Street angel, home devil
THE fact that we now hear more about domestic violence is probably more to do with the fact that we dare to talk about it than it is to do with increased prevalence.
It wasn’t that long ago that no woman would admit to being a victim for the shame of it, the embarrassment of having to admit to friends and relatives that life at home wasn’t what it seemed.
I know, because I was one of them. In fact, I didn’t even recognise my situation as domestic violence because I didn’t have black eyes and bruises.
I accepted holes being punched in the wall, household treasures being smashed on the floor, filthy language and verbal abuse because most of the time, he was a nice guy.
And as my mother used to say, “you’ve made your bed, now you have to lie in it”.
Many a time I would load the kids in the car and drive away and sit in the dark at a park waiting, hoping, that if we gave him long enough, he would have stopped the rampage and fallen asleep before we got back.
I accepted it all, the fear … living with a time bomb not knowing when it would go off … the tears and frustration, because we lived in a nice house with a pool, we were seen as a “good” family, he was the school P&C president and a well known businessman around town, and apart from these black periods every few weeks, life went on just fine.
To make matters worse, the local policeman and his wife had been for dinner, and it would have been just too embarrassing to call him late at night seeking intervention. The threat of that made it worse, not better.
It is for this reason, I find it hard to imagine that MPs would consider passing a bill demanding that the wife speak up. Don’t they get it? Sometimes you just can’t report it!
Similarly, it is very easy for someone who has never lived in a situation of domestic violence to say “I would just leave him. I wouldn’t tolerate it.”
To that I say, just try it. This is your life, your home, your family and when he’s good he’s very very good. Is it worth giving it all away when you live in hope that he will eventually get over it and stop the tantrums; that his mood/depression will pass and things will be like they once were when we had set out from the altar full of hope.
I did it for more than 15 years but saw the situation gradually worsening. Each time the behaviours worsened and still I didn’t realise that this was in fact, domestic violence.
Websites outlined the signs, and I fitted them perfectly. The cycle of abuse, the remorse, the peace and then the explosion. Yep, they were all mine.
I was eventually able to break the cycle when, very drunk, he punched me. My ear rang and it wasn’t the pain but the shock, that this man who had always promised to be my protector had become the one person who would dare to hit me.
That was a barrier crossed and I finally accepted that it wasn’t going to get better. In fact, I feared it would probably get worse as all the other situations had.
Once he got away with a new level of nastiness once, he came back and did it again, only worse the second time and I wasn’t going to hang around waiting to be hit again. I had been married for 30 years and was too old to be pushed around.
Looking back, my guilt only is that I didn’t get out sooner for the sake of my children. They witnessed it all too and while I thought I was keeping a happy home for them, in fact I was only subjecting them to the fear of when a bomb would go off in the household.
These days I’m a happy single and my only regret in life is that I didn’t give up on that toxic relationship much, much sooner. It just doesn’t get better.