By WENDY SQUIRES.
As soon as I saw the number come up on my phone I knew. It was a girlfriend I hadn’t seen or heard from in months.
The last time I had spoken to her she was head over heels in love. He was the one. She knew it the minute she met him. They had so much in common, it was like they had known each other forever.
It had only been a few weeks but she was going to move in with him. She knew what everyone was thinking – but she was determined to follow her heart. And so she did, floating off in her love bubble and out of sight of those who loved her.
I hesitated answering the call because I knew it would no doubt be a long and tear-filled one. How? Because I had been there before with other friends. What’s more, I had been there myself. It’s what you do when you emerge from a toxic relationship. You go in search of your old life.
I had heard through the grapevine my friend had been through a shocker break-up after months of abuse and was reeling with shock and depressed as a result. Another friend told me to expect her call and to be gentle, not that I needed the advice.
I still remember so clearly making those first calls after my emotionally abusive relationship ended, reaching out to the friends I had ostracised in order to make him sole axis of my existence, as he demanded. I remember cringing thinking of the “I told you so” comments I so deserved but had stoically ignored in order to follow my heart. Luckily they didn’t come because, like me, most of my friends had been there before, too.
The harsh reality is that domestic violence is at epidemic levels in Australian society, posing the greatest threat of serious injury or death for women aged between 15 and 44. A partner or ex-partner abuses one in three women in their lifetime, and one woman a week is killed.
These statistics do not take into account severe emotional abuse, which, as any woman who has opened her heart then her eyes too late will attest, is rife and devastating. So, when you add up all the stats, the chance you or someone close to you will suffer abuse is pretty well a given.
When I came out of my love fog and back to reality and saw my toxic relationship for what it was many years ago, I discovered the book But He Says He Loves Me: how to avoid being trapped in a manipulative relationship that explained much I still didn’t understand.