Speak Out To Prevent Violence Against Women

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* Disclaimer – Please be advised that this article contains a personal account of Domestic Violence that may trigger some readers *

White Ribbon’s Definition Of Domestic Violence

Violence, abuse and intimidation between people who are or have been in an intimate relationship. The perpetrator uses violence to control and dominate the other person. This causes fear, physical harm and/or psychological harm. Domestic violence is a violation of human rights.

Domestic violence can include:

  • Emotional abuse.
  • Physical assault.
  • Sexual assault.
  • Verbal abuse.
  • Financial abuse.
  • Psychological abuse.
  • Isolating a woman from her friends and family.
  • Stopping a woman from practicing her religion.

Domestic Violence Can Be Experienced As

It isn’t always easy to see the signs of domestic violence, or an abusive relationship. There are so many ways in which they can be present, and are not always done in public, jealously, possessiveness, put downs, threats and violence are just a few ways in which domestic violence is shown.

Below is a list from white ribbon of ways in which a women can be experiencing domestic violence in her relationship:

  • Unfairly and regularly accuses her of flirting or being unfaithful.
  • Controls how she spends money.
  • Decides what she wears or eats.
  • Humiliates her in front of other people.
  • Monitors what she is doing, including reading her emails and text messages.
  • Discourages or prevents her from seeing friends and family.
  • Threatens to hurt her, the children or pets.
  • Physically assaults her (hitting, biting, slapping, kicking, pushing).
  • Yells at her.
  • Threatens to use a weapon against her.
  • Decides what she uses for birth control.
  • Forces her to have an abortion or to continue a pregnancy.
  • Constantly compares her with other people.
  • Constantly criticises her intelligence, mental health and appearance.
  • Prevents her from practicing her religion.
Domestic Violence counselling services
Image: 1800 Respect

My Personal Story

In light of White Ribbon Day I have decided to briefly explain my situation with domestic violence, specifically involving the topics of stalking, verbal, physical, emotional and sexual abuse. For the duration of this blog I will refer to my ex as Mister Y, (because I really do wonder why for a lot of reasons).

In a previous blog I explained my personal story about surviving sexual assault briefly from 2008, but in 2009 I met mister Y. I was young and had only turned 17 that year and it was just before the end of year 12. He seemed normal, I was hesitant because of what had happened the year before but I was also not looking for a relationship and I wasn’t confident at all. I had a lot of self-doubt, I felt worthless and not good enough in a lot of ways, so maybe because he was a little older (at this stage I assumed 22 was old which meant more mature- good joke!) and seemed to take an interest in me was possibly the reason why I was blind to a lot of things.

Any who the relationship started off fairly normal or so I thought, he would never compliment me but he would be slightly jealous when other guys would show me attention, I saw this as flattering at first. The first time we met he commented on what I wore with a little friendly put down, I thought he must have liked what I wore because aren’t we taught from a young age that when a boy likes you he puts you down? Clearly I didn’t see this as one of the signs because my already deflated self-worth and self-confidence was used to it. At the time I didn’t notice the fact that he was hiding our relationship when we started to date, probably because I was only 17 and wasn’t able to go into clubs with him. I would however pick him and his mates up, they were all amused at my age and the fact my car had “P” plates on it.

I guess the emotional and sexual abuse started before the physical, but it was only when I look back at it now that I understand it as sexual abuse. Back then I thought that when it’s your boyfriend it was ok – I was wrong. At the start he would make comments on my body, and if we drove past a girl he liked or walked past a girl he would say “she would look better in my car” or “I wish you looked like her” it made me seriously consider my body and image. We went to the gym together and I tried really hard to lose weight, I was 5”4 and a size 10 with a curvy figure. This is probably when I first started to starve myself or to purge my food, it didn’t help the fact that Mister Y would portion control my food as well.

Not long into the relationship he started to become physical, he would throw objects at me or slap/hit me on my arms and ribs, he would also spit at me. At the most littlest things as well, if his footy team lost, if I didn’t do something correctly, if he was angry at someone else or if the food I ate was crunchy – I would never eat crunchy foods as I was scared he would yell or would hit me. He would also tell me what I could or couldn’t wear, and send me home to change into the correct outfit for him.

It was often that he would yell at me at the gym for not being able to spot him while doing weights, if he was angry at not being able to lift the weight he wanted or just generally frustrated. I often would get told to walk home and sometimes he would hit me with one of the weights. I constantly was covered in bruises but all my bruises or marks were hidden under my clothing, he never hit me where it was obvious for someone to see.

He would push me out of the car while it was moving, throw my handbag out of the car, push me down his drive way which was on a hill, throw me into the gutter, stomp on my rib cage, kick me in the ribs, slam car doors onto me, shut the garage door on top of me, when I was at work (I worked in a pub) he would sit and hide in the poker machine room and watched me as I worked, and would send me threatening messages if I was speaking to a male for too long, he always accused me of cheating, monitored my phone calls, messages and social media accounts, he threatened to push me down the stairs if I ever fell pregnant, punch me in the stomach and so on – I think you get the point.

This was not a one off either this was on a weekly basis, what topped everything off and actually woke me up to his abuse, was one night while we were having dinner with his dad at the local pub. We had just gotten our meal and a bar tender came up to us, he had been bragging about flirting with her a few times that week and was going to get her number. For some reason she walked up to me in front of him and his dad, she gave me her number because she thought I’d be perfect for some promo work that she was involved in. I took the number and put it in my handbag, I didn’t think anything of this until we got back to his parents place.

That night just as we were getting into bed he started screaming at me for getting her number and not him, he chocked me out, pinned me up against the wall, I was screaming his mum was bashing on his door to let me out and his younger brother was crying. He tore my singlet off, ripped my bra threw me to the floor and started kicking me. I somehow got up, opened the door and ran out of his room all the way into the garage while basically naked. He followed me and locked the garage door so I couldn’t get out, I was crying because I didn’t know what to do. I knew I needed my handbag and phone and I kept asking him to let me get my things. He finally let me back upstairs but instead of letting me leave he kept apologising, he grabbed me and put me into bed. He held onto me and wouldn’t let go. I just did as I was told, I was petrified. At about 4am he finally fell asleep and let go of me. I got my things, I ran out of the house and ran home.

The next day when he found out I was gone he rang me non-stop until I answered. He was crying, I suggested we have a 2-week break. During the break we still saw each other but I finally got the strength to stand up to him consider leaving him. Although I was so incredibly scared I finally got the courage to leave him after a month. When it finally ended Mister Y spent a few days with his car parked out the front of my house refusing to leave. He screamed out to me, apologised, asked to marry me and eventually after my parents called the police he left – I changed my number, I stayed away from him and so did he. This was a two and a half year nightmare, and I could go into more depth but I think you all get the idea of how my day to day was in this relationship. It was a massive moment in my life and too this day I cannot understand why I was so scared to leave and why I didn’t leave. At the time all I thought was that if I leave he is going to hurt me more.

How to help people in a Domestic Violent situation
Image: Use STOP to help people who may be in a Domestic Violent situation

That was the moment my view on relationships and men had changed for the rest of my life. Learning to love again after an abusive relationship is huge, I highly recommend not jumping into a new relationship once you have ended your abusive one. It’s often difficult to learn to live with no one but trust me when I say it will help!

After an abusive relationship opening up to love is very difficult, you want to trust and you want to love again but you can’t help but worry about falling in love with that type of personality again. It is easy to fall back into that pattern but YOU are more than capable of breaking that habit!

9 Ways You Can Approach A New Relationship

I will list some ways in which psychiatrists and other mental health experts have explained ways in which you can approach your next relationship:

You have to understand why you were drawn to that person.

Being in a relationship that is toxic can leave you with emotional and physical scars.  You have probably stressed over why you stayed for as long as you did, but self-reflection is GOOD! Figuring out what drew you to that person in the first place will make you less susceptible to falling for a similar type of person again.

DO NOT beat yourself up for staying with that person.

You need to forgive yourself; you also need to look at the choices you made with honesty and compassion.

Make a list of things you want.

Write down on paper what you want and what you can’t accept in your next relationship. List the behaviours that you will never tolerate in any relationship and when you are comfortable in your new relationship get that list out. Share the list with your new partner and talk about each other’s boundaries and vulnerabilities.

Get in touch with your own needs.

You have just spent years of your life with someone who did not respect you, someone who belittled you and made your feel completely worthless. Before you even consider moving on to a new relationship you need to get in touch with yourself first! You need to work out what you really want in life, you will need to learn to love and appreciate yourself again.

Reconnect with your support system.

Chances are your ex took over your social life and pulled you away from friends and family in order to monopolise you. Now that you are single again its times to reconnect with those friends so that when eventually you do get in another relationship, you have those people in your life who will support and love you no matter what, as well as family and friends to depend on. Your friends and family will always see the things you are blind too and will speak up.

Believe that it is possible to trust and love again.

Do not believe that everyone is bad, do not let a pattern of bad relationships lead you to believe that you do not deserve to be happy and in love with a healthy relationship. You will find someone who is amazing and perfect for you, you will learn to trust again and you will learn to recognise those red flags.

Tell your new partner that you were abused in your previous relationship.

Having honest conversations about each other’s relationship history is key to building trust in any new relationship. Especially if you have been involved in an abusive one, you need to let your partner know that you are still healing and are a work in progress. Trust is extremely important at this point.

Trust your gut with new potential partners.

You may feel like you can’t trust your own gut feeling, but trust me you can. You are often made to feel like you are the one who is crazy, your feelings are warranted but you are not crazy! A healthy partner will be someone who is capable of empathy, who can handle your worries and will comfort you.

Speak up!

Make sure you speak up about any certain behaviour you are not comfortable with or are harmed by!

Quote said by a woman who survived domestic violence
Image: Quote Said By A Domestic Violence Survivor

I still to this day remember the exact moment I turned to my dad in the car and said:

“Dad, do you know what? I love myself again.”

That moment will stay with my family and me forever. That was just the start of my new journey and love for life again! Never lose hope and never lose your sparkle.

Author: Morgan is a consultant from Oh Zone Adult Lifestyle Centres

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