Tag Archives: victims

Escape and Healing

24 Dec

domestic-abuse-birmI want to move on from some of the discussions of the last while on here. With a desire to regain some of my privacy and to move on in my own healing I intend this to be my last personal comment on my experiences of abuse for the foreseeable future. As Christmas is a time of high-stress, high alcohol consumption, and a spike in domestic abuse it seems like an appropriate time to bring this personal thread to a close.

Stepping forward and naming the abuse I experienced for what it is, is important. While it was happening I spoke about it,  I documented it,  I reached out for help – privately. But there was also an element of shame, a fear. I’m a man who was abused by a woman, we aren’t often believed, as a society we’ve been programmed to turn a blind eye to many telling signs that someone’s relationship is less than healthy; statistically men are more likely to be the abusers but not all men.

Fear is a powerful weapon. And so is shame. And many abusers use variations on gaslighting to make us question our sanity and reality. Psychological abuse is perhaps the deepest wound of all, prodding us for ages to come. If we doubt ourselves,  how will anybody else believe?  Add to that the shame of mental health issues and it becomes intensely unmanageable.

So for me, writing about the affects the situation has had on me, and on my mental health, this is my resistance. My way of saying ‘no,  this isn’t on’. It’s about being strong, standing up to the bullying and distortions, even though I live in constant fear of them intruding into my life again.

For now I am content that I have it on record that these things happened to me. Both in this heavily redacted form and in more detail through official channels. It has meant I am no longer hiding from it all. I am not living trapped by the unknown retaliations and ambiguous threats.

eggshellsEscaping Abuse

My advice to anyone living with abuse is to talk. Get your safety net around you. Friends, family, professionals will all be able to help monitor you,  and can assist when you decide to escape. You’ll almost certainly need them. Even if you’re holding back on details, they’ll be better prepared for the revelations to follow. It may be that some of them are victims or ex-victims too.

Speak to organisations who help abuse victims. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone to the police. They’ll advise and when appropriate they will investigate and arrest. Things may get worse before they get better,  but don’t back down. Once you start to wrestle back control of your life abusers will intensify their rage but you’ll have started the clock on your freedom. Going through legal channels can be challenging and time-consuming but you’ll be adding to your safety net.

Talk to your GP. It’s a private situation and you can hide your purpose in visiting easily. If you’re being physically hurt, a GP can see the evidence for themselves and record it. Similarly any psychological matters.

coerciveRecord incidents. Write down the details, store it in a book, in a private google doc, whatever means is safest. Details of what happened, when, how its affecting you. It may be that you aren’t prepared to admit a relationship is abusive until you actually can see the pattern of behaviour for yourself. Its also really useful to have a diary to refer to when someone is making false accusations about your whereabouts. Most people have an audio recorder on their mobile telephone these days – you can always secretly record rows and conversations for evidence. And where possible save and record any abusive voice messages you receive. One of the scariest thing about many abusers is that they flip all your criticisms, all your allegations back on you in a bid to discredit you and make you ponder reality. It disarms you. But its like a child simply parroting your language, fingers in ears, and saying “I know you are but what am I?”

It takes most people a long time to get out of an abusive situation, and you’ll need help after too, but it is there. It might sometimes feel like a ‘he said she said’ situation, but honesty will see you right in the end.

breakthesilenceHealing

I’ve heard enough people trying to tell me that friends believe my version of events, but that isn’t enough. In order to put a stop to these behaviours it isn’t your friends you need to convince. I’ve been manipulated so many times that I have wondered if things were really as bad as I say. Time will do that to you, it can numb your memories, as you try and put the bad stuff behind you. I’ve gone back through my notes, emails, texts, recordings and legal documents. Every time I do my head is taken right back into that particular quarter of hell. Doing it over the summer helped push me into the worst breakdown I’ve experienced in years – reliving experiences while not being monitored was risky. My therapist asked me why I did it, when it was more than clear I’ve been telling the truth. But I’d received messages that suggested I was making everything up, that none of the things I alleged ever happened. More gaslighting. But its there, in black and white. And the evidence is backed up, and supported by numerous individuals and experts.

To heal, I cannot keep getting dragged into this. I can’t have my abuser hanging over me like some spectre from the past, a shadowy cancer on my sanity and sense of self. No amount of trolling is going to silence me. No threats will have me pretend these things didn’t happen.  Readers of this blog don’t have a clue regarding the full details, the context, or the individual (verifiable) incidents in a lengthy campaign of abusive behaviour.

I know that I am angry that I have not and will not receive any kind of justice for these wrongs. I will never get so much as an admission of wrong-doing, let alone a prosecution or peace of mind. Instead I have witnessed bursts of intimidating behaviour, my sanity has been continuously questioned, and I continue to be on my guard. I accept the failings of a system that has allowed this to go undealt with. I have long recognised the relationship with my abuser as being particularly poisonous. I accept that my abuser either cannot see the wrong in their actions towards me, or can but daren’t risk admitting any accountability.

If it comes to it, I am prepared to elaborate my claims with supporting evidence in court. Not that I want to embarrass myself on network tv either, but it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve considered a polygraph test and the Jeremy Kyle show either. I know that my abuser has spun a different story about what happened – I’m sure it has elements of truth, but lacking context, alongside fabrications and slanders, and like good friends and relatives I am sure she has her own network of people who believe every word uttered. I have no reason to lie about what happened to me, but I suspect that strangers are less likely to believe the word of a man than a woman in these matters. Until the Northern Irish government catches up with the rest of the UK and introduces legislation on coercive control, thousands of men and women like me will continue to suffer.

bccdvgirl-4Being an incredibly self-aware person, much time has been spent working through my experiences, sometimes too openly and honestly, but always sincerely. I take ownership of my failings, my errors in judgement, my poor handling of personal and professional situations. I’ve taken ownership of my mental health issues, I’ve got support in place now for any time they should ever spiral out of control again, and I’m working round the other issues that I can. Me now is not me six months ago even. I’ve come to recognise my negatives and my plusses. I’m still incredibly anxious about relationships, but I’ve learned that I can manage them, I can be a normal human being and not feel guilt or fear. I’ve learned to trust people again. And I’ve also learned to feel love for another human being. That didn’t seem possible a year ago. I am sorry for bringing so much of this into other relationships, friendships etc., it puts a pressure on people I hadn’t realised. That’s why healing is important – it takes the burden from others to pick up the pieces.

I will never completely heal. Abuse victims don’t. We carry our scars like barely healed wounds. The right scratch and they open up again. But we can monitor them, we can ensure we have the right medicine and aftercare in place. The right friend on the end of a phone, or a needed hug. A counsellor, medication, the authorities, a blog. All have their place and are part of our arsenal.

For now I have said about all I can on my matter. All I want to say. I don’t intend to dwell on this unfortunate past any further. Because it is my past. It is not my present and will not be my future. It happened, but it does not define me. I define me. I am bruised, not beaten; damaged but not broken; flawed, but a gem, precious if you would but look.

 

NOTE: The images here are from various campaigns across the UK to address various kinds of abuse. If you recognise any of these from your own or a friend’s experiences, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and call. The Police service across the UK will give advice on the free non-emergency 101 number. Or in the case of emergency, call 999.

The plight of male victims of domestic abuse

10 Feb
image

PSNI poster for Domestic Abuse help

When you hear the words ‘Domestic violence’ what do you picture? A woman being beaten by a man? A child living in terror of an overbearing father figure? A woman with bruised face, cowering indoors afraid to upset an unstable male partner?

Recently the BBC News reported on warnings that ‘Men need more help‘ with regards to domestic violence. The article cites statistics from Belfast-based Mens Advisory Project (MAP) which have seen an increase in numbers helped through the organisation from 294 in 2013 to 536 in 2015.

We now seem to live in a society that automatically thinks of domestic violence as something which is perpetrated solely by men, and nearly always against women. Men have become increasingly demonised with sweeping generalisations which automatically set up a gendered prejudice when we hear of troubles in relationships.

A grossly misleading and gender-biased column by Frances Ryan in The Guardian just a month ago is typical of the weighted phrasing:

“The biggest danger for a so-called civilised society is to convince itself domestic violence is inevitable – that women will always be beaten, raped or killed (often in their own homes) and that there’s just not much the state can do.”

The article repeatedly voices concern about the (very real) abuse suffered by women and children in the domestic setting, but ignores any mention of men other than as perpetrators. This isn’t a unique situation. When ‘Clare’s Law’ was announced, much of the news headlines were worded such as to suggest that it allowed women to check on whether their male partners had violent pasts, rather than more accurately advising the public that it allowed anyone to check into their partners’ histories (thus accepting the reality that not all relationships are heterosexual, and not all abusers are men).

While I have no wish to belittle the fear that many women experience through abusive relationships, they aren’t alone.

Domestic violence, and more widely domestic abuse (including the various forms of psychological abuse, coercive control and other abuses) is something that can happen to anyone, irrespective of age, gender, orientation or social class.

Organisations like MAP and Refuge are badly needed for those caught in the abuse cycles. But while women’s organisations receive headlines and vocal support, men’s groups – which are thinner on the ground – often go overlooked. Men are more likely to suffer in silence, mostly through fear. Typically men appear to be physically larger, stronger, more dominant than their female partners. How likely is it that they are the ones to be struck rather than striking? There is a fear for many that they wont be believed. The judicial system simply doesn’t know how to deal with instances of men raped by women, conviction is highly unlikely. Most men simply don’t report what’s happening to them. Of those that do, a tiny percentage actually follow through with reports or charges, and those that do seek help from counsellors often don’t show up.

The statistics reflect reported instances of abuse, not the level of abuse that actually occurs, and I strongly suspect that the true figure is much higher. Women’s Aid suggest that 90% of domestic abuse is perpetrated by men. The NHS suggests that 4% of men are on the receiving end of domestic abuse each year. In 2013 the Belfast Telegraph reported PSNI statistics that showed 25% of domestic violence incidents that year were against men – itself a 41% increase in number of incidents in a decade.

It would seem that the statistics support an idea that more men are coming forward and reporting incidents. Though this is likely still the tip of the iceberg.

I am one of the statistics. The MAP organisation is just one of several that came to my aid as I struggled to come to terms with my own long-term experiences of abuse. It took several years from my first search online for help to actually contact anyone. I had MAP’s details stored in my computer for months before I made a call and set up an appointment – which I then had to cancel. It took several more months for me to call again and set up my first appointment proper.

MAP weren’t the first (or the last) organisation I’d spoken to. But they have provided a vital lifeline for me, and much needed counselling and advice. I transitioned from the depths of despair to a status of normality over many many months with their help. I was finally able to talk to someone about my entire story, about details that I’d overlooked or buried when I first turned to official channels. Their work, and the work of organisations like them is crucial. They help men like me from being a silent statistic, they give us some power, some understanding, and a vital safe space.

For help:
Mens Advisory Project
Women’s Aid
NI Direct pages on Domestic Abuse