I am not a victim, but I have been hurt by men. I won’t recount every time as the pain and fear crouches within me ready to pounce at any given opportunity. I am a woman who has served at the altar of men, perpetuating the entitlement that men can do as they please, whenever they please but no more, I am saying no.
I left my abuser; I did what everyone says a good mother should do or you are hurting your children, but the abuse never stops. Fear and intimidation permeate my everyday life, I live in a constant state of flight or fight. I was told my life would be better without him, I would be happy, and I guess I don’t have to put up with walking on eggshells every day as to whether he will explode like broken glass showering everyone and anything in the vicinity with sharp and dangerous shards. I don’t have to cover my children’s ears or usher them out of the room when he was screaming or throwing things. I don’t have him towering over me whilst I cower, but happiness I fear is something I will never know whilst he is still in my life.
I must share my children with my abuser, who is emboldened by the courts who claim that they believe you, but children need to see their fathers. Every time they are with my abuser I sink into a depression, a dark cloud shrouds everything I do, colours are less vivid, nothing is shiny, it is all dull and I feel a weight all over me, a black dog sits in wait for me snarling his ugly teeth as I anticipate a call where he has finally snapped and hurt or killed my children. I can’t breathe until they are finally at home in the safety of my embrace.
I don’t want to hear ‘not all men’ because so many men have enabled my abuser, and his continued abuse. I don’t want to continue to read the horrific statistics that another woman has been killed at the hands of a known male. I don’t want sexist tropes doled out at the pub under the guise of ‘banter’. I don’t want strangling normalised and seen as ‘rough sex’ and if you do not consent then you are ‘vanilla’ and boring. I do not want to hear that it’s not a gendered problem. This is an epidemic of violence against women. I am lucky, I had the financial resources to leave, many women do not, due to societal expectations that women are the primary carers for children and so give up their careers or go part time and then are stuck unable to leave their abusers.
I am scared every day; I am losing the battle but the resources I need I am fearful to use as these are now mixed sex. I am told that I must ignore my own instincts and violate my own boundaries to be kind but where is the kindness and empathy towards me and women like me? The courts don’t care, the police don’t care, and many agencies and charities set up to support women like me no longer care. So, I will bask in my fear and in the continued abuse because what else can I do? I am kind, I am kind to everyone around me, but no one cares about my problems because I have done what everyone says a good mother should do, I left my abuser. I am saying no to male entitlement, but I am screaming into the void.
This is one of a series of four blogs SEEN is publishing to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women 2023. See here for the others.