Domestic Violence has gained a lot of air-time recently and the awareness that it’s raising is great. It can happen to anyone, from any background and any family. It happened to me. I am a confident, strong and very loved woman who had a great childhood and a loving and supportive family. But all of that didn’t matter because I still fell under the control of an abuser.
Domestic Violence is a scary word. A word that I would not have used to describe my situation when I was in the middle of it. It conjures up images of black eyes and bruised bodies but it can be emotional, mental, financial or all of the above. My experience was with non-physical Domestic Violence. It was mental and emotional. It started off slowly and continued gradually, each time etching away at my self esteem and self-belief.
A lot of my family and friends are shocked when I use the term “non-physical Domestic Violence” to describe my situation. “but you are so strong and confident, how could this happen?”, “Wow. Was it that bad? I never knew. Did anyone know?” “why did you stay so long?” Because of their reactions I have realised that people are quite understandably scared of this term. They are also unaware of the scope of Domestic Violence and what falls under it. This brings me to the reason I am writing this post. It could also mean that women just like me are stuck in terrible situations where they don’t actually realise what is going on.
I was with my abuser for 4 years. For 3 1/2 of those years I thought I could fix him. I thought I could help him to become the person that I knew he could be. I started questioning whether I loved him after 1 year but by that time it was too late. I was pregnant with his child so I needed to give it a go. The funny thing was, I always knew that what was happening wasn’t right and it wasn’t healthy. We had totally different opinions on how relationships/love/life should be. I grew up in a household where everyone was equal and opinions / feelings were respected. He believed that there was always a more dominant one in each relationship and of course, that was the man. He couldn’t believe the women in my family were so strong and felt intimidated by it. He called the men in my family weak because in his mind they let their women make all of the decisions.
It is quite amazing how somebody is able to climb into your head and scramble everything that you have built over your lifetime. Scramble it and tell you that their way is better and your way is so so wrong. In order for them to do this successfully they have to pull you away from your friends and family, slowly forming a void big enough for their influence to be stronger. The best analogy I have read is about a frog in a boiling pot of water. If you drop the frog into water that is already boiled, it will jump out straight away as it knows that the water is too hot. However, if you drop the frog into a cold pot of water and gradually turn up the heat, the frog will boil to death. The change in temperature was so subtle that it didn’t even notice.
When I finally realised that I couldn’t fix him. That there was really no hope and my life was going to get a whole lot worse. That my son would turn out like his father if I stuck around. I started to think about leaving. But when your thoughts, feelings and opinions are being crushed, brushed aside, discounted and demeaned this can be a mammoth task. The very thought of moving, of finding somewhere to live, setting up on your own as a single parent is an exhausting thought. Then there were the threats, mainipulation and emotional blackmail that I suffered if I even mentioned that I wasn’t happy “you will never find anyone better”, “leave me and I will have nothing to do with our son”, “if you meet someone else they will probably cheat on you. I won’t cheat on you but I know what men are like”, “I will tell the court you are an irresponsible mother because you have left the cot side down more than once” the list goes on and on. When you are listening to that every day, it’s hard to lift your head up and see through the fog. But I did. I reached out to a wonderful woman called Mel Belle, from a local charity organisation called Give & Take* and she took my hand and showed me a way out.
What’s the point of my story? The point is to let women like me, who may not think what they are experiencing is Domestic Violence because they have never been punched or pushed down the stairs. That you can break-free. There are people out there that can help you get away from mental torture that you have to endure every day. You deserve to be happy. Your children deserve to be happy.
Don’t think that you are alone and that there is no hope.
There is always hope.
Thank you to Nadia for sharing her story with us. You can find Nadia over at http://thecurlygirlbeauty.com
This story has been published with full permission from Nadia.