When you live with domestic violence it’s about what you can do.
I’ve been thinking about domestic violence recently, probably because November 25th is white ribbon day. But whatever the reason, it’s been on my mind!
So it was interesting that when I was in my back yard yesterday hanging out the washing, I heard one very unhappy neighbour revealing his frustration to a second person (a woman) in a way that in my opinion, wasn’t all that helpful.
I’m okay with the use of obscenities, after all, my own vocabulary would be less without them. I’m even okay with using obscenities to disclose my frustration. Although interestingly, my anxieties are heightened when I hear them used by others in an aggressive manner.
I guess it’s from angry obscenities that the violence escalated in my childhood home. Everything would be ‘fine’ until my father began to complain. I say ‘fine’, because there was always an air of tension in our home depending on my father’s degree of drunkenness. If my mother failed to contain his perpetual disappointment with life that tension would become infused with sparks until it eventually flamed into an inferno.
We children would be hastily sent to bed regardless of the time to escape the blaze and avoid the inevitable violence that was brewing. Sometimes my mother would delay the proceedings long enough to gently tuck us into bed and sing us a lullaby while my father muttered angrily to himself. But the moment of ignition would eventually arrive sometimes after we slept and sometimes before.
My father’s disappointments would be peppered with blush-worthy obscenities intended to offend those who heard them. Holding his cigarette and glass of beer in one hand he would name my mother as the core of his discontent. There was nothing she could do to satisfy him. No matter her degree of submission or obedience, his anger growled incessantly making his violent unpredictability, predictable.
Interestingly, there were times when I saw my parents and they were clearly happy together. Times when I sat on my father’s knee amid the stench of stale beer and cigarette smoke professing that I loved him in a measure quantified by my outstretched arms. It was times like this that I wondered what life could be like. How it might be different. I believe my mother felt this way too. Constantly yearning for things to be different.
I wonder if this is what makes it so hard for victims of domestic violence to abandon their assailant. To do what all of the ‘non-victims’ would proselytise and ‘get out’. To give up on all the yearning for what the relationship could be and accept that it will never happen.
I have a natural tendency to want to start a diatribe on the ‘condition’ known as love. The attraction that binds us to another in spite of what we might suffer at their hand because I think it plays a part in how difficult it is to leave an offender. The list of difficulties and reasons why people can’t, won’t or don’t leave violent and abusive partners is as diverse as the perpetrators who commit these crimes and seek to get away with it. Making their abominable behaviour the fault of another.
So if we ignore ‘love’ as being a primary factor in maintaining the relationship what is it that keeps abuse victims in a relationship that could end tragically, how do we explain the victimology?
So, we all want to ask it; “why won’t they leave?” Surely you can’t love someone who does that to you!
For my mother, she had six children. No income. She would lose her home. There would be no social security. Nowhere to go. And even though, the situation with my father was untenable she could ‘put up with it’ in the face of greater adversity for her and her children. Besides, she’d married him; she’d ‘asked for it’; made her bed.
For many people those reasons form a part of the leaving worry, however for many, threats of more and greater violence and actual violence escalate when the victim says they’re leaving or leaves, secretly or otherwise. Many, because of the degree of violence they and their children have suffered, rightly believe their partner to actually be capable of carrying out the threats they make.
But it’s more than the threats and the beatings and it’s more than love. It’s more than the fear and intimidation. It’s more than the heartfelt apologies and professions of future harmony. It’s not even about the good times.
Violence appears to be about power and control and we will continue to find that there are both men and women who, when powerless in the more public areas of their life will seek to find it in the more private. It seems that human nature (call it human psychology) is so caught up in pleasuring one’s self, that it cannot be dissuaded by the effect our behaviour might have on others.
Our selfish lust preys upon those who would accept our faults to have access to our positives without consideration for what that acceptance engenders. A person who countenances abuse is not as the perpetrator would like to believe, under their control. They are simply taking the bad with the good.
In time, there will be a right time, a right moment and a right opportunity to make the necessary break, but it won’t be as a result of society’s expectation of what one should do.
It will be when the victim has accepted what they can do.
If you are a victim or perpetrator of domestic violence there are resources at domesticviolence.com.au
From Mary Anne Radmacher: Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying,”I will try again tomorrow.”
Some interesting information about violence against women.
In Australia the death rate of women by ‘domestic violence’ or rather ‘domestic murder’ runs at approximately one per week. That is, roughly 52 women die each year at the hands of their domestic partner. (Source: www.whiteribbon.org.au)
The Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) cites that in the financial years 2011 and 2012 an average of 239 murders occurred per year in Australia of which intimate partners committed 58%. Of those ‘intimate partner’ murders 76% were the murder of women. (Source: aic.gov.au) The AIC also states that women continue to be overrepresented victims of murder regardless of who the offender is.
If you need to talk to someone NOW call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
Deb Shugg is an awarded businesswoman, wife & mother, author and a sufferer of depression and anxiety.
If you need help to deal with your symptoms see your doctor or contact an organisation such as Beyond Blue.
(Abuse of another person is NEVER okay. If you are being abused or, if you are an abuser please seek help.)