It's Not Your Fault
I have watched the sad news of Sarah Everard this week with a sinking heart.
I thought of her mother on mothers day, and all the other mothers who have lost daughters to violence, domestic or otherwise.
I can't help but worry for my daughters future and reflect upon my own life.
I have been happily married for twenty years and in the same relationship for twenty three. I am extremely lucky.
Before my husband, there was someone else.
I lived for nearly five years in an abusive relationship, which ended with him trying to strangle me. I survived but it left me broken.
This is not something I have talked about on my blog before. I am embarrassed by it. I shouldn't be - It wasn't my fault.
Did I choose a man I thought I could fix, did I become enthralled by his charm and his intellect? Yes and Yes.
Is it my fault that he regularly threatened violence, pushed, shoved and mentally abused me. He made me feel worthless and incapable. I was lucky that the physical violence wasn't worse throughout the relationship. I was often bruised but he avoided punching and kicking as he didn't want to leave marks. He was very careful. He was an ex-policeman. This is why suddenly it feels important, that I should talk about this.
I thought because he had been a policeman and a company director he would be OK. A persons job does not make them a good or bad person, it is who they are inside. This man was completely broken, he would be fine and then he would be raging over the tiniest thing.
He did all the usual things you hear about, he tried to separate me from the people who cared about me. To some extent he was successful, I moved into a city where I knew nobody. But I kept in contact with my people, my beautiful supportive wonderful family and friends.
He lived off me - he didn't work, I did. I got increasingly in debt, I put my name on a loan for a motorbike for him, we had a mortgage together. I paid for it all. When I left him I was nearly twenty thousand pounds in debt. He also broke or sold many treasured family heirlooms, I never had the heart to tell my parents.
Inevitably, he was unfaithful, I stayed another six months. But, this changed the dynamic, a small light had flicked on in my head and I was getting angry. Then one night, I felt brave or desperate, I'm not sure, but I told him he had to go. He had to leave.
After some raging, more breakages, more shoving and pushing and shouting at me nose to nose, he did. I wondered why I hadn't done it before?
A few days later, he came back to 'have a chat' about sorting out the house. I planned to give him nothing.
We were sat in the living room, drinking coffee. He was being pleasant. The next thing I knew I was on my back on the floor, his knees were on my shoulders and his hand around my neck. I said his name for as long as I could, as I struggled underneath him, then I couldn't speak, I couldn't breathe. I blacked out.
When I woke up he was crying on the sofa. I managed to tell him to leave, I called a friend, who stayed with me until I had the locks changed. Then I went to the police.
They could see he was left handed, because of the marks on my neck. They told me I should prosecute. I didn't - I thought, in my ignorance - that if I left it he would just go away.
Three years he continued to harass and bother me, my family, my friends and my work. It was only after I moved house, changed cars and went ex-directory that I stopped hearing from him. I should have prosecuted.
Now, I am strong.
Now I tell myself I would never let this happen, but back then I thought exactly the same thing. These men are clever, manipulative and charming - you never know until it is too late.
I didn't encourage the abuse, I didn't choose it, I didn't want to be a victim. No one should have to live with domestic abuse, whether you are female or male.
I thought things would get better for women. I don't know if has.
But at least there is a conversation about it now. I still feel stupid and embarrassed that this happened to me but at least now, I know it wasn't my fault.
The charity Refuge (see the link below) offers help to women suffering at the hands of domestic violence. If you are trapped, try to seek help if you can. You are not the cause of this violence, no matter what they say.
On the Refuge website you can find the stark truth about domestic violence
Almost one in three women aged 16-59 will experience domestic abuse in her lifetime (Office for National Statistics (2019) Domestic abuse in England and Wales overview: November 2019)
Two women a week are killed by a current or former partner in England and Wales alone (Office for National Statistics 2019)
In the year ending March 2019, 1.6 million women experienced domestic abuse (average taken over 10 years - Office for National Statistics (2019) Domestic abuse victim characteristics, England and Wales: year ending March 2019)
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