How do you know if you are in (or witnessing) an abusive relationship? Let me paint you a picture - I warn you, it’s not a pretty one… You have an acquaintance at the kids’ school. A mother of one of your child’s friends. You chat with her sometimes while waiting to pick up the kids. She seems reserved. Only occasionally talking about herself - it’s mostly you who does the talking. The few times she contributed to the conversation she said a few things which seemed a little odd to you. Something’s not right One time you were talking about pet names you and your partner have for each other. She laughed self-consciously while recalling the names her partner called her, “stupid bitch”, “fat cow”, and quickly offered how she deserved it though for not being smarter or keeping herself in shape.
The next time you see her she’s wearing dark sunglasses, a scarf, and lots of makeup – you think to yourself, gee she’s covered up today – but hey, people dress differently so you shrug it off and don’t think more of it. As you’re standing there waiting for the kids you notice she doesn’t look at you at all while you’re talking.
Another time you were talking about managing household finances and the increasing cost of living. She noted he doesn’t let her manage the finances because she’s “a bumbling idiot”. He gives her $150 each week for groceries. She remarks how tough it is to stretch that far enough to feed the whole family some weeks. She can’t remember the last time she had money to buy herself anything.
Now you’re standing close enough to see the shadow of a bruise under the rim of her glasses. She raises her hand to adjust her scarf and glasses. You notice cuts to her hand and red marks peeping from under the edge of her scarf. She’s more reserved than usual today. Conversation is stilted. You ask if she’s ok and she smiles awkwardly and says “of course”. The kids come rushing out and she quickly bundles hers to the car mumbling a hastened goodbye.
She exhales an envious whimper when you tell her about meeting your friends for lunch and a movie over the weekend. “You’re so lucky, he would never let me do that” she states. You invite her to join you and ‘the girls’ for a ladies’ night one weekend, but she looks at you fearfully and utters “I couldn’t - he’d kill me”. She quickly laughs it off but something about how she says it makes you think for a second - she’s not joking.
You’re left with a heavy, wrenching feeling in the pit of your stomach. But the kids start up and you get distracted… Sadly, this story is all too common in Australia The woman in this story is experiencing domestic violence. Her partner controls her finances, isolates her from friends and family, humiliates and degrades her until he’s drained her of all self-worth. He regularly threatens to harm or take the children if she ever fights back or tries to leave. To prove his point, he often hits her – sometimes even rapes her.
Published on Feb 22, 2017
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