In 1999 I left a physically, emotionally and sexually violent relationship. In the years that followed, I continued to leave this relationship. Daily. Then weekly. In fact, I still leave this relationship.
I leave it more frequently than anyone realizes or that I care to acknowledge.
The dark truth of domestic violence is that you can leave as frequently as you like, but it never leaves you.
It is a just a constant looming darkness and hidden charges on your life bill.
At best, the violence and the perpetrator lie dormant as a mere ongoing concern. At worst, they leave you in a cold sweat of paranoia as you question their motives, your motives, your safety.
Don’t get me wrong, I have moved on. This isn’t a waxing lyrical about baggage unpacked. I have let go of the demons of that relationship and neatly packed them into the suitcase. I am no longer that woman. I’ve built myself a highly functioning life that gives no indication of its past, bar the occasional item that falls loose of the baggage stack.
No matter my emotional resolve, domestic violence never leaves you. Never.
It becomes a game – one that is so ingrained in my daily life that I forget it is there until such a point that I move to a new house and have relief so intense I feel I can breath properly for the first time in years. “Ahhhh safe again”.
And I do move house. Fairly often. I move house anytime I feel a sense that he knows where I am. It’s part of the DV game.
I choose houses that have bars on windows and have a preference for properties that aren’t near to public transport as a means to reduce the way he could commute to my home where he to find out my address.
Within my home, I create love hate relationships with safety. I sleep after midnight when I feel the risk of prowling has been reduced. I sleep with windows closed and ‘traps’ against easy access points. I invest faith in my dogs to be my alarm.
Then, the most seemingly crazy of them all, I keep in touch with him. Just a little. Just enough to know where he is.
That is the game changer. I sleep better knowing what suburb he is in. It enables me to do the maths of how long would it take him to get to my house via public transport if he were to enter a blind rage.
I know what you are thinking. Insanity, right? Surely I could seek an intervention order. I could. But in the game of domestic violence, I, the victim, have an excellent understanding of my perpetrator. No intervention order will stop him from scaling the building, entering my bed room and choking me within an inch of my life.
The first I would even know of it would be when I was gasping for breath. It would be swift and deftly.
Living with domestic violence is to live with this knowledge; the knowledge that there is a likelihood that my death could be encountered one night as I sleep. I have accepted this as a plausible reality.
Whilst I have let go of my fear of death back in 1999, I have been driven to ‘survive’ by my children. My desire to see them safe and nurtured by me and not family members has been a driving agent in all of this.
I feel I have fulfilled this desire. Were I to become a mere domestic violence statistic now, I would do so happy in the knowledge that I raised two beautiful, loving children who will go on to do wonderful things in this world with or without me.
But it has come at a cost.
It has cost me little things like feeling a cool breeze on a summer’s night because I sleep with the windows shut.
It has cost me suburbs and places I can’t visit, songs and food I can’t consume.
It has cost me sleep. Deep, long, peaceful sleep.
It has cost me a place to call “home” permanently and a garden.
It has cost me a life of feeling ‘safe’.
That, my friends, is the price I pay.
White Ribbon Day 2014
1 woman is killed every week in Australia by her current or former intimate partner.
16% of all homicides in Australia involve a man killing his female partner.
Nearly two-thirds (57%) of Australian women report experiencing at least one incident of physical violence or sexual violence by a man over their lifetime. Just
under half (48%) have ever experienced physical violence, and one-third (34%) have experienced sexual violence.
Time for Action report estimates that if there is no reduction in current rates, violence against women and their children will cost the Australian economy an estimated $15.6 billion by 2021-22.
I can’t travel further
I need a place to stop.
My legs are weary
My eyes too blurred.
I just need to sit here
Listen to the sounds.
Let the silence fill the void.
I just need to stop.
One night is all I need,
But I need to rest.
To break, to weep, to fall.
No phone calls, no messages
Just one, blissful, painful night.
To pretend all is well.
Dig deeper, dig deeper this time.
To a place I don’t know I have. To a place of soft resolve.
Your ship is out to sea,
Lost amongst her swell.
I watch as you are thrown,
Tossed and saturated.
My soul feels tired. Tired of fighting. Tired of slipping back. Regressing.
I remember the day you entered my life. I remember studying you; the vest you wore, the rings on your fingers. You were spritely then. Quick witted.
I was attracted to you the moment I saw you. I teased you about eating pancakes for breakfast.
“Sweets arent breakfast food!” I said.
We met the day or two following. I remember the emails back and forth flirting on the type of operation I was running. Our Robot Chicken joke. We sat that day and talked for near on three hours. You returned the following day. It was the first time I saw your wounds and the first time you gave me that look. The one of shame and insecurity and self hatred.
You had me so fooled that we were connected. I don’t even know why. Looking back, we had little in common.
Looking back, it was just a sham.
I was so in love with you. I stood there believing the sincerity of your words when you promised me you were leaving. We had it all planned.
At least, that is what I thought.
Do you remember the day, early in the piece, when I stood there before you, begging with my tears for you to be straight with me. To tell me now if I should walk away and let go of dream of us being together.
I think it’s the beginning of when you started to break my heart. Slow, hairline fractures or seemingly inconsequential chips.
Every time I’d end up in tears, you’d come running. You’d hold me, reassure me, promise me. Then I would calm and centre myself, and continue buying in to the charade.
I don’t know why I stayed. Do you?
So many times I could have, should have, turned away and walked on. I honestly can’t tell you why I didn’t. I think at the time I was deeply in love with you. For no good, sound reason.
But I must have loved you.
It’s just that you hurt me over and over. Never intentionally. Never deliberately. Never with malice. All just by-products of your illness, I suppose. Blaming it seems like an easy way out.
And for every hurt, I have a small token of you to remind me of how you’d buy little gifts, not even out of guilt, but just because.
I don’t know if you actually loved me. I don’t even know if you know what love is. I can’t even tell anymore what was sincere and what was just words said to keep me adoring you.
You left me, you left life, long before you took your last breath. I only remember the darkened, dead eyes.
I’m left with nothing but emptiness. You took all I had and didn’t even leave me the dignity of being considered your partner. Maybe that is what hurts the most; that after 4 years and constant pain and hardwork, I’m noted as nothing in your life.
I try to remember that I wasn’t nothing. But battling your delusions wears me down.
People who knew us as a couple tell me they knew you loved me. They try to reassure me that of course you loved me – they could see it.
So I’ll hold on to that day outside the Coffee Guy where you looked down at me and told me that you’d know when I was no longer in love with you because I wouldn’t stare up at you adoringly.
It doesn’t feel like I’ll ever stare up at someone else the way I did to you that day.
But worse, I don’t know that I can trust the way someone stares back.