Tuesday, 27 June 2017
As though it's easy.
There's no set of reasons. Often there is very little a woman could have done. Whether she is aware of domestic abuse or not. Many times a woman knows some things and is ready.... "if he EVER hits me I'm out of there!" "I would NEVER stand for a man telling me what to do!". She means it. She just never sees it. It is slower. It is more brutal in its creeping and creepy ability to drop us to our doom while we think it isn't even happening.
I know that writing anecdotally seems self-indulgent and pointless regarding change. I defend myself with the fact that some woman always tells me it helps them. So. Once again. Forgive me if you hate this kind of writing.
I knew my abuser already as someone I encountered in pubs occasionally. I have no idea whether he hated me from the start. Probably though. He hates most women. Openly. The phrase ...."All women are nutters!" is common with him. He made me feel quite special even before we became involved. I would encounter him and he would be charming and funny and complimentary and..... dangerous.
I was a bit bored. He was a bit "different".
"Different"- I could now rephrase as "psychotic".
A friend and I discussed our abusers the other day and how they lured us in. We discussed the tactic of offering excitement. Of offering the feeling that we were doing things the "ordinary" people and relationships weren't. Falling for a "bad boy" is a romantic trope. We are having a fabulous time and later, if we need to, we can change them. At least they aren't boring right?
No. Being hurt is never boring. Living with trauma could never be called dull. Being brainwashed is disorientating and soul-destroying but not predictable.
When an abusive man begins his quest it is often in the gentlest and loveliest of ways. Love bombing is a tactic you will have heard. If I pinpoint it to one moment that sealed my fate it would be this.
In the early days. When I thought he was falling in love with me. This....
We had been out drinking and gone back to his flat. He had told me he had no furniture in the lounge. He had one chair. I asked why and he proudly said... "I don't want anyone to feel comfortable enough to stay long." He is a control freak. He had a big leather chair like a throne and anyone else had to sit on the floor. He always has to make himself feel more special and important than anyone else. It stems from deep insecurity. At the time I thought it made him more interesting and quirky. He is only quirky in that he hates women. He hates anyone he thinks is better than him. He needs to hate a lot of people. His hatred is dangerous.
But this particular night he offered me a glass of wine in what he told me were very expensive wine glasses. A present from his parents. I took the glass and began to drink. He had a balcony. There was music playing. It seemed rather romantic. Even sitting on the floor whilst he sat on his "throne". I read nothing into his power/domination techniques then. I later told this whole story to friends as though it was incredibly lovely and a sign of him really caring about me.
Unfortunately for me... in ways I could not judge then... I dropped the glass and it shattered across the floor.
I know what you are thinking. He hit me? He shouted? He called me names?
Not at all. He smiled.
I cried actually. I was embarrassed and felt really bad. I had smashed something important to this new man on whom I wanted to make a good impression. So what did he do?
He walked over and took my hand. Picked up the glass and cleared it away. I was very upset. He walked to the balcony with his own glass and grandly, and with force, deliberately threw it over the balcony. I gasped. I heard it smash on the driveway below. He turned and smiled and said...
"I have another four of those. I'll never have another you."
And that was it. I was in. One romantic gesture for a working class girl brought up on the myth of Prince Charming. The one who would sweep you off your feet. The one. Surely this was the thing such a Prince would say? This was probably the one I'd been waiting for? I'd been groomed for?
I was groomed. By my upbringing. By society. Finally .... by him.
Months later he broke my rib. I had 23 more of them. But I'll never have another him.
Monday, 12 June 2017
Last week we saw how powerful and empowering voting can be. People began to hope for something better than there had been. We voted with a desire to see change. We voted against a backdrop of biased media reporting combined with a carefully-nurtured political disaffection and in the face of increasing political cruelty and arrogance.
As the snap election wore on, and a newly-invigorated Corbyn campaign emerged, things began to change quickly. The morning after the election people were, if not elated, at least glad that it wasn’t worse. The prospect of a rampant and unfettered Tory party crippling the poor with yet more austerity measures was just too painful to consider.
As election anticipation grew and excitement at the prospect of rebellion against Tory dominance flourished with the clear signs of Tory wheels coming off, some women still sat at home and did not vote. Not because they were disinterested. Not because they were not eligible to vote. Many of them will have sat at home with a polling card somewhere on a pile of mail. They knew it was there. They knew they could not use it. Or which is really the same - that they could not use it as they would like to.
I tweeted, as did many, about how hard suffragette women had fought for us to vote. This is true, however clichéd. The desire in saying it is that we can encourage women out to the polls. Women who are politically active may try to vote for issues that concern women and children. They will probably choose parties that represent women. In many cases that will not be the Conservatives. But….sometimes they will choose right wing parties. Sometimes women will vote for parties whose policies will harm them directly. That is the point of this blog. Yes, the Suffragettes did starve and die for our political rights. Sadly that alone did not free women to vote.
What stops them? Men stop them. The men with whom they are in intimate relationships. Husbands, brothers, partners, sons, grandfathers. The men in their homes and the men in their heads.
Free women can vote freely. Trapped women cannot. They may not be physically trapped.
If a man wants to control a woman he can isolate her from her family. If he wants to control her finances he can isolate her from work. If he wants to control her effectively beyond hurting her and creating fear, the easy ways are by limiting her movement, her financial independence and her access to help via friends, family and outside agency.
Abusive men love to take things from the women they abuse. Calling a woman names takes away her self-esteem. Hitting or raping a woman takes away her belief in personal safety and bodily integrity.
Telling a woman that what she thinks or has always believed is stupid can be really damaging too, as part of his “scheme” of abuse. A man constantly telling a woman that what she thinks is wrong, when he makes what he says and believes sound like “what everyone thinks”, is brainwashing. Many abused women are subject to attempts to brainwash them. Fighting to keep your ideological integrity is just one more fight in many fights. Some fights come before that one. Sometimes it is suffocating to see through the small every day battles and the bigger battle can seem remote.
A woman may have very strong political views when she meets her abuser. If those views disadvantage or disagree with those of her abuser, he will need to destroy them. If they are feminist views, they will need stomping on firmly.
Many abused women are outspoken and strong when a man targets them for abuse. They are confident and successful. They present a challenge. Skilled abusers need a challenge. Some seek vulnerability, but many also seek a strength that they can destroy.
When people say “Never discuss politics or religion” the suggestion is that it will lead to discord. In a household where disagreements escalate fast from such simple things as the content of a meal many women would never dream of challenging what a man says about the economy or immigration. If they do they soon learn not to. If they are fighting to survive, mentally and or physically, it is almost Pavlovian to learn to say the political things that chime with him. To parrot a political mantra he agrees with is like seeking a pat on the head. Women may support EDL marching bigots of the highest order - because how would you tell a man like that - his views are unacceptable? When he returns home full of fight and alcohol and the certainty from marching with a hundred other thugs that he is right how would you tell him he is wrong? If he has been kettled by police all day as he marched then where might the fight he did not achieve go? What might his partner need to say to defend herself from anger. Create a scale of political views down from the extremist and you will find women agreeing with fracking, NHS cuts, Brexit and more when they would previously have stood against those things. Some women of course are simply not “allowed” to vote. Some women are not allowed to leave the house.
Free women wake up quickly. Free women soon realise that part of reclaiming themselves from him physically and mentally is also about reclaiming yourself politically. Free women run to the polling booth.
I think of the woman who no longer knows what she thinks. I want that woman to finally vote again. Think of how different things might be today if all the abused women last Thursday had been able to vote for things that are good for women like them? Think of the women still dying without a vote.