Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Help - yes it really is out there

Well the last few days have been a whirlwind - packing up house, fixing the computer,dealing with CSA, prepping legal stuff, playing chief cook and bottlewasher, taxidriver and generally running around like the proverbial fly. And to cap it all I had some mad woman pounding on my door on Sunday p.m when I was serving up lunch who abused my daughter and her friend and then my friend before finally asking to see the owner of the house (me) The reason for this pounding, her shouting and gnsahing of teeth, her red face (my daugter has since named her "the oompa lumpa" was because my small golden terrier always barks at her dog when she walks across the back of my garden! Yes it may seem strange a dog barking at another dog however my dog also happens to be on a long lead so he can run around my garden without escaping! Her view of this is that our dog should be kept in if he can't not bark and that the little thing was "terrorising the neighbours". Now given that I have owned this house for 10.5 years and have never seen this woman before, and given that she was walking on my land and that my neighbours either side love Trickyboy (said vicious dog) and the elderly lady across the road asks me to bring him into visit her whilst the postman brings him treats I was somewhat dumbfounded by her behaviour. Then came the fateful comment "he looks like he might bite someone" at which point the dog appeared at the front door wagging his tail. Needless to say I very calmly (which in the circumstances was remarkable - but then there were other people present) told her that the dog had never bitten anyone and suggested that if she doesn't like the dog barking, then don't walk across my garden. I have since put up a sign saying "Please beware of the dog - he barks - like most dogs". However this incident for me highlighted how far I have come in two years. The friend who was at the house on Sunday was helping me pack up the house - an offer that I would not have taken up two years ago - for fear I would have been judged in some way (that ny house was a mess, that I could not sope on my own..). And the pounding on the door didn't cause the fear that it used to - there was a time when I kept all doors locked all the time and would never answer the door unless I knew exactly who was calling. A knock on the door would have brought me back to when I dreaded his key in the lock or him trying to enter the house in the middle of the night, pounding on doors and windows. And I realised that not only have I lost my fear, I have lost my fear of asking for help.

This may seem stupid, however it is that fear of asking for help that keeps us in abusive situations and it is a fear that is played on to isolate you.

When I met 003.5, (ex- husband - reaosn for the name will be made clear later) I wasn't scared of anything much (except birds!!) and even if I was I would do what I could to change it. I lived and worked abroad, I travelled extensively and had no problem giving my opinions or standing up for myself!! By the time I'd left him (after 10 years) I was scared of everything, but most of all I was scared of people finding out what had gone on, scared they would blame me or not believe me. And that does happen - the first time I plucked up the courage to call the police was when we had come back from a holiday in France & Spain - the kids had had a great time however I had spent most of the time waiting for the next row, the next put down, the next humiliation which he began to get the kids to join in with - for example he would get all of them (including my stepson - his son from his first marriage) to slap me really hard on the backside or nip me really hard - when I asked them to stop I was the spoilsport. I had had to hide from him on a couple of occasions when he was drunk and had never felt so alone in my life. When we got home I told him I wanted a divorce. I couldn't believe I'd actually said it - the next 9 hours were spent by him interrogating me, pretending to listen but twisting everything I said - turning it back on me - until yet again he had me believing I was mad - that things weren't as I saw them. But this time I stuck to it and then he became very angry - began trashing the study - throwing books and computers at me so for the first time I called the police. I didn't call them for me. I was frightened that he would hurt the children - when I told him I'd called the police he immediately calmed down and said they'd never believe me as he was a policeman and he would say it was me. When the police did come they said that they saw no reason for him to leave the house as he was calm and believed him when he said his gun was in work. I was told that they would get someone from victim support to call me. As they left he began laughing. No-one from victim support ever did call me so yet again it reinforced in my mind that I was on my own - that no-one could help.- needless to say I did not leave then. However within the next year I had left him but I was very much alone - I couldn't talk to anyone about it and was very confused myself and I would plow on through everything - occasionally having mini breakdowns as he pulled more and more stunts with the children, with finances and finally attempting to have me arrested (on more than one occasion).

However, two years ago, after a particularly nasty stunt (I will elaborate on this in a later blog) when police were at my house and I felt like I just could not continue - I was called by Women's Aid - the Domestic Violence Officer had been in touch with them and asked them to call me. I went to see them the next day and finally began to get the help and support I so badly needed. I received counselling but also joined a group and discovered that I was not the only one. That others had gone through exactly the same as me - the mind games, the abuse and the feelings of total helplessness was a total eye opener. To realise that you did not have to be punched across a room on a daily basis to be suffering from abuse was almost a relief - I wasn't mad. Over the next 18 months the help and support that I received was enormous however, I believe that the biggest thing I got from them is not being frightened to ask for help, realising that you may get knocked back by some (and sometimes the people you expect to be there to help you) but there are genuinely many people and organisations who want to help and are able to help - even with the smallest of things - and that all you have to do is ask. I say "all you have to do" - when it is in fact a huge thing for anyone who has been in an abusive relationship - and actually that is what keeps us trapped there. I am lucky enough to have a great family - and I knew this but was afraid to tell them what was going on, afraid I would be seen as weak or even stupid. That has changed. I was afraid to call the police. I'm not anymore - they can't always do much but at least the call is logged, the breach of the order noted and one day we may have a legal system that is serious about enforcing these orders!! And I think twice now before knocking back offers of help - I let people help me. So after 43 years I have finally realised I cannot do it all on my own and it is ok to ask for help and that is what will keep me and my children safe in the future. You see isolation is what the abuser wants - it enables them to carry on with the abuse, to make you feel weak and all alone. However, when you have help and support around you, when you are not afraid to ask for help you become much stronger and the control that they have becomes much less. So I would urge anyone who is in a similar type of situation to ask for help - don't be afraid to be helped, don't feel that you are weak because you need help - we all do.

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