by SIOBHAN KENT
I always thought that I’d never be a victim of domestic violence. People make certain assumptions about the ‘type’ of person that experience it, myself included, and I didn’t fit any of those stereotypes (misguided as they are). I’ve always been strong, independent, self sufficient and not one to take things lying down.
I also thought that if it ever happened to me, there would be no way I would stay in that situation one nano-second past when the first blow occurred.
I was wrong on both fronts. The thing is, it can (and does) happen to anyone.
My story isn’t unique, but by sharing it I hope that I can help give other women strength and hope. I gave up a successful career and moved thousands of kilometers to run a business with my then fiancée. From the outside, we were the perfect couple. We had a successful business, gorgeous house, cute dog, beautiful cars, were healthy and were even featured in local magazines. But nobody knew what was really going on.
My strongest memory is one particular night when the situation I was in degenerated fast. At one point, the sound emulating from my mouth was so foreign that it sounded like it was coming from some injured animal outside on the road. Indeed, it sent my dog into a spin…
You know you’ve hit rock bottom when you can’t get off the floor no matter how hard you try. When you are curled up into a ball rocking back and forth and screaming, yet you don’t even realise it’s you that’s making the noise. When you are literally running through the night to get to freedom. When you have no semblance of self left, and don’t even recognise when enough is enough.
An abuser, whether they mean to or not, has a knack of cutting you off from everything – financially, from friends and family and even your career and future prospects. All my money was invested in our new life together, and I was physically a long way from my family and friends, but emotionally even further. He put me down non-stop, to the point where I had no shred of self-esteem left. I was fat, ugly, incompetent and an insult to the world. And I believed it, wholeheartedly.
If you’re a woman in a similar situation, I’m here to tell you that you can leave. I’m not going to lie – it WILL be the hardest thing you’ve ever done. But it will be the best decision you ever made.
What it came down to for me, and indeed for many, is live or die. Flee or no longer exist. That’s the reality that people often do not see. To survive, even if it means with no money and having to uproot your existence – starting fresh, and facing tasks every day that scare you to your core – is better than the alternative. I found myself facing my 30th birthday as a single, penniless and broken woman. But, I was alive.
Gradually, some semblance of a normal life, and my former life, started seeping back in – the culture, the joy in life, the variety, the possibilities, all immersing themselves into my senses. The repairing of my soul began and the possibilities seemed endless because I was finally free.
You become grateful for the small things. To not live in constant fear. To be able to go for a walk if you want, because no one is controlling you. That first pay check when you’re back out on your own. The first time you get a compliment and actually believe it, because you no longer feel like the ugliest/dumbest/most pathetic human on the face of the earth from the emotional abuse that came with the physical.
The healing takes time. While the physical scars fade, the emotional ones are more steadfast. Now, almost three years later, I’m only just beginning to trust men again. And don’t even get me started on the chances of having a proper relationship – that still seems far-fetched. But where there’s life, there’s joy and I get stronger and happier every day. And, as the pop singer Pink says, ‘I wouldn’t trade the pain for what I’ve learned’
Siobhan Kent is a survivor of domestic violence, and became involved in White Ribbon because she wants to help other women and educate men about the problem. She has been working in PR and Media for more than a decade, with brief stints as a personal trainer and instructor, and in her spare time is a Crossfit addict and freelance writer.
You can help put a stop to violence against women. Encourage the men in your life to Take the Oath here.