16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence
Domestic Violence My Story; Part One
It became apparent quite quickly that the dream of moving to the Highlands of Scotland and living in a picturesque rural location was not going to be the answer to our marital problems and that a change of lifestyle and location wasn't going to make them all go away. In fact, if anything, it only exasperated the problems. I was living several hundreds of miles away from family and friends and I would rarely see them. I'd had friends previously to the move but it was always made very difficult to maintain them as my husband would often disapprove for one reason or another. We were now living right in the sticks and with barely any internet and very little mobile coverage it meant that communicating with the outside world was often quite challenging. At that time the easiest way of keeping in contact with family and friends was through Facebook as I was able to have private conversations with my family, even if that did mean wandering around trying to find a spot where my mobile would pick up some network. I was quite lucky that I was able to drive and had use of our car whenever I needed it, so at least I could travel into the nearest small town which was 10 miles away. We could go days without seeing a soul. My husband worked from home about 80% of the time and with me not in employment we were constantly in each other’s company.
My depression, which I had struggled with for years, seemed to spiral out of control and I was so desperately unhappy. My anxiety had become so severe I would just want to sleep as it was the only time my mind would shut off for a while, but on waking in the morning the anxiety would be back in full force. I knew something had to change so I summoned up the courage and went to see a doctor. I broke down and told them I had nowhere else to turn and that I didn't feel I had the strength to go on feeling like I did. This was a massive turning point for me. I was allocated a counsellor quite quickly and from there on my life slowly but surely started to change in a more positive way.
As the weeks and visits passed, seeing my counsellor was really starting to help me see things clearer. It became apparent that my destructive relationship with my husband was the main cause of my depression - and that it wasn't the depression that was the source of all our marital problems as I had always thought. It was purely a result of treading on eggshells and trying not to do anything that might upset or cause any confrontation that was taking its toll on my mental and physical wellbeing. My counsellor helped me to recognise that not everything bad that happened in life was my fault and that I was not useless, stupid and a burden. My counsellor also made me aware of Women's Aid. I had heard of them before, not sure where, maybe a poster in the citizen's advice office or a doctor's surgery at some point. To start with I just dismissed the idea of making contact with them. I wasn't being beaten on a regular basis so didn't think I was deserving of the service they offered, also by contacting them it meant I had to admit to myself how bad home life had become and I wasn't sure I was ready to do that. What about our "new life"?
I continued to have counselling over a period of about 18 months. It was a long, slow and painful process but I felt I was making changes and starting to think about how I wanted my future to be. I took a part time job in a care home, it was the first time I had worked in years as my husband had always been the breadwinner in our household and controlled the money. I also didn't think I was capable of holding down a job. My self-esteem had been so low for so long. Turns out I was capable and actually pretty good at my job and I became a little more confident. I started to spend all my time working. It was easier to be out at work than at home in the bad atmosphere and earning a wage for the first time in years was great.
One day my husband and I had an argument over something really trivial. He got close to my face and screamed at me to get out of his sight and that he didn't even want to look at me. I got into the car and drove up a mountain road and sat and looked at the view crying and realised however much I thought I loved him it would never get any better and that I wasn't prepared to spend my life afraid of my own shadow anymore. That one sentence was what made me decide to contact Women's Aid, even though he had often said much worse, it was just a light bulb moment and the very next day I made the call.
Picking up the phone was probably one of the scariest things I have ever had to do. I felt sneaky and devious doing something behind my husband’s back and I still felt unsure if my situation was "bad enough" to warrant their time and help. After all there were women who were much more deserving. I stored their number in my mobile phone under a fake contact. That following day I made the call, I was asked a few questions from a very warm and friendly lady on the phone, she took my number and asked if it was safe to call me once she had set up an appointment. I said no but that if she sent me a text that simply said "hello" I would call her back as soon as I could. Even something as simple as that was quite awkward as the lack of mobile signal could prevent me receiving her text, luckily it did come through so I took the dog for a walk to somewhere I could get a signal and called her back. An appointment had been set up for me to meet someone from Women's Aid the following week.
Living in the location I was in made everything more complicated. Although I didn't know many people it was a very tight knit community. One of those places where you couldn't do anything without someone wanting to know what you were up to or gossiping about you. I had arranged to meet the lady from Women's aid in a car park in the nearest town to where I lived. It all felt very cloak and dagger, I was so paranoid someone would see me meeting a stranger in a car park and say something to my husband. Looking back I'm sure no one would have batted an eyelid about what I was doing, it was just the state of mind I was in. We met in the carpark as arranged, left my car there and got into hers. We drove several miles to a location where it was more private and less likely that I would bump into anyone that knew me. She was a lovely, warm, confident lady. I felt instantly at ease with her and she seemed to understand everything I was telling her. It was comforting to hear her say I was deserving of their help and that I wasn't imagining the treatment I was getting from my husband.
We spoke for a long time over coffee and she explained what my options were at that time. I could carry on living the life I was living and they would continue to support me in any way they could or, if I decided to leave my husband and the marital home, they would support me, find somewhere for my son and I to stay and help us get back on our feet. She kept it real, telling me that there was no magic wand that could be waved where a lovely home and new life would appear for my son and me. She was honest and told me it wasn't going to be easy to begin with. There was the possibility we would be put into a B&B run by Women's Aid and would more than likely be several miles from where we lived and my son’s school. I went away and thought about what my options were, knowing that we could meet up anytime I decided I need their help. I made the decision to stay in the situation as it was. I didn't feel I was strong enough to make life changing decisions and it all just seemed too hard. I was scared what it would do to my relationship with my son, he loved his dad and had no idea we were having such problems, I had always protected him from knowing anything. If I took him to a place he didn't know with strangers and none of his belongings he would be so confused and would probably hate me. How could he possibly understand why I was taking him away from everything he knew and loved?
I resigned myself to carrying on as I was, working long hours and just getting my head down and that's what I did until two years later when I made contact with Women's Aid again and met up with the same lady as before.
The second part of this brave women's story will be released tomorrow.
If you have been affected by any form of sexual violence, you can get help from the following organisations:
Women's Aid: Access the website on www.womensaid.scot to find your local women's aid office, call the helpline on 0800 027 1234 open 24 hours a day, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Police Scotland: Call 101 to talk to a specialist officer and report the crime.
Rape Crisis: Access the website on www.rapecrisisscotland.org.uk. Phone the helpline free any day between 6pm and midnight on 08088 01 03 02 or if you are deaf or hard of hearing on minicom number 0141 353 3091. Or email: email@example.com