A woman is assaulted by a partner on average 35 times before she reports him to the police. That’s a fact established by an academic, using rigorous research methods.
My partner, the father of my children, broke my arm in a rage. I lied at the hospital, as most women do – said I’d fallen down the stairs.
Two years on, I am still in shock. I had thought shock was an immediate and temporary thing, but it isn’t. I don’t think I will ever get over what happened to me. He did it Chinese-burn style, in the marital bedroom, after Sunday lunch.
But here’s the thing. Through a friend who works in the NHS, I got in touch with Solace, an independent domestic violence charity working across London. I had 16 one-to-one sessions with an excellent counsellor. The aim, as you’d expect, was to help me move forward, however babyish the steps might be, and to explore the curious feelings of guilt that survivors of domestic abuse experience. After that course, I joined a nine-week-long group programme. There were four of us survivors, and two facilitators, who were brilliant. I found it immensely helpful to talk to other women. Two of them had a different background to my own, one was remarkably similar, but nothing mattered but what we shared – a dark place where only we and other survivors have to go.
I have a feeling that more blogs are coming on this topic.
During the group, I realised that domestic abuse is the phenomenon that knows no borders. One of the facilitators, a former barrister, told us once that when she meets people in a social context, and they ask her, by way of small talk, what work she does, she says she works with survivors of domestic abuse.
‘What are the women like?’ comes the reply – as if we were definable, or all the same.
We’re not. We are you.