When Jennifer Gilmour asked if I might write something from my experience of dealing with domestic abuse, it was harder than I’d imagined it would be.
Following on from 26 weeks counselling through two different routes, while I came out the other side a different person, some days I can’t use the word stronger. I went in initially because I assumed I had a problem with my husband. It soon transpired I’d suffered domestic abuse from toddler years, verbal, sexual and psychological. I was an only child and thought it all ‘normal’. As the weeks of unpicking the scab and digging down to find the infection continued, my childhood years were dissected and many answers came to me for questions I’d never even thought to ask.
The therapist was amazing; objective, empathetic, enlightened, knowledgeable and fair. At the end of week four, she made some notes and sat back and warned me,
‘I’m going to say something now which may be uncomfortable to hear.’
I looked at her nervously..
‘You are partly responsible for the situations you are describing to me in your marriage. Not all, but some.’
I swallowed, and waited …
‘Because you’ve been trained from a very young age to believe you are no good at anything, after you married, you had no sense of worth. You haven’t been valuing yourself and therefore won’t have been able to stand up for yourself when you might have instinctively wanted to say no to something.’ She paused and I absorbed. She went on, ‘You chose options for an easy life, to keep the peace, because you were worried about the consequences.’
How can she know in four hours the whole truth of my life to date?
‘I’m going to help you leave those thought processes behind, help you understand why they were put there and teach you to recognise the signs for the future and some tips to help you avoid being with negative people.’
When the counselling stops, when the Womens Aid Group contact officially comes to an end (even though you know they are only a phone call away), you are thrown back into the real world and it’s up to you whether you sink or swim.
Two years ago when I was advised by my local Womens Aid Group to read up on the signs of domestic abuse, I did not expect to place a tick next to each box while thinking about my husband, and by the bottom of the page be in tears of disbelief. Surely this man I’d lived with for over twenty years was no worse than the average tired, overworked middle age man, and I simply needed to get his meals on the table with more thought about timings, and stop asking him to consider going somewhere different for family holidays … because that was just greedy when we were lucky enough to go away at all, right? Some folks don’t have that option.
The confusion which swims around my head on some days, has me reaching for the familiar voices at the centre, but as the months progress and the self esteem starts to believe in itself, I know I have to find something else in life, just for me. The children are older teenagers, driving and no longer need me in the same capacity they once did.
My husband needs me as part of the family farming business but he also needs me for his social, for his spiritual being. He tells me this frequently. I’d love him to have some friends to occasionally spend time with. But he claims he doesn’t need anyone else.
So … I took up writing, and I love it. The local Womens Aid Centre had a visitor, an actress-turned-writer who came to work with some of us who had done the ‘Freedom Programme’ (based on Pat Craven’s book ‘Living with The Dominator’). She wanted to write a play .. a brand new version of a play whose versions to date had been written by men, about the investigations into the murder of a woman.
This playwright wanted to write the story from the murderer woman’s point of view .. setting it during the days leading up to her death. She wanted to get inside the head of what would possibly make a woman make the decisions she did which ultimately led to her trusting the man who killed her.
She worked for four weeks with women who had done the Freedom Programme and we were able to share some of the emotions with her .. at various points in our lives when we have been the most scared, the most vulnerable. I watched the dress rehearsal and held my breath and couldn’t stop the tears from falling.
The actresses were shattered; their comprehension of the script was palpable. I couldn’t bring myself to see the finished play last month, but I was proud to be part of the biggest movement this couple the has ever seen when it comes to underspending domestic abuse.
When my mother nearly lost her life two weeks ago and the NHS saved her body from death over a 36 hour period, I felt slight guilt that in front of my father I wasn’t upset. But if there’s one thing the counselling has taught me, it’s that I need to be true to myself, for the remainder of my life. I’m not here to be a people pleaser solely any more. If what I do/say/write has the side effect of pleasing someone, then that’s icing on the cake.
If you have suffered or know someone who is suffering a form of domestic abuse, try to get them to talk to someone. It changed my life.
My new thing – the thing just for me is writing. Thank you for having me Jennifer.
Don't miss out on any of my blog posts or book reviews by following my blog via the right hand column.