This article contains references to domestic abuse and may be triggering for some readers. If you or someone you know is affected by domestic violence, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732).
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My friend is a survivor of domestic violence. Yet she still lives in fear.
I feel the fear as I type this – it’s like a tingling sensation in my limbs, a queasiness in my stomach. My mind is distracted, flitting from scenario to scenario, underpinned by a general sense of unease.
By right, I have no reason to feel this fear. I’m not being threatened. My life isn’t in danger, and yet there it lurks, underneath, an instinctive response to a text message sent by a dear friend. A friend who left an abusive relationship three years ago.
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At this point, it’s important to note, these thoughts are anonymous. I don’t want to identify her. Her ex-partner is also unlikely to identify himself in this piece, having taken no ownership of his controlling behaviour, or its impact, over the years.
I choose to stay anonymous through fear. I can’t risk the repercussions for her if he were to be identified. To call out the behaviour of a man who is so warped in his own reality is to risk an escalation of his behaviour.
It isn’t lost on me that this is how the perpetrators of domestic and family violence stay in control. Because we stay silent, for fear of poking the bear, leaving the victims to try to live their life in the shadow of a ticking time bomb.
Will it be him? Will it be me, or my child, next time?
Tick, tick, tick…
My friend isn’t in immediate danger. The text was a response to a horrific family violence murder in the news. Old wounds have been unpicked, wounds I dread will never get to heal as her ex steadfastly refuses to diminish his relevance to her life, his continual manipulation always there, weaving around her like a strait-jacket she will never escape.
He hasn’t coped with the break-up – his rage always focused on the sheer audacity she had for leaving him, more than any genuine sorrow.
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If you catalogued his behaviour since, it makes for unsettling reading. He threatened to burn her clothes. He told people he barely knew she was a slut. He tried to get her dog put down. He relays tales of his loneliness to her via their young son. He keeps wearing his wedding ring. He has threatened to harm himself. He has sent hundreds of abusive emails and texts to her, criticising her behaviour, her parenting, her family, her friends.