Dear Lisa Nandy,
I’m going to invite you to live just one night with me. A night from my past.
Earlier in the morning (of the night I will take you to) and the downstairs kitchen bore the evidence of his rage. A smashed in sink; a broken chair; a wall with plaster missing.
A result of my failing to come home “on time”. Of my being “a slag”. Of spending a night out with friends he didn't know. He had insisted on dropping me off outside to “check”. A night of trying to enjoy myself whilst taking around 30 texts from him telling me to get home “immediately” and if not the door would be locked. Of my coming home in absolute fear to find the door locked. Of begging to come inside my own home. Of being “allowed” inside and knowing a punishment was coming. It wasn’t immediate. It wasn’t a fist. I braced myself. It could always be worse than a fist.
It was about 9.30pm on the night after this that I ask you to accompany me. I was tired and I was confused and I had no idea what was happening to me because lots of – maybe most of - abused women, don’t know they are being abused. We feel permanently lost.
My abuser had left the house. I didn’t know where he was. In the morning he had smashed up the kitchen because I’d asked why I was in trouble. I hadn’t known there was a curfew time. I didn’t know it was 11pm or that I wasn’t allowed out beyond that . I didn’t know that 11.05pm was “punishable”. I didn’t know anything. Abused women stop knowing things. They stop knowing themselves. I’d taken him back after previously escaping and I didn’t know that the rules had changed again.
My mobile phone rang on the night I invite you to. At 9.30 pm. Do join me Lisa Nandy and your Labour colleagues. I really want you to join me.
It was him. I saw his face and the name “Captain” flash up on my mobile. I always knew who was in charge of that damnable, abusive boat.
He didn't say anything. I could hear something happening. I shouted out his name. There was no answer. Like a pocket dial... you know the one? Where you don’t really hear anything and it’s all muffled? And you shout out “hello” and you laugh and think “oh this is funny...”. Yeah? ....That.
Except this wasn’t at all muffled. It wasn’t at all accidental. It was crystal clear. I heard every word and every sound because he had the phone in his hand so I could hear. He had dialled so that I could hear.
I heard him ask, “Have you got one in stockings?”
And I knew where he was in an instant. I don’t know how.
He was in a brothel asking to buy a woman to rape.
He had called me so that I could listen.
And I listened. And I cried. I begged him to stop.
I heard his footsteps walking down a hallway . I heard the door open. I heard him go inside. I heard it all. I won’t go further. I don’t think you could handle it.
What I needed was a feminist women’s service. A radical feminist service, that would explain to me what was happening to me, whilst at the same time trying to free the woman he was raping whilst I listened.
Both of us – both women- needed to be free. I still wonder who that woman was and I still weep for her. I weep more for her than for myself.
Because, we were both victims of that vile man, at one and the same time.
Do you know Lisa that I’d left him months before this incident and I took him back and that this was his revenge? Do you know that what I needed was a place to escape to? Do you know that if any man had offered me a hand at that time I was so low I would have taken it? That he could have abused me too? That it took me another 3 years to get free? That at that time what I needed, oh so desperately, was to not be around any man at all?
When I finally ended it with him I said nothing but “sorry”. To anyone who would listen. I was like a kitten. I looked like a lion. I roared like one. But any man could have kicked me or put me in a box or drowned me and I would still have been saying sorry as I died. I was like a woman without skin. I was pain personified. I was raw.
Because what women like me needed at that point was ....women. Women to put my skin back on my bones with feminist love.
Not more confusion. Not being told to be compassionate to men who identify as women because they are women. Not being told that the deep voice they correctly hear and identify, and cower from, is female. Not to be told that they need to be “inclusive” at that time. Not to be told they are bigots for wanting to be around women....for wanting to be comforted by women. Healed by women. Made whole again. By women.
You did not sit on that phone that night. You did not hear what it like was to hear another woman being raped and abused just for being a woman in poverty. You didn’t have to listen to her pain. You did not have to nurse your own pain because you were a woman who had displeased a man. You did not endure the next night, where I was thrown to the floor in the street by him. Left unconscious.
You did not endure the next hours of the “one in stockings” as she was raped and raped and raped by more men like him. That woman may still be enduring this. Can you imagine that while you sit in a radio studio condemning women like me and women like her? How many men like my abuser has she been raped by?
Thank the feminist world for @nia who help women like me at the same time as helping women like her. She is my sister. She is somewhere in this world and I want her to be free.
Why the hell aren’t you fighting for both of us to have safe space to recover from male violence?
Why can’t you understand that women like me need a space to recover away from male bodies? Why can’t you listen to us when we say that women know male bodies and we sometimes need to hide from them to recover even if they identify as women?
Why can’t you listen to us?
I hope you are never on the end of such a fist or such a phone call.