I talk about Domestic abuse a lot on my blog . I think it’s so important to tell our stories ,kill some of the shame we carry and let other women going through the same know they are not alone .
I can talk for hours about coercive control , I can wax lyrical on emotional abuse . I can point out the subtle signs , I can talk of how I’ve managed to heal.
The actual violence I suffered though ? I struggle a little more with. I still carry shame . I shouldn’t , but you know what reinforces that shame? Flippant comments from people (who are generally trying to be nice but just don’t understand how abuse works ) Things like:
“why did you put up with it so long ?”
“If a guy ever hit me I’d be out the door ”
It puts the onus on the victim rather than the perpetrator and a lot of shame does come with that.
There’s also the fact that I minimise it still . Born from years and years of doing this whilst in the relationship.
Oh it was just….
It could have been worse …
I shouldn’t have….
All unhelpful ,but I try to be honest in my blog about life after abuse and some skewed thought patterns do stick.
What I really wanted to talk about though was how the men who domestically abuse women and use violence towards women are often just normal guys . You see them on the school run . You work with them . You are maybe even friends with them. These men ,these domestic terrorists generally I’ve learnt have something in common .
“They’d never do anything like that”
“They’d never hurt a fly”
“They’re not the type”
There’s something in us as a society that cannot deal with the fact these men are normal guys . They’re not running about with red eyes or a danger sign tattooed on their forehead. They’re just getting you a coffee in the office , showing you pics of their kids at a dinner party,making conversation with you (probably about how much they abhor guys who hit women)
The violence I’ve experienced at the hands of men really is a total spectrum. From the man who grabbed my arse in a club (I can imagine people rolling their eyes at this. Thinking this isn’t violence…but being touched without permission is violence , it is aggression ,it is total lack of respect for boundaries and the upmost sense of entitlement with these men) right through to being beaten unconscious.
Not at all men who’ve been violent have been in relationships with me. It’s not all domestic abuse. I’m sure most women reading this if they really thought have been pushed or grabbed at some point in their lives .
Violence is the ultimate way to keep someone in their place . Couldn’t get much more basic.
The first time I ever experienced violence from a male I was a teenager . I had a boyfriend and it was my friends birthday. This was pre kids so lets face it I had the kind of figure I didn’t even appreciate back then. I’d put on a tiny dress , it was summer and spaghetti straps were all the rage ! My boyfriend at the time got very jealous me going out looking nice and whilst I was on the phone to my pal (in a phone box …yes I’m that old!) He scratched all down my arms (his thinking being then I’d have to cover up I guess) I didn’t even react , I carried on talking to my friend,then put down the phone and stormed home . This has continued to be my reaction to violence throughout. Just shock and unable to know what to do and therefore do nothing.
This was definitely the case in the major abusive relationship in my life. The first time he was violent was in a cinema carpark,because I liked a film we saw (American Beauty) and he hated it. Whilst I was trying to explain some bits of the film I thought were interesting he took that to mean I was being condescending and punched me in the face. Hard enough to knock me to the floor . What did I do ? Got up and walked home.
And so on and so on ….through all the years ….the spitting and biting and hair pulling and slapping and kicking and punching . Everytime ,I didn’t know what to do so I did nothing . I blanked it out and got on with what I needed to do . I can see now (thanks therapist) this was a survival mechanism, an unhealthy , unhelpful one but one that did ultimately keep me alive.
I’ve gone into detail with these two incidents because I don’t think the men who did those things probably could. I think in their heads they’ll have changed things up a bit ….decided that these were just arguments in their heads maybe . I know though , I’ll always know and they must deep down somewhere, they have to . How could you not remember hurting someone you claimed to love .
These guys won’t have those incidents in their minds when they’re chatting with you over coffee though ? When they’re commenting on a news report of a woman murdered in her home. They’ll be outwardly horrified ,who could do that they’ll hand wring?
Maybe you confide in them about abuse you’ve suffered …. they’ll tell you they cannot stand men that hurt women .
I guess my point really is that abusive men don’t stand out in a crowd ,well they sometimes do actually. Those of us who have done The Freedom Programme are equipped to spot it these days . As always I highly recommend doing this if you’ve suffered any kind of domestic abuse be it emotional, sexual , physical. It might just save your life or your sanity.
Mostly though you’d not automatically spot a man who is violent to his partners. He’s probably quite charming, vulnerable even . Not that type.
So if a woman tells you he IS this type :
Please believe her .
Please help her.
Please don’t judge her.
Please don’t use the victim blaming lines I talked about earlier.
Telling someone may have just been the bravest thing that she has ever done .