THE TRUTH ABOUT DOMESTIC ABUSE (SUNDAY TELE)

I have no idea why I felt shocked when I heard Monday morning that Matt Newton had physically attacked his girlfriend, actress Rachel Taylor. Because he’s done it before, and ‘his type’ always end doing it again. I shouldn’t be shocked, because I know firsthand that men like this will always erupt again.

It was some years ago, and it was during the back end of not such a happy stretch of my life. I went into the relationship praying he was going to the man that could protect me. Three words that often attract violence – ‘low self esteem’.

He was soft and gentle on the outside, but very dark and troubled inside.

We all watched Rihanna after the Chris Brown incident. Looked on in horror at the photos of her bruised face, and thought, “why has she gone silent? Surely she must hate him?” “Where has the powerful popstar gone.?

I have no doubts she was silent because she was still in shock. Still trying to separate the man she loved from the beast we saw. That doesn’t happen overnight. Even if that night got really ugly.

I’m glad Rachel Taylor seems to be publicly saying “Enough!” She took a chance on her troubled lover though, because we all knew what he’d done in the past. Women always think they’ll be the one to save him. That’s our universal mistake.

I know what it’s like to think you’ll save someone, only to have your head slammed on the floor, and hot wax thrown in my eyes. All ‘accidents’ of course, and always thanks to something ‘I did’.

I know what it’s like now to think, “it’s finally too late.” For that split second when my eyeballs were covered in wax, my first thought was “are you happy now, you’re blind?” If I had no respect for myself, of course I knew what others would say.

I was terrified that people would judge me. And that terror kept me quiet for way too long. I put up with his manipulation and our ‘incidents’ for what now seems a ludicrous amount of time.

The same old excuses, “but you were being a bitch”, or “you pushed me first!”

He was right, I did push him first because when someone is towering over you, pinning you against the wall with their head touching yours, screaming in your face, you want to get away. And of course, as they’ve done before to you or someone else, they know that’s their queue to punch you, because “you pushed me first!”

There’s something about being a woman that brings out empathy for others where empathy shouldn’t live. My partner did confess he was first beaten up at age 3 by one of his many stepfathers. It’s hard not to picture that poor child, being beaten and not mourn for him,. But that child was now a strong man, and I was now the victim. But that child stayed in my head. I still felt some strange sense of protection over him. Instead I spent valuable time that I should have spent getting away, hating his mother.

Because she should have protected him. If only she’d protected him, our relationship could have stood a chance. So now I’m playing his game. It’s always someone else’s fault.

I literally look back and shudder at this time of my life. I most certainly would never ever allow this to go on ever again. One push, one punch and you’re gone. It’s not about you, it’s about them.

But it was my first time. I hope my only time. And I went through emotions that I know others do too. Others are doing right now. If you are reading this now I want to say to you, he, or she will not stop hurting you one day. It will get worse and you may die. You may end up in a wheelchair, scarred for life, and even blind.

Risking these things because you feel sad, you feel empathy for them you have nowhere else to go, or you’re embarrassed of what others might think, will not save your life.

Because from one victim to another, in a violent relationship, believe me every second counts.

WHY WOMEN DON'T WALK OUT ON VIOLENCE

Even though ‘Australia says no to violence against women’, I still hear people say the same things in response to hearing that someone has been in a violent relationship, and it makes me sad, and angry.  Things like “she seems like a smart girl, so why would she stay with him?”, or “Why wouldn’t she just walk out the minute he showed that side of himself?”

The fact is,  a man doesn’t present himself on the first date as being a ‘woman basher’.  There’s a lot of things that people leave off their CV’s when they’re trying to start a relationship, and that’s certainly one of them!   If you’ve never been subjected to an violent or abusive man  in a previous relationship, and have never grown up as a child around one, it is understandable surely that you are not expecting one to walk into your life and certainly naïve to the signs that the person may end up really hurting you.  After all, many of the signs are not as obvious as a punch!

Even smart, seemingly successful women, suffer at times from low self esteem which often results in them ignoring their gut feelings that may tell them something’s not right with their partner.  Because of their low self asteem they tend to argue with their gut feeling or simply ignore by thinking ‘well what would you know anyway.  You’re hopeless at everything else, why would you be clued up to this?’

Take for instance a girl I love, and rate as pretty smart, who found herself in a violent relationship with a man initially she would have described as ‘gentle, and loving.  She later found out he was anything but and had, himself grown up as a victim of physical and sexual abuse throughout.  During the course of this relationship, her partner punched her in the stomach so hard that she could barely breath on more than one occasion, tried to strangle her, even swiped a candle across a table, resulting in the hot, melted wax flying up and coating her eyes!  Of course, she was apparently always in the way, it was an accident,

So why did she stay?  She felt sorry for him because he had been abused as a child, and she felt because his mother didn’t protect him he was robbed of the chance at living a mentally healthy life.  Her self esteem over a period of time was not in good shape which often leaves us vulnerable to people that at another time, would not be good enough.  Because she wasn’t a happy person at the time, having suffered bouts of depression, her partner convinced her that she was unbearable to live with and therefore pushed him to violence.  During this dark time however, this girl managed to put a smile out to the world and carry out a successful, high profile radio career without anyone knowing what was going on at home, or that there was any reason to question why she once arrived to work with a limp.

We need to stop the judgement for women that find themselves in a violent relationship, and start showing a little more respect and sympathy for another human who no doubt, feels very frightened, mentally and physically hurt, and very, very alone!  For the time these poor victims spend worrying about how they will be judged by people when their story gets out, is precious time they could be getting out of harm’s way.  It doesn’t take an intelligent person to realise that in a violent relationship, every second counts.

(By the way, the girl in this story was me.)