The new White Ribbon Day oath goes something like this: I will stand up, speak out and act to prevent men’s violence against women.
So important, such a huge shift in the way that we have previously chosen to deal with domestic violence. It has been the unspoken, hush-hush horror that not many are willing to confront. For good reason too, if you are on the receiving end of any violence or bullying. It is scary and surreal, and very hard to comprehend or truly understand what it is like to suddenly find yourself in this reality when it previously seemed like something that only happened to ‘other people.’
I want to clarify that I don’t consider myself just a statistic or a victim, I am so much more than that, as is every other woman affected. Technically though I became a statistic in 2014, when I needed to call the police in fear of my own partner. It was a man I had previously adored, who my son and I let into our home and our hearts with nothing but love and hope. He had slowly unravelled in front of our eyes though, becoming more and more unwell and someone very different over a long period of time.
I suddenly found myself receiving domestic violence counselling, which is a part of the protocol when one needs to invite the police into your own home for this reason. It still feels like I am talking about someone else when I type this.
Compared to some, my story could be considered quite mild. It is all relative though, my life is as free from trauma as I can possibly make it these days, my experiences have taught me that life is too short for drama or inviting more darkness in. Although I have been sitting on this story for almost a year now, deep in my own grief and healing, I know that it is my responsibility to speak out.
How can I call myself a person who cares about and commits unconditionally to making the world a better place if I stay silent about family violence?
I currently feel a little more peace, and a little less pain. The guilt and shame are still with me most days, alongside the weight of grief. I listen intently to the media around this issue, I read every word shared by every other victim that I come across. The sense of not being alone is hugely comforting, as is the reality that this can happen to anyone.
I think the most important part of sharing something so personal is that there is always someone out there who needs to know that they are not alone, and that there is hope. It is possible to remove yourself from this awful reality, although I know that the fear can be overwhelming.
The support available is improving, the stigma is slowly fading. I do think we still have a long way to go, especially when you look at how many women have actually lost their lives this year in Australia. How do you know if you are going to be the next one to become that type of statistic? How can you possibly know?
I am trusting, generous and driven by optimism. Was it these things that made me blind to the darkness hiding within the man that I adored? I am also fairly smart, educated and have a wealth of life experience. Why did I ignore the red flags, was he just so articulate in his ability to apologise and appeal to those compassionate parts of me that I am so proud of?
HURT PEOPLE HURT PEOPLE.
I believe this is where the cycle begins, and continues. It is usually those who are carrying the most darkness within, the least self aware and in the deepest denial of their own pain who then need to inflict that pain on others to survive. This does not mean that you can survive on empathy alone. These hurt people either need to raise their hands and honestly face their pain, reach out for the help they need to turn their lives around or they need to be set free.
It is an extremely difficult decision to end any relationship, friendship or connection. Mine involved a blended family, three precious young hearts who I knew would be broken. Looking back, I can see the signs so clearly. In my commitment to always find the lessons I know that this experience although beyond painful is all a part of my process. Sharing the things that I have learned will hopefully light the way for at least one other person.
I have learned that you can only truly help someone who wants to be helped, who acknowledges and faces their own story.
I have also learned that it is never OK to threaten, abuse, bully or intimidate anyone, especially not a child. At times the adult bullies are behaving in a way that is so much a part of who they are that they have become experts at making excuses for themselves, or living in complete denial of their darkness.
I have learned that you should never judge anyone who is affected by domestic, family or intimate violence. I have been through something that is unique to me. I have inflicted enough judgement on myself over the past year, enough questioning and ultimately accepted that the lessons are mine to own and rebuild from. It is impossible to know what is going on inside the lives of others.
I have learned that the world is filled with what I call ‘enablers’ of violence and other awful behaviours. These are the family members or friends of those who inflict pain on others, the ones who these people gravitate towards because they know they will not be called on their behaviour. Enablers always play down the actions of their family member or friend, make light of things, they too are living their own sort of darkness and denial. It takes courage to speak up, it is weak to enable.
My story is not one of darkness, it is of courage and love and light. We had our hearts broken by someone who we forgive and let go, hoping that he finds a crack where the light can make its way into his dark dark world.
I now consciously, lovingly and optimistically choose to let this pain go. I choose to remain committed to the process of healing, learning and opening myself up to a type of love that is pure, light and secure. I urge anyone else who has been through or is currently going through this to hold onto hope.
If you are worried about someone, or if you yourself need support for any type of domestic violence, bullying or inappropriate behaviour within your own intimate relationships please call 1800 RESPECT.
Please know that you are not alone, you are loved.