The hidden, silent epidemic, wounding our children, scarring families and killing partners. We see the end result on television, and picture the scene we have once viewed in a movie. The partner arrives home, after visiting the pub, his dinner is set down in front of him. “What’s this muck?” he yells, before throwing the plate at the wall. The kids are feuding in the background, after a tiff breaks out over whose turn it was on the Wii. The tension carries on into the night, wherein the police are called by the neighbours. She has a black eye. He is contrite, the children solemn. Formulaic. The picture is quite different most times. The man or woman once met a delightful human being in their love interest. They are confident without being proud, attentive without being cloying. Overtures of warmth and tokens of love are reciprocated. Nobody falls in love with an abuser. There is no sign of what is to come, as the appropriate buttons aren’t being pressed. The monster within can be contained in the early flushes of romance. Add pregnancy, uncertain employment, redundancy, illness, children and a host of other life events into the mix, and those buttons are well and truly pressed. Whilst some couples endure and flourish, some men or women revert to their inherent factory settings. Nobody is more stunned than you.

Financial abuse often occurs,consisting of sabotaging everything from holiday plans, housing, courses, and anything that you derive pleasure from or will advance you. It will all be falling into place, when whoosh, the money isn’t available. You will be given an allowance of your partners deciding. Opportunities are limited. Emotional abuse doesn’t just consist of verbal aggression, but also of deathly silence. You are never praised. Never told how loved you are. That is another sort of loneliness. Frustrated at their own lives, and never taking responsibility for everything from a fine to being sacked (they are always the victim), they take it out on their loved ones. Untapped wells of anger and immature emotional responses come to the fore. Their livers are drowning in a tumult of rage- Chinese herbalists believe this is where anger is stored. So, they take drugs, and hit the bottle, inflaming it even more. You don’t know where your partner has gone, or how it has come to this. The roots are insidious, the tendrils taking hold over time. A shove when you want to discuss a bill just arrived in the mail, an intolerance to the kids and their natural noise. A deathly glare. Suddenly, you can’t do anything right. The house isn’t clean enough, your appearance not up to standard. You keep silent about how your household has tilted at a  peculiar angle, because you don’t know how to voice what is occurring. A grumpy partner; hasn’t everyone endured that at some stage? There are no black eyes, yet.

As the boundaries are stretched, and you are drip-fed abuse every day, they become more arrogant, and angrier. People ask if everything is okay, as your husband drinks copiously, and avoids you at a friend’s BBQ. You defend him. He is hard-working, just under stress. You don’t want people’s esteem of your partner to be altered irretrievably. He is after all, the father of your kids. As you start to avoid people and feel more isolated, it reaches its crescendo. This is often years later. The police are called, and plead with you to make a statement to have him charged. You react with fear. You are defensive. You are suffering Stockholm syndrome, where you have become enmeshed with your captor. You only recall the gentle side, the human side of your spouse. To come to grips with who they have become would break you. http://counsellingresource.com/lib/therapy/self-help/stockholm/There is no turning back from that realization and you aren’t quite ready. When the spell is broken, you need all the support you can from friends and family. To start anew and rebuild a life that has been stripped back to the bare bones, takes time and care. I hope you do it. I understand why you stay, and what you fear. You fear staying and you fear going. Nothing is as bad as the place you are in. I promise.

Police Presentation.

I was asked to go to one of the largest police stations in Sydney, and give a presentation last week. A friend of mine was running an investigator’s course, and wanted to give her students new perspective on what it is like on the other side. I  looked  through the Charter of Victims Rights-devised in 1996, and made notes. Times have changed. There was nothing like this around when I was going through the court system. I didn’t quite know where to start with writing my presentation, so I asked for wisdom and clarity. I wanted to give the investigator’s a clear picture of what goes on in a survivor’s home (I can’t bring myself to use the term ‘victim’), their minds and hearts. What it feels like to be blown apart. I felt a massive responsibility toward other survivor’s. I was after all, speaking for them. The presentation wrote itself. I spoke of what it felt like as a child when the police came to my home, the things they did and said that made an impact. I spoke about the committal hearing when I was sixteen. I spoke of every encounter I had with the police, and how I had noticed the changes, including being given a card with cohesive information regarding support services and also, the name and contact details of an individual I could call whenever I felt threatened. I made no bones about the bad parts of my history, whilst also praising the good. The sergeant who found me the night I fell. Cupping my hand and keeping my awake whilst the paramedics worked. He shall always be in my heart.

It is a surreal experience to go into the carpark of a large station. The heat and darkness permeate every part of your psyche. I got in the lift with my friend, and two burly detectives. They were built like tanks. Long hallways, and dark rooms. Gritty. My friend went to get changed into her uniform and I waited. I had some Rescue Remedy Pastilles to calm me. The nerves came upon me at the last moment. I had been remarkably chilled before. I gripped my speech, as I entered a room filled with investigators. They listened respectfully to what I said, and I felt validated. I had been waiting a long time for this. Afterward, I was given a bunch of flowers, and a kiss! At the afternoon tea, the officers were served doughnuts by their credit union. Yes, they do eat doughnuts! We talked about our kids, about school fetes, about life. Suddenly, I was a contemporary, about the same age as them, and on a level playing field. I was no longer a victim. I was someone who had managed to survive. Some of them suggested that a presentation such as this be done during every investigator’s course. Wouldn’t that be marvellous? They weren’t seeing a “customer,” as the force now terms those who have endured the unendurable. They saw a person, a mother, wife, friend. It was a privilege to see inside my friend’s work, to view the system from the other side.

1373726_651858081514707_2096002094_n I had to talk about many terrible things from my past, and remained strong. This freaked me out. Like many with PTSD, I don’t react to stressful events whilst they are happening. It was when I was taking my daughter grocery shopping later in the evening that my bottom lip trembled and I fought the urge to cry. So many memories. I felt emotional for the child I had been. I felt emotional that finally I had been heard. Maybe these experiences would help ensure my child grows up in a different society. I was awake all night, shaking, feeling sick, remembering. They don’t call it the horrors for nothing. The next day, I stayed in bed and slept. Was it worth it? You bet.