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Living With Domestic Violence: My Story

silhouette-woman-profileI’ve been saying for approximately 18 months that I’d write this article, but perhaps understandably I’ve been putting it off, as some events in your life you just don’t want to ever revisit, however a fortnight ago whilst on Twitter a video of a wedding reception dropped onto my news feed. I opened it and was met with a scene of beauty; a stunning but demure Bride and a handsome Groom; they were taking part in an exchange of wedding cake in which the Groom gently fed a piece to his Bride and the Bride returns the exchange. She started to feed the proffered cake to her Husband; then in what I presume was a spur of the moment decision, teasingly offered up the cake only to whisk it momentarily away…….bam, he whacked her. Now the camera angle was such that you could not really see the guests reaction but the Bride’s distress as you’d expect was clear. Although one or two men pulled the Groom away; upon reading down through the comments; the general consensus was that within the culture his crime was not that he’d hit his playful Bride but that he’d done it in public; you see she’d apparently shamed him in front of everyone but he should have known better and waited until later when they were alone………violence is never acceptable; so perhaps now is the time for me to share my story in a bid to help others in the same situation.

What you are about to read took place over less than two years but certainly looking back it obviously had an impact; even to this day:

I remember as though it were yesterday the night I got speaking to a friend at a party when she started to tell me of her violent partner; I listened, shocked, disgusted and appalled; not only at what she’d been living through that none of us were aware of but that she was staying put. I comforted, consoled and very quickly got angry; telling her, you are better than this, you deserve better than this, it’s time to leave and if I can do anything to help you get there just let me know. Together we can be strong. Little did I know that around two weeks later I would meet the man that would do the same to me.

When we met in the November I was just starting to feel confident again; having been floored when my husband had announced that he thought he was homosexual (a different story) some 20 months earlier, leaving me not only single at 23 but alone; having to find a roof for over my head, then subsequently my feet in a strange part of the city. I successfully did this over time and I started going out in my now, local area.

I don’t need or want to dwell on his courtship of me but suffice to say at the time he was charming, courteous, kind and attentive and above all else he accepted my little saviours; my cats Ziggy and Spike. Although there was an age gap of 15 years this didn’t bother me and we had fun, we went out to parties, to the cinema, to a little Italian Bistro (frequently) and as you do in these situations we opened up to each other, including our past marriages.

Perhaps this is the when the alarm bells should have  started to ring as he was very honest; he told me that his wife was being unreasonable and that the only way he’d be able to see his children, was if he agreed to drinking and “anger issues” being cited on the divorce certificate, bearing in mind you needed grounds for a quick divorce back in the 80’s, perhaps you still do? Anyroads, he spoke about how this accusation haunted him but how ultimately he figured it was for the best as an arrangement for unrestricted access to his children was agreed and that after all was his objective at the time.

I met his children and over time we all started to make a more permanent bond, his staying at mine, my staying at his etc. I think even then I was aware that things were moving too fast, for me anyways; his wanting to see me more and more and me seeing my friends less and less but he always reassured me, that everything would be okay, he’d take care of me and that we really didn’t need anyone else. Classic domineering tactics I suppose, with the benefit of hindsight that is, but at the time he’d be insistent that it was just because he was infatuated and wanted to spend every available hour with me. So I guess days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months and I saw my friends at work still, but I would socialise seldom with them afterwards. He didn’t have to worry quite so much about isolating me from my family as they lived over 60 miles away; so I guess they were never quite as much a threat to my time as my friends were.

By the late spring he was starting to say we should be living together, he’d sell his flat to his daughter and move in with me. I thought it would be better to see how it would go first and to my surprise he agreed, so he, moved in on a trial basis with us occasionally still staying at his. (it’s important to mention this).

One evening in June whilst at his we were watching a movie, which included women being able to defend ourselves and he asked if I could. I thought probably if I had to, so he suggested I show him. I said don’t be silly but he persisted, standing up and saying…try to hit me. I said that’s not how I’d defend myself but he was insistent that if I couldn’t land a good thump I’d be hopeless; he was laughing and saying, don’t worry I’ll block it, just show me what you’d do; so feeling stupid I swung a right only to have him do nothing and for my hand to connect with his face. I was horrified but not nearly as much as when he responded….whack….he laughed again and said that’s why women should learn to defend themselves in a different way as men always win in a fist fight. My head and my brain were whirling, was this my fault….was he really just showing me how hopeless it would be to hit out, but but….it was him that told me to do it that way in the first place. Anyroads he just said no harm done, lesson learned and that he’d done more or less the same with his daughters and he continued to watch the movie. Now I know you’re all saying I should get rid but somehow he managed to make me think, he wasn’t being violent he was just trying to help.

The next night I met with my friend and the first thing she said was, what the hell have you done to your face, well guess what…..I didn’t use the walking into the door excuse, I told her what had actually happened and to be fair she was as confused as me. He was certainly rougher than men we’d usually associated with so we ended up wondering if it were possible that he really was trying to be helpful. I think embarrassment was also playing a part.

Moving things on, I’d work, he’d work and we’d come together in the evening more often than not meeting up for a drink afterwards; this is probably when I started to realise he drank too much; I buried it down and thought he’s just being sociable but his mood swings were starting to become apparent as was his vicious tongue. It’s true what they say; it really doesn’t take long for your confidence to take a knock. I’m only with you because……No one would want you because……Even your friends never see you because…….I’m sure you’re getting the picture and sadly I was believing it.

The first time things really came to a head was the night before my Birthday, he’d been shopping and was really quite excited mentioning his trip to the jewellers, my heart sunk……oh please don’t let it be a ring. I’ll never know what made him snap, perhaps I was giving off vibes of dread but his mood changed drastically, insisting I open my present right now. I said no that my birthday was not until the next day, but he became violent; punching me and pulling my hair and calling me names too disgusting to mention. He ended up throwing my present at me which turned out to be a gold necklace and bracelet set which was as good a ball and chain as the real thing. You see when I eventually could speak I said I couldn’t go on like this and that I thought it would be an idea for him to move back home, which was when he told me he couldn’t as you’ve guessed it; he’d sold the flat to his daughter without telling me. I felt trapped.

There were many other occasions to follow some good a holiday in Spain, his helping me cope with my ME which had returned, but some quite horrific including calling the Police on him followed by some time apart in which he promised he’d changed; he’d stopped drinking and could we try again. So slowly we did but it didn’t last long before I received either very badly bruised or perhaps even cracked ribs for Christmas. I couldn’t bring myself to go to the hospital as I was far too embarrassed so I just strapped them up.

At this point I knew I had to get out but it took another few weeks and ultimately his threatening to go get a gun to kill my cats. He’d obviously started drinking again as instead of going for the gun he passed out. I managed to quickly phone my Brother in law and asked him to phone the Police and my Mum and get her to send my Dad through for me. I went outside to wait, as luck would have it a friend passed by so I was able to wait unseen in her car until the Police arrived. My Mum also phoned relatives who lived close by so very quickly I was not alone. When the Police did arrived they took a verbal statement and went in to get him; at this point I didn’t care if he was being locked up, I just wanted him away.

His being locked up never did happen as I discovered later it was his ex brother in law that was sent to the house so he put him up to his daughter’s to sleep it off.

He tried to get in touch often after that but, I let the house and stayed with Mum and Dad for a few months having already been signed off work with my ME.

He did have one more occasion to “come” back into my life though. As I was packing up my flat I couldn’t believe the empty Vodka bottles that I found, behind the fridge, behind the cooker, in the library unit. You name it, he used it for hiding. I guess that he never did stop drinking, he just became good at hiding it.

At the end of September that year 1991 I came to Orkney for a wedding and fell in love with the Island. By the following May I’d decided to come back to Orkney for a few months to see if I could live here. Friends that I’d met at the wedding arranged shared accommodation for me and as I lugged my suitcase through the living room door the first person I saw was Kenny* and the rest as they say was history……..

*Kenny, my husband, Dad to our two beautiful daughters, my best friend, my rock.

I hope this can help people to realise that you can get out and that there is another life possible. Please feel free to get in touch if you need to.


Useful links

Women’s Aid Orkney

We are here to provide free and confidential support to women and children  affected by domestic abuse.

Contact us 

Our office hours are 9am – 4.30pm.

Phone: 01856 877900

Email: info@womensaidorkney.org.uk

Need support outside of these hours?

Call: Scotland’s 24 hour Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline on 0800 027 1234

Email:  helpline@sdafmh.org.uk 

Or visit: sdafmh.org.uk

It’s an emergency?

Call the police on 999


Orkney Rape and Sexual Assault Service

Facebook page

Phone: Call 01856 872298

Call the RCS helpline on 08088 01 03 0


 

 

 

 

 

 

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7 replies »

  1. Oh, Helen, and now you’re so strong….and lovely!
    Good on you for writing this – if it helps just one person, male or female, to deal with abuse – that adds to the plus in the world, rather than the minus.

    Thank God, I’ve not been in that kind of relationship, though I’ve known some who have, and, yes, the abuser always seems to manage to get them thinking that it’s their ‘fault’.
    I won’t go into that – it will be familiar territory to those who have been there. I won’t tell their tales, as they are not mine, to tell, publicly.

    What I did have, and still do have, is a good, male friend – me old mate Philip – who, when I was about 18 years old, taught me some self-defence, and, unlike the man in your story – he never hurt me, doing so – just taught me what to do, if someone else tried to. Rule number one was – don’t get scared, get angry. Then, don’t fight clean – you’re a small not very strong, woman – they won’t be fighting fair, why should you? And then, he taught me some techniques – which did not include hitting someone across the face! but did include some good ways to hurt someone, without needing much strength to do so, whilst putting the attacker in a state of pain, and discomfort, which would make them less likely to carry on the attack.

    Some might say that violence is not the answer – well, sometimes, it is the only response that will make a difference to the situation.

    The people who behave that way, have got problems, and it’s for them, to try to sort themselves out. A partner might be prepared to help, but I don’t see why that should include getting battered in the process.

    That’s just my view.

    The other thing is – if someone ever asks what I’d do, if attacked, I wouldn’t tell them. I’d say “I’m not telling you that, as then you’d know what I was going to do – surprise is a good weapon”. Even from a small person, that’s a bit scary!
    This all sounds a bit extreme, but, when reading your story, and knowing the stories of others I’ve come across, it isn’t. Male or female, we need to know what to do. For me, number one is the main thing – don’t get scared, get angry. If you give off that attitude, it gives signals about how you expect to be treated.
    And, as for how I expect to be treated – I thank my Mum and Dad for that. I never heard my Dad even raise his voice to my Mum, let alone his hand. He only ever raised his voice, when training dogs, and that’s different.
    In a pub, once, he did punch a man, who had insulted a woman he knew. I like him for that.

    I risk wandering off the point. This was a good, sound, brave thing to do Helen.
    I’m sending you a large hug.

    Like

    • Thank you Bernie for both your comment and your hug. It’s been a roller coaster 24hrs with quite a sway of emotions, traumatic, reliving it whilst writing it, I can’t quite believe it still had this affect 28yrs later. Heart bumping and cold sweats, but the outpouring of love and support I’ve received today on FB and Twitter has actually staggered me. I just hope it might help one person. Thanks again Helen xx

      Like

    • Thank you very much for that, if it can help others to see that there is a life afterwards then hopefully it gives someone else strength to move on. H

      Like

  2. The other thing which stands out is…that Helen writes this without bitterness – she presents what happened, and its effect on her, but without getting hard or mean about it.
    Many people who have been through these kind of experiences, do get hard, and who can blame them? I’ve known someone who got so she hated men – really had it in for all men, on the strength of one who was a ****** to her. We talked it over, worked round it and tried to work through it – but – it had left its mark, and she never really trusted again.
    Helen – you write without bitterness, without meanness, and that’s why I said you’re so lovely. You are a gentle woman, who wishes no harm to anyone – and are still so, even after all that.
    You have Kenny, and your girls, and your ‘boy’ – surrounded by love, and reaching out from that place, to help others. The tale is there, you’ve put it out into the world, to help others, and I very much hope that the telling of it, has also helped you to clear your head and your life of that person. I hope that you can truly let it go.
    Sending another big hug!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Bernie, as they say bitterness eats you from within and no way was I allowing that to happen. Life is short enough, look for the positive and you can hopefully go through life, whatever it throws at you, with a smile on your face. Thankfully summer is coming and my constant smile fits in better in the sunshine than the rain lol. H

      Like

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