A love letter to my abuser

Today I was a bitch,

I was stupid.

A waste of space.

An idiot,

Bad.

A witch,

Horrible.

Insane.

Fat.

Ugly

I was a bad mother.

You combined some of them to call me a fucking stupid bitch. Idiot.

That you are going to have my children taken off me. Incapable insane whore.

You are so clever, your mind is sharper than mine after all the hours of broken sleep and breastfeeding your children.

After I  juggle jobs and childcare. You are cleverer than me.

After I clothe your children and kiss their boo boo you are cleverer than me.

After I get up early, again, a second job to pay the bills. You are cleverer than me.

After I wait in queues and fight for assistance.. You are cleverer than me.

After I parent for 24/7 when you refuse to come pick them up for weeks, you are cleverer than me.

You have used the courts as a new weapon and your words as a control. You are cleverer than me.

You’ve silenced me,  and I’m tired.

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So this is my Love letter to you, my abuser.

The only name I can call you.

Because these days that you back me into the corner and pummel me with words and hit me with insults and try and cut me to the core with your barbs until I just don’t think I can go on any further,  these days when I have no tears left so that I wish you would go back to just abusing me with your hands instead of your words because at least then you stopped, these are the days that I howl into the night and cry out to my sisters in whispered message boards and I am remembered…

That I am a deeply  loved and loving mother.

That I am a smart, valued, wise, and kind,

That I AM good,

That I’m sane, healthy,

A beautiful woman.  

I am a wonderwoman.

And it might just be enough…

From the writer – wonderwoman

I have written this after a day of unrelenting insults and disgusting words that have got me so down. So low. After weeks of failing to pick up his children and childcare arrangements and beginning of year school costs and all those stresses that get the average functioning family down.

But these men; that hold esteemed positions in our community, that you know, that you admire. They use their brains and their contacts, their resources of courts and systems and privilege as their new weapons. The other men around them continue to hold them up to, even if they know. They use the fact that they are “too important “ for anyone to criticise.

This man learnt instantly he was not allowed to put me in hospital, I gave him no second chances yet he still put me there more than once, and finally the police agreed it was enough so now he does it in other ways.

Yet sometimes when I am especially low and fragile I wish for that over this, because at least then it is short sharp and over (I apologise to other women that have suffered ongoing physical violence that would of course disagree). But for me, and so many others this is torture. Emotional, verbal abuse and threats that just keep coming, The NZ courts system can or will do nothing, and they often add another layer by silencing or imposing a gag order so the abuser can legally and freely continue to abuse with the permission of the courts.  

It is a life time sentence.

Somedays I feel strong and I want to shout it from the rooftops but I am not allowed. I am silenced. Somedays it is all too much and I really don’t think i can make it through.

Today I am tired of it all.

Meeting A*

Sometimes,  in this job, you meet someone very special. Someone you know you will likely have in your life for some time. Someone who deeply touches, and moves you with their honesty. Today was one such day. Let me tell you why.

Yesterday, when I went to the refuge, K told me about A* and a little about her situation because she wanted to know if The Aunties could help getting A* some furniture. So I talked to the Board, and we decided to try and raise $3000 so that A* could have what she needs, and not have strangers delivering their second hand furniture to her. Because that’s normally what happens – if someone offers furniture, I put them in touch with the woman who needs it, and they coordinate delivery themselves. But not in this case. A* has newly left an intensely dangerous situation, and would prefer that strangers not come to her house.

And then today, K asked me if we could organise A*’s drivers licence for her, and sent me A*’s phone number. I rang A* after a long day, and we talked. And talked and talked and talked. She has what I call shut in syndrome – something that is particularly noticeable in women who are naturally bubbly, but have had to shut their mouths for a long long time.  In the course of our phone call, it transpires that she’s been waiting all day for delivery of a washing machine, and fridge. Her children, two older, are there to run interference. They’ve been waiting since 8am, and they’re still waiting at 7pm. She doesn’t want to leave the house without them so they’ve had no food all day. Horrified, I offer to bring her some food. And she cries. “Come and see me!”. She lives not very far away, and so I do. I pack a bag with food for her and the kids, just enough for a snack, and I drive down the road.

She greets me with a huge hug, and lots of laughter. She introduces me to her kids, her niece. She and they and I, we laugh. She talks more about her story. She wants to tell YOU her story. She wants to tell you her name. Because, she says, she wants him to know she is not defeated. And primarily, she wants other women to know it’s not too late to leave, it’s never too late to leave. She doesn’t quite believe it when I tell her that you will all believe her. That whatever she says, you will know it’s true. Because nobody has ever believed what he did to her, nobody has ever heard her voice. And she wants, most emphatically, her voice to be heard. She has agency in her own life.

So one day, in the near future, I will take my laptop to her house, and she and I will sit down and she will tell me everything she wants you to know. If you are still living with domestic violence, if you’ve left that years ago, or whether you have never known what it’s like, she wants you to hear. She wants you to see her. “These will be my words, Jackie, but you must write them for me.”

And so, I will. And you will hear her. She deserves to be heard. We owe her that.

Unheard of

I’ve told my story of living with domestic violence. I’ve heard the stories of countless women who have lived, and are living, with domestic violence.

It feels taboo even to talk about it. You feel sick and fearful as you eke the words out of your mouth. Will you be believed? Will the person listening think less of you? As little as you think of yourself? Dummy/stupid/weak/pathetic/loser for putting up with it. Living with it. Why didn’t I see? Why didn’t I leave? Why didn’t you leave? Think of the kids.

People who talk about their experiences in this regard are often not heard, and we don’t really want them to speak. Bold statement. This shit is uncomfortable.

And its because it’s uncomfortable that we have to listen.

In my experience, we think of IPV or DV as brutal. Physical. Cowering woman in corner trying to avoid the blows. And so that can be triggering for many people. Deeply uncomfortable, disturbing. If women go into a refuge, they’re safe. We would like to believe that. If we or they talk about what’s happened to them, that’s dangerous, unsafe.

Dont talk about it.

And yet, the inverse is true.

Being in a refuge may make you physically safe for the period you’re there. But there will be texts, phone calls, Facebook messages, yourself, the kids, your family to contend with. It’s lonely. And the more you speak of what’s happened to you, the more people know, the less lonely you feel. The more agency you have. The more power you take back.

The physical stuff is dramatic, it captures attention. But it’s not the stuff that’s most damaging. The verbal, psychological, emotional control mechanisms are what wear you down and keep you there. They are exhausting, and you can’t muster the energy to explain that nor banish the fear to speak of it.

So when you do, you deserve to be heard. We are required to listen. To hear. To act. To not turn away. That’s what’s dangerous. That’s what’s unsafe.

 

How do you actually leave?

I was contacted by a woman who wanted to share her story. I broke it into tweets but here are her words in their entirety. These are words about a relationship that is very familiar to me, very familiar to a lot of people. I didn’t leave, where would I go? What would I do? How would I survive? These were the questions I asked myself.

I would warn you this may trigger you for psychological violence.

 

 

 

Things are good at first, he showers you with adoration. Slowly things start to feel strange. He annoys easily, withdraws. Things are always focused on him. You start to lose your identity, dropping your interests and friends. It’s just easier that way. You notice you feel less sure. You forget how to stand firm. You question your beliefs, your reality. It’s so hard to understand why exactly. 

He starts to get angry. The fits come more often, more intensely. You’re confused because the rules keep changing. You’re told everything that goes wrong is your fault, you feel guilty. You’ve lost your faith in yourself so this is easy to believe. Because of this shame, you start isolating. You hide things from family and friends. They mustn’t see how awful you are too. It gets tiring – all this shame and pretending. You reach a breaking point and question the bigger picture. 

He notices, starts manipulating you with kindness. You start to wonder if you were wrong to doubt, maybe he can change. You feel loved again, or something close to it. Even if the kindness is tiny, it’s a relief. You relax into the attention. Suddenly, he cuts off affection. The stark contrast between the abuse and kindness leads you to believe you did something terribly wrong.

He says he only gets angry because of you, nobody else makes him react this way. You see him with other people and agree, it’s you. You believe that you can help him. He’ll treat you nicely if you put in enough work, act perfectly. You know you can fix this. You don’t feel free or like yourself. He says if you ever leave, he will harm himself or you. He says he loves you, that you’re everything.   He says nobody will believe he’s done anything wrong. He dares you to call the cops, says they will laugh at how crazy you are.

With the set beliefs that you’re worthless, mentally unwell, unable to support yourself financially, and fully to blame for the situation….how do you actually leave?