The first six months

Hello World

I don’t have children but soon after I left Mr Who, I became a volunteer for the Salvation Army  in their welfare section, packing food parcels.  I didn’t actually go there to become a volunteer, I went  for help with a food parcel; it was about a month after I had left Mr Who and I had absolutely no food in the refrigerator or cupboard and no money to go to the shop.

While I was talking to the assessor about how they could help me, it became clear they were under staffed.  Barbara (the Salvo I had been speaking to at the market) happened to be on that morning and suggested that I become a volunteer. So instead of taking my food parcel and heading home, they packed it into the fridge and I started volunteering in their welfare section.  Because of my PTSD I requested a job behind the scenes which is how I became the parcel packer. I really enjoyed it and for 3 mornings a week it took me out of my house, away from my own problems and I felt useful.

Nobody treated me like a charity case or used the ‘poor you’ look and tone that I had come to hear from so many people I knew; I was helping others and it was making me feel better about myself. Some of the things I was constantly told by Mr Who were that  nobody would ever want me, nobody would put up with my shit, I wouldn’t survive without him, I would be running back to him in a week; when I was a volunteer at the Salvos I started to realise how wrong he was.

There are many charity organisations around that can help.  I never found the Salvos to be rude or judgmental of the clients that came in for help and I never heard them pushing religion in any way.  They were totally respectful and understanding of the modern world and the predicament of single income families trying to survive.  The St Vincent De Paul Society will also help with food parcels or food vouchers but they are also able to refer people to the Foodbank in your local area.

The first six months of freedom taught me some invaluable lessons about myself and the inner strength I didn’t realise I had, but it also taught me that not everyone was receptive to the truth. I’ve never been  interested in badmouthing Mr Who, but I also stopped covering up for him.  It’s cost me a few ‘friends’ but I’m fine with that.  I spent ten years of my life pretending he was something he wasn’t and  hoping he would change; now I’m spending my time rebuilding myself and my future and trying to help others find the strength to find the light at the end of the tunnel .

The biggest thing I learned in the first six months was luxuries like going to the hair-dresser, or women’s magazines, or  new clothes, were things I could do without if I had to.  So many things I once thought I could never live without soon fell off the shopping lists and I really didn’t care. Yes, it was hard. Yes, I cried buckets, daily. Yes, I felt absolutely alone. Until I started telling  people what I had been through, and why I was fighting so hard to make it, and I started helping others which took some of my own attention off myself.

I am making my way, slowly, day by day. It’s hard work but that’s ok.

True Self

Hello World

I’d like to share a poem I wrote about Mr Who. Don’t be put off by the word ‘poem’, there are no hearts and flowers here but in the vein of information coming from this blog, I feel this is relevant.

TRUE SELF

He swept into my life,

Like the sun after the rain,

I really thought I’d found someone

Who would never cause me pain,

I guess I was naive back then,

In  believing all he wanted me to,

He promised me a life of joy,

He never followed through.

At first he made a big pretense,

Of showing how caring he could be,

And like everyone I believed him,

Until he showed his true self to me.

Behind the closed doors of our home,

Away from other people’s eyes,

He tortured and abused me,

Until I simply wanted to die.

Take care, stay safe xx

How tight can the belt be?

Hello World,

There’s an old phrase that I grew up hearing when money was tight; we just had to ‘tighten our belts’ and that phrase became like a mantra to me when I  left Mr Who.  To be able to survive on a disability pension, in a rental home, pay off a car loan and keep up with other bills ( when electricity charges in this state more than doubled in the space of 12 months), called for a lot of belt-tightening.

I didn’t care, I was free, I was fairly safe and I was surviving; something I was told with regularity that I would never be able to do without Mr Who.

There were absolutely no extras in my life back then, I survived on a food budget of $80 per fortnight and included in that budget was cat food and litter.  I came to the conclusion that a lot of the things we think are essential are really just not.  Life and freedom are essential, weekly magazines and new things, not so much.

When I lived with Mr Who, I paid what he called ‘board’.  According to him it paid for my food and ‘cheap rent’.  Anytime I pointed out how broke I was and that I thought it was unfair (considering we were living as a couple) that I was paying rent/board, or that me doing all the cooking and cleaning was unfair, his response was the same.  He was always calm and unemotional and just responded with “You get cheap rent because of the cleaning and cooking. So if you want to do less of that it’s going to cost you more to live here.” It was like a computer generated response to any complaint I had about the way we were living.  He knew I couldn’t give him more money, he was in control of the banking.

So when I left and had to tighten my belt, it just didn’t seem like a bad thing to do.  Cheap rent? Rent isn’t cheap if it has conditions attached to it that make the person paying feel worthless and disrespected.

Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t easy to make it alone and many nights I had toast for dinner, but I just kept reminding myself of how life was with Mr Who and that it nearly killed me, his version of ‘cheap rent’. I’m still living on an extremely tight budget, and there are still times when I have toast for dinner, but I’m alive, free,  and able to choose my own direction, and I’m working hard to achieve my  dreams and build a life that I want to live.

At this stage I can’t work for anybody else, PTSD is an invasive problem; but I’m studying, writing and dreaming.  I think all of that is pretty good considering just a few short years ago I had given up and felt like I wanted to die.

Things get better over time, I will never forget but I’m working hard to move forward, one little step at a time. I see a counsellor from Relationships Australia every two weeks, and I haven’t actually had Mr Who just show up at my door for just over a year. Things are definitely improving.

Stay safe, take care

xx

The least supportive thing you can say to a victim

Hello World,

It’s been 4 years since I left Mr Who to  start over and there is a question that people have asked me often that drives me up the wall and tests my self-restraint.  The question? Sometimes it’s phrased slightly differently but it always boils down to the same thing: “Why didn’t you leave?” or “If it was that bad, why would you stay” or the version I like best, “You’re a smart woman, why would you put up with that, you should have just left“.  These are all easy things to say when you haven’t lived in a situation of domestic abuse, but when you say that to an abuse survivor you are re-victimising the person by judging them.

Nobody stays in an abusive situation because it’s fun.  Most of us find it hard to even admit that what we are going through is abuse.  What someone who has had the courage to take the step to leave doesn’t need to hear from people, especially their friends is judgement and blame. Because essentially, that’s what these questions are; victim blaming.  People seem to believe that if you don’t leave immediately you must somehow, deep down, like this treatment and by staying there the victim is saying it’s ok.

That’s not what the victim is saying at all.  It isn’t easy to walk away from someone you have spent years of your life with, even if they are not always the person you would like them to be.  No domestic situation is violent or abusive all day every day, there are times when things are going well but it’s all part of a cycle.

Domestic violence cycle

This diagram  shows the phases in the cycle of domestic violence according to the website of  SA Police

Why do we stay? A lot of the time, like I have already said, victims really don’t want to believe that someone could profess to love us one minute and be calling us horrendous names, or cutting up our clothes in a fit of rage the next; the blame is placed within the relationship by the abuser turning it back on the victim with statements like; “if you just did like I said, none of this would have happened” or “you know I don’t like it when you do that and you still do it, you deserve whatever you get” None of that is true but when you hear it over and over again, you start to believe it and then finally it just becomes what you think you deserve.

A friend of mine, while she was still in an abusive relationship took the blame for her husband breaking her jaw by saying that she had burned the roast and it made her husband mad.  In her mind it was her fault because her husband had placed the blame on her; she burned the dinner – that made him mad – he beat her so badly he broke her jaw –  it’s her fault for burning the dinner and making him mad.

This isn’t love, this is domestic abuse.  We need to stand up and be heard.  It is never ok to hit anyone, love never gives you a broken jaw or any other injuries, internal or external.

There are many organisations that help and provide information online regarding domestic violence and abuse and I have included a few links at the bottom of this blog for easier access.

Stay safe, take care.

helpguide.org

domestic violence resource centre

I can’t afford to leave

Hello World,

I remember  trying to figure out a way I could afford to leave Mr Who and I just couldn’t see how it could be done. Over and over in my mind while I was doing every menial task set for me, I was trying to figure out how I could do it.  Even though I was living in an intimate relationship, I still had to pay rent/board, half the phone bill and all my own personal bills, including my car payment, license and registration,insurance,  and mobile phone bill.  Mr Who was proud of his ability to work out a budget that meant on my pension I could pay all these things and still have $20 left for myself each fortnight to ‘do as I pleased’.  True, when my car needed a service, I had the money there; when my registration was due, I had the money there; but I had nothing left.  It made trying to figure out a way to be able to afford to leave really difficult. He had been adamant from the beginning of our relationship that he had paid the price for his last de-facto, had paid her way, she had never contributed and that would never happen again.  In principle I could see where he was coming from, but he took it to an extreme that became part of his absolute control.

I don’t have children, and I do realise it’s a great deal more expensive and difficult when you do, but when you have no money, trying to save for a bond on a rental property for yourself is next to impossible, kids or not. I didn’t have the option of going to my family  for help and I had never wanted anyone to know what was going on inside my ‘home’. I felt completely alone, isolated and stuck forever.

Then one day, I met a Salvation Army officer in central Mandurah;  collecting for the Salvos while the weekly craft market I attended as a stall holder was going on,  and I just got talking to her over time.  One week, when I was allowed to go unsupervised, this lovely lady chose to tell me that our local housing agency Homeswest will loan people enough money for the bond and two weeks rent on a property.   I have no idea how she knew what I needed to know, but she did and I will be eternally grateful.

Bond and two weeks rent is helpful, but what about furniture? Food? Getting electricity, gas, water and telephone connected? Everything takes money and it’s continually disheartening to feel like there is no way you are going to be able to do it.  For me though, I kept hearing Mr Who in my head saying “…You’ll never be able to live in the city again, it will send you insane and there’s no way you can afford to keep up the lifestyle you have here.  Say goodbye to your car without me…”

It took nearly 10 years of me listening to him and believing him before I started thinking that I would rather live under a bridge and have no car than spend the rest of my life being treated like someone else’s possession, to be used and abused at will.  In a funny kind of way, I am grateful for the time we spent together, it certainly makes me appreciate my freedom now.

Pat Thomas House is a local women’s refuge that can help if you are in need of crisis housing and protection.

Maybe it’s not abuse, maybe I’m just over-reacting

Hello World,

When someone is in a domestic abuse situation,  one of the most common things to do is question yourself about if you  are in fact experiencing abuse or being over-sensitive.  For years I was told I was ‘looking at things the wrong way’ or that I should ‘stop over-reacting’ to events that I had started to think just weren’t right. Mr Who’s response was to put it back to me; when I refused to garden naked, (one of the few times I actually refused one of his demands) I was told that I was being a prude and overly sensitive; if I loved him (according to him) and wanted to make him happy, I would be  do this tiny thing. I refused and he stopped speaking to me for days, but during this time I was expected to do all the cooking and cleaning as usual, continue to supply all my ‘wifely duties’  and then a few days later he just went on as if nothing had happened.  I gardened while he was at work after that, but never while he was at home.  This is definitely abuse, but he didn’t hit me or shout at me.  He knew I felt like I had nobody to call, that he was the only person in my world; he told me he loved me and I really wanted to believe him, but love doesn’t demand you do things that make you feel ashamed or disrespected or worthless, love doesn’t expect you to comply with demands and then punish you when you don’t, that is what abuse does.

Abuse takes many forms, it isn’t only violence, and every form of abuse eats away a little bit more at the heart and soul of the victim. According to the Women’s Council for Domestic & Family Violence Services (WA)  “…Domestic and family violence is when someone intentionally uses violence, threats, force or intimidation to control or manipulate a family member, partner or former partner…”

Threatening your children or threatening to take them away from you is domestic abuse.

Forcing you to have sex with them is domestic abuse.

Verbally abusive behaviour is domestic abuse (calling you stupid, whore, lazy, fat, all those lovely names).

Controlling your behaviour is domestic abuse.

Financial control can be a form of domestic abuse.

Dictating what clothes, make-up and hair style you have or wear is domestic abuse.

Domestic abuse, to me, is any behaviour by your significant other that is done to cause intimidation, control and manipulation of you for their benefit.

There are so many subversive ways that a person can be abused by their intimate partner that a lot of society will never see, unless we stand up and speak out.  For me the time has finally come where I feel I have no choice but to stand up and fight for the right for people to feel safe in their own homes and relationships.  Abuse is never ok and it is never the victims fault.

Take good care of yourselves, until next we speak.

xx

Hello world

Hello world,

I would like to introduce myself and give you a little glimpse into why I wanted to start this blog and what I am trying to do with the rest of my life.

My name is Sharon, I am 46 years of age and studying online through Swinburne University. In 2009 I found myself single, alone, broke, on a disability pension and having to start my life again at the end of an abusive relationship of nearly 10 years.

In Australia, according to statistics, one in four women will be a victim of some type of family or domestic violence or abuse.  Feel free to look at the stats on www.abs.gov.au but I have no desire to repeat statistics verbatim.

When I was 32 I met a man I thought was the answer to my prayers, he was employed, had his own home, was older than me, really nice and single. He was my best friend’s foster-brother and I had spoken to him over the phone through the years so when we finally met face to face, it felt like I had known him forever; there was an element of comfort and a feeling of coming home that I felt with him that I had never experienced before.  He treated me like a lady; opening car doors for me, pulling out my chair, all ‘old school’ manners that previous boyfriends would have broken out in violent rashes had I suggested they use.  It was such a thrill for me at the time. I had been single for four years when I met Mr Who (not his real name but it suits him much better) and I was in recovery from a sequence of life events that had left me traumatised and diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  I was severely depressed, in constant pain and spent most of my time in my flat, just trying to find a reason to keep breathing.

He swept me off my feet before I knew it; he took me to restaurants, the movies and friends places, a far cry from others I had dated in the past who thought eating in a restaurant meant not going via the drive-through of McDonald’s or KFC.  He flattered me and fed into my insecurities about my looks, he complimented me on the type of person I was and we bonded over mutual childhood horrors.  Within six months of meeting, I was packing up my government subsidised rental unit and moving into his.  His was not a government unit, he was paying a mortgage on a large property out in the country, 45 minutes drive from the nearest shop and with very few neighbours.

I thought I was moving to paradise with the man of my dreams but in the end it nearly took my life.