Visiting Highclere Castle

Dear Karen,

Last week, I joined the Canadian Women’s Club in London on their tour of Highclere Castle, in Hampshire. Continue reading

IKEA wins Sunday Videos

Dear Readers,

IKEA is amazing.  We’re not necessarily talking about their peculiarly-named sofas, nor are we discussing 101 Things to Do with an Allen Wrench  (what a great idea!  Must do post on this soon).  We’re talking about their recent commercials.  Continue reading

Catch up with us if you can!

Hello dear readers, and Happy Saturday!

By the time you read this, we’ll be in Toronto getting ready for the christening of Wendy’s grandson Scott. But don’t worry, we wouldn’t leave you in the lurch. Continue reading

Mummy? It’s me, Gilly, let me in your window…

Mummy and Karen,

Despite being sisters, and you both knowing me very well and having your own shared experiences, I’m afraid there’s something that you two may not have known. Continue reading

#WhyIStayed in an abusive marriage

alt="IMAGE-why-I-stayed-spousal-abuse"Dear Wendy,

Have you noticed the #WhyIStayed and #WhyILeft hashtags over on Twitter this week?

Women and men who’ve survived abusive relationships are speaking out—okay, tweeting out—their reasons for remaining in those relationships, and what propelled them to finally leave. It’s rough going, but important. It challenges those who believe people who stay in abusive relationships are somehow “weak” or foolishly blinded by love.

And it takes me back to a time I prefer not to remember.

#WhyIStayed

When I think back to the young woman who walked blindly into a relationship with a man who was already a self-professed wife abuser, I have to shake my head. What was I thinking? Was I thinking?

Here’s the thing: He told me what he was like.

He told me his first mother-in-law had accused him of using his first wife as “an emotional punching-bag.” But he said it ruefully, as though he’d somehow learned something from it. As though he wasn’t like that any more.

And he was so sweet and respectful in the early days of our courtship, it was hard to imagine what he was talking about. I imagined that his problems in his first marriage must have been his first wife’s fault. After all, he described her as “crazy.” Had her committed, in fact.

It was only after we’d been together a few months that he began to show his true colours. And once we were safely married, he turned it on full force. alt="IMAGE-domestic-abuse-graphic-power-control-signs-of-abuse"

Spying on me. Invading my privacy. Keeping me from spending time with my friends. Destroying letters and gifts I’d received before I met him. Ensuring I was isolated and completely dependent on him.

Telling me I was stupid. Telling me I was crazy. Telling me no one else would ever want me, because I was too damaged, too incompetent, too ugly.

Threatening to kill my cat, my dogs. Humiliating me in public.

Physically intimidating me when I showed signs of resisting him. Keeping me in the apartment when I wanted out. Punching the wall next to my head—the clear message being that he could have punched me in the face if he’d felt like it.

He was systematically tearing me down, one piece at a time.

I was miserable, depressed, filled with hatred and self-loathing. I wanted out, but the sad truth was that I didn’t know how to leave. I had no friends to confide in, nowhere to turn. Nowhere to go if I did leave.

And when I tried to talk to our parents, their message was, “You made your bed; now you can lie in it.” I’d married against their advice, and now as far as they were concerned, I could pay the price. The lowest point came when I overheard them talking with him, agreeing that I was mentally unstable and in need of his “help.”

This was before the days of shelters for abused women, and besides, he hadn’t actually beaten me. At least, not physically. In the early 1980s, no one was talking about emotional abuse. What I was experiencing had no name.

And so I stayed. I stayed out of ignorance, isolation, and fear. Out of the belief, deep down, that he was right.

#WhyILeft

The simple answer is, “I got pregnant.”

The complicated version is a lot woollier than that. More complicated, with nuances and circumstances that would take a long time to spell out.

But ultimately, I was pregnant, and I had two things to cling to: I knew that there was absolutely no way I could allow my baby to be born anywhere near that man. The thought of him claiming ownership of my child made me physically ill.

And for the first time, I had someone outside the marriage urging me to get out and save myself while I still could. Mitchell was there to support me when I weakened, to offer love and courage, and urge me not to believe the lies. He helped me arrange my escape, and he found me a place to live “on the outside.” He helped me in the long months and years of recovery, and he never wavered.

Most important, he listened, and he believed me.

I left, and I’ve never looked back. Eventually I went back to school, got my Master’s degree in social work, and started counselling young women who’d been abused. You see, I was something of an expert on the subject by then. I knew how they felt, what they believed about themselves, and most important, how to help them see beyond their abusers’ lies.

I know how important it is for an abused person to understand that they are not alone, and above all, that their abuser is the crazy, ugly, damaged one.

Love,

Karen

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