By Laura Mounsey
The only way for me to write this is to be unapologetically honest, so that others who read this may be able to best understand what situation they may be in also. Domestic violence is one of those things in the UK where we are aware of it but dress it up so much that we don’t realise that it is everywhere, even happening to you right now.
I feel it is my responsibility to open everyone’s eyes to the reality of domestic violence and sexual violence happening in young relationships. It happens, it is everywhere and it is incredibly dangerous. At university, we are in our most important years where we can find ourselves, grasp independence and succeed. But for a lot of us, we also want to be in love and be supported. In actuality, a lot of what I see is women isolated, controlled, sexually degraded and having a violent relationship take their life away from them. There is nothing more important to me than putting the spotlight on how this is happening to so many women. But let me tell you, no victim of a domestic violent relationship asked this to happen to them, it is not their fault or because we are weak as so many people I am sure will believe.
Let us remember that 1 in 4 women will be in a violent relationship, with on average 37 incidents of violence occurring before the police are even called for the first time. (Victim Support, 2014) If we think about this, plus the added fact that serious sexual assault is most likely to be committed by someone known to the victim (89% of female victims) and over half (54%) of female victims reported that a partner or ex-partner had been the offender (British Crime Survey 2005/06). To anyone reading that, there is surely no doubt that many women are being abused at our university. Violence and abuse, whether it be physical, emotional, financial or sexual, in what you hope to be a ‘loving’, ‘romantic’, ‘committed’ relationship is particularly toxic and destructive. Loving a man who seemingly hates you with every blow of violence is so confusing. At the same time they are obsessed with you, maybe even protective and possessive. They will say “I love you. I always have. No one has ever been like we are. We are special. No one will love you like I do. I am special. You aren’t special. I am.”
Whether you are out on a night out in Fabios, or it is an afternoon doing some work and you get a text. He will want to know everything about what you are doing, who you are with, why you are going without him, constantly testing your commitment to him. He will ask ‘do you think it is acceptable for you to talk to other men?’ He doesn’t want you talking to other men. He might be adamant that women have a predetermination to manipulate sex and their sexuality. He believes you to have been promiscuous before him, unfaithful to him now and constantly flirting with other men. Being at university makes all this even stronger and scarier because your family isn’t around, your friends if they have picked up on it more than likely don’t know what to do and loving that person is always going to be a battle.
From my experience, my partner believed that all women were whores, manipulative, promiscuous and no relationship no matter how platonic could be shared with another man. The violence that resulted from this was systematic and intentioned, almost if I had to learn his rules of the relationship. So I changed my behaviour, even blocking every guy’s number in my phone but the rules always changed. Finally culminating in the most violent occurrence, he was involved in a fight with 5 other men on a birthday night out. His shirt was ripped clean off and upon taking him home, the two hour unrelenting ordeal began. Just like many other women, despite injuries and fear, I was forced to sleep with him within 24 hours of all that unrelenting violence. Him with a broken hand, me with a very disfigured face, broken ribs and concussion but all because he loved me. He loved me and I loved him so much that when he lent on my ribs and caused excruciating pain, I said nothing.
Since that 6 months, the reverberation of the misconstrued, ill placed mantra of ‘why didn’t you just leave?’ has plagued me. Having worked in a Gender Based Violence Unit in Kenya during the relationship and having successfully broken out of the relationship and since become a domestic violence victim support specialist, I struggle to offer an answer.
Why didn’t I leave? I was lead to believe that it was down to him, something not in my control. It wasn’t his fault, a rarity, a sickness and personal insecurity. Maybe just when he was drunk or the fact he had seen his father beat his mother till he was five years old. It was his background, almost as if he couldn’t help it. How could I expect him to have turned out any differently? Personal insecurity is how I justified his behaviour and something I could fix. But please understand, you cannot fix them.
As I have continued to share my story and experience to friends and strangers, I have never been satisfied by any response or reaction given. I have been ridiculed by questions such as ‘what did you do to deserve that?’ and ‘did it start as a sexual fantasy’? As much as these questions are irrational to me, they planted the idea in my mind that there is a level of acceptability about domestic violence. In fact, I would say that the light is always shone on how the victims have behaved, we must have done something to make him to do that to us. Sex and sexuality are very easily used to control women, whether that be that we should always want to have sex with our partners or accusations of affairs. Sometimes sex gets confused with being a way to show how much you love someone.
It is all well and good reading what I am sure seems like a sporadic list of thoughts about domestic violence or maybe it is something you have heard before. Going back to my intention behind this piece, I want people to recognise when this is happening to them and to get out as soon as they can. It is an incredibly serious situation and on the most basic level, the sooner you break free from a domestic violent relationship, the less of your life you will lose. Awareness of domestic violence is gaining more momentum in the UK. It is on the news, there are campaigns, there is a new coercive control law, specialist domestic violence courts, there are new protection orders that the police can instruct etc. If anything that is written in this blog resonates with you or you feel at all like your relationship is taking you away from who you are then please come forward to the police.