As a parent, I am trying to raise my children with values. How to treat others, with care, kindness and respect, but also to respect themselves. While being kind to others I don’t want them to lose sight of themselves. I want them to be strong, to respect their bodies and to own their own bodies, I want them to stand up for what is right and to not stay silent when they see something wrong. Its a lot to expect from children and teenagers, but it is crucial as far as life skills go.
In the year ending March 2018 it was estimated that 2. million adults aged 16 to 59 years experienced domestic abuse in the last year. This equates to approx 6 in 100 adults, with women twice as likely to experience domestic abuse than men, an estimated 1.3 million female victims and 695,000 male victims. (Office for National Statistics. 2018) The police recorded 599,549 domestic abuse related crimes in that year and made 225,714 arrests. This equates to only 38 arrests for every 100 domestic abuse related crimes recorded.
Its all rather worrying, and important to remember and highlight that domestic abuse isn’t always violence. The current definition of domestic violence and abuse recognises this and defines domestic abuse as “Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, 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. It can encompass, but is not limited to, the following types of abuse:
- Emotional “
Coercive and Controlling behaviours were introduced as criminal offences on 29th December 2015. (Office for National Statistics, 2018)
There have been three very serious and local to me cases that have stuck in my head in recent years. Cases that have resulted in death. The sad thing is, that the children in these families report the warning signs were there. Signs of abuse, verbal, physical, building and going unchallenged until it is too late. It is so hard to know what goes on behind closed doors, but when those signs are spotted is it not better to be able to act, be able to support. Its a lot to put on someone, but what if it can save a life? Even the act of sharing your own experience can raise awareness, awareness is key. More support for victims, more convictions.
And so I find myself thinking back to an experience of my own. One that I don’t speak of, that I got out of and think myself lucky every day that we are away and have well and truly moved on. I have been happily married to a wonderful man who I love dearly for coming up to 7 years now. But life wasn’t always rosy.
I don’t plan to share too much detail, because that isn’t the point of this blog. But I want to share enough to reassure, and to perhaps make a difference to someone who may read this one day, early enough to make a difference before it gets too far.
I remember meeting *him*, I remember how romantic his actions seemed. I met him through mutual friends in town and then he had managed to find out from a mutual friend where I lived and turned up flicking pebbles at my balcony door. Those early days were exciting, he took me out, we went dancing, he took me clothes shopping…….. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, he was choosing and buying my clothes, telling me how wonderful I would look, and totally changing my style. Gone was my whacky pink fluffy jackets and mini skirts, teamed with purple fishnets and new rock boots right at home on Camden streets, replaced with super skinny jeans and high heeled Timberland boots. It didn’t end there, over the years gradually and slowly I was altered, I backed away from friends, I felt guilty spending time with them when they didn’t like him, he would tell me that they had been nasty to him when he had been out or similar…… “why would you want to spend your time with someone who didn’t respect your life choices?” “He isn’t your friend, he just wants to get in your knickers and you’re encouraging him” said about one of my best friends who was like a brother to me.
Besides which, with 2 children I soon came to “realise” that my place was at home to keep it clean and dust free. When there are skirting boards to clean, carpets to hoover, dinner to cook, dishes to clean, floors to mop, clothes to wash and 2 young children to care for there isn’t really much time to do much else. Especially when you’re up all night with a baby that “You chose to breastfeed, so I can’t help you!” Getting told “This place is a dump, I do everything, without me you would end up getting these kids taken off you.” and “you dont need any money, Ill do the food shopping on my way home” Only to find out that your phone bill didn’t get paid so you cant call anyone.
And so it went on, for several years. So gradually that at the time I genuinely didn’t see it, because it wasn’t obvious. What I have listed above took place over the course of 4 years.
Getting out was hard, there was a moment when it clicked, perhaps he had slept with too many people while we were together, perhaps finding out about one in particular was the final nail. Perhaps it was the walking out on Christmas day while we had all been sat eating dinner. Oh he opened his presents before leaving!
I had to begin the battle that is claiming benefits as single parent. I unearthed a lot of debts, unpaid phone bills for different mobiles, unpaid rent, unpaid council tax. It took me a couple of years to be free of those as several were also in my name. I had social services called on me, malicious calls and accusations that following investigations were recorded as such, but at the time they were stressful and I felt in it alone. But worth it all, because the difference in my children was obvious, and amazing. I had never thought that his actions would have been affecting them so much.
It was several years later that it came out about certain things that my daughter could remember. Being hit by him, him throwing her little brother……. His own mother spoke out against him after he had left town to live with another woman. But then she spoke against him in those early days as well, she would say “don’t love him” “don’t get involved with him” “don’t let him get you pregnant” . It says a lot when even his own mother knew he wasn’t right.
I am glad that I got out when I did, for my own good and for that of my children. Raising them on my own for that time wasn’t easy, but things worked out, I am one of the lucky ones.
I DID find love, look, someone else DID want me! There is so much light when you come through the darkness.
I AM ABSOLUTELY FINE AND LOVEABLE FOR JUST WHO I AM!
But it means now that I can understand how it can happen so slowly, so subtly, that sometimes even the victim living in the middle of it can’t see. This is why the world needs friends, families, people who can spot the wrong and who aren’t afraid to raise that concern and shout “this is not right, this is not ok” . People to help make that difference, before it is too late.