TRIGGER WARNING! THIS POST IS ABOUT DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, GAS LIGHTING, COERCIVE CONTROL AND FINANCIAL CONTROL.
This is how long my marriage lasted, this is how many days I was abused for. Not a day went by without some kind of abuse being levelled at me. Be it financial, coercive, gas lighting, or violence. There was something every single day.
Over the past few days I have been reading many different bloggers posts and a recurring theme has begun to reveal itself throughout my reading.
Domestic Abuse and Gas Lighting.
Many times over the years I have come across women (mainly, but some men too) who have the same story to tell as my own. They are the survivors of domestic abuse and have been gas lighted.
My own story spans from me being a small child and living with an abusive father who battered (and I do mean that literally) my mum, me and my three siblings, pretty much every day for the sixteen years I lived under his roof. He did not have a drinking problem, he rarely drank, he was not a drug addict, his biggest addiction was normal cigarettes and he was wonderful company to anyone who lived outside of our house. He was the man everyone poured their problems out to because he was a good listener and would usually have a solution for them.
So, why do you think he battered us and terrorised us? Because he could. It was that simple. He was an angry man who had been raised by an angry man who used to batter him and his siblings and his mum because he believed it to be his right as the man of the house. His rule, like my father’s rule was law. Woe betide anyone who said different and the law validated that belief. The general consensus was ‘what goes on behind closed doors stays behind closed doors. It’s her word against his and what did she do to push him to do that to her?’ Why would he stop? No one was pointing out that he was wrong.
I left home at 16 to make my own way in life. I got a job found a place to live and I dragged myself out of that poisonous environment. I could not help my siblings, they were already junkies and were lost to everyone. I tried to help my mum as much as I could, she is a Catholic and does not believe in divorce. Till death do they part. There is no help for that statement. She thought it was her lot in life and she accepted it.
I met my husband when I was 25 and fell pregnant by the time I was 26 got married before my 27th birthday and gave birth to my disabled son shortly afterwards. Those first two years of my relationship with my husband were fantastic. He was everything I could have hoped for in a man and I loved him. He would do anything and everything for me. I was precious to him.
The day after I married him, he changed. He told me I was now his property and that everything I had been able to do before we were married, go out, see my family, friends, write for hours, read for hours? All that stops because I was now his and I would follow his rules. In order to ram his point home, he gave me a good hiding (remember I was pregnant) and told me to tell anyone who asked, I fell over.
I was terrified. The following morning, he sat in front of me and cried and told me how sorry he was, that it was my fault because I had made him so angry he couldn’t help himself, but he would try to change his ways, and it would be easier if I could learn to be a good wife that understood her place.
I can’t tell you how many times I heard my father do and say the same things to my mum.
It wasn’t that we believed what they were saying, we were too damned scared to do anything about it. At all. Best to just be the wife he wanted and then it wouldn’t happen again. Right?
The other thing that happened was this, I thought it was normal. There I was completely love bombed by this man until the day he married me. Then I became property. Just like my mum, just like my Nana. This is what married life was like, wasn’t it?
Fast forward 10 years. (Trust me just copy and paste the above 10 times you have the intervening years.)
Whenever I tried over the years to get him out of my life, I had nowhere to go, I had a disabled child to put first and I felt like I was in an impossible situation. My husband became more adept at hiding his rage and abusive physical behaviour due to professional medical and social services being very present in our lives due to my son’s disabilities. He swapped the physical abuse for mental abuse , he already had complete financial control over me.
Very early on in our marriage he cut up my debit card to our joint account and gave me housekeeping money. By this time I was no longer working because of hospital appointments and hospital stays with my son. I had no choice but to go along with whatever he demanded. I had to make sure I had a receipt for every penny I was given or else. I ran my household on £40 a week. Most of the time he would buy himself an expensive steak or something he wanted to eat and my son and I would eat the cheap food. He ran up debts on credit cards and would take out doorstep loans to finance his expensive tastes.
I was allowed to keep the child benefit, he couldn’t stop that, it was in my name. I salted that money away every month for years. I gave him random receipts I found outside stores to cover it. I got very good at being a liar.
He began telling me things about himself, telling me stories about his work (when he went to work that is) and when we were in new company he would encourage me to tell his stories. Mid way through the telling, he would laugh at me and say things like, that never happened, why are you saying I worked there? I never did that, you’re making stories up about me. Then he would turn to our friends and say, ‘do you see what I have to live with? She’s always telling lies about me. All I try to be is a good husband and provider for my family. Then he would storm out of the room and pour himself a large glass of whiskey. Our friends would make an excuse and leave. They rarely if ever came back. When they left I would face him off and say, ‘you told me that stuff, why are you saying I’m lying about it?’ His response was always the same. ‘I never said any of that stuff, you’ve imagined it, it’s all in your head. We both know you’re not quite right in the head don’t we?’
Gas lighting doesn’t just work on the spouse. It works on the people around you to. The gas lighter only ever shows his best side to the outside world, he plays the victim to those in his inner sanctum and laments the crap wife he has been saddled with, to anyone who will listen. By the time we had been married for 12 years I was well used to this behaviour. But still I went out and made friends with people because I knew if I didn’t, one day I might end up sectioned in a mental health unit or worse, dead.
I collected people like others collect books or comics or stamps.
When my son turned 19 the laws for domestic abuse changed. The abuser could now be arrested and charged with common assault.
I had found a way out and I took it. I forced a confrontation, he battered me and I called the police. I made a calculated decision to end this once and for all. I was one of the lucky ones. It worked. I have now been divorced for 11 years and it has taken all 11 of those years to try and undo the mental, physical, and emotional damage that he caused me.
I do not see myself as a victim of domestic abuse, I see myself as a survivor. I am the victor in this story, because me and my son got out.
My message to you is simple, if you know someone who is living this hell, reach out to them. Let them know you are there, be there for them and help when you can and don’t judge them when they can’t accept your help. They have been conditioned to believe that everything is their fault and if they could just try harder this time, they might get it right and the person they married, the person who loved and cherished them, would give them that love again.
Love is a powerful emotion that can bring you so much happiness you feel like you have everything you could ever hope for. Until it is used against you. When that love is turned around and used against you to bring you to your knees, to cow you, to make you feel worthless and stupid and so damned grateful that they are still willing to put up with the sorry worthless piece of crap that you are, it can kill you.
Lift your heads up people, not every story a gas lighter tells you is the truth. They like to play the victim. They love the attention.
Not every lie the abuse victim tells you is a manipulation, it is a defence mechanism to protect themselves from making things worse.
When you shake your head and walk away from a loved one because she/he won’t just bloody leave their partner, you validate the gas lighter and drive their point home for them.
You know when a person is being abused, look in their eyes. You’ll see it plain as day. Help them, don’t diss them or call them weak, or say they must like it else why would they put up with it?
Remember, if he is controlling her, he also controls her finances. How is she going to get away from him with nowhere to go and no means with which to do it?
I am one of the lucky ones, my personality is that of a warrior. It stood me in good stead. I fought back as soon as I was able and now I am free. Not every person is as lucky as I have been.
My son and I have been free for 4015 days, long may they continue.