When you live with depression and anxiety you never know until you try.
I have to confess to getting a bit hot under the collar recently as I watched a documentary where tragically, a violent and aggressive male killed 2 of his children, in revenge for his wife leaving him. Yep, a fully blown tragedy that deserved more than the 17 years in prison this particular villain was ‘excused’ with.
Before I enter into this domestic violence discussion, I’m going to recap a bit of background about me. Most of you already know I was raised in a home where violence against women and children was endured. A home that harbored a man tormented by his own demons and from which there seemed no escape. As a child, I never understood why we didn’t leave. Why my mother would tolerate such distress. Or why my father was so angry and so dangerous.
Frankly, I’m a little tearful in anticipation of this BLOG and I’m struggling with a number of issues around what I want to say. I can quite easily understand that if my mother hadn’t endured my father’s poor behaviour, I wouldn’t exist. So the fact that I’m here to work through this, in my opinion, is a minor miracle. The fact that I write these BLOGs in a public space means that the application of tears, snot and a particularly red and swollen nose is an unwanted attention grabber. But, who ever said I wasn’t an attention seeker!!
I’ve heard women say of their violent partners: “I couldn’t take the children away from him, he was such a good father.” Or: “It was okay that he beat me, but when he started beating my children, that was too much.”
Last night’s documentary also included these lines, as well as a line about the woman being so young when she started the relationship, she wasn’t aware that the controlling and abusive behaviour exhibited by this man wasn’t normal in a loving relationship. He treated her this way because he loved her so much! He wanted her to be a better person!
Oh honey, if I could take you in my arms and wipe away whatever it was that seeded such self doubt in you.
There are a few things about domestic violence and violent controlling behavior that, before I continue, need to be said.
- Risks are most likely to escalate when the ‘target’ partner leaves or threatens to leave the relationship.
- Violence does not occur because of the ‘target’ partner’s perceived or real deficiencies.
- The ‘target’ partner does NOT ask for ‘it’ by staying in the relationship.
- The violence and harm perpetrated is NOT initiated by the behaviour of the ‘victim’ partner.
That said, why was I (albeit at a TV program) so frustrated by this woman’s need to somehow justify the poor behaviour of another? He was ‘such a good father’; he would inflict harm upon their mother, and eventually (before ultimately killing them) on the children themselves! In whose world is this being a ‘good father’?
‘It was okay when he was just beating and raping me’.
In whose world is it okay to beat and rape another? Let alone to do it in view or hearing of the children! How does anyone get to the point of accepting harm perpetrated toward themself that would not be acceptable in any other circumstances? And, having watched the program to the end, I found myself angry at this victim’s willingness to be controlled and beaten by her partner because, in some misguided view, she believed it would be; good for her? She deserved it?
Disturbingly I found myself wondering if she wasn’t somehow complicit in the violence by not taking control of the situation sooner. Even as the violence was escalating she seemed to believe there could still be a ‘happy ever after’. Of course, each time she attempted to leave, he threatened to, or did take the children away from her. Of course she would relent and attempt reconciliation because she would not be separated from her children. Of course she would. Of course she would.
I’m sure I’m not alone in this disturbing thinking and so I wondered how this thinking might in some way enable ‘domestic’ violence? How did this type of violence become something for which our culture, including sufferers themselves, became willing to blame the victim? And it seems that while politicians fight for dominance in matters such as ending domestic violence, our police are made impotent by the unwillingness of women in particular, although not exclusively, to enthusiastically pursue the legal (and personal) consequences of crimes perpetrated against them.
It’s true that human nature comes in all shapes and sizes. We’re all a developing mix of the DNA contributed by our parents along with the way we are primarily and secondarily nurtured. Our family of origin plays an important part in teaching us how family dynamics work and what behaviour is acceptable inside and outside the home. How exactly, as a community, we are to tackle these influences in an attempt to minimise violence remains a mystery to me. However, in my opinion, whilst we continue to relegate this type of violence to the boundaries of ‘domestic’ we continue to undermine its significance in our individual and collective minds.
Is the problem of violence against women and children too hard to fix? Will we simply ‘park’ it in order to deal with problems that appear easier to solve? Or are we waiting to magically reach a state of enlightenment through which violence will seemingly disappear?
If you asked me if I think my mother was complicit in the violence she endured at the hand of my father, I would need to begin my response by measuring all the reasons she had for staying. Reasons that at the time and still today negate any responsibility I might feel inclined to have her own. I’m inclined to I believe that responsibility for any violence will always remain that of the person who delivered it.
I wish I had a real answer.
However, in the spirit of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, I’d recommend we spend more time being excellent to each other.
To start the year, here’s a quote from America’s lyrics Lonely People.
This is for all the lonely people
Thinking that life has passed them by
Don’t give up
Until you drink from the silver cup
She’ll never take you down or
Never give you up
You’ll never know until you try
LISTEN NOW CLICK to Youtube: America – Lonely People
Deb Shugg is an awarded businesswoman, wife & mother, author and a sufferer of depression and anxiety.
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(Abuse of another person is NEVER okay. If you are being abused or, if you are an abuser please seek help.)