I watch loads of violent box sets – I’ve been totally addicted to shows like Sopranos, Breaking Bad and Sons of Anarchy over the last few years – but watching EastEnders last night really affected me. As I watched Dean attack Roxy I looked around for a pillow to hide behind, and even though the scene only lasted a few moments I noticed I was shaking afterwards. It felt too personal, too close to home. I suppose the onscreen antics of mobsters, crystal meth dealers and motorcycle gangs don’t bother me because I’ve never been there – but I am a survivor of domestic abuse and sexual violence.
The Roxy/Dean relationship has brought back lots of bad memories for me. The way my partner was telling me he loved me one minute, then pushing me across the room the next. He’d cry and ask for my forgiveness. He’d tell me that he only hurt me because he loved me so much. He’d tell me that it was my fault, that I set him off, wound him up, pushed his buttons, that HE was the victim. He’d tell me that he tried so hard and loved me so much but I was ‘difficult’ (or ‘stupid’ or ‘clumsy’ or …). And then he’d hurt me again.
His violence scared me, but it was the psychological side of things that affected me the most. I felt so stupid and ashamed for getting into a relationship like this. We’d got married less than a year before and I thought people would judge me for being a ‘failure’. And after some of the things he’d done to me I didn’t think anyone else would want to be with me. He often told me that no one else would – and that if I ever did break up with him then he would kill me and any new partner in my life. I thought I’d never get away from him or if I did that I’d never be able to get over what had happened to me.
It’s now over ten years since I managed to leave. It took a lot of work for me to rebuild my life – I had a lot of counselling as I was so angry with myself for what happened, I didn’t want to feel like a ‘victim’ and I really blamed myself. It was a painful journey but I learned to like myself more and I realised that the violence wasn’t my fault.
For people like Roxy who have experienced domestic abuse and sexual violence from their partners I’d tell them that they don’t have to live like that and that there are so many places out there where they can get help to escape and change their lives. The abuse is never your fault and it is possible to move beyond it.
For women experiencing Domestic Violence contact the Refuge/Women’s Aid Helpline on 0808 2000 247
For men experiencing Domestic Violence call the Male Advice Line on 0808 801 0327
If you are LGBT and experiencing Domestic Violence you can call Broken Rainbow on 0300 999 5428
For support if you have been raped or sexually abused call the Safeline Helpline – 0808 800 5008 (general helpline) or 0808 800 5005 (male helpline).