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.)