It’s been a long time since I talked about this. For so long, my recollection of these events has felt like someone else’s life. But the truth is that for about a year between the ages of 16 and 18, I was in an abusive relationship. I was pushed into walls, door frames and, once, the side of a bus. I was held so tightly by my wrists that they were bruised. I was thrown to the floor in the middle of screaming arguments. And one August morning, I was shoved so hard against my bedroom wall that my left collarbone snapped clean in two.
Still, I didn’t see it for what it was until one night when he pushed me in front of a room full of people. Only when I saw the looks on their faces as he was dragged away from me did I realise what was really going on here. Only on that night, when I felt so ashamed of those looks, did I have the guts and conviction to finally walk away.
11 years later, my memories are blurred. Perhaps with subconscious intent. I’ll ask myself some days, “Did it really happen?” Yes. Yes, it really happened. I have the badly healed bone to prove it. But the point is that I have recovered and I have forgiven. I have accepted that sometimes people just bring out the worst in each other. I am not making excuses for him – he and I both know very well what he did. But I cannot be angry about it anymore. I cannot say that I am still a victim, or that I have let those experiences colour my perceptions of men in general.
What do I hope for him now, so many years later? I hope that he has healed from the experiences that led him to be that person in the first place. I hope that he has grabbed hold of the good inside him and made himself out of that. I hope that he is well.
I will not lie to you; it has taken me a long, long time to feel that way. But I have healed. I have forgotten that I was ever afraid, that I ever had a reason to be scared of hearing the front door slam.
N is much bigger than I am. Much stronger too. Easily capable of hurting me if he wanted to. But have I ever for one moment been afraid of him? No. Not for a second. I know who he is. For me to look at him with the same eyes I once looked at that other man would do him a gross injustice. No matter what I say or do – and I can be a long way from innocent myself – I know with absolute certainty that I never, ever have to be afraid of my husband.
There have been times in my life when I have been afraid of men as a whole. When I have had to remind myself that there are only a few bad apples on the tree. But that’s the point; I have trained my brain to self-correct. I refuse to live my life under the misapprehension that all men are bastards.
I don’t know if I will tell my sons about my experiences when they are older. I don’t know if I want them to think of me that way. I do know that I don’t ever want them to feel sorry for me, even retrospectively.
What I will do is raise them to respect other people. To understand the notion of consent. To never, ever intentionally harm another person. And to always speak up if they find themselves in the position of being abused.
It’s not our job as parents to teach our children to be afraid of each other; it’s our job to teach them how to look after one another.
This is what I will teach my children. And I hope that they never, ever find themselves in the same position that I once did.