When the #MeToo campaign started, I felt very uncomfortable and couldn’t understand why. Then I realised, I too am #MeToo. I felt uncomfortable and embarrassed. I too had been a victim, but never saw myself as a ‘victim’. I’m a survivor 😊 and thriver. Finally, I realised I should not be the be the one who feels ashamed… the one who abuses should be ashamed!
The feeling of embarrassment stems from the sense that the victim is at fault. They’re not, but an abusive person instills a deep-seated fear of speaking out; they compel their victim to silence with thousands of small actions. Melinda Gates writes about the power of women reinforcing women to break this trend of shame and non-disclosure . She says:
“When it’s ‘he said/she said,” the woman can’t win. But when it’s ‘he said/she said/she said/she said /she said/she said,’ transparency has a chance, and light can flood the places where abusive behaviour thrives.” The Moment of Lift (Melinda Gates)
I am worried about women enduring abuse, currently isolated with their partners (or more isolated?). Isolation is a daily reality of coercive control. The victims (male or female, but more likely to be women) are progressively cut off from family and friends by a series of malicious tactics. These tactics are unique to the abuser and the vulnerabilities of the victim. Not all abuse is visible. The bruises eventually fade, the ones on the inside may never really heal. The induced fear echoes on and can be triggered by unexpected actions, something like PTSD.
Any visible intervention puts the victim at greater risk; the abuser is likely to punish or progressively employ harsher but more insidious tactics. Coercive control may be so subtle that only the victim understands the implications, and underlying threat. In the book ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ by Helen Walmesly-Johnson, it describes how easy it is to fall under an abuser’s power. It’s rapid, only semi-visible and dangerously all encompassing within weeks of an initial meeting. Potential abusers cause the victim to imprint on them, like a baby bird. It creates a feeling of dependency that’s deceptive and ultimately untrue. If you feel fearful, without understanding why, trust that gut feeling. It’s right.
When asked ‘why women do not just leave?’, please understand that usually the risk of leaving is higher than the risk of staying. Honestly. This is proven by the statistics of violence after separation; the risk escalates as the abuser desperately tries to regain and retain control… The individual is trapped in a web, invisible to others, but very real for the victim.
To anyone suffering now, there is help, and there is support available. Dial 999 and key 55 to alert the police. Tell someone you trust with the delicacy of your situation who can help appropriately. Call Women’s Aid. Call Refuge. All are excellent and compassionate.
In addition, I would like to see the Ask for Angela alert to be available in supermarkets and pharmacies. By using a code word, the shopper could be traced through their loyalty cards with assumed permission. More discreetly, a black spot on palm of their hand could highlight their need for help. A discreet response could be made through the till. Online shopping alerts could also be made available, and delivery drivers coils alert appropriate people to help, discreetly and safely…
I realised recently that I am a feminist, but I’m not anti-men. I’m pro equality and choice. I’m pro-inclusion in relation to gender, disability or race. I want to challenge distorted and destructive social norms, including child marriage, FGM, the right to gun ownership in the US, the discouragement of girls to stand up for themselves because it’s just not nice to fight back… All of these cultural expectations have negative impacts, some clearly more tragic than others. All these practices originate in something being seen as normal, even as a right, and going unchallenged because nobody wants to rock the status quo.
The most powerful illustration of the affect of gun ownership in the USA, was when a pair of shoes was laid down for every child that died by gunshot in 2018. There were 5,000 pairs of shoes. I find it strange that in the UK it’s rare that anyone owns a gun, let alone believes it a right. Why is the USA so different in this? Does the population there understand the right to live is way more important than the right to defend? Gun ownership breeds gun violence. Discrimination in the UK is communicated through cruel words and exclusion, but if guns were available this may easily turn to pulling a trigger. Without thought. Without compassion. Without the ability to go back in time and change that decision.
The death rate resulting from domestic abuse under lockdown is rising. Cruel words can be healed by apology, compassion and love. Death is impossible to reverse. Let’s try to prevent any more…
I hope this reaches and helps someone who needs it.
Love Ruth x