Guest blog by Jennifer Gilmour, Hull mum and author of ‘Isolation Junction’, her book about surviving domestic abuse:
Having children changes your life in so many ways, not least because you acquire a protective instinct that makes you want to protect them from harm or hurt. I remember feeling this protectiveness instantly when my first child was born. I had never considered how I would feel but instantly I felt that protectiveness which made me want to keep her safe and protect her. This is a feeling which has developed for each of my three children as the term ‘mother hen’ now makes perfect sense to me!
One thing I didn’t expect to have to do is to have to put up my protective barrier at home. Sadly, this feeling grew until in the end I felt anxious and aware 24/7 which had the obvious effect of sleep deprivation and its effect on my health, well being and actions.
Let me explain what I am talking about. To put it quite simply, I was in an abusive relationship. I didn’t see it coming and a lot of people now ask me how I let it happened to me. I am an intelligent person and people wonder how someone like me could have let it happen. Was I unaware? thick? stupid? gullible? spineless? I guess this is what I want to make everyone aware of, as I am none of these things. Domestic abuse doesn’t just appear over night and it doesn’t just ‘ turn on’. It happens over time and it increases in pressure, time and number of incidents that can be attributed to be abuse. It is like a snowball going down a steep hill. Over time and space it increases in size and speed until eventually it is out of control and it is difficult, if not impossible to stop.
You would imagine it would be easy to spot an abusive person but ultimately they are very manipulative and clever. However, I do wonder if I had of known the warning signs during the early stages then perhaps I would have recognised them and I could have stopped that snowball before it went out of control and nearly, so very nearly, destroyed my peace of mind and my life.
What is even worse is if you are trying to protect children from a situation like this. Because you are fearful of what will happen if you try to flee the situation, you feel trapped and in limbo. In fact, you believe what the abuser is saying and nothing else could be possibly be correct because all you have done is listen to them and try to fix things, make them better and eventually do as they say so that you can get through the viciousness of the cycle faster and reach the calmer stages.
I have to say if you don’t know where to look for help I found that it is not very easy to access at all apart from going to a refuge. The housing offices couldn’t help me as I was housed and as my abuser was classed as a tenant he couldn’t just be evicted. The Social Services didn’t help because from their point of view everything seemed fine. Solicitors charge for advice and you may or may not have the money. In the end the police are there and they can only take someone into custody for so many hours after an incident and then they are free to return home… that sounds like a good idea doesn’t it?
However, I did find that the police are informative if you do want to flee and of course over the past couple of years the law has changed in favour of the abused. But now more than ever more awareness is needed on every level. Even you reading this will help you or someone else.
There are some things to be aware of in identifying domestic abuse: intimidation such as making you afraid and intimidating you using looks’ actions and gestures; using children by threatening to take them away or to relay messages or making you feel guilty about them; using male privilege in a condescending way by treating you like a servant and being the one to define the role of men and women; isolating you from friends and family and limiting your outside involvement; emotional abuse such as putting you down humiliating you and making you feel guilty; threats whether small or large and financial abuse such as preventing you from getting a job or taking your money and not letting you know about family income are all indicators.
If you think you’re being abused call the national domestic abuse line on 0808 2000 247.
Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post and share it. Domestic abuse effects 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men. How many of your friends could be going through it right now?
Thankfully, I am a survivor along with other survivors who are out there. Talking about it is hard but it does help. The snowball that became a boulder eventually smashed into smithereens and someone came into my life, together with my family and friends, as well as his own, they joined with me to pick up the pieces and to move forward as the confident individual I always was (deep down). Years later I’m still rebuilding my life but I recognise that I was lucky. You don’t have to be a victim, you can be a survivor as well – all you need is that hope and some help both practical and in terms of building self confidence (whether that be from family or friends or the services).
I am now a passionate advocate for women in abusive relationships. I have amalgamated and fictionalised other survivors experiences alongside my own to write my first novel ‘Isolation Junction’ detailing the journey of a young woman from the despair of an emotionally abusive and unhappy marriage to develop the confidence to challenge and change her life and to love again. I hope that in reading my book, I will raise awareness of this often hidden and unseen behaviour and empower women in abusive relationships to seek help for themselves and find the confidence to change their lives.