Angelina Leatherbarrow today writes in the Havering Daily on White Ribbon Day, Violence against women.
As a young girl, I witnessed domestic violence and saw the impact it had on a family. I understood domestic violence to by physical, sunglasses to cover a black eye, or long-sleeved jumpers to hide bruises in the middle of July. At the time I remember being so angry at the perpetrator, and not understanding why she didn’t “just leave”.
Then in my late teens/ early twenties. I had my first serious relationship and I experienced something that I didn’t realise was domestic violence. It was emotional abuse; it was coercive control and gaslighting. He controlled my relationships, what music I liked, what clothes I wore, how I felt about myself. He cheated and told me it was my fault, he called me names. I didn’t know that I had fallen into an abusive relationship, in fact, I thought I was supposed to help him be better, I was supposed to fix the problem, or it was simply that I deserved to be treated that way. It was only when I had became isolated from my parents and my closest friends that it became violent. I was lucky, it only took one violent episode for me to realise that I needed to get away from him and never look back.
I was one of the lucky ones, on average 2 women are murdered every week in an abusive relationship. Funding for women’s refuges and safe havens has been decimated under a decade austerity, charities such as www.womensaid.org.ukrely on donations to protect women, support their escape and provide ongoing support with housing/ legal advice/ emotional support.
Along with a desperate lack of direct support for women fleeing abuse, the situation has been made even worse with cuts to Children’s Centre Services which can provide preventative support for vulnerable families and identify women and girls at risk. Benefits changes which disproportionately impact women; e.g. Universal Credit can only be paid to one person in a household, in most cases the man, so a woman trying to flee will usually have to do so without a penny in her pocket, if she has children to consider that makes leaving even harder.
I say I was lucky, I now have an amazing husband who knows every detail of what happened to me in the past and has helped me deal with many of those demons, but there are many scars that won’t heal and they are mine to deal with.
If you don’t have bruises or broken bones, please don’t feel that your experience isn’t valid or serious enough to reach out for help, emotional/ sexual/ phycological abuse are every bit as dangerous and leave marks that only you can see. Places like Women’s Aid will believe you and they can help. Their website also has a wealth of Support, information and downloadable resources for those experiencing domestic abuse. Information for friends, family and community members.
A Refuge -The freephone, 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline 0808 2000 247