Just take a moment to visualise someone affected by Domestic Abuse.
What gender are they? Where do they live? What type of clothes are they wearing? Do they have a job? What do they do?
Just take a moment to consider your perspective.
After speaking about my experience of Domestic Abuse to a room of 200 fierce women, I was approached by one who shared a story of her abusive husband’s behaviour 20 years ago. She went on to thank me for speaking then added ‘especially as you’re middle class’.
On another occasion, a woman was recounting an incident where she’d become injured and paramedics were called. Whatever vibes they had picked up at the scene, they’d become concerned for her safety and began asking questions. She in turn became increasingly frustrated; “I didn’t like what they were implying, I didn’t want to be that woman”
I’ve often reflected on these comments and have become increasingly curious about the preconceptions of ‘what a victim looks like’.
There’s a Pandora’s Box of highly emotive assumptions when it comes this subject. What type of person they are, their characteristics, decision making process etc, the list goes on. And quite often, the person who has experienced it will be asking these questions of themselves.
My first thought when realising my own abusive relationship was “what are people going to think about me”. I was scared my family & friends would value me less if I told them what happened, would they look at me differently?
I didn’t feel different. At that point, I was exhausted and permanently on edge, I was managing three kids and all the professionals that the public sector could throw at me. But fundamentally, I was the same person I had always been.
Society had told me that Domestic Abuse only happened to certain people. Weak, feeble women that were now broken because of this experience. This was their defining moment and they’d always be known as ‘that woman’
I still couldn’t tell you who ‘that woman’ is but I can say she doesn’t exist. And I couldn’t be more wrong.
When you have a conversation with someone who has experienced abuse, you are speaking to one of the strongest people you have ever met. They have woken up every day and kept moving forward, through good days & bad, victories and loses and despite being at the heart of a situation that can turn anyone’s world upside down, they are there smashing every challenge sent their way.
Domestic Abuse isn’t confined to the dark corners of our society, it’s right here in front of us, in our houses, on our street and in our workplace. We need to give it a loud and unrelenting voice. Celebrating those who have already been affected and offering open arms to those who have yet to share their story.
There is no reason for shame or embarrassment, for judgement or to criticise. The people at fault are the ones who perpetrate abuse and are greedy for control and inequality. These are the ones we should hold accountable and make examples of.
In a society where we blame the victim, let’s make them the hero of the story.