Recently I’ve been reflecting on some things that happened last year. Before I start, I should say that this isn’t my experience of an abusive relationship but an outsider’s perspective.
A friend who I met whilst in Spain came to the UK to work and improve her language skills. She’d been with her boyfriend for about 7 or 8 months. They met online and decided to make it official about a month into knowing one another. I’m not by any means saying that meeting people online isn’t a great way to start a relationship, because it can be for some. The guy my friend met however, turned out to be controlling, jealous, emotionally manipulative, angry and verbally abusive.
I’d been aware that there were a few incidents before the event that left my friend, for ease’s sake I’ll call her Sam, traumatized and in fear for her life. Very recently Sam has bravely agreed to help me write an article about her experiences, in order to help other women who might be in her situation. I can’t tell you how proud I am to know her and how happy I am that she’s now at home with her family, safe and sound.
Prior to the events that transpired, which I’m about to explain, I had never had experience of what a really abusive relationship looked like, or how quickly things could escalate. According to UK government statistics, 1 in 4 women experience some form of domestic abuse in their lifetime, so I believe I’m in a lucky minority.
Sam wanted to leave. She’d decided, after moving in with her boyfriend to save money, that going home was her best option and she needed her own space for a while. She was reluctant to tell her partner as she was afraid of what his reaction might have been. He sensed however that something was up. Stating he was staying home from work, he was going to make her tell him what was up. To cut a long story short, my friend went through hell. Her phone confiscated to prevent her contacting anyone, she was kept in his room for three days, with brief breaks to go to the bathroom. Her laptop was smashed, her bank card broken, she was completely isolated. With no news of her successfully getting away, I began to panic and phoned the police.
It was something my housemate said that really spurred me into action; you can call the police and she might be fine, you’ll look a bit silly, but at least you’ll know she’s safe. But what if you don’t call the police and she’s not fine. What if you hear nothing from her then see her on the news next week. So I phoned the police. Luckily this scared the boyfriend into letting my friend leave after three days of fear and confinement in his house. He had pretended to drive her to safety at least twice before, with no intention of letting her go, this time he did. I can’t imagine what she must have been feeling. Her ex-boyfriend has received a police caution and has, eventually, after many attempts, stopped trying to contact her.
What I’ve learned from this, is it really could happen to anyone. It could be happening to someone you know right now. So I want to give you the most common features of an abusive relationship, to help you identify if someone might be in trouble, or if you yourself feel you match some of these criteria. I know it’s tough, you can only try to help people who want to be helped. The most important thing is to let them know you’re there. That they’re not alone and that they’ll always have you there to support them. Statistically the most dangerous time in an abusive relationship for the victim is when they leave, so be aware of this and take the necessary precautions.
So, keep an eye out for these:
- Verbal abuse: name calling, put downs and self-esteem crushers. They’re mean and upsetting and designed to keep you in line.
- Blame: everything is your fault. You wouldn’t get called names if you weren’t so stupid and ditsy all the time. They never admit being at fault.
- Fear: They make you feel afraid to displease them! They try to intimidate you and control the power in the relationship.
- Emotional manipulation: they sulk, push you away then try to win you back, threaten to leave, punish you emotionally and at times might even be overly apologetic for their actions. This doesn’t change their behaviour however.
- Isolation: from friends and family, from those who could try to help or tell them to end the relationship. They want you all to themselves, all the time. Feel guilty about going out with friends? You shouldn’t.
- Extreme jealousy: jealous of you and your achievements, jealous of you spending time with friends, the way you look at other people, even the slightest thing can become a big issue.
This list isn’t abuse in all its forms of course, just signs I’ve learned to keep an eye out for. I really hope this helps someone, even if it’s just being more informed about the subject. Stay safe!