Like most people I hate hearing about domestic violence, the story running on the Archers turns my stomach. I really dread it coming on TV in and amongst a drama series I was previously really enjoying. I think it’s the shock value of someone trusted, loved and in your home, suddenly turning into a monster that is so scary; like a child in Monsters Inc. previously peacefully sleeping!
I was in an abusive relationship whilst a student and it wasn’t a long-term commitment and I managed to leave pretty quickly without a great deal of physical harm. I felt so blunderingly stupid for letting some kind of monster into my life, when in many ways I’m a clever woman.
I’ve analysed why it happened and I’m probably none the wiser, but the legacy it left me is in some ways more damaging than the shock of someone trying to control and hurt me at the time. This and other experiences of being bullied, have affected my confidence at work, created problems in my marriage, my confidence in being a parent, church life, everything.
I think that’s because an abuser will cast a seed of doubt in your mind and then see where that flourishes, and enjoy watching your confidence shrink, your independence get smaller and your need for them in your life seemingly increase. When the situation ends, that doubt can still linger. It happened to me a while ago, so I’m able to think more rationally about it now, but it’s been something that has haunted me, making me question myself and my relationship choices over and over again and almost overcompensating and putting shields up that stop me enjoying life.
One in four women are likely to experience some kind of domestic violence, and people going through a rough time financially, or with an addictions are much more likely to be at risk. For more information this is a really helpful website: 24-hour National Domestic Violence Freephone Helpline 0808 2000 247
As a bystander it can be really difficult to know what to do to help. It’s best not to intervene though if the person (normally a woman) hasn’t asked you to, as this could put her at more risk of abuse instead. Actually physically leaving a situation can seem virtually impossible, due to not having any money, a car or childcare to make this possible. Leaving someone is the most risky time for abuse to happen. When I left my boyfriend that was when he turned violent. The best thing of course is to try and talk, but mainly listen and take seriously what the person is saying, if you witness violence you can ring the police, as it is a criminal offence.
In my faith journey, I initially thought that God would be the kind of God that sits on a cloud and judges you for picking someone so awful in the first place, rather than the one I know now, who hates to see any one of his children be abused, attacked, humiliated, feel scared, hurt or frightened. At the time, I looked at the bible and couldn’t find anything that spoke to me about leaving a hurtful relationship, only how to be loyal and faithful as a wife.
The passage below from Corinthians, where Paul was writing to new Christians and coaching them about how to behave in this new world, shows the difference between respect that is demanded as a “right” and love that sets people free;
1 Corinthians 13 New International Version (NIV) v1-13
1 If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.