Fox (n): carnivore of genus vulpes; crafty person; scavenger; (vb) to confuse; -ed (adj): to be drunk.
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Tuesday 18 June 2013

Dear you...

I’M not going to tell you what to do.

There will be enough people doing that: why did you put up with it, what had you done, why did you stay.

Men and women alike will ask what’s wrong with you, and not stop to wonder what’s wrong with the other person. I imagine, right now, you feel deeply ashamed that it happened at all.

But that’s the main problem with domestic abuse – you think of every problem apart from the main one, which is that it was wrong.

When it begins you do not notice the way you are pressured into complying, made to bend. Compromise is healthy, right? But not if only one person does it.

The more you compromise, the more you move away from who you are. Upsetting things seep in slowly, like water under a door. You begin to do things that avoid a row. You overlook things you object to, and put on a show for others when you are sad.

The happy times get shorter, and the bad ones more frequent. You bend a little more, shoulder the load.

The first time is easy to remember - shoved across a room with such force your feet left the floor. You curled up in a ball and heard the person you loved scream that they hate you.

Later, you apologised. Anything to end it and go back to being happy.

The next time was a wall. Then shaking like a doll. Then a broken door.

After that it was dragging, from room to room, by one ankle. That happened a few times, late at night. You hoped the neighbours didn't hear.

Fighting back made it worse, so you went limp until it was over. You said no, please, stop, don’t. Tears afterwards, trying not to be heard.

You bent double, thinking you could bear it. We could be happy again if only this would pass, if only you didn’t provoke it. If only.

You never told a soul, and you made a million excuses.

Have a look through your diary and it sounds like a stranger. The words are full of worry – not for yourself, but for this person you love. They are the centre of your world and you want them to be happy.

Domestic abuse is when they punch you, right? That never happened, there were barely any bruises, so it’s just a silly row.

But domestic abuse is nothing to do with punches, really. It’s psychological and it’s about control, and as with all bullying it’s done by someone who feels powerless in some way themselves.

In the depths of your fear you know that, and it makes it harder to leave. When you know it's because they're weak, when you understand the problem that makes them explode, you think you can fix it.

But the next time is always worse. You hold on to the one thing you’re sure of, which is that you love them and they love you.

The whole world thinks only weak people put up with it, but that’s wrong.

It takes a strong person to stay. It takes a brilliant mind to brainwash itself. It takes a spine of pure steel to bend double and not break, and principles of cast iron to stick it out because you think you should.

Experiencing domestic abuse is like going into a tunnel – a deep, dark hole in the ground. You feel your way blindly and hope for the best.

Getting out is much harder. It’s rare the decision happens by itself, and is usually triggered by a sudden change in your partner or escalation in violence.

Either way you get your sight back and you hate what you see, this hole which was your heart and you now have to climb out of.

The police help sometimes, but more often they can’t because there’s rarely witnesses. Besides, you still worry you're to blame. Friends usually don’t realise and bystanders don’t want to get involved.

There are only two things anyone can tell you that are of any use. The first is that it is never your fault. You are not to blame for choosing them, provoking them, or not helping them.

It is their fault, and theirs alone.

The second is that you are not ‘in love’ anymore. 'In love' is when two people are in the same place, and nothing comes between them.

Anyone who can do those things to you does not love you.

You feel afraid more often than you feel love. That’s why you cry, it’s why you say sorry afterwards. Fear and love combine to make you stay, and every day you hope it gets better.

It doesn’t.

Now it is up to you to decide what to do. Perhaps it will happen again and perhaps it won't. How long are you prepared to wait and see?

Whatever you do, please know that you are not alone. One in every four women, and 1 in every 6 men know exactly how you feel.

You can be lucky, and you can climb out.

 Wherever you are, I hope you see the light.