I have had a little bit of help for this post by some incredibly brave and strong women so thank you to them firstly , you were a huge help.
Domestic abuse’s power lies in the secret nature of its being. This is why I harp on about it. Everytime I tell of my experiences the secret is broken. It’s not secret , my freedom brings with it my voice .
If you’ve never experienced it though , or if you don’t know anything about the subject and how subtle and insidious it is then how on earth should you know how to react if you learn someone close to you has been abused. How can you be a supporter without saying the wrong thing and freaking them out .
Well I’m not sure I have all the answers there. There are though some words and phrases after I had left that did me so much mental damage I almost felt I was back there , that set back my recovery and that made me question myself.
None of these would affect me anymore . I’d be able to explain. Back then though I was still ever so fragile .
As I always say I can only tell my story and it obviously doesn’t affect everyone the same way. Here’s the phrases that hurt me and caused me distress when I was newly out of the abusive relationship.
Why did you stay so long?
The people who asked this were well meaning. I know the question came from a good place . A worry that I’d gone through what I had so long .
To me , newly away from that though , it just showed me what I was up against . How people just wouldn’t understand. That unless you were tied up in the cellar you had the free will to leave . You’re free will is often taken before any violence occurs , if it does at all. So much work goes into the perpetrator re programming your brain and convincing you that you can’t live without them. Some women suffering financial abuse cannot leave as they have no access to money . Some perpetrators physically take away shoes and keys and outdoor clothes to make leaving the house physically impossible to leave . Domestic abuse covers a huge spectrum of behavior. Rarely is standing up and walking out a possibility.
If a guy ever hit me I’d…
Kick the shit out of him
Chuck him out.
As I mentioned above , domestic rarely begins with a punch. Many of us I’m sure if had a perfectly great partner would react differently if he just punched us in the face out of nowhere. However the headwork that is done previously to this means you are filled with self doubt , you believe that you’ve done something to make you angry by the time blows are struck , again if ever .
This kind of comment to a woman who has done the most brave thing is judgy and it’s unhelpful. It insinuates that only weak women are victims of abuse , stupid women , lame women
.This could not be further from the truth domestic abuse affects every sector of society from the High Court Judge to the lollypop lady , the stay at home mum , the doctor , the checkout lady , the nursery nurse , the film star ,the teacher . It is everywhere.
You seemed such a good couple
Aaarrgghh ,do you know how much hard work is put in to ‘keeping up appearances’ to ensure no one ever knows what is going on. The shame is huge , you can’t yet acknowledge it to yourself , the rest of the world sees The Nice Guy . It’s exhausting and stressful and you are filled with fear of anyone finding out. Of course you are going to put on the show of your life !!
Well there are two sides to every story…
Ugh this one is a real gut wrencher. Yes there are 2 sides . His probably sounds way more convincing than mine too , he’s had time to perfect it and add little believable details. He’s told his so often . To his family , friends , everyone he knows . He’s told it so often he probably partially believes it himself .
Her story though . It’s fractured and it’s panicked . It doesn’t make much sense . It contradicts itself and is still vague as she can’t stand to go into detail yet. Doesn’t want to relive it and doesn’t want to upset those that love her but detailing the worst.
These were my biggest triggers to shame and trauma .
There are more though
“other people have it way worse”
“It can’t have been that bad or you’d not have stayed”
” You’re such an attention seeker /drama queen ”
“You just love playing the victim”
“Well I did warn you ,I have no sympathy”
All so many things that I’m sure mostly aren’t said with any kind of malice. Just thoughtless and said with a lack of understanding , which is easy because abuse is so complex and hard to understand!
Survivors don’t expect the rest of the world to ‘get it ‘ but just maybe to do a little reading or research if you are helping someone through it . We need our supporters , our cheerleaders . We need a hand to hold and to be allowed to tell our story. Just be patient if we are rattled or affected by something that seems silly to you .