It’s a horrible thought, but many women, including me, have had experience of domestic abuse. It doesn’t have to follow the Angela’s Ashes style of drunken man returning home to beat his wife and children, it can be more subtle and psychological and just as dangerous.
I was lucky for several reasons. I had the financial independence and the courage to run before I got hurt, there were no children involved and, because of an extremely abusive upbringing, I had a spidey sense of impending trouble, early enough to avoid escalation or make my escape.
He was an educated Essex lad that had been to the LSE and had a job advising government. My warning voice went off when I saw how he treated his mother. She would wait on him as if he was a crippled emperor and he was rude, insulting and downright nasty.
To cut a long story short, things came to a head one morning when he had stayed over and was late to work. He expected me to iron his shirt and demanded that I did so, very aggressively. I responded equally aggressively and that’s when I saw what he was capable of. He held me up against the wall by the throat with a hot iron centimetres from my face.
I saw it coming, somehow, but was still in shock when he went that far. Time slowed, my senses were on red alert and I froze, smelling and feeling the heat of the iron so close to my cheek. His face was so ugly and contorted, I remember looking at the flecks of saliva at the corners of his mouth as he yelled abuse at me. His eyes were no longer human. I saw the hideousness of his inner soul. After a minute or so, of freezing and the strange dissociation of fear, I opened my mouth and screamed.
The scream was loud enough to shock him into dropping his grip on me and allowed me the vital seconds to run out of the door and leap down the stairs and run out into the street. I ran as fast as I could and then found a phone box to call the Police. He was no longer in the flat when I returned with them. The Police had to break down the door, because I did not have my keys. I changed the locks and moved out a few weeks later. He sent his parents (!) to pick up the few belongings he’d left behind.
And the rest….
There were more incidents where I escaped by the skin of my teeth, a man I was in love with trashed my flat and slashed his wrists with a bottle under the influence of alcoholism, while I hid in a locked bedroom. I left him after that. No second chance, even though it broke my heart.
I was accused of seeing someone else by a jealous lover, who raised his hand to punch me and I discovered that, with the adrenaline of fear, I can get down three flights of stairs by leaping them four at a time. I’ll never forget the feeling. I shook for an hour afterwards and I have no recollection of driving to a friend’s house at all.
Finally, I had casual fling with a man who took things to an obsessive level. When I ended the relationship, he followed me, stalked my home and threw bricks through the windows. The Police were very helpful and I got an exclusion order. My home became unbearable due to my fear and I had to sell up and leave, I never felt safe there again.
I was lucky to have escaped actual physical harm, but I certainly suffered emotional harm. This was only a fraction of what millions of women suffer every day, complicated by a loss of power from the corrosive ‘drip, drip’ effect of psychological torture, emotional abuse, threats and violence.
Those with children and, financially reliant on the man, often have nowhere to go, no means of escape. Add a twisted love for the abuser and you have a volatile cocktail, one that kills women every day. It could be me, it could be you, it’s hard to predict what kind of man (or woman) will become an abuser.
That’s why fantasies of controlling men, like Christian Grey, are so abhorrent to any woman who has seen the face of blind violence up close or had to live with the fear of being followed and stalked at home and at work. It’s not sexy. It’s not romantic. It’s not a harmless sexual fantasy. For many it’s a living hell and for some it’s the road to breakdown or death.
- Witnessing Abuse (jessicavealitzek.com)
- Tell Them Your Story (ingridlochamire.com)
- Spotting the Signs of Emotional Abuse (everydayhealth.com)
- Abuse Is A Painful Fact, Not 50 shades of Fiction (50shadesisabuseblogring.wordpress.com)