When I was growing up, I never believed that men hit women. I’m Bengali and the deity that my family worship is Maa Durga. She symbolises maternal love, care, protection, but is fierce against her enemies, which is why she is called Maa – ‘mother’. In my house, my father was outnumbered by females, and it was my mother who really ruled the roost, she was in charge, and he had the utmost respect for her…and for the 11 years that he was with us…that’s what I saw. Of course they had their arguments. Which couple doesn’t argue? But raise his hand? No….
Honestly, I only thought that the likes of old, Victorian, Dickensian characters hit and despised women. I never imagined that women were hit in real life. This naivety continued well into my twenties.
In 2002, I switched the TV on one night, there was a Channel 4 drama showing called ‘Falling Apart’. As the title suggested, I knew that things were going to unravel, but I had no idea how. The synopsis was simply this – a young single woman falls for a charming, wonderful man, they are married, everything is wonderful – but he has problems with anger. At the time, I didn’t really watch much TV. I was either working or out with my friends, but the beginning of the episode hooked me in. Although everything seemed perfect – the woman (Hermione Norris), was constantly on edge, making sure that everything was in the right place, that all was in order, trying not to aggravate her husband (Mark Strong).
At the time that I watched this drama, I was single, hoping that I was going to meet my dream partner, hoping to meet that special person that I was going to share the rest of my life with…and then what unfolded in that drama, frightened and distressed me so much, it made me begin to question whether I should even aspire to be with someone.
I’d never seen Hermione Norris in anything before, but her acting was incredible. Channel 4 were cutting edge at the time and did not gloss over the violence and sexual assault that occurred. After watching only the first episode, I remember sobbing uncontrollably for a long time afterwards. How could any human do this to another? And I felt frightened. When you meet someone, how do you even know what they are really like? How do you even know if they are going to end up as a women beating psychopath?
To make matters worse, my mum called me a few days later to let me know that someone I used to know while was growing up, had given birth to a baby girl. I was delighted with this news….but my mum was sombre. ‘What’s wrong?’ I asked her. She told me that when the husband had found out that his wife had given birth to a daughter (their second), he had hit her….
I cannot even describe the grief that I felt about hearing this news.
The problem for families all over the world is that women are made to feel that there is an alarm clock – find a man quickly – tick – tock – tick – tock – find a man quickly – time is running out. So often women meet men… and everything is alright initially…and even if things are not alright initially…WOMEN CONVINCE EACH OTHER, to paper over the cracks. ‘Oh it’ll be fine!’ ‘Oh, all men are like that!’
There is of course a sense of shame…how do you admit to your nearest and dearest that someone is hurting you? Particularly, if they are deceitful enough to maintain a dual personality – perfection in front of others and monstrous where there are no witnesses. How are you credible? Who would believe you? And of course, you’re convinced, through the apologies and the tenderness and ‘love’, that it will never happen again, and that somehow you must behave better so that it doesn’t happen again. Because – you have been made to believe that the violence and abuse is YOUR fault – they are devoid of responsibility. And of course, your self esteem has been destroyed. Who would want you? What is so unlovable about you that someone would do this to you in the first place?
This is one of the reasons why I have a particular dislike of ‘bad boys’. No, I do not like men who treat women badly. No, I do not like men who expect to have relationships with women without caring for their feelings, or consequences of actions. No, I do not like angry and aggressive men.
Although my eyes were opened in 2002 to the horrific world of domestic violence – both on TV and real life…15 years later – there appear to be more and more cases of this type of abuse coming to light – not fewer. And the question is…why? Certainly, as I was growing up, there was a definite code amongst boys and men – we do not hit women. So what is happening? Why is that sacred code being violated in this way?
I do know that the abuse also operates the other way. That men are abused horrendously by some evil women too. But for the majority of the time, the violence is against women.
My message is this….please – if you are in an abusive situation – please talk to someone and get help. There is no reason why on God’s earth that you should tolerate this. Do not stay with someone who is aggressive and violent towards you ‘for the sake of the kids’. Kids are smart – they pick up on things more than you know – if a person was violent towards your children would you tolerate it? No – then love yourself in the same way and get out.
Friends and family don’t have to believe you. It’s your life – not theirs. Being beaten, or sexually assaulted is not a sign of love. It’s a violation. It’s a crime. It is punishable by law.
Get help. Get out. Before it’s too late.
Dylan Thomas wrote: Do not go gentle into that good night; Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
You do not have to go gently either. Don’t accept abuse as your fate. Rage against it. Take positive actions against it.
And if you know or suspect that someone is being abused. Please, please, please help.
Domestic Violence advice:
Or call 0800 970 2070