There has been a huge amount of coverage of the Saatchi/Lawson story this week which has stirred up some past emotions that I would rather have not revisited.
Firstly I was a victim of domestic violence and what starts off as a ‘playful tiff’ can end up in hospital, in my case, or worse, in the case of many many others. It took me 4 years to get the courage to leave my abusive partner and I carry the scars; a broken nose, broken collar-bone, various burst blood vessels, for waiting that long, as a reminder that if I am ever in that situation again to get out of there as soon as possible. But it isn’t always that easy. Being grabbed around the throat and choked nearly to death is not a fun experience, I still have anxiety nightmares about choking in my sleep and fear him finding me even though its been 13 years since we split.
I’m not going to dwell on my past relationship mistakes, well not yet anyway, I made them, it was my own stupid choices that got me into it but what I have been thinking about is how acceptable it was to get beaten up by my partner, how many Sunday mornings I would open my door to another friend with a matching black eye, we’d sit and drink coffee, laughing in secret sisterly united dismay of our lives, recounting the story of the night before and how we ended up black and blue as if it was the done thing, licking our wounds. One of my closest friend at the time was also in a horrible relationship with a man a few years younger than herself that regularly fought with both parties getting black eyes and worse, one incident involved a screw driver and a thigh, gruesome. She had 2 children with this man she detested but stayed with because she had no way out at the time, thankfully they are no longer together but still have to suffer each other due to the children. How I spoke to another friend recently and heard her tell me of the relationship she was in now and how she was regularly pushed and shoved about the house but she recounted as if its normal to punch each other in the face, she didn’t bat an eyelid telling me. didn’t see it as that bad, thats just a relationship isn’t it? Its still going on.
When I was in this horrible relationship all my friends knew what was going on, my best friend regularly took me to the hospital the morning after the night before, she never told me to leave him, but more laughed at my predicament and offered a shoulder to cry on, I know the whole thing was a farce from the beginning, but I was getting injured. I wasn’t the only friend in this kind of situation so it was kind of accepted as normal within our tight knit circle, we all tutted and moaned to each other but we all stayed stuck in the horrible rut.
It affected my work, I was in sales and a black eye and broken nose doesn’t go down well not matter how much make up you apply, I passed it off as a cycling accident but did eventually tell a few close colleagues who could tell there was more to the story and I couldn’t keep being the woman who walked into doors could I. But works attitude was shut up or put up, leave him or shut up about it and get on with it, just don’t get facial bruising, where’s that months figures? No help or advice offered, all I really needed was help, guidance, someone to show me it’s not ok to be a punchbag no matter how much I felt I deserved to be one, because that’s what happens in these situations, you lose self-respect, blame yourself, feel worthless. Believe the things that are shouted in your face time after time, the venomous assertions he wants you to know about, and then you believe the ‘Sorry’s’ and the ‘I’ll never do it agains’. you don’t really, thats where the friends come in, you could slag him off to them, tell them you don’t believe him, that you’ll leave him but you’ve got work, that you cant because you’ve got to go shopping, when all the time its because you’re afraid and feel worthless and ashamed. I got told by my ex’s father in a phone conversation after I told him I’m never going back to live with his son that I provoked him to beating me, that it was all my fault, he practically patted his son on the back for handling his woman with a firm hand, and I believed him, I believed it was my fault that his son had choked me, beat me viciously then threatened to stab me with the kitchen knife. My family knew nothing of the whole situation until the night I left him, I hid the whole sorry affair from them, I didnt want to admit I was a screw up and a mess and worthless. My family wasn’t used to violence and to hear it was happening in my life would have been so upsetting for them, I didn’t want to spoil my Mums retirement with my messes. As it turned out that fateful night my neighbour heard me screaming through the bedroom wall and came and got me out of there before too much damage was done that time, there had been plenty of other occasions they could have helped but didn’t, but I’m grateful that they did that last time, they saved my life, they also called my Mum, not the police, I went home to my mothers and that was where I had to tell her the whole story, show her photos of previous injuries I’d taken just in case I’d need them,(why did I do that and not use them to prosecute him?) open up to her. Share my dirty family secret.
I never prosecuted him, I just wanted it over and I was afraid that it would be made to look like my fault, that I had provoked him, I believed his father. Now I’m not stupid, I have a degree, a good career but didnt want the hassle, I was afraid enough as it was, dragging it on was just too horrible a thought. What alarms me is that there must be many women or even men out there in the same predicament, too afraid to report or prosecute because of the fall out that it may incur, people who would rather sweep it under the carpet and forget it and carry on because that’s easier than to go through the whole rigmarole. Save yourself from the shame of it all.
Now I didn’t grow up in an inner city gang or a rough estate as featured on TV, I grew up in normal small town suburbia. I left my home town a month after I left my ex, I left my friends, family and job. A complete new start in the City and started meeting people who didn’t find violence was the norm in a relationship, in fact they were horrified at the thought of it. So why was it so accepted in my circle of friends? Why did the women in my peer group think it was ok to be a punchbag? They were intelligent beautiful women, what was it about us that made us believe it was our fault, society, media? I have asked, there has been no answers. Lots of thank gawd we’re out of those horrible relationships but no answers as to why we were in them in the first place, stayed in them for so long or chose to do nothing to help each other. Did we make it the norm, did we make it acceptable in our group by adopting an ‘its happening to her why isnt it happening to me, oh now it is, yay we can share our woes’ kind of thing, a kinship. I’d really like to think it wasn’t because of that! But maybe it was? Was it just the shame we all carried that just stopped us and just made it easier to support each others injuries, because if one made a break we would all have to? Was it a thing we could all have in common? Was it the only thing we had in common? Luckily I made the break before he killed me, I got away, escaped, left him everything including the dog, but I still felt shameful, not relieved, just ashamed. I know now its not my fault, no one should let themselves become violent, no matter what, no one should be a punchbag for someone else. I look back at my 20’s with some regret but also as a huge learning experience Im glad I survived.
I’m now in a long loving relationship with a man who abhors violence as much as I do.