I’ve been meaning to write this blog for a while; it seems important to note the reason why I finally left; especially because I wrote a blog about few years ago talking about why I stayed.
Domestic abuse and violence is something that we rarely talk about. It’s kept hidden by both the perpetrator and also the victim, as well as family members and friends who know about it. It’s a shameful secret that feels in no one’s interests to uncover. The abuser will go to extraordinary lengths to hide it and the abused is so scared of the consequences in terms of further abuse, of telling people that they often become complicit in covering up and excusing their abuse. That’s what I did; I explained away the bruises through a variety of accidents that even to the most naive listener must have seemed less and less plausible; tripping down the stairs; walking into a door; shutting my leg in a car door you name the accident, I’d probably used it as an excuse to explain away the broken nose, the cuts and the times I winced in pain from hidden injuries.
And no one ever really questioned it. Like no one ever questioned the way I no longer could come and go as I pleased or the way I never had any cash. My abuser had an excuse for everything; I couldn’t be trusted with money, I’d lost my purse, I would disappear for hours with the car if I went out alone. He even picked my clothes out for me on a daily basis. I had to wear whatever he wanted me to, even if it was filthy or inappropriate for the day ahead. I wore it or I was punished. And punishment could take many forms.
If I was lucky it would just be a punch to the side of the head. There were times when I was kicked down the stairs to our flat, beaten with the hoover pipe in the stomach whilst pregnant. Others when he would act as if everything was OK, but I knew it wasn’t. The tension in the air would be palpable. He would just be waiting for the time when I least expected it, to pounce; to dish out whatever form of punishment he felt I deserved that day. It might be as simple as withholding the cash for sanitary products so that I was forced to roll up wads of tissue into makeshift sanitary towels. Anything really to make me feel so humiliated and grateful when he showed a tiny sliver of humanity to me when he eventually gave me the money to buy some tampons.
Other times the punishment might be to lock me out of the house half naked when there was snow outside; getting enjoyment from my begging to be let in.
Sometimes I didn’t need to actually do anything to have a storm of torture unleashed on me. I could have done everything asked of me and think that everything was fine. I’d trod on eggshells all day and managed to not break any of them, but someone would piss him off in the pub and so I’d have to pay the price for some perceived slight. Sometimes I would know it was coming, so I’d run myself ragged trying to stop what in reality was inevitable; I’d bend over backwards to be perfect, to do the right thing that would shift his mindset and stop the hell that I could feel was intended for me when we got home, but it would very rarely work. I would be forced to leave the pub with him knowing that the beating was coming. Preparing myself for it. Being ready.
Other times it would come from absolutely nowhere. I might be cooking dinner, and he’d come into the kitchen and decide that I was cooking wrong and the next thing I’d know the pot of potatoes cooking on the stove would be flying at my head, boiling water and all.
And there was never any apology. Never even any acceptance that he had done anything; let alone done anything wrong. He broke my nose twice and would ask the next day how it happened. Denying any knowledge when I tried to remind him that he’d punched me; saying if he’d done that I’d have worse injuries than a black eye or a broken nose or fingers.
He also abused me sexually. In ways that 16 years later I am too full of shame and disgust to speak about publicly.
And yet despite all this I still thought I loved him. That he loved me. Somehow I deserved this. And in reality he was all I had. He had isolated me from all of the people who could have helped me. Either by stopping me seeing them or by turning their thoughts about me against me. He continually told people what a terrible person I was, how untrustworthy and sneaky I was and eventually they believed him.
He would play little mind games with me. He would give me money to buy things in a pub full of people and then take it back when no one was looking. He’d then berate me for asking for money for baby food or nappies; getting all the people in the pub to agree they’d seen him give me money. “What had I spent it on? More drugs? Fucking junkie bitch.” Other peoples perceptions of me changed. They saw him as a good man trying to help someone who just abused his good nature.
And I put up with it. I put up with the physical abuse and the sexual abuse. Its not that I didn’t try to stop it; however anytime I tried to seek help it didn’t end up being help at all. Like the time I called the police after he had pushed a full filing cabinet down the stairs on top of me and the officer turned up and saw that I was a raging mess and couldn’t talk coherently due to fear and panic. And my abuser, who was now calm and friendly explained that I was crazy; a drug addict who had called the police for attention, and in the face of an officer of the law who was clearly unsympathetic and thought the worst, I couldn’t speak up. I couldn’t articulate in a rational way the way I was being treated. I just kept raging that he tried to kill me and the police needed to do something. So the police officer helped to carry the filing cabinet back up the stairs and told me to calm down else he’d arrest me. And then he left. He left me with the man who’d tried to kill me. He left me to face the wrath of a mad man.
Or there was the time that I told a friend and they told me to stop taking drugs and it would be OK. Only I knew this wasn’t about drugs. It was about control and power and I had none. Or the time I contacted Women’s Aid and all they did was give me a key worker who wanted to meet once a week for a chat, something that’s difficult to do when your abuser won’t let you go anywhere without them.
And when I had the baby that my abuser had tried to ensure would never be born; had tried to kick out of my stomach when I was 20 weeks pregnant. The baby that not once had he ever acknowledged or cared about or wanted. Despite this, he managed to keep up the show that he cared by organising a limousine to pick me up from the hospital. So that everyone told me how lucky I was to have a partner who cared so much.
The violence escalated. In ways I’d never imagined. He’d beat me whilst I was breastfeeding the baby. He put a cigarette out on my chest whilst I was breastfeeding so that the ember dropped onto my sons eyelid and burnt him. And it was around that time that he started to strangle me.
He’d strangle me whilst I was holding the baby; something would annoy him and he’d grab my throat and he would squeeze, sometimes stopping just long enough to allow me to remain conscious; occasionally until I collapsed completely. And I’d wake up in a heap on the floor with my son screaming underneath me and it was after a time that this happened that I had an epiphany. I had been strangled, beaten and abused until I didn’t know what to do and he had left the house to go to the pub. I walked into the kitchen and I saw a small but very sharp knife and I knew I was going to kill him; it wasn’t even a decision I made. It was just an acknowledgement of a fact.
Goodness knows why it took so long to happen but I suddenly realised that this relationship was heading only one way; he was going to kill me or I was going to kill him. And I wouldn’t be killing him in the heat of the moment; no, I was going to wait until he was passed out drunk and I was going to push this knife into his chest, into his heart. And I was going to repeat it; time and time again until he was dead. More than dead. Until the rage I felt from his continual abuse subsided.
And so that’s why I left. Something about that moment of clarity changed me somewhere deep inside. It terrified me. I was calmly and seriously considering murder and I actually could see myself doing it. And it wouldn’t be self defence; not in the conventional sense; I wouldn’t be doing it to protect myself in the heat of the moment. It would be planned and cold blooded and it would be self defence but only to stop him killing me; either by design or by accident, at some undefined point in the future it was going to happen. Because in that moment I knew with certainty that he would kill me if I didn’t kill him first and I wasn’t going to let that happen.
And it took many more months to get away from him. It took planning and returning to him once I’d left and it took every ounce of my depleted strength to finally break away. And the only reason I left was because it I was terrified. Not of what he would do to me, because I’d accepted my own death a long time before that, but because I was terrified of the person that he had turned me into. I was terrified that I could and would commit murder. That he had made me want to do this;I didn’t recognise the person that I had become. So that’s why I left; not to protect myself from the violence, but because I was terrified of what I’d become capable of.
My story into abuse can be read here: https://themadnessthatismylife.com/2015/01/23/imperceptible/