He had no interest. A lot of people held a low opinion of me, because of all the lies he would tell them. He’d claim he was “stuck babysitting again whilst she socialises”, any time I asked him to look after his own children (which was very rarely). Again it was mostly when I had work.
I had to work, because he wasn’t bringing in an income. He got sacked for stealing. He spent the money on cigarettes and alcohol whilst I struggled to afford nappies. He would make me feel bad for working. He’d manipulate me, guilt trip me and berate me about anything and everything that he could. If he cooked once a week, he’d tell everyone that he does all the cooking and I do nothing. He had a fiery temper and he’d erupt at the smallest of things and then shout and swear at me for hours. It might not sound that bad, but the shouting and swearing, was far worse than I can put into words. The worst times were the night before I was induced, the night before my cancer surgery and the night before my radiotherapy. It was as though he had to be the biggest thing in my life. Cancer or childbirth couldn’t be bigger than him.
There were times when the abuse was more physical. He’d be snarling, hissing and spitting in my face whilst he was shouting at me. He’d hold his raging fists clenched just inches from my face. He’d tower over me and the only way to get some distance from him would be to cower like an injured animal. He’d swing me into cupboards or squeeze my arms so tight that they hurt. He’d barricade any exits, so I couldn’t escape him. He would snatch my phone from me. Occasionally even throw small objects at me. He’d pin my arms so I couldn’t move. He’d push me into things or shove me and poke me in the back to get me to move. It was all little things. Things which hurt, but didn’t leave a mark dark enough to photograph.
I never considered myself a victim. I was a strong, independent woman. I was one of those people who’d watch a domestic abuse storyline on TV and think “why don’t they just leave?”. I thought only weak, naïve women became victims of abuse. But the truth is, abuse builds up over time, so gradually that it seems normal, up to a point. You see your abuser when they are vulnerable. You see their sadness, their tears, their high points, their happy days, you see that on the good days, they have SO MUCH LOVE for you. He could switch from extremely romantic and affectionate, to aggressive at the flick of a switch. And most of the time, abusers don’t know they are doing it and if they do, they say you drove them to it. That it’s your fault. You provoked them. Even though sometimes, you’re in bed asleep when they wake you up and start on you.
I loved him with all my heart, but in the end, he frightened me. I knew that he would never ever hurt our children, but I was terrified that one day, he would accidentally go too far with me. One accidental slip of the fist or one unintentional movement of his hand when it’s on my neck. I had nightmares about being on the front page of a newspaper headed “murdered by her own husband” and photos of my children in tears, missing their Mummy. He’d never intend to of course, he wasn’t a complete monster. But he also very rarely had any memory of his angry moments. He would see a red mist descend and he would rage for hours, but have very little recollection after.
When he was in a rage, there’d be nothing I could do except take it and wait for it to subside. I couldn’t agree, nor disagree. I couldn’t say something positive, but I couldn’t stay silent either. I couldn’t leave the room. I couldn’t make out it was my fault and apologise. There was NOTHING I could say or do to diffuse him. I could only take all the shouting and the violence and wait it out, hoping that he wouldn’t hurt me.
And these episodes were unpredictable. We could go months with none, and then have several in a week. They often occurred at low points in our lives, when we had no money or something stressful was occurring, but that doesn’t excuse it.
After I finally found the courage to ask for a separation, we had to continue living together for quite some time, for financial reasons. My husband didn’t take the separation at all well and begged me not to tell anybody, so we kept it secret for quite a long time.
I started seeing someone else, probably sooner than I should have, but my new boyfriend made me feel safe (and I hadn’t felt that in years). My husband didn’t take too kindly to it.
Then came the day when he pulled out a sharp kitchen knife and held it to my abdomen, whilst screaming at me. Initially the blade was aimed at him, he was trying to hurt himself and make it look as though I did it. But there was a moment when he moved suddenly and I’m certain that he flipped the blade around to point at me. If he had known that I’d accidentally fallen pregnant by my boyfriend, maybe he would have sunk it into my skin, who knows? All I know is that it was the single most terrifying moment of my life. I had to call the police and have him removed from the house. I could hear him crying and panicking outside and, despite the fact that I was crying and shaking myself, I worried about him, because it was my natural instinct. I had to go over every detail with the Police. He was released the following evening without charge, but not allowed back in the house.
I was then confirmed by experts as a victim of both physical and emotional domestic abuse. Social services had to assess me and my home and check that our children were not at risk. They were satisfied that I’m a good mum and that the girls were never in any danger, but it was a horrible and scary few weeks going through it all. I was offered counselling and spent hours on the phone to abuse specialists, who made me realise just how deeply he had gotten inside my head to convince me it was all my fault.
Over the last nine months, I have rebuilt a new life with my children and, despite how lonely I get sometimes, we are much happier, stronger and I feel safer.
So why am I writing about this now? Well simply because I need to. I am so sick of my friends telling me I should get back with him, because he’s “such a lovely guy”. I’m sick of the people accusing me of leaving a “healthy marriage” and “disrupting a stable family life”. I’m sick of the trolls who leave nasty comments on my own blog, telling me that I deserve everything I get for ending my marriage or that it was my fault. If those people had seen me curled in a ball, cowering, shaking and crying for hours at a time, trying to think of anything to say, that would make him stop… maybe they’d have thought twice before judging me for ending my “stable healthy marriage”.
Since I ended our marriage, I’ve not wanted to tell anyone the real reason why. Despite everything he did to me, I still feel the need to protect him. I want him to fix his issues, get therapy and move on to have a normal and happy life with someone else.
But do you know what happens to women who cover up their abuse?
They get judged.
My husband’s best friend didn’t like that I’d ended the marriage and he blamed me. He decided to tell anyone and everyone who’d listen, that I had an affair and that I left my husband for a younger man. He did everything he could to paint me out to be evil. Nine months on… that “friend” still comments on every single one of my husband’s Facebook statuses and makes nasty references towards me whenever he can. So my keeping my abuse a secret, has meant that many people think I’m a horrible person. I’ve lost many friends who took to comforting my “poor husband”, who plays the victim very well.
I still suffer the knowledge that so many people have a bad image of me. But what am I supposed to do? I don’t want to be the victim any more. I don’t want people to know what I went through. So instead, I just shut up and let them all think what they want. But there are days, when it is so very hard to stay quiet. The days when people judge me. I appreciate that jumping straight into another relationship (which didn’t work out) and falling pregnant so soon, was not the smartest of moves, but my goodness, don’t you think I’ve been punished enough? I’ve suffered a great deal of heartache at the hands of both of those men and am about to bring a new baby into the world alone.
So if you’re reading this, whoever you are, whatever walk of life you are from, and whatever relationship you have yourself, please remember this…
You might have a friend who is suffering abuse. It could be emotional or physical. It may start off as one and lead to the other. A friend who is too ashamed to tell anyone or who simply wants to protect her family and children from the awful truth. And if you confront that friend, he or she may lie to cover it up.
Don’t judge them.
If someone you know has left a relationship or marriage and you don’t fully know the ins and outs of their married life…
Don’t judge them.
Be supportive. Be there for them. Be a friend.
But don’t judge them.
Even if they seemed like the happiest couple on earth, you don’t know what goes on behind closed doors and you don’t know the damage that your judgement causes.
You don’t know the danger of passing comments like “oh why don’t you just get back together?” because trust me… staying with an abuser is so much easier than leaving them. You can’t help loving them, despite how they treat you. Taking them back would be so easy, but leaving them was so very hard.
When I finally told a “mutual friend” that I was being abused, he accused me of making it up. He accused me of lying. He said, “if you’re being abused, just leave him”. But he had no clue. He has no idea how hard it is to leave an abuser. How much they manipulate you and guilt-trip you into staying with them. How they threaten to kill themselves and you know your children would be left with no father. Everyone would blame you too. Nobody can comprehend how difficult it is to leave and how difficult it is to stay away, unless they’ve been in the situation themselves.
But sometimes in life, you have to take the difficult and lonely path, in order to be safe. So please don’t judge, because that person might be just like me… trying hard to move on from a terrible ordeal. Waking up alone, wishing there was someone to tell them everything would be okay. Wishing there was someone to give them a cuddle and say “good morning”, but instead they wonder why their abuser got a happy ending and they are the one who is lonely. Wondering if they did the right thing, when their children say that they miss Daddy. And they might be coping, but your throwaway comment, might just be the one thing that makes the struggle too much.