In the countryside, everything’s lovely, tranquil. Life is good. That’s always how it’s depicted. In fact, behind closed doors, it can be a completely different story, even in the nicest villages.
The first time he ever lifted a hand, I was eight months pregnant with my first child. Everything about me was controlled, from the way I walked, the way I talked, to the way I dressed, where I went, what I liked. The same went for anything I did for the children, as well. He had to approve of it before I was able to even buy them a pair of socks. Once I went to university, that’s when it really went up a notch. And I think he saw that as a threat, that the woman that he married, that he could control. He saw her disappearing. The mileage was noted in the car.
And it was like, who had I talked to, and what had we talked about. He kept on saying that I belonged to him.
I was actually very frightened of my husband, as well, my children, when there was a tirade of abuse.
It was very hard to watch your children being kicked and hit in front of you, when you can’t actually do anything about it. I felt useless as a mother. I was subjected to a three hour assault, resulting in– near enough every bone in my body broken, including a broken skull. The next thing I remember was waking up in hospital thinking, I should have just died. I didn’t want to talk to them in hospital. You could tell they knew what happened, but I was terrified it would get back to him.
Lots of folks have gone, why are you putting up with this again? Why did you not leave him? It’s an easy thing to say. A lot of people ask me that. My main answer was, because I loved him. He was great at the apologising, and the making up, and it’s going to get better. I thought I was doing the right thing by staying, by trying harder, and not wanting to fail. You’re terrified to leave, because he’ll just hunt you down anyway and do horrendous things to you, cause he’s told you that’s what he’s going to do. So where do you go? What do you do?
When you are absolutely told that you are not worth the ground you’re standing on, that you are a terrible mother, what kind of wife are you anyway, your confidence is absolutely zero, and to think about leaving and trying to manage on your own is just not possible. It is the hardest thing to do when you feel you’re worth nothing.
There’s still a taboo of actually getting out there and advertising the fact that this happens. When you’re in that situation, you actually feel that you’ve deserved it, and you have not deserved it at all. The person doing that to you is the person that’s the bully. They are the ones with the problem. In a rural area, everybody knows everybody’s business. Everybody knows everybody’s granny’s business. So you’re dealing with that on a daily basis. Oh, and that one’s been in the refuge, she must have been up to no good. And to be looked at like a piece of dirt by people that just don’t understand it. We’re the survivors and we’re the ones that get out, and yet we’re still stigmatised.
It was extremely hard to make that decision and to make that first step about leaving, to leave everything I’d known for the past 10, 11 years. And I tried numerous times to escape. I used to hide clothes under the mattress of the youngest one’s pram and take them to a friend’s house. Trying to build up so that the kids would have some clothes when I eventually got enough courage to go. I wasn’t going to be humiliated anymore. And I made the choice and I picked up the phone, and I phoned Borders Women’s Aid. I left with seven black bags, and that was the only thing that I owned when I left my husband. I had no money.
And when I went to apply for benefits, they always need you to provide documentation. And of course, my husband knew that I would need these things and he’d locked them away.
I was taken to the refuge. They were very good. There was a play scheme for the children, that they would take you to solicitor’s appointments, they would take you to the doctors, they took me to the housing. There’s been quite a few agencies that I’ve had assistance from, and some I could say were very good at their job, and others I would say were not very helpful at all. The police, I was involved in quite a lot, because my husband had guns, and he was texting me, threatening to kill me. It took a lot of persuading for them to actually take his guns away from him.
You’re relying on people in these professions to help you, and at times, I just felt as if they just saw me as a joke. I’ve went through the court system, and I was offered screens to actually be put up in the court, so that I would not need to look at my husband sat in the dock. And on the very first court appearance, I went to the front door of the court to sign in, and I could have just turned around and I could have just touched my husband, because he was right behind me.
You’re having to deal with the life, get your life back in order, get it together, and phone A, B, C, D, E, and have to go over things again, and again, and again. I feel there are good services, but they need to work together. The left hand doesn’t talk to the right hand here. The only place for me to go to that I didn’t have to answer to my husband was the health centre. It was my own doctor that sat me down, asked what had been happening. And he was the person that actually identified there was nothing mentally wrong with me as a person, that I was being bullied, that I was living in a domestic abuse situation.
I left for my children, predominantly. I only really managed to leave because I had very good close family and friends support. I initially turned to the church for support, but the response was marriage was forever, and that was that. I then found a more positive situation in another church, where there was an awful lot of support there. No culture, no religion supports domestic abuse. I’m a Muslim, and when I actually looked at it, my religion supported me in every way.
People need to understand the signs and the symptoms of abuse, and not wait for the black eye or the broken bones, because to me, that’s leaving it a bit too late. People need to recognise that it can actually happen to anyone, regardless of the way they look. What you see is not necessarily what it’s like. My husband is a very charming person to the rest of the world, but it’s what happens behind closed doors that you don’t know. I would just ask other professionals out there, they should have it in the forefront that maybe to ask two or three simple questions. How things at home? How is the family?
That might be the thing that triggers a domestic abuse victim to actually think, well, here’s somebody here that’s actually asking about me. And that might be the avenue to get the person to open up. You feel ashamed about it. You feel you’re being disloyal. So always be aware that whoever’s talking to you, it is a really hard thing for her to do, and never stop listening. We didn’t ask to be here. This is not a choice we’ve made. We just want a little bit of help to get back on our feet, and I don’t think that’s asking too much. I’m not asking to be completely reliant on services totally, we just need that stepping stone.
For people like myself, you could be my only lifeline, or the only safe person that I can actually approach. I understand that you might not be able to solve my problems or have the remedy for me, but I think that you could have helped me realise what was happening to me and pointed me in the right direction. If those professionals that are watching this, if they can just save one more family from a life of misery, then we’ve done what we came to do.