A friend of mine is supporting a Women’s shelter.
I’ve updated this post to help his cause, and it is a good cause. A brief history of violence is my story, it’s not easy reading. It’s about who I was, not who I am now, and a lot of people can’t tell the difference. They judge. When a woman experiences violence they curl up into a ball, they become someone different, and it takes time for them to be the person they should be.
If you speak out, you are judged. Bystanders silently applaud the women who doesn’t air her dirty laundry in public, and even though it’s 10 years since our divorce and 5 years since his last public display of aggression, I’m still on my guard as the abuse can come from nowhere, when you least expect it.
If you don’t want to read the post, then check out the freedom project.
A small donation will make a difference, a bigger donation would really help.
Would you report your boyfriend /lover /husband if he was violent towards you?
I have been musing on Clare’s law. Clare’s Law is named for Clare Wood. A 36 year old woman who was abused and then set fire to by her former partner. Clare suffered months of sexual abuse and violent attacks before she died. The police were aware of the history but were powerless to warn her.
Initially when I heard about it I thought “No one will use it, no one will report their partner for violence“. Then I got talking about it to a group of women and we’d had a few glasses of champagne and one of them admitted that the neighbours had called the police out for a “domestic disturbance”. At the time she was annoyed, she felt they had intruded on her life and then she realised they were trying to save her life. They are now in counselling and she admitted that she will probably leave her husband. Not because of the violence, she says she deserves that; that she provoked him. She will leave him because she cannot look the neighbours in the eye any more.
That’s a good enough reason to leave in my opinion.
When I left my ex-husband, I left with a trail of injunctions against him (that he persuaded me to drop) and a police sheet as long as your arm. When he got a new girlfriend; it was the neighbour who had reported his screaming death threats to the police, and I thought – my God, she knows what he is like, how could she? So I asked her. And she told me very honestly that she believed that I deserved it, that I had caused the fights. He’s reformed now. It was three weeks before he flew into a drunken rage. She dropped him like a tonne of bricks, and she never spoke to me again. Embarrassed? Maybe, but she wasn’t even with him long, and he had her convinced that his behaviour, his violence was someone else’s fault.
My daughter had asked me what to say when her father’s girlfriends asked why I had left him. I told her to tell the truth, that we were incompatible and disagreed a lot. Not quite the truth, but look at it from my point of view – If I told you after 10 years of domestic violence I finally plucked up the courage to leave, that there had been one black eye too many. That I was sick of the family taking his side and justifying his actions, oh he was drunk, that doesn’t count and it’s your fault for telling him to stop doing something… That enough was enough. Would you believe me if you were already half in love with this charming, handsome man? Of course you wouldn’t.
The Ex was getting serious about a girl, there was talking about them starting a family together. She was 20 years younger than him, in her early 20s. I have to tell you, I knew where she worked. I sooooo badly wanted to walk in and say to her – he is not what you think, go and find a nice bloke to have a family with. Don’t get trapped. You deserve better. But I would look the bitter ex-wife, she would never believe me. He had her completely charmed, was generous to a fault and had shown no signs of harming a hair on her head.
Then one day he flipped.
He had to drop my daughter off in Wickford but missed us as he arrived 45 minutes late. The girlfriend and my daughter were in the car, and he was screaming at what a “fucking whore” I was for not waiting for him. In the 20 minutes it took him to drive to Corringham he had worked himself into a complete rage. He met us in a car park in Corringham and screamed the most vile abuse you had ever heard at me. His face was grey and he was completely taken over by his anger, how dare I not wait for him, who did I think I was? I was a fat bitch, I deserved to die, who did I think I was? And yes, this was in a public space in front of my three children and his girlfriend. And she looked terrified. I felt so sad for her. Her dreams were crushed in those 20 minutes. The lies had unravelled. I wasn’t the bitter ex-wife, but a human being who had not said very much about her ex-husband.
My daughter got in the car, and I got back in the car and locked the doors
My current husband was struggling trying to keep things under control, if he got out of the car and hit my daughter’s dad, he’s be in trouble with her. He was in a no win situation, he wouldn’t protect his wife without damaging her daughter, and his wife was adamant that he sat there and did nothing.
Our youngest daughter looked at her sister and said “why does you dad scream like a girl?”. It wasn’t the question we were expecting and it diffused a very tense situation, we laughed. Gallows humour? And from that moment on my ex is known as “Screams like a girl”.
The girlfriend left soon after. She saw a side to him that she had heard about but never believed. I would like to think that if she had had access to the police records she could have seen and worked it out for herself rather than experiencing it first hand. I would hate for her to think that she could have reformed him, it’s part of who he is. You can’t reform that.
It is my fault.
Staying with him for as long as I did, yes that was my fault. I wanted to do the best for my daughter, to have her dad in her life. Even though I knew what he was like, I wanted to do the right thing.
Everytime I look in the mirror I see the centimetre long scar on my lip. I got that for smiling.
I have a collection of ribbons and jewelled collars to go around my neck, velvet, satin, beaded ones. All for covering the bruises from shaking me by my throat. Yes, I still have them, just in case. My daughters recently bought me a pearl neckband as they thought I liked them. Once upon a time I did, but now they mean something else.
Her dad and his actions have hung over my new family like a dark cloud for years.
I still wake in the night screaming, I still jump when I hear a strange noise. I’m repulsed by charming, smooth men; I wonder what they are hiding underneath. They are stereotyped by me based on my experiences. I have a friend who has no idea that he looks like the younger brother of my ex, that when I talk to him I get nervous. I deliberately dress down around him and that I am constantly on my guard. I told him once, and he didn’t speak to me for three months. He says he had family issues, but I know it was because of that conversation. He would be shocked to think that this is what I think around him, that I sit close to the door when we meet; ready to run… but I can’t help it, this is what I am now: vigilant.
The history of violence has shaped me to the point that I struggle to face men, to talk to them. The only person in the world that makes me feel safe is my current husband. When we met again he didn’t recognise me. I was a fraction of myself. Slowly he has rebuilt my confidence and my self esteem. And I see the pain in his eyes when he moves across the room quickly and I flinch. My body reacts to his body language and even though I know he wouldn’t hurt me, I still inwardly curl into a ball.
My life is spent being constantly prepared for a battle. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it don’t but I’m prepared. I’m constantly on my guard.
It’s my fault for being a poor role model to my daughters. I have shown them that when someone behaves badly, you put up with it. You sweep it under the carpet. You pretend it doesn’t exist and you say nothing as you fear what people think of you.
So bring in Clare’s law. When blokes can’t get a girlfriend and start families due to no woman being prepared to take a chance on them, they may change their behaviour. One incident on a police record they may be able to get away with, but not a history of violence. And if you hear your neighbours fighting, you hear a domestic disturbance – call the police. You may save someone’s life one day.
PS I apologise for such dark reading.
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