This post deals with domestic violence and might be triggering for some readers.
One year, four months and one day ago, I left an abusive relationship. It’s taken a long time for me to admit that, and I’m still too ashamed write about it without the veil on anonymity.
Yet I'm finding myself yearning to do something that will make a difference. Ideally I’d like to one day work with survivors, helping them rebuild their lives.
This article is a starting point, written in the hope that one day I will be brave enough to pursue that goal.
Watch: Women and Violence, The Hidden Numbers. Post continues below.
When I met my ex-husband, I was a very naïve 19-year-old. We were part of the same social circle, and everyone thought he was a great guy.
He pursued me relentlessly, and eventually we started dating. He said he loved me within two weeks of becoming a couple. I now know that this ‘love bombing’ is common in abusive relationships but at the time I was totally swept off my feet.
Within weeks I was covered in bruises from his ‘love bites’.
When I asked him to stop, he blamed me, saying he just wanted me so much. So I wore turtleneck shirts and layers of concealer in an (unsuccessful) attempt to cover the bruises. It didn’t even occur to me that this might not be ok.
When my mum asked if someone had hurt me, I said no and she never brought it up again. No one else said a word; not my friends, not my other family members, not my colleagues. Would I have listened at the time? Probably not, but I might have left sooner than I did.
For many years I was convinced that everything was fine because there was no physical violence.
I gave him everything. He ignored my boundaries, isolated me from my family, told me how to dress, spent large chunks of our money on himself. If I had any concerns, he said I was over-reacting, too clingy, too emotional, blowing things out of proportion, even making things up.
I believed him, because he said he loved me. I didn’t even know what emotional abuse was.
If I said no to sex, he would ask again and again until I said yes just to make him leave me alone.
Sometimes he just didn’t acknowledge my no.