Leaving an abusive man is not an easy decision.
It is, quite frankly, terrifying. Often, abusers have control of the finances, often the abuse will have been consistent for many years and the victim’s confident will be shot to pieces. It’s never a decision that is taken lightly. Nor is it an accusation that is poorly considered.
Often, women in abusive relationships don’t even realise for a long time that they are being abused. Enlightenment can happen slowly, over a long period of time, or suddenly, perhaps if a friend or a professional points out to them that their partner’s behaviour is abusive. Regularly, in the full knowledge of abuse, women stay, hoping that things will change, that they will be able to talk sense into their abuser. Usually they stay because they are afraid, afraid of being alone, afraid of the consequences if they ever decide to leave, afraid of losing their home, their children, their sanity. It often takes several attempts before a victims plucks up the courage to leave permanently.
You cannot talk sense into an abusive person. They do not and will very rarely admit that they are even abusive. In the end there are two choices, accept it, or leave.
You cannot accept it. There is evidence that abuse only gets worse over time, it is a downward spiral and if you are at a point where you have had enough now, just think how much worse it will be in 6 months, a year, in 5 years?
Leaving, though, is a perilous business. Abuse will almost always escalate at the point of leaving, exposing women and children to frightening levels of vulnerability. An abuser will do everything they can to avoid being ‘outed’ as abusive. They will do increasingly bizarre and often dangerous things to ensure that either she does not leave him, or expose him as the person at fault.
It is, without question, the most dangerous time for victims of abuse. Previously emotional and verbal abusers can suddenly become physical abusers. Women and children are often harmed or even killed because she tried to leave and to stop the abuse.
Abusers bother, harass, intimidate and harangue victims once they have declared the relationship over. They stalk, track and follow their victims. They denigrate the victim’s characters, as outlined here in The Smear Campaign and they use anyone they can… family, friends and even the children to support their version of events.
They use child access arrangements to maintain control, they use the handover time as an excuse to harass the victim. They are difficult about child access arrangements, keeping the victim on their toes, preventing them from making other plans because they are unreliable and unpredictable. They try to turn the children against their mother, they include them in aspects of the separation that are wholly inappropriate for the child’s age or maturity, with the slant on it that they are ‘hard done to’, or that financial agreements or access arrangements are ‘unfair’.
The do not ‘move on’, accept the situation for what it is and focus on what is important, they ‘hold on’. Hold on to their own anger, their bad behaviour patterns and their over important sense of ‘entitlement’. Each time that they surprise you and are unexpectedly half reasonable, it is only to be followed by another episode of abuse. It is only ever just around the corner.
In the year since my own separation from an emotionally and verbally abusive man I have been subjected to:
Verbal abuse on the phone. (Several episodes, too many to count.)
Verbal abuse directed at me in front of the children, when he was picking them up for access (On several occasions).
Repeated awkwardness in making plans for access, from refusing to arrange times in advance and expecting to turn up with an hour’s notice at the beginning, to refusing to hand over our youngest child correctly, adult to adult, leaving our child to walk from the road, up a long driveway alone, carrying all his weekend bags and then not staying around long enough to ensure that an adult has greeted him home more recently.
Abuse by text and email. (Again, too many to count.)
Two particularly terrifying episodes of drunkenness and mood swings, during which he led me to believe that he was seriously contemplating suicide, or self-harm while in the family home, or ‘lose the plot’ and do harm to me.
Repeated threats of contacting social services to ‘let them know what a bad mother’ I am.
One threat to contact social services that was in front of our youngest child who was convinced for several months that ‘Daddy is going to get us taken away from you Mum’.
A patio door closed onto me while I was in the doorway and being told to ‘fuck off’.
Turned our daughter against me, twice. Once when she realised after two weeks what he was doing and, more recently, again where to this day she will not talk to me.
Refuses to help or intervene with our daughter to offer up a reasonable perspective, withholds all information about her life/health/schooling from me, despite me making many requests.
Withholds information about our youngest child’s visits, refuses to engage in even the shortest of conversation face to face, by email or text at the beginning or end of visits.
Slated me to everyone we know, I have heard stories about me, the breakup and the children that have been told completely out of context, and he has told people private and personal details of my life (during the marriage and since the breakup, most of which were none of his business) without my knowledge or consent.
My personal and private belongings rifled through, twice, in my bedroom.
My social media is regularly stalked and repeated back to me in angry texts, emails and episodes of verbal abuse.
My property has been destroyed.
The children have been subjected to hearing him verbally bash me to other people.
This is the short list. As you can see, since our separation the abuse has not stopped, it has, in fact only become worse. The only saving grace I have now is that I can ignore much of it and concentrate on repairing the damage he has done to our family, particularly to our youngest child.
He refuses to accept that his behaviour is or has ever been abusive, despite being told by friends and professionals that it is. He refuses to accept that his behaviour has a devastatingly detrimental effect on our children.
I have reached the point where I know that I cannot reason with him and I have come to terms with the fact that I have no choice but to do only what I feel is correct for me and for our children. I am now more than prepared to do whatever I have to do.
If you are in a relationship with an abusive man, do not be fooled into thinking that when you say it is over, things will get better.
Get support and MOST importantly – of utmost importance – keep you and your children safe.
There is a list of organisations on the MSV resources page that will help you through what will be a very difficult time and help you to stay safe.
It IS worth leaving an abusive relationship. It is important that you reclaim your life. It ISN’T going to be easy… just be sure that you have the appropriate support and safeguard yourself and others involved first
Abuse happens in all kinds of relationships, though abusers are often men and victims are often women, we know very well that this is not always the case.
Abuse is often hard to recognise. Here at MSV we hope to help victims realise they are in abusive relationships and empower them to take safe action.
By sharing our stories we hope that others can find the strength to help themselves and get support from relevant agencies.
We are looking for your stories of abuse to feature. Many small voices make one LOUD voice.
Domestic abuse damages in whatever form and here at Many Small Voices we gather the stories of those who have survived abuse into one resource to help and support those who are still victims. We also hope to support survivors through recovery once the abuse has stopped because the scars are still there and will remain forever. Support after abuse is just as important.
We are not experts, just people who are passionate that domestic abuse, in whatever form it takes, must be stopped.
If you think you or someone you know needs help please take a look in our links page to find a list of organisations that strive to help support victims of abuse.