Monday, 30 June 2014

Playing the victim game.

It’s been a while since I left my abuser but last week suddenly a wave of anger swept over me. It seems odd that I have become so angry and bitter at this stage, I can only think that it’s now I have started to heal that I finally have the strength and energy for anger. Thinking about what he did to my children has made my blood boil. I’ve seen red and I’ve acted on my anger. Once again I didn’t give it to God as I posted about all those weeks ago.

It was probably very unwise but I acted on my anger by publically “outing” my abuser. I don’t know what came over me, but I knew the lies he’d been telling people and I went all over the forums he posts on, all over facebook and twitter and set the record straight. It didn’t really achieve anything other than making me look like a crazy bunny boiler and playing into his story of the vindictive ex out to get him.

During all this though something stood out to me. One of his friends commented that this was not the behaviour of an abuse victim. 

Which makes me wonder: What is the behaviour of an abuse victim?

This notion that abuse victims behave in a certain way has been a part of every decision making process, every conscious behaviour since I left him. There’s always the question of “if I do this will people believe me?” and “am I behaving appropriately as a victim.” Being believed is important. It’s not just important for our self respect and our healing, it’s important for our safety. Scarily judges and magistrates in family courts make decisions about our children’s futures not only on the evidence in front of them (which in abuse cases is often very scant) but also on how we present in court. Being able to “present” as a victim is important.

And this is wrong. My abuser loves to “play the victim” I don’t want to. In fact I don’t want to be a victim anymore. I’m not saying going on the attack is the right thing to do, but so what if I do? if someone who has escaped abuse makes a choice not to be “a victim” anymore why does that make their experience any less believable? My husband’s friend is right, I’m not the ‘victim type’ I’m a loud mouthed, argumentative, bolshy, sometimes abrasive, intelligent, capable woman; but none of that stopped me from being abused. What those personality traits do mean is that I react differently to my experience to how someone quieter and more reserved might, they also mean that once I am free of the abuse I am likely to begin to fight back, and am certainly likely to say “I will never be a victim again” This should not make my experience less believable.

We all respond differently to trauma. It is not for anyone to judge the truth of a situation based on the reaction of the victim to that situation. I have met victims who are scared to leave the home and victims who go out clubbing every weekend. I have met victims who say they never want to have a relationship ever again and victims who jump straight into another one. I have met victims who never want to see their abuser again and victims who still love him and can’t keep away. I have met victims who are saddened at their relationship ending and victims who are overjoyed. I have met victims who are wise and take good advice to stay away, and victims more like myself who trip up, make mistakes and often get it wrong.

It’s a terrible indictment of society that some people make judgements on whether abuse took place, or worse; whether it was justifiable based on the persona of the victim. Personally I can’t actually fathom out how I am supposed to behave in these peoples eyes, but frankly it doesn’t matter because I refuse to remain a victim and I refuse to play the games my husband is playing.  

Saturday, 28 June 2014


Throwing stones in the sea 
I’ve been doing the 100happydays challenge. If you don’t know about it this is it. Basically every day for 100 days you take a photo of something that’s made you happy that day and make a note of it, it’s a good way to focus on the positives in our lives.

Looking back over my photographs I notice that most of them are of my children. I read my happy things and think how boring my life must appear. Nearly everyday I post that my family has made me happy. For a while I wondered if this was because I don’t have anything else in my life.

Flowers picked for me by my son
But when I thought about it I realised no, actually I do have lots of things, just little things, in my life I am grateful for and happy about. But each day I have picked the top of that list, the thing that has made me happiest, and it just so happens that this is my family.
What have I learned from doing #100happydays? I have learned that I am blessed with the most gorgeous, wonderful family anyone
 could ever hope to have. I have learned that if I have a good day or a bad day I sit down over dinner with my boys every night and I look at them and feel happy, that I have extended family who make me smile when I’m down and are utterly dependable. I’ve learned that I am content with what I have, that there is nothing, nothing missing from my life and that above all else because I can come home every day to a family who loves me and who I love I have every reason to smile. Daily.

Happy Heart from Flickr via Wylio
© 2009 fauxto_digit, Flickr | CC-BY-ND | via Wylio

Monday, 23 June 2014

The abusive man in arguments by Lundy Bancroft.

Picture taken from
I’ve mentioned the book "Why does he do that" in my blog before. It’s the book I would recommend everyone read whether you’ve been abused or not, it really is so informative and helpful. On the Womens Aid survivors forum many of the ladies refer to it’s author as Saint Lundy because he pinpoints exactly the dynamics of an abusive relationship that are so hard to explain.

When the abuse has been emotional it can sometimes be incredibly difficult to explain, when your abuser tells everyone that you abused him and twists reality to paint himself as the victim it can be tough to describe what actually happened and how just because you argued with him it doesn’t mean it was six of one and half a dozen of the other. How many abuse victims have heard “you two argue all the time” or “you two wind each other up something chronic” or “you two are as bad as each other” over the years. I know I have. It often leaves you wondering if you really were abused, or even if he was right and you were the abusive one.

So today I want to share with you a snippet of the book from pages 138- 141.  In this section, Lundy Bancroft hits the nail on the head about how an argument with an abusive man works and how it leaves the victim feeling. For me this was a near daily occurrence, it’s no wonder I ended up feeling a little crazy.

I will begin by examining in detail an argument between an abusive man and his partner, the kind I hear about routinely from my clients and their partners. Jesse and Bea are walking along in their town. Jesse is sullen and clearly annoyed. 
BEA: What’s going on with you? I don’t understand what you’re upset about.
JESSE: I’m not upset; I just don’t feel like talking right now. Why do you always have to read something into it? Can’t I just be a little quiet sometimes? Not everybody likes to talk, talk, talk all the time just because you do
BEA: I don’t talk, talk, talk all the time. What do you mean by that? I just want to know what’s bothering you.
JESSE: I just finished telling you, nothings bothering me… and give me a break that you don’t talk all the time. When we were having dinner with my brother and his wife, I couldn’t believe how you went on and on about your stupid journalism class. You’re forty years old, for Christ sake; the world isn’t excited about your fantasies of being famous. Grow up a little.
BEA: Fantasies of being famous? I’m trying to get a job, Jesse, because the travel agency jobs have all moved downtown. And I wasn’t going on about it. They were interested; they were asking me a lot of questions about it- that’s why we were on that subject for a while.
JESSE: Oh yeah they were real interested. They were being polite to you because you’re so full of yourself. You’re so naïve you can’t even tell when you’re being patronised.
BEA: I don’t believe this. That dinner was almost two weeks ago. Have you been brewing about it all this time?
JESSE: I don’t brew, Bea, you’re the one that brews. You love to get us confused. I’ll see you later. I’m really not in the mood for this shit.
BEA: In the mood for what shit?? I haven’t done anything! You’ve had it in for me since I arrived to meet you!
JESSE: You’re yelling at me, Bea. You know I hate being yelled at. You need to get help; your emotions just fly off the handle. I’ll see you later.
BEA: Where are you going?
JESSE: I’ll walk home thank you.You can take the car. I’d rather be alone.
BEA: It’s going to take you more than half an hour to walk home and it’s freezing today.
JESSE: Oh, Now suddenly you care about me so much. Up yours. Bye (walks off) 
The lives of abused women are full of these kinds of exchanges. Jesse didn’t call Bea any degrading names; he didn’t yell; he didn’t hit her or threaten her. Bea will be in a tough spot when the time comes to explain to a friend how upset she is, because Jesse’s behaviour is hard to describe. What can she say? That he’s sarcastic? That he holds onto things? That he’s overly critical? A friend would respond “Well that sounds hard, but I wouldn’t call it abuse” Yet, as Jesse walks away, Bea feels as if she has been slapped in the face.
We will first look at what Jesse is doing and then examine how his thinking works. The first point to illuminate is:
Therapists often try to work with an abuser by analysing his responses to disagreements and trying to get him to handle conflicts differently. But such an approach misses the point: His abusiveness was what caused the tension to begin with.
Jesse uses an array of conversational tactics as most abusers do:

  • He denies being angry, although he obviously is, and instead of dealing with what is bothering him, he channels his energy into criticising Bea about something else.
  • He insults, belittles, and patronises Bea in multiple ways, including saying that she likes to talk all the time and has fantasies of becoming famous, stating that she should “grow up” and telling her that she accuses him of stewing over things when it’s actually her.
  • He tells her that she is unaware that other people look down on her and don’t take her seriously and calls her “naïve”
  • He criticizes her for raising her voice in response to his stream of insults
  • He tells her that she is mistreating him  
  • He stomps off and plays the victim by putting himself in the position of having to take a long, cold walk home.

Bea is now left miserable- feeling like a scratching post that a cat has just sharpened its claws on. Part of why she is so shaken up by this experience is that she never knows when one of these verbal assaults is going to happen or what sets it off. On a different day she might have met Jesse to take him home and had a pleasant conversation with him about his work day." 

You can get more information about Lundy Bancrofts books here If you can read only one book on this subject do read "Why does he do that" it's incredibly eye opening. 

Friday, 20 June 2014

My bruises.

I recently watched this interview with Melissa Dohne an American survivor of domestic abuse who was stabbed 32 times by her ex boyfriend. She has gone on to publish the photographs of her injuries in a campaign against domestic violence.

Looking through the photographs shown on the video I felt sickened. They are both shocking and disturbing, it is terrifying not only that one human being could do this to another, but that a human being could do it to the person they are supposed to have the most loving, intimate relationship with.

Melissa is what I have always considered a “real” abuse victim. In fact, even now I see these pictures and think about how my husband never even came close to doing anything like that to me. I feel like I have nothing to complain about, that in comparison to Melissa I have no right whatsoever to use the term abuse for what I went through.

But the point is, he could have done that. Abuse escalates, and not always at a predictable rate. Who knows whether I may have ended up gravely injured or dead if I had stayed, this can happen to anyone.

Melissa’s story paints a picture of what can happen to any of us; to you, your sisters, your daughters, ANYONE. She is so brave for speaking up about what happened to her and I hope she inspires women to get out of abusive relationships. I cannot commend her enough for her bravery and tenacity.

And so I am going to show you my one and only picture of my injuries after the worst attack. It’s nothing like the horror that Melissa suffered, but it is what a larger proportion of abuse victims will have suffered. I’m sharing this in the hope that someone like me, who would have looked at Melissa’s pictures and thought “now that’s an abuse victim, I’m not, my relationship is fine” will look at them and think “well that’s nothing, my husband has done that” and then realise that actually having black bruises all over your thighs isn’t nothing. It’s abuse. And you need to get out.

This grainy selfie taken in a dusty mirror is after the time he threw me on the floor and punched me repeatedly. It’s the only time I took photographs and this is the only one remaining that I didn’t delete. (it just got missed) Usually I would have more like single bruise on my arm where he’d grabbed me, or I’d be sore under my chin where he’d choked me, I often had bruises on my back from being pushed against things. If your body ever looks like this. If you ever wake up with something hurting because you’ve been shoved, pushed, flicked, grabbed- whatever. You are being abused. 

Monday, 16 June 2014

I will not live in fear

A young guy recently tweeted me “Do you truly believe living your life in perpetual fear is healthy?” He seemed to be suggesting that the awareness raised through #yesallwomen was causing unnecessary fear and alarm.

I blogged last week about how when my husband and I were together I lived in fear but it crept up on me so insidiously that I didn’t even realise that was how I was living.

However, when I left I realised what was happening in my life my fear became much more pronounced.  After I left my husband I began to learn as much as I could about Domestic Abuse. From reading I realised that abusers can behave more dangerously when the relationship ends. I realised my husband’s patterns of behaviour make him fit the profile of the kind of abuser who goes on to kill their ex. In the early days the police classed me as someone at high risk of serious harm, committees were set up to discuss how best to keep me safe, my address had a flag on it to get a quicker 999 response. The council came out and made sure my doors and windows were secure and my smoke alarm worked. The sudden realisation of how dangerous my ex husband is absolutely terrified me. At that point I felt scared. Really scared.

But it was from this place of knowledge and understanding that I was able to move away from my fear. When I was ignorant to my situation I was crippled by fear and confusion. When I realised the seriousness of my situation I became palpably scared; but this knowledge brought me the power to make changes and after I had taken all steps to keep myself safe there came a point when I was able to say “no, no more I will not live in fear”

But more than this, #YesAllWomen doesn’t seek to raise awareness just so women can keep themselves safe from dangerous men. #YesAllWomen seeks to raise awareness so we can educate our sons, so that men can create a world where women don’t need to keep themselves safe from men’s violence.

 I am no longer ignorant to what might befall me, I am aware of what could happen to me, just as it could happen to any woman, because any woman could fall prey to a man like my ex. I take steps to keep myself safe. And this means that unlike some other women out there I can ensure I don’t end up in a dangerous and scary relationship again. But I absolutely refuse to live in fear.  I see the effect fear had on my life, how it drained me of everything that was me, I say never again. I live in the same town as my ex, I could bump into him at any time (and in fact have done) but why should I cower in my home scared to live the life I have worked so hard to recover? No I won’t; I will not live in fear. Never again.

Friday, 13 June 2014

#yesallwomen Fear Is....

"Quite an experience to live in fear isn't it. That is what it is to be a slave" (Bladerunner) 

The #yesallwomen campaign recently has brought up conversations about women living in fear of abusive men. I spent 16 years living in fear, but the thing is, it was only when I was free of that fear that it really dawned on me how much hold fear had on my life, for the time I was living like that I just thought it was normal.

When we imagine someone living in fear we picture the timid scared woman, curled in a corner of her home, trembling, worrying from one moment to the next about her safety, her future. We imagine her heart constantly beating, her breath heavy as she cowers scared of what he might do. We heavily associate fear with panic and we don’t often associate it with strong feisty women who argue back.

But it’s not like that, or at least it wasn’t for me. I didn’t even think about being scared, I just got on with life. And life had happy moments. It was just that those moments were punctuated by the worry about my husband and his behaviour.

I was worried a lot about his health because he took drugs, was grossly overweight, had loads of medical issues he wouldn’t get treatment for and lived a terribly unhealthy lifestyle. His many suicide attempts made me fear he’d kill himself. Becoming a widow was always something I feared.  I spent so much time worrying about my husband’s wellbeing I rarely thought of much else except how I could help him. As well as this I ‘walked on eggshells.’ in fear of his reactions, and this affected my thinking and my behaviour. Before I spoke, even to say “hi honey how was your day?” I had to stop and weigh up how he would react to it. He’d also send me texts and I’d be scared of missing them, because if I didn’t reply straight away he’d go into a mood; over a year later I still find myself needlessly checking my phone. I didn’t spend my days consciously scared for my own wellbeing, thinking I was going to get hurt (even though I did get hurt.) I just constantly worried about upsetting him because in my mind he was very sensitive. This informed everything I thought, said and did- which in turn eventually affected my relationships with others, my health and my ability to function normally.

I also worried about the children. I knew he was overly harsh with them (I didn’t call it abuse) I knew they saw him treating me badly too, I knew they heard him swearing. I worried about how I’d teach them right from wrong with their father not modelling good behaviour and I worried about the emotional and psychological impact of his behaviour.

But I never identified any of this as ‘living in fear’ I just considered that because my husband was mentally ill I had a stressful life with lots to worry about. It was only when I left him and began to not have to worry about these things that I realised what a massive impact fear had had on my life.

I used to have a patch of brambles at the back of my garden, I never really gave them much thought, in fact I barely noticed them after I’d lived in the house a while. But my dad did. He made it his mission to cut them down. It was only when he started to cut them back that I saw how huge they were, how they were intertwined with so many other plants and bushes and were beginning to trail their way down the sides of the garden. I am sure had he not cut them back they’d have taken over the whole garden. But when he did cut them back we found some beautiful yellow flowers growing underneath. With hard work and a lot of scratches my dad was able to cut the brambles away and a few weeks later those flowers had grown taller and brighter. Where once I had a patch of unsightly and painful brambles I now had a bright array of the yellowest flowers.

And that’s how I've found fear to be, it’s insidious. For me it’s not some giant sharp toothed noisy beast waiting in the shadows under the bed, to all at once pounce on you. If it were I’d see it, I’d spot it and I’d find ways to escape from it. No it’s more like bindweed that slowly, in the shadows, creeps up from my ankles stealthily wrapping itself around everything that is me, until it grips my soul and yet I still don’t necessarily notice it’s there; I just sit, strangled and choked by it’s hold, unable to grow, unable to blossom, unable to be who I was designed to be until eventually any light I once had is completely smothered. It is only when something changes, when I am no longer smothered by fear that I'm able to take a step back and see clearly it’s debilitating effects. It’s only at that point I am once again able to grow and flower and fulfil my potential and purpose. 

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Abuse is not.....Your Fault

“Look what you made me do”

“You’ve made me become something I hate”
“You always push my buttons”

“You push and push until you make me snap just so you can claim the moral high ground”

“If you’d just stop nagging”
“You hurt me with your words, all I have left to fight back with is my strength”

“Why don’t you think before you speak? You say such nasty things”

“You backed me into a corner, I didn’t know what else to do”
“I just wanted you to shut up”
“If you had just cleaned the kitchen properly none of this would have happened”
“If you would just discipline the children I wouldn’t have to play bad cop all the time” 
“You know I  hate Sunday mornings” “you know I hate family dinners” “you know I hate walking”
“You always demand so much of my time, it’s frustrating”
“You make me so stressed, why can’t you do more so I don’t get stressed”

“You hurt me so much by being such a whore”

“I just wanted you to pay attention to me”

These are all words that I heard over and over for a long time.  I bet you have heard similar, you’ve probably heard different things but they all amount to the same thing “It’s your fault I abuse you, you get what you deserve.”
This is the last in my ‘abuse is not series’ and contains the most important message I have for you. If you take away one thing and one thing only from reading any of my blog know this:

It is NOT your fault

That’s right

It is NOT your fault.

Not one iota of it. Not even 1% of it. He’s spent so much time trying to convince you you’re to blame that perhaps you have started to believe it. If he’s really manipulative like mine he will have appeared to take some responsibility, but ultimately the end of the ‘making up phase’ will have ended not only with him making a commitment to change but with you also promising not to wind him up or something equally unachievable. You will have been left feeling that although he shouldn’t have done it you were partly to blame for some ‘miscommunication’ that led to some ‘misunderstanding’ that was so difficult for him that he simply had to behave like an animal. In my case I was always made to feel that he treated me badly because he was unhappy, and as his wife it was my job to make him happy, if he was unhappy it was because of something I was, or wasn’t doing. This is not true.

And if you’ve left him you have probably had well-meaning but ultimately ignorant people tell you that you simply must be partly to blame, after all, when a relationship breaks down it’s usually not the fault of only one party. Wrong. In the case of abuse it’s entirely the fault of the abuser.

I found as a Christian this was particularly the case, I had well-meaning Christians counselling me to “focus on what I could have done differently” and “confess my sins before the Lord.” There’s something about the Christian understanding that we are not perfect and need salvation from our sin that causes some Christians to recommend we introspectively look for the ‘forgotten’ sin we committed whenever something goes wrong in our lives. Job had friends like this too. However, sometimes things go wrong because of someone else’s sin. Sometimes we are sinned against, and it’s not mutual. This is the case if you have been abused.

I also had a therapist tell me that “it takes two to tango” that “abused women must somehow get something out of abusive relationships or they’d leave” To put it bluntly this is a right load of old bollocks. I got rid of that therapist quick sharp. Unfortunately a massive proportion of people have absolutely no conception of the dynamics of abusive relationships, occasionally these people are professionals. If like me you have the mis-fortune of encountering one of these people know that you are well within your rights to ask for a different therapist, have the confidence to do so. It has become increasingly important to me to think carefully whose advice I take and whose words I listen to.

I even found that some friends took his side and said I was to blame. “sounds like she needed a bit of the Ike Turner treatment mate” or “you’re such a gentle man, you’d never hit a woman without provocation, she needs behaviour modification.” These people are not your friends, they are morons. Cut them out of your life.

No matter what he tells you, no matter what friends, pastors, family, professionals might tell you, let me re-iterate

It is NOT your fault.

Your abuser was an adult. Whether he was drunk, drugged, hurting or mentally ill. Whether he had been abused himself or whether he had anger management issues; he was an adult. He made a choice. He knew the difference between right and wrong. He knew he was causing pain to another human being; and he did it anyway. He always, ALWAYS had a choice not to do it. He could have resolved his problems in any number of ways. But he didn’t. Whether you simply didn’t wash the pots or whether he found you in bed with his brother and best friend at the same time, he had NO RIGHT to abuse you. Whether you behaved badly or were the model wife, whether you cowered in a corner or argued back, he CHOSE his reaction, he CHOSE abuse. Not you. You are not to blame. He is. 100%

And don’t let anybody EVER tell you differently.


Sally Hope
If you haven't already click the tab at the top of this post to read the rest of the 'abuse is not' series

Monday, 9 June 2014

It's not just about condoms.

When he was five my son came home from school with a letter telling me he was going to be having sex education lessons. Wondering exactly what they were going to teach my tiny weeney little boy I went into school in advance to watch the dvd they were showing.

It was nothing really, it just told them that mummy and daddy have different body parts and you need to have both to make a baby. It then told them that we may be different from one another but difference is good. I remember thinking my son would probably sit in front of it thinking “I’m going to be a fire engine when I grow up” or something equally as random and unrelated to the DVD.

I believe that at some point in his school career though he will get some “proper sex education.”   Our schools quite rightly tell our children that if they have sex without using a condom they can end up with babies and sexually transmitted diseases.

But sex and relationships are so intertwined why don’t schools teach our children what a healthy relationship looks like? If we can tell children that if you have sex without a condom you’ll probably get pregnant why can’t we tell them that if you have sex without respect you’ll probably get hurt?

In a country that speaks to girls about sexual relationships from the age of 5 why is it that 25% of those girls grow up to be trapped in abusive relationships? In a country that speaks to boys about sexual relationships from the age of 5 why is it that so many of those boys grow up to be abusers?

I’ve always believed we should talk to children about love and respect, about what a healthy relationship looks like. I’ve always thought that if we teach our young girls to demand respect from their sexual partners, if we build their self-esteem and self-confidence and teach them that they can say ”yes” safely but they can also choose to say “no” then we’ll have a much bigger impact on the rate of unwanted pregnancies which the UK seems to lead the rest of Europe in.

But now I also think we need to be teaching girls about the red flags of domestic violence. I look back at the beginnings of my relationship and in retrospect see so many red flags, right from day one, that should have rung alarm bells, and I wonder if I’d been taught those lessons would I have spotted them and got out sooner?

I’m a bit stubborn and when I was 19 I liked to think I knew best so there’s a chance I wouldn’t have. But maybe I would. Maybe other girls would get out quicker if they knew what to look for….

And before all my feminist friends tell me off, we also need to educate boys about abuse. By teaching girls what to expect from a healthy relationship, and what an unhealthy relationship looks like we will better equip them to escape abuse. But educating boys not to abuse is the only way to eradicate abuse.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Learning to love yourself

Since I left my husband one thing I have had to learn to do is to be generous to myself.

My husband prided himself on his generosity, except it wasn’t, it was just another way to control me. He would buy something on ebay most days; he’d call at the supermarket on the way home from work- just to pick up bread, and come home with bags and bags of treats. I used to dread the postman knocking on the door because I knew it meant he’d been spending money we didn’t have.

Usually it was clothes he bought me: tight tops, short skirts, push up bras, lacy knickers. When clothing arrived for me I wasn’t allowed to question it because that was just “pouring cold water” on his gift. If I said I didn’t need clothes or I was worried about the money I wasn’t just “being ungrateful” I was also spoiling the pleasure he claimed he got from being generous.

So I had to feign excitement as I tore open the package, I had to smile and say ‘thank you’ for the revealing skirt I didn’t want. And I had to sound convincing too. Instead of rushing to check the bank account to see how much he’d caused us to go overdrawn I had to rush upstairs and try it on, there and then, no matter what I was planning to do at that moment, even if I was tired and about to go to bed, or ill, or on my period and feeling bloated- fashion parades happened in our house several times a week.

And if it was too small, which it often was I’d feel guilty as he choked back tears and said “well I bought your size” and then refuse to send it back saying “put it away for when you lose weight”

With my husband spending all our money like it was going out of fashion I had to do the opposite. I never needed clothes or shoes because my wardrobes (notice the plural, I have one now!) were bursting at the seams, much like the tiny clothes squashed reluctantly inside them. And I daren’t spend money anyway because I never got to look at the bank accounts and I never knew how much we had, or didn’t have. But I did know that with his spending habits we couldn’t have much left.

So by the time I left my husband I was in the habit of buying myself nothing. This is something I’ve had to ‘unlearn’ now I regularly treat myself. Just little things, I get my hair done, I buy clothes I like, I buy myself chocolate and flowers and ice cream and little knick knacks. The sort of thing I guess that a husband might buy for his wife, as he saw them and thought of her. I’ve learned to do that for myself.

When I was married if a single friend was buying for herself I’d have felt sorry for her that she had to treat herself, that she didn’t have a husband to treat her; I’d think “yeah it’s nice but it’s not the same.”

I was right, it’s not the same.

When I treat myself I buy things I like, and that fit; gifts from me don’t make me feel bad about myself. I am grateful when I buy myself something; I am grateful that I am able to, and it’s real gratitude, not forced gratitude for something I don’t want in fear of what will happen if I am truthful about not liking it. When I buy myself something I don’t feel guilty about the waste or the money; I buy nice things, that I like, and I budget for them. My spend doesn’t cause me to worry about savings or the future or anything really. My husband’s gifts also used to make me feel indebted to him, I’d think “oh he buys me so many things and I never get anything for him….” When I buy myself something I don’t feel indebted to anyone. (except maybe the credit card company)

And I’m not just generous to myself in terms of spend, I have learned to cook myself nice food. In fact this has been important too, because when I was with my husband I’d cook him lovely food as an act of love for him, it took me a while to cook for myself with such tenderness.  I also give myself time, for relaxing, for enjoyment and often a bit of pampering. When I was with my husband I didn’t wear make up because he’d complain if I took too long to get ready, now I enjoy sitting in front of my mirror playing with my mascara and lippy, it gives me a boost.

Acts of generosity are designed to make the receiver feel loved, to feel special. My husband’s acts of generosity never did that, they just made me feel worried and guilty. When I treat myself I remind myself that I am loved. Not just by others but by myself. I no longer waste my energies trying only to love an unlovable person who rejects and does not reciprocate love. I no longer put my own needs aside hoping in vain that someone will notice them. I no longer rely on someone else to fulfil my desires or to provide for me.  I love myself, I care for myself and I take responsibility for myself.

Whatever your circumstances, it’s important to learn to be kind to yourself in whatever way makes you happy.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Abuse is not.....something that men experience just as much as women.

Recently an advert from the organisation ‘Mankind Initiative’ who support male victims of domestic abuse has been doing the rounds. The advert concludes with the statistic that 40% of domestic abuse victims are men.

You can read an article about the advert which contains a response to it from Women’s Aid here. Please do.

Mankind Initiative video
Violence is Violence: a still from the ManKind Initiative video
Women’s Aid excellently explain that the 40% figure is based on single incidents but that abuse is not about single incidents of violence rather it is about power and control exerted over a period of time. They point out that 89% of those who experience four or more incidents of domestic abuse are female, and of the remaining 11% many are in same sex relationships, rather than men suffering abuse at the hands of women. 

It’s not only Women’s Aid who acknowledge that Domestic Abuse is, in the majority of cases, perpetrated by men; Lundy Bancroft is a renowned expert in Domestic Violence, having worked for many years with perpetrators. In his book “Why Does He Do that” he writes: 
 “Where are the men whose partners are forcing them to have unwanted sex? Where are the men who are fleeing to shelters in fear for their lives? How about the ones who try to get to a phone to call for help, but the women block their way or cut the line? The reason we don’t generally see these men is simple: They’re rare…….Even if abused men didn’t want to come forward, they would have been discovered by now…..Among my physically abusive clients, nearly one third have been arrested as a result of a call to the police that came from someone other than the abused woman. If there were millions of cowed, trembling men out there the police would be finding them. Abusive men commonly like to play the role of victim, and most men who claim to be “battered men” are actually the perpetrators of violence, not the victims.”

The last point that Bancroft makes, that abusive men often make out they are the victims has been my experience. I look at that statistic of 40% and I realise that it includes my abusive husband as a “victim.” 

After I left my husband it took a couple of weeks for the dawning realisation that I was a victim of abuse to hit me. When it did I had a bit of a meltdown. I foolishly, and naively drove over to his house to confront him (if you are a victim of abuse and leaving your partner don’t EVER do this- it’s very dangerous.) When he told me to ‘get lost’ and slammed the door in my face I was distraught, through my tears and frustration I threw a small handful of gravel at his door. My husband made a malicious call to the police saying I’d broken his window I was arrested and charged with criminal damage, the incident was classed as “domestic” and my husband logged as a victim of domestic violence. Despite the fact that he was actually the perpetrator when we look at the national statistics my husband will appear as a victim. 

How many more of this 40% are abusive men who have made malicious complaints playing the victim? (which Bancroft explains is common behaviour among perpetrators) How many of this 40% are men who have sustained injuries as their frightened victim lashes out in defence? How many of them are abusers whose victim has finally snapped and hit back? This is why it is important to look more carefully at statistics, and particularly place more emphasis on repeat calls to the police than single incidents. 

In many ways as hidden hurt  point out, it doesn’t really matter whether more perpetrators of abuse are male or female:
 “ We know that there are many men who DO experience Domestic Abuse at some stage in their lives, and whether there are 1000 or 100,000 per year in the UK alone doesn't make any difference to the individual suffering and fear and pain experienced by any one man in an abusive relationship. What is important, is that their suffering is taken seriously, and that support and help is available when needed, regardless of gender.”
But let’s not kid ourselves and buy into myths that abuse doesn’t discriminate on the basis of gender- it does. And sometimes, by buying into the notion that men suffer abuse as much as women we unwittingly enable those perpetrators who like to play the victim. We also fail to provide adequate levels of funding for female victims; if female victims account for 80% then the majority of refuge spaces need to be available to women, the majority of support groups and support services need to be made available to women. Of course every abuse victim needs to be supported regardless of gender, but in order to do that we do need to be aware of who the victims are.

If you are a male victim of Domestic abuse you can contact the men’s advice line run by Respect on 08088010327. 

Finally you can buy Lundy Bancroft’s book here. It is an excellent read, incredibly insightful and informative,  if you only want to read one book about Domestic Abuse read this one.

Please check out the rest of the Abuse is not series by clicking on the tab at the top of this post