I’m not going to comment or give my opinion on the Johnny Depp , Amber Heard court case. I’ve been on the internet way too long to fall down that rabbithole. What I would like to use my little space on the internet to talk about though is how easy it is to appear to be a totally unreliable witness to your own abuse .
Before I left the abusive relationship I had very naïve ideas about what would happen when I finally disclosed abuse. Maybe you are a person who shares these thoughts , maybe it’s not something that has ever crossed your mind . In my head I thought I’d escape him , get my life back and start again. I assumed that when I told someone , I’d be believed without question. I believed women coming forward to the police , to social services would be given sympathy and support and care . I know that often this is the case. Not often enough , but often. What I was shocked and taken aback by though in my own experience ( and as I always say I’m not claiming to speak for all survivors of abuse. I can only tell my story ) was the ‘prove it ‘ attitude . Again it’s something it’s difficult to know how hard proving abuse is . I had spent almost a decade doing everything I could to cover abuse , to not draw attention to it , to pretending I was in a healthy relationship to every doctor , midwife , health visitor and police officer I had ever come into contact with. Doesn’t leave you with much evidence .
Can i take this moment to say if you are in an abusive relationship and do need advice about documenting what you are going through https://www.womensaid.org.uk/ can help with advice.
I was never in a huge courtroom , reliving my trauma to a huge TV audience (though let me be clear , had my abuser been able to make that happen he most certainly would have ) The main place I had to try and make myself believed was in the Family Court. I was not a great witness , I was not a perfect victim. He said she said did not leave me at a place where I was convincing .
I was abused .
Repeatedly and relentlessly .
Physically and Psychologically .
That’s the truth , but let me tell you all the ways that if you didn’t know me …didn’t know him . I would have appeared an unreliable witness to my own experiences
I HAD NO CHEER SQUAD
My abuser had people willing to vouch for him. There in black and white I read how they had never ever seen abuse towards me from him. Arguing oh yeah they’d seen that .
“She gave as good as she got”
“Six of one half a dozen of the other “
They hadn’t seen arguing , by then I didn’t argue back. It wasn’t worth the consequences. These people claimed never to have seen injuries or bruises , never saw him physically attack me . They did , they saw , they heard . However they were willing to testify the opposite such was their need to protect him and his reputation and in turn theirs over anything . I had no such people. I’d been isolated . You know the saying the loudest vessels make the most noise . Well it seems people desperate to protect themselves can assemble a pretty loud squad too. Drowning out the voice of a vulnerable , hurt , abused woman is not that hard to do.
I stumbled and faltered recounting my experiences
Speaking out loud about incidents that have happened to me , that I have been keeping hidden for years and years was hard . Being interviewed about them for a court report ? I can’t imagine they sounded credible . I self censored each word , each sentence as they came out of my mouth. Did they seem too mean ? Did they sound too unbelievable ? If no one is going to believe me anyway should I even tell the most humiliating incidents ? Shame is huge during and after abuse . I’ll focus on the shame aspect later but it is excruciating telling someone else what has happened . I stumbled on words , my sentences often sounded all jumbled making no sense at all . The nerves involved in putting your true story out there to be judged , to be decided if you are telling the truth or not , after spending so long doing anything and everything to stop this story coming out? Well the nerves and the fear they don’t really help for a clear , concise narrative.
I was very aware what a risk telling my truth was
No one else seemed to be . Solicitors , CAFCASS , Social workers? I went through this over a decade ago and I hope things are a little better now (I’m no longer so naive as to believe they are) I knew leaving abuse was a very dangerous time . I’m even more aware now of how many women are murdered when they leave as a last act of control. He had told me exactly what would happen if I left . Everyone would think me crazy and they’d take my children. That was his mantra ( and one he did everything he could to make true) I always had this in my mind , so even when disclosing I did minimise incidents . Maybe if I told enough to be taken seriously but not enough to make him really angry , maybe I could get help and be safe too?? If I told the actual truth , the whole gruesome lot …well surely he would kill us all. Can you see how that if this was my inner monologue how unreliable my outer one would sound ? My story has continued to be a risk to tell I have to say. I’ve had unpleasantness on my Twitter , libel threatened with this blog ?? Abusive men do not like recognising themselves in experiences you talk about.
MY EMOTIONS WENT AGAINST ME
This is one thing I know has not improved I see it all the time still now . If I cried retelling horrific abuse then I was hysterical and over emotional and couldn’t be trusted . If I turned that off and just kept calm and numb well that implied that I was cold and calculating . I’d clearly made this whole thing up in order to snatch this poor mans family away from him. What kind of a woman could recount such awful abuse and assault without even shedding a tear ? Clearly made up . I was way more the numb version though. I’d been turned that way over years of psychological abuse. The only way I could get through day to day in an intolerable situation is to cut off all emotions . It seems to be believed a woman has to meet some kind of middle ground . The same did not go for my abuser though , him shedding tears meant he was definitely telling the truth ….HE WAS CRYING!!
MY TIMELINE IS MESSED UP
Related to the numbness I just spoke about is a trauma induced memory loss. I have and had blocked out so much to protect my brain and to allow me to carry on faking my day to day life during the abuse that afterwards and still now there are huge sections of my memory seemingly erased forever . Got to tell you friends – “I can’t remember” in relation to dates and times is really unhelpful to your cause (again if you are in an abusive relationship right now and need help with documenting Women’s Aid and similar can advise) I’ve heralded doing the Freedom Programme as a massive turning point for me mentally to help process the abuse . Talking to women who have been through the same as you can be an absolute sanity saver . When in an abusive relationship you do believe that it is only you who has been through this particular thing , this particular tactic which helps in keeping you isolated . This is why my blog is so important to me . I receive messages from women saying that they truly believed it was only them who felt or behaved a certain way before reading. Talking through specific incidents during the Freedom Programme because it was such a safe space seemed to bring other incidents I believed I had forgotten back into my mind . Sounds convenient eh ? The abuser wanted to tell everyone so . Ah load of victims sat together man hating and now she has all these extra memories???Hmmmm very suspicious .
I WAS FOREVER ON THE DEFENSIVE
I didn’t initiate court proceedings . He did . The woman he thought he knew would have received court papers KNEW she wouldn’t be believed ,KNEW she’d be labelled mad and lose her children right ? He’d put a lot of work into ensuring we shared these beliefs and we did . He’d have expected this move to have scared me back. When it didn’t though ? Well then court became a punishment for disobedience. How can you hurt a very private person the most? Well public shame should do the trick. Watch her have to relieve what you did to her , recount it .
I was always on the defensive , answering his accusations . Replying to his demands and assertions . Our motivations were different and therefore always answering and never being able to question also leaves you appearing as though you have something to answer for ? Something else that damages credibility.
As I said at the beginning I was an unreliable witness to the abuse I know for sure happened . I was not a perfect victim , I didn’t cry on cue my ‘story’ changed and didn’t flow correctly . I struggle with eye contact and fidgeting as a result of abuse , but look she can’t even look at you to answer a question , a sure sign of deception right. Has to be lying ?
I’ve seen so much on social media about the big case , written by strangers and we’re all entitled to have an opinion I guess . I mean maybe sometimes it’s ok to not voice your thoughts too. I’m not saying anyone is right or is wrong , what do I know ?I’m just a woman spouting her thoughts on the internet.
I’ve also seen things being written by people I do know though , who know me in all manner of ways . I’ve tried to be objective and I know many people don’t know that much about how domestic abuse works or how as I said at the beginning how hard it is to prove. I see words written …probably just someone writing their take on a stranger , miles away that they want to vocalise their opinion on which we all do . I’m the worst myself for celebrity gossip and nonsense , however when I see “I don’t believe her ” I read that they don’t believe me.
The Freedom Programme I mentioned earlier as an amazing resource whether you have left or are in an abusive relationship is just here : https://www.freedomprogramme.co.uk/