October seems to be The Month. I'm seeing so many awareness campaigns being shared on social media. Here's a few:
Black History Month
Down Syndrome Awareness Month
National Breast Cancer Awareness Month
National Infant Loss and Miscarriage Awareness Month
and more! So many things we could all do with a little education on.
One that has been running since 1987 is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. It started as a day, The Day of Unity, in 1981. It ended up as a week, and then a month of activities to bring recognition, and to help put an end to the widespread domestic violence and abuse suffered by women, children and men all over the world.
So what is Domestic Violence? The UK government’s definition of domestic violence is “any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are, or have been, intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. The abuse can encompass, but is not limited to psychological, physical, sexual, financial, emotional.”
2 women are killed every week in England and Wales by a current or former partner (Office of National Statistics, 2015). That's 1 every 3 days.
Every minute UK police will recieve a domestic assistance call, yet only 35% of domestic violence gets reported (Stanko, 2000, Home Office, 2002)
In 90% of domestic violence incidents in family homes, children were in the same or next room (Hughes, 1992)
30% of domestic violence starts or intensifies during pregnancy (Department of Health report, 2004)
I am a statistic. Thankfully a survivor. I contributed to that 35% of reported domestic abuse, it all began when I fell pregnant with my first born and the kids were always present.
I was 15 when I met him. I fell in that 15 year old kind of love. The head over heels, butterflies in your tummy, weak at the knees kind of love. The kind I wished had lasted forever and always.
But it didn't.
I was a rebellious teen and to be honest he wasn't the kind of boy you'd take home to your mum. Our life was a rollercoaster of late nights, tours of London, drugs, parties and teenage kicks. I have many fond memories of back then. No violence, no mental abuse. But a few rumours of other girls, which my puppy eyes over looked. If only I hadn't. Maybe none of this would have had to happen.
One night I was woken up at 3am by a policeman. I was 17, living in a shared house. He had been arrested, drug related. What an idiot. My house was raided that night. He didn't come home til I was 19. I stuck by him. Like the love sick 15 year old he had met years before. From inside those walls, locked up, it felt like I was the one under surveillance. I'd get calls telling me I'd been seen here or there, telling me I was with all kinds of people in places I had never been to. I was told he had friends everywhere so not to pull any funny business. I'd visit him and get shouted at that I didnt understand how it felt. I still have his evil stare burnt into my brain. Clear as day as if it's in front of me right now. eurgh. All I did when he was there, was work and move to a better house. Still the silly loved up 15 year old.
It wasnt long after he came back that I fell pregnant. He was happy, I was happy. Everyone pretty much. But he started disapearing at night. He had just got his freedom back and was making the most of it. Pretty much every night. Some times he wouldnt come back at all. We would argue. I'd always be wrong. It was my fault you see. That's what he would tell you anyway. The first time he ever laid a hand on me our son was 3 weeks old. I had the phone bill come through the post, it was bloody high! And the numbers on it were strange. He said his brother had been round calling insurance companies but the times didnt add up. The more I stared at it, I realised some of the calls were the night our son was born, while I was still in hospital. I called a number and it was a sex chat line. My heart sank. What the hell was going on. I confronted him and was told that I was crazy. I had to call BT and ask them to investigate our line. Tell them I lived here alone and I was in hospital. Someone must have hacked our line, maybe the neighbour. If I believed it was him I was clearly mental. I had to call them. NOW! CALL THEM! this is how I remember it. I had to. It was an order. I remember my voice shaky on the phone as I told the young phone operator there must have been a mistake, as he tried telling me that it's clear as day, no faults on the line 'sorry miss'. He's still staring at me. Not blinking. I'm holding my boy and the phone and I said to him 'the man says I'm wrong. The line is fine' he turned on his heels and grabbed a knife from the kitchen...
Since escaping him I developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It's left holes in my memory. But mostly I remember the build up of everything. The escalating fear. Many who know me know that I still get that fear, I still hear his voice. Sometimes I get visions, flash backs, bad dreams, It all floods black as if I've jumped back into the past and I'm there all over again. It hurts just the same.
Life is better now in many ways. I also recognise the times that I'm grieving the loss of the happy times tho. It's not all roses and rainbows. It's a difficult road.
I'm very honest and open about what I went through and if I think that I can help anyone, anywhere, then I will. I might not be able to rescue someone at 3am and give them somewhere safe to be, but I can give them an ear and a shoulder of someone who has been there. A few choice words to help build their courage and get them to a place where they feel brave enough to take that first big step away, to freedom.
If you ever suspect anyone is in a violent or abusive relationship, talk to them. Be there for them. Don't expect them to just up and leave because the door isn't locked. It's not that easy. But be there for them. That is the biggest help of all. I will always be thankful for everyone who was there for me and my children.
Heres some Useful numbers: