In support of the White Ribbon Campaign, a letter from a survivor of an abusive relationship on St Helena was read out at the White Ribbon Ceremony at the Mule Yard on Friday 25 November 2016.
The letter was read by Detective Sergeant, Louise Scott, who said:
“This is just one of many stories like this that happen on a daily basis around the world. This has been written from the heart and should be seen and heard by as many people as possible. This thought provoking piece will hopefully help people to understand the predicament some find themselves in. For others it may be the final push that gives them the strength to say that they will no longer be treated badly by their partner.
“Please give five minutes of your day and read on.”
Please note that we are not using the real name of the survivor in the account below.
I like many other people fell in love and married when I was a young girl. At first everything was fine but over time the person I fell in love with turned into someone I no longer knew.
It first began seven months into the marriage. It was the first time I saw the other side of him. This was when he started shouting at me. My in-laws were always on my side – perhaps I stayed in this marriage because I always had their support.
In the early and mid-years of my marriage, only occasionally would he say sorry. In the latter part of my marriage, he would say ‘If you didn’t ask for it, you wouldn’t get it’.
Then I had a child and things changed. This small life is the one you care for and everyone else becomes secondary. You feel you need to stay with someone when you have a child with them. In an ideal world, a child has a mother and a father. They need the support and guidance of both parents.
But my partner treated both myself and our child badly. My husband was aggressive towards both of us – to the point where our child would be timid and withdrawn in his company. Looking back I would say to anyone staying in a relationship for the sake of a child, ‘think again’. I would advise any of you that if the child or children is exposed to a violent marriage then get out and take all of the children with you.
In most cases, staying together for the sake of the children will only traumatise the child or children when they can be happy with one parent. The atmosphere in a violent relationship is not something any child should witness and it is detrimental to their wellbeing.
The psychological imprint on a child carries into adulthood and affects them in ways we cannot foresee. To date, fortunately my daughter has not displayed any sign or signs of this upbringing and I think it was because I was always there to support, comfort and protect her – someone she could always ‘run to’. It is strange because my ex loves children and he loved his daughter but he didn’t think twice to try and spare her the discomfort that he was causing. He would fly off in a rage or assault me in her presence. Living with the fear of violence was constant and eventually wore me down. But it took a huge amount of time and courage to make the move to leave my husband.
St Helena has its own set of difficulties when it comes to dealing with domestic violence. None of us want people to know our business on the Island but invariably people do. No one enjoys this.
Some of the violent acts I suffered:
- Kicking the doors and bouncing me
- Standing on my feet and shouting in my face, or whilst slapping my face until he felt like stopping
- Twisting my arm up my back so that I will fall to the ground and then he would put his work boot on my head and press it against the floor
- Kicking me anywhere on the body
- Punching me in the stomach
- Punching me in the mouth so that my teeth went through my lips and I could barely eat or drink for days on end. When it was getting better he would bust my mouth all over again
- Banging my head against the wall
- Grabbing me by the throat and/or mouth and throwing me backwards
- Mental cruelty – always maintaining that I was having an affair/s and beating me up for something I didn’t do
He also had the extra marital affair. It was through this I got the most beatings as I wasn’t allowed to challenge him, but I did, time and time again, and time and time again I got beaten for it I had to put up and shut up, but I would not.
Twice I left home and twice I returned, believing it would get better over time and he deserved a second chance. No way. After 30+ years I finally walked out and didn’t return to the marital home. From then I started going forward, making a new life.
Others have no family support or the finances to step out on their own. You cannot move to an area where you are no longer known and start afresh. I was lucky in that I was in a position to extricate myself. Having said that, I wouldn’t say that it was easy by any means.
What I would say is that I found a place for myself even if it wasn’t the home I might have dreamed of. But I made it comfortable and I will always enjoy the peace I find myself now living in. Gone are the days when I would tread on eggshells around the home constantly fearful of a slap, a kick, or worse. I am sad to say that our child witnessed some of this violence. Again this should not be something any child should be exposed to. For that matter neither should any person – male or female – in a relationship. Those persons believing the other loves them. But that person goes on to abuse them taking away their self-respect and self-worth in the process.
This is not love, it’s abuse – plain and simple. I cannot now believe that I withstood the abuse for so long. I didn’t deserve it as my husband told me. Neither does anyone else.
I have not included details of what happened to me as I don’t want everyone to know something so intimate. My feelings are still extremely raw and although I have made huge strides to move on it still hurts.
I want others to know they don’t have to suffer. There are people who will help, and although it may seem insurmountable, it can be done. You deserve to live in peace and not in fear of violence. Life is there to be enjoyed, not to be spent being bullied by those who are closest to us.
I am one of you, I live amongst you. I know it’s hard but if we are going to change things we need to be heard. I am happy now and continue to strive to make a new life, independent of him or anybody else, in my own little cottage.
29 November 2016