If you’re a woman of a certain age, it’s likely that you’ve had your fair share of relationships. Hopefully some would have been great, others, ok. You are also likely to have had some bad ones and some really bad ones. If you’re that 1 in 4 woman who has experienced domestic violence, then you’ve more than likely had a truly horrifying one.
I seem to have written my second trilogy here, because I’m writing my third piece to mark domestic violence awareness month. I hope the two pieces I’ve already written have educated and informed you and made you think a bit more about the horror that is domestic violence.
The first thing I’d like to say this week is that not every bad relationship is an abusive one. I dated a man once whose comments and behaviour made me so paranoid about my body, it was unreal. So much so, that on one birthday, I locked myself in the bathroom to eat my birthday cake, in order to avoid his comments! Were his behaviour and comments wrong? Absolutely. Should I have ditched him? Definitely (which I did in the end). Was his behaviour abusive? Looking back, I’d say no. Others may have a different view, but I don’t recollect there being a pattern of coercive control that defines an abusive relationship. And that is what defines an abusive relationship for me. It also takes me to my second point.
The UK has recently amended its definition of domestic violence. The new definition is “any incident or pattern of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over, who are or have been intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender or sexuality”. The abuse in question includes psychological, emotional, physical, sexual and financial abuse. It’s good to see the pattern of coercion and control clearly spelt out, because there are still those who would argue that an incidence of violence is a ‘one-off’ and completely out of character for the perpetrator. For the women and children who are living with that perpetrator, it is not an isolated incident, but a sustained and prolonged campaign of terror. So for those who aren’t sure about whether or not they or someone they know is in a domestic violence situation, I’d say look at the pattern of behaviour. Is the behaviour isolating you from your sources of support? Is the behaviour regulating your everyday behaviour, by causing you to try and avoid anything that might trigger a violent incident? is the behaviour humiliating or intimidating to you? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then it is likely that you are in an abusive relationship and you need to get help.
Which in turn, leads neatly to my last point and that is help seeking in a relationship blighted by domestic violence. If you are on the outside looking in, you are likely to be very confused by some of the behaviour of the victim. You may ask yourself why she doesn’t just leave? You may ask why does she leave and keep coming back? And finally you may end up concluding that the victim doesn’t really want help. I read a comment recently where a reader said she just couldn’t feel any pity for a woman who stays in an abusive relationship. What she and others who feel like her must realise is that living in a domestic violence situation is like living in a nightmarish alternative reality. One where your major aim is to survive, to stay alive. If I sound extreme, it’s because many women have been told that if they try to leave/actually leave, they and/or their children will be killed. I will always remember the words of an incredibly brave woman who said, it was easier to have the abuser at home, because she didn’t have to worry about him popping up out of the blue, which was far more nerve wracking! Also for many women, it’s a triumph of hope over reality. She wants the violence to stop, so that the relationship can remain. She wants to believe that this really will be the last time. This is why expressions of remorse and promises never to do it again, have such an impact on the victim. Think about how difficult you would find it to walk away from a relationship that you have invested time, emotions and finances in-especially when there are children?
As I end this piece, I reflect on the fact that the stakes in domestic violence are high. A relationship with Mr Wrong could dent your pride a bit. A relationship with Mr Abuser could see you battered, bruised or even dead.
If you have been affected by anything in this week’s post, or would like to find out more information, contact us through the website.
Born2bebeautiful is taking a 2 week break until the 15 November. Until then, go well.