Whilst I was in the abusive relationship I was absolutely aware of how wrong and dangerous it was. I knew that this man’s behaviour was never, ever going to change ( why would it , he believed everything he did was justified). I knew if I was ever to change my situation, unfortunately it would be down to me to leave as he was certainly never going to stop. For years I’d make half hearted plans in my head to run away , to escape. Most of the time I knew I’d never carry them out. I was as sure as he was when he’d tell me no one would believe me , people would think me crazy , they’d take my children. Some days I just accepted that this was my lot , the most ambitious thing I could wish for was that if he killed me he did it when the kids weren’t home.
I did leave though. I did escape. I’m so very lucky to be alive telling my story, writing this blog.
For all those years I was in the relationship there were things people did that helped me. Kept me safe , gave me hope. I’m not saying I can give handy hints about how to support someone in an abusive relationship. I wish I could but everyone’s story is different and I ,as always, can only tell mine. Let me just tell you how I was helped and supported.
I was given a safe place.
I could turn up at my sisters house at 3am and have left before anyone got up.There was never an interrogation afterwards. Had she asked a million questions, pressured me to leave I’d have stopped going there. I’d have become more isolated. Having a safe place to sleep when he’d get in from a bad shift at work and attack me saved my life. It really did. I wasn’t strong enough to leave for good then , but I did have somewhere to go.
Friends didn’t give up on me.
One friend in particular came over every week. No matter how uncomfortable he made it she kept coming. I wasn’t strong enough to take him on but she was. She ignored his rudeness and she came. Some weeks she was the only friendly face I saw and I’ll always be grateful to her.
People took the ‘softly softly’ approach.
I know that many people’s first instinct on learning that someone they love is being abused would be to march in there all guns blazing and drag them to safety. This with me would have made me dig my heels in. I was embarrassed, ashamed. I believed I deserved this to be my life. I didn’t want saving , to admit what a mess I was in. My friends and sister took the correct approach for me. They let me know I was there when I needed them. Had I asked to be rescued they’d have built a bloody army and come get me. How strange to think that when I’d been stripped bare of everything that made me me I was still too proud to admit the truth to anyone. Abusers take different forms though , employ different tactics. This is why it is so hard to offer advice , these people are shapeshifters.
The door was left ajar , always.
This was the most important thing. I can’t begin to imagine how frustrating it must have been for people to see me in that situation. No one ever walked away though. No one who really cared. No one ever offered ultimatums or forced my hand. They continually reassured me they were here for me and they loved me and if ever I needed them they were there.
They saved my life.
Afterwards , when I’d left ,when I reconnected with them again fully they were still there. No recriminations or talk of “why did it take so long?” Relationships with those few friends and my amazing sister reverted back to how they were before him . They’re fantastic women.
I suppose when you’re in the darkest of days and you can see no light or even contemplate the possibility that one day there could be light. Sometimes what you need is a few women by your side, with torches ,ready to flick the on button at your say so.
What helped me greatly after I left was The Freedom Programme. Whether you’ve come out of an abusive relationship or are in one currently ( and can access it safely) I’d recommend it.