Today has started off badly. Work has been stressful for the last six months but I’ve been coping. The difficulties this morning are less about work stress and more about the effect last night’s BBC3 drama Murdered By My Boyfriend has had on my peace.
Murdered By My Boyfriend charts the four years leading up to the death of a 21 year old mother. It starts when the bubbly confident 17 year old Ashley (Played by Georgina Campbell) meets the older good-looking Reece (Royce Pierreson) who would eventually brutally beat her with his fists and an ironing board, while their toddler looks on before leaving her to die on their bedroom floor.
It is based on the true story of Casey Brittle who was murdered by Sanchez Williams.
Writer Regina Moriarty skilfully and knowledgeably charts how the fun and loving relationship moves through the various stages of domestic violence and emotional abuse. It was superbly delivered by the actors and resonated with my relationship with McDad so much that the perpetrator even said, word for word, some of the things that McDad has said to me from the other side of the sofa.
As I watched the show I followed the twitter feed for #MurderedByMyBoyfriend. I was so shocked by the lack of understanding and the amount of victim blaming. The demographic most likely to suffer from domestic violence are females aged between 16-24 but on the feed it seems to be the demographic most vicious in the blaming of the victim.
Tweets referred to Ashley as stupid, an idiot, weak and many said that love wouldn’t make them stay in a situation like that.
If nothing else what became clear was the complete lack of understanding and empathy in relation to the victims of domestic violence.
For a long time I have been ashamed of speaking out about the level of violence and emotional abuse that I suffered at the hands of McDad.
This is mostly due to victim blaming; and that was mostly from other women. When a woman says to me ‘I would have never have let a man treat me that way’ I understand how little they understand because before I met McDad I used to say that.
Just as in the BBC3 Drama, McDad never laid a finger on me until I was 6 months pregnant. Looking back the emotional abuse had started in subtle ways; unreasonable jealousy, movement checking, subtle put downs.
There was a moment where Ashley screams in her head. That was a moment I experienced but not in my head. I screamed and screamed and begged him to leave, to stop destroying not only me but the children, friendships and every waking day.
He hugged me and smirked.
He also referred to my body size and ‘insecurities’. He advised me to stop getting myself into these states.
Domestic violence happens everywhere. Household with domestic violence are not defined their pay packet, colour, culture, level of education or ages of the occupants. McDad and I are university educated, earned four times the national average wage combined, were senior NHS managers and I was in my 30’s.
I was confident, well travelled, intelligent and feisty. I had a lovely network of friends and was never short of money. McDad came along and eroded all those aspects of my life, slowly chipping away at my self esteem and confidence. By the time the first punch came I was six months pregnant, about to go on maternity leave and living with him.
And I was mentally exhausted.
Almost two years followed of being spat on, kicked, punched and strangled to the point of losing consciousness, quite often in front of the toddler.
Like Cassey Brittal, who called the police 11 times for help, ten years ago I just couldn’t find the support I needed to get out of that relationship. I called the police on 5 different occasions, I walked in to a police station twice with visible bruising and in a state of shock and distress while barefoot and carrying my year old baby.
I spent days frantically trying to find a refuge or help but was refused by five domestic violence charities because I would not give up my job at the NHS. It was the last thing he was yet to destroy and I wanted to be able to provide for my daughters as a single parent but I was told in no uncertain terms that if I did not cut all ties including my job I could not enter a shelter in case he followed me there. It was on me to move from the home that I had built long before I met him, my job, my family and my friends if I wanted help.
There was no onus on him stopping; it was all about me escaping.
Finally I woke up one morning and decided that I had to get a better life for my daughters. When his next attack came I locked myself in the bathroom and called the police. When they arrived he was detained and arrested. I took the rest of the day to pack up all his things and asked the police to collect them. At the station I had to go through the ordeal of stripping down so that my injuries could be photographed. When I was examined by the police doctor she told me, that she could never understand why a bright ‘girl’ like me would be stupid enough to stay with a man like that. Had I not been at a point where I was determined I would probably have walked out of the station there and then fully shamed by her comment and perhaps not called upon the police for the next couple of incidents.
In the months leading up to the court case, he would ring my phone and be abusive or turn up and try to kick in my door. He pleaded not guilty but changed his plea to guilty after seeing that I did turn up to give evidence.
He and his lawyer were sure I would drop out.
The guilty plea meant that I never got to stand up in court and my voice was never heard. The police managed to lose the photographs of my injuries and despite assurances from the police of a custodial sentence he received a fine and was ordered to stay away from me.
I received no compensation and so had to find the money to put a door frame back in, replace the front door and repair all the damage he had done to the flat.
Clearly the beating he gave me (despite his previous convictions for violent assault on other people), the jewelry and precious things he stole, destruction and damage he did to the home of myself and the children, was not enough for the courts.
He would have to hurt me to the point of more permanent damage before they would really deal with it seriously.
Of course he was in my street as I walked home from work less than one week after sentencing. I reported the breach of his bail conditions a further 3 times that month but he was never arrested and brought to account.
As time went on he would used the excuse of wanting to see his daughter to try to excerpt control over myself and her.
I’ve spent my time rebuilding myself to the point where if he so much as calls me a name I now call the police. But even so he was still threatening to kill me as recently as May 2013 in the very public forum of my daughter’s school hall.
This started for me at the age of 32 and I was bought so low that I thought of suicide. The police had no powers and some awful attitudes toward the victims of domestic violence and ultimately a man who already had a string of violent offences was convicted of aggravated assault, breaking and entering with violence and criminal damage still walked off with a slap on the wrists.
I have found that family and friends don’t really want to hear about it. People find it uncomfortable and that leave the victim feeling ashamed and afraid to speak out. apparently after all this time I should no longer be angry or dwell on it, I should be over it by now. I have even been told that I should forgive him.
As if he is no longer an abuser.
These attitudes go along with the victims fear of the abuser and works well in the abusers favor. It aides the victims isolation.
I cannot imagine how a 17 year old can see a way out of such abuse.
How can someone who has never experienced the slow chipping away at their sanity, confidence and self worth understand? If twitter users are to be taken seriously most people cant and don’t want to understand.
I count myself lucky, even though McDad still has moments of trying to control,as I’m still alive, if he had held his hands around my neck a little longer i may not be, if he had hit me over the head with the bottle………. The bruises and breaks have healed and I worked long and hard on repairing my emotional stability.
But 2 women in the UK are killed every week.
Every single week.
Why is this not given the focus it deserves?
Casey Brittal was not so fortunate. May she rest in peace.
If you are a victim of domestic violence please seek help, speak to someone.
McDad- The Bully
McDad – Still An Abuser;
McDad – Asserting Himself;
McDad- A Tweet- A decision;
McDad; Twisted Logic;
McDad 6 months on;
Murdered By My Boyfriend Trailer;