This has been a difficult year, and will remain tough well through next year. However, I have something important to discuss; I feel it’s time to speak up and be heard. It’s not something that should be side-stepped from embarrassment, or endured for societal inertia. Domestic abuse is not okay. Aggression and violence toward women is not okay. Non consensual intimacy is never okay. You are a unique and valued individual; you deserve to feel safe and no one should ever tell you otherwise.
A Domestic Abuse Story
One day, it starts with a snide word or bad temper. One or two words don’t hurt. They’re just hot air and leave no lasting trace, right? Maybe there’s even an apology. Maybe there isn’t.
Another time, it might be a mocking retort when you didn’t realise you’d done something wrong. Or, a disparaging remark about something you really liked. Maybe it’s a comment about your appearance, or abilities. Maybe it’s explained as an attempt to “help” you with self-improvement.
At some point, you don’t notice how frequent the comments have become or how loudly they’re voiced. The insidious drip, drip, drip of poisonous words has distorted your sense of normalcy. You’ve accepted it as a behaviour quirk, or a familiar idiosyncrasy. Now, maybe you think that you deserve to be spoken to that way. You’re not worth anything better and everything really is your fault. You’re not a good enough person; you don’t provide enough affection, your skills are inadequate, and you’re generally to blame.
Finally, something really snaps. You didn’t see it coming because you’ve become accustomed to your environment. Something pushes him over the edge. He says that something is you. Of course, it’s always you – it’s never his fault. Maybe the words are worse and his voice is louder. You didn’t see it coming but his hands are raised. And now you need to fight or flee – or he’ll just continue, unopposed.
What Counts As Domestic Abuse?
In simple terms, if your partner makes you feel scared or worthless, that’s domestic abuse. It doesn’t have to be physical. If you’re not sure, consider how you’d advise a friend if they told you about the things that you’ve experienced. Would it still be okay if it was happening to someone else? If it’s not okay for your friend to be abused, it is definitely not okay for you to suffer.
Women’s Aid has a great checklist, to help you analyse your situation. Please get help, if you’re experiencing any of these things. People will listen to you. If it’s not safe to linger, grab your kids and go. If you’re able to pack the essentials, do it now. The police will believe you; call them.
- Coercive control
- Emotional abuse
- Physical abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Financial abuse
- Harassment or stalking
Any or all of the above, whether online or face to face, counts as domestic abuse.
Recognising Abusive Behaviour
Maybe you are just terrible at cleaning, even though you asked your kids if they remember seeing mommy hoover 5 minutes ago. Maybe you deserved to be sworn at and berated because you unintentionally wound him up. Does it count as non consensual intimacy if you didn’t want to do something but he insisted and you gave in? So long as your kids appear happy enough, should you put up with his behaviour for their sake? Does it matter if your kids are scared because he yells at you in front of them; it’s not like he’s touching them?
Let me tell you right now that domestic abuse is not purely physical abuse. You do not need to wait till he hits you to validate your story. If your partner is making you feel worthless, constantly putting you down, or forcing you to act in a way that you wouldn’t normally behave, you are being abused.
Would you stand idly by while a daughter, mother, sister, niece, or friend was going through the same circumstances? Would you tell them to put up and shut up? You are someone’s daughter, mother, sister, niece, or friend. Is this the world you want for your children, for your friends? They deserve better. You deserve better.
Where Do You Go From Here?
Talk to someone. Anyone. Talk to them now. Call a friend. Call the National Domestic Violence Helpline. Alert the police. You will be believed and you will be taken seriously. It’s not about getting him prosecuted. I realise that it may be difficult to raise sufficient legal evidence. (The criminal threshold is “beyond all reasonable doubt” – a very high standard.) However, empathetic evidence is easy to read. People will listen to you, believe your story, and help you find a way out. The truth is in your eyes, your voice, and your body language. Your story is reflected in his attitude, behaviour, and reaction.
You can taste your fear. I know you think no one will believe you. Let me assure you that this will be the last time you are “wrong”. I believe you, and so will all the people that matter.
- National Domestic Violence Helpline (Women’s Aid): 0808 2000 247
- Men’s Advice Line: 0808 801 0327
- Police (Emergency Services): 999
If you’re in immediate danger, call the police. Do it now. You can call from any connected phone; you do not need phone credit. Otherwise, you can call the National DV Helpline (run by Women’s Aid and Refuge) or you can call the Men’s Advice Line if you identify as male and feel uncomfortable calling the DV helpline.
It’s Not You; It’s Him
Domestic abuse can literally affect anyone; it can be perpetuated by men or women. (I’m female, so I’ve used the pronouns that relate to me.) Being richer, or prettier, or higher social status doesn’t protect you. Harvey Weinstein, an American film producer, is currently in the news regarding allegations of aggression, intimidation, and non consensual intimacy against a large number of women. Some of those women are very successful, famous actresses.
Societal inertia and perceptions of women greatly skew our views of domestic abuse. We forget that men can be abused too. We forget that women can say “no” for any reason. No one owns your thoughts or your body. No one gets to push your boundaries just because they want to “play” and you’re in the vicinity.
You are not lazy because you aren’t a Martha Stewart domestic goddess. Reading the tabloid newspapers doesn’t make you stupid. Differing views on intimacy doesn’t make you frigid. You are not greedy because you need a fair contribution to household expenses. You can say “no” at anytime. It does not give anyone the right to verbally or physically attack you.
I know you’re scared; it’s okay to be scared. It’s not okay to be abused.
What Happens Next?
It’s going to be tough. Your life is going to change. Maybe you’ll have to relocate; maybe you’ll get to keep the family home. Your kids may or may not want to or have to see your ex-partner. You may need to change or leave jobs, or apply for benefits. Your children’s education could be affected; you might have to transfer from private to state school, or homeschool to school. His family and friends may take his side and cut you off.
However, you are finally going to regain control of your life and reestablish your personal safety. You may also be protecting your children from ongoing adverse influence or conflict experience. Perhaps you’ll be poorer financially but you’ll be so much richer emotionally.
I could try and sugarcoat it but there’s no point. You’ve been through worse. It can and will get better. Not quickly. But eventually. Life doesn’t get easier; you get stronger. I believe you can and will do it. You’ve got this!