As yet another Domestic Violence Awareness Month came to a close, for all the progress we have made toward awareness, our culture still struggles with its view of a victim’s most daunting struggle – leaving the abusive relationship. From misguided criticism to outright scorn for the victim, the decision to leave or remain with an abusive partner can be an understandable source of pain and division between victims and their family and friends, and even how society perceives victims of domestic abuse. For the outsider, the solution to an abusive relationship is often perceived to be as simple as basic arithmetic. The “math” goes something like this: You + Abuse - Leave Abusive Partner = No More Abuse. Problem solved! It is the mathematical equivalent to 1 + 1 - 1 = 1. And, in fairness, in some cases, it is that simple as victims do end abusive relationships relatively easily and successfully each day.
I am a survivor of domestic violence. Ending a mentally and physically abusive relationship was the hardest thing I have ever done. Nearly 13 years later, the details of my relationship are still hard to share. I know I am lucky to have escaped. I’m thankful to be alive and that my life is free from abuse, control and the exhaustion that comes from living in fear.
I have a problem with the term ‘domestic abuse survivor’. Bear with me on this. I’m saying this from the point of view of a survivor of domestic abuse. Most of my adult relationships have been abusive. I’ve been through physical, sexual, psychological and economical abuse so I tick the boxes. I support all of the campaigns that help victims of domestic abuse regardless of gender, creed, colour or sexual orientation.
17 years ago I got married for the second time. We were blessed with a warm, crisp and sunny Autumn day and were surrounded by family and friends in the small country house hotel we had exclusive use of for the event. Little did I know then what experiences that marriage would bring me. I’d been married before to a physically and sexually abusive man who had beat me up for the first time on our wedding night. I was adamant that my second marriage would be for life.