Why I Never Reported My Abuser

For many women like me, going through the distressing decision of whether to speak out or report abuse in relationships, it’s common for us to encounter that all too familiar line:

“What will people say?”

They’ll say you’re out to get revenge; they’ll say you’re bitter; they’ll say you haven’t moved on; they’ll say you’re making it up; they’ll tell others not to marry you; it will tarnish your name, your reputation.

So it’s easier to say nothing at all – it’s easier to stay silent………..isn’t it?

For the most part, I’m not easily affected by what other people think; I have a strong moral code and abide by the basic values of human decency and kindness. So it’s ironic that when it comes to seeking kindness or redress for myself I was profoundly affected by what others would think or say. The idea of others talking about my personal life, the impact it would have on my family, how I would be perceived in the community – all played a critical role in preventing me from speaking out.

Of course I wouldn’t wish this on anyone but if you tell me that it would never happen to you then I will politely tell you that you are ill informed. I told myself that lie once: if he ever did that to me, then I would leave.  But what you won’t understand, unless you’ve been through it and what I never understood until many years after it ended, is that domestic violence doesn’t really care how strong you are.

It’s a patient process – it doesn’t happen overnight.  By the time it starts, you’ve been broken such that the most valuable thing you own – your self-worth – has been cruelly taken from you.  Those who know you to be a strong, smart and able woman, assume that something like this could never happen to you.  I was complacent to think the same……………..until it did ofcourse.

On average, a woman will leave an abusive relationship seven times before she leaves for good.  I have a lot of admiration for those individuals that have the courage to walk out; it’s a courage I never had.  For me, a separate incident led to the breakdown of my marriage.  It took three months of being separated for me to acknowledge that I had been in a violent relationship.  It took me a further two years before I mentioned anything to my family.  Three more years would pass before I actively addressed the issues I’d been left with by engaging in trauma therapy which has led me here – to be able to talk about it.

My family for the most part don’t really know the right way to approach it.  We’ve never spoken about it except from the time I brought it up; there was no real discussion.  Emotionally, it’s too difficult a conversation for both sides and on my part, I feel there’s an expectation to relay every incident which I don’t want to do.  The ones I’ve been able to share, I feel, are enough.

The conversation about whether I should report him or have him charged never came up because………….because it’s not seen as a real crime?  Or maybe because that chapter should be closed?

But if you’ve never reported the abuse, I’m not entirely convinced that chapter ever does close.  There’s a palpable sense of guilt and anxiety that someone else will now be reliving that same cycle of violence with your ex-partner.  We often hear victims of abuse told: “if you let him get away with it then he’ll do it again, to someone else”.  That pressure, that guilt falling onto the victim – not the abuser……..it was their actions remember, not ours.

I’ve been on a journey stemming from this guilt, prompted to reach out and warn the next person, deep down knowing how I would be portrayed – the bitter ex.  And I was.  I tried again however to absolve myself, researching different ways I could ensure future partners were kept safe.  I discovered a database held by police through which you could inform them, anonymously, of crimes – if the accused showed up on their radar again with suspicion towards the same crime then it would be enough to arrest him.

I pursued this route via a friend who worked for a women’s organisation hoping this would be my salvation.  She took a few incidents which I had recounted to her but was told they couldn’t hold it on their database.  The incidents were too serious and enough to have him charged.  I backed off in response to my parents’ fears for my safety.

I recently listened to an interview by Katie Johnston, a rape victim who had decided to wave her right to anonymity and speak out about her experience.  It got me thinking about the ‘shame shit storm’ victims can end up in.  Whilst I was in awe of Katie’s courage in speaking out, I felt somewhat frustrated that she avoided that word even though I fully understood why.  Most of us don’t wish to be defined by the negative events of our lives and so we adapt our language to something more palatable, rather than calling it what it is.

You see, much like Katie, I have mostly skirted around the word victim; for years, repeating the mantra: “I will not be a victim, I will not be broken by this”.  Had I been robbed, I would easily refer to myself as the victim of a crime.  So, what makes this different?

The answer to the question is undoubtedly all about shame.  A violation, something which you have no control over occurs making you feel the weakest you ever have.  All of a sudden, that word which you’ve never particularly noticed, starts to taunt you. To regain some control, you refuse to bow down to it – acknowledging it, in your mind, feels like an admission of weakness.  Much of the research uses the word “survivor” which if I’m honest makes me gag a little. The same gag effect when you’re told to talk to your inner child, no thanks.

I was a victim.  I was a victim of a crime.  I was a victim of a crime that went unreported.  That actually wasn’t too difficult to say – try it.  I’m know there’s plenty of you out there, who like me, haven’t pursued justice.  Those who thought they could keep it a secret, never realising how unbearable a burden it actually becomes.  Because secrets can consume you.  And the silence of secrets cement a belief that you do have something to be ashamed of.

Ultimately I realise it has to be my decision if I want to go forward and take action.  Family fear over my safety, reputation or a potential community circus isn’t what stops me anymore.  Before I tell you what does however, humour me for a little longer.

A high profile detective talks about the Levi Bellfield case which he led; that of a serial killer attacking women in England.  His breakthrough in the case comes when he decides to look at a file he laughingly named “The Women Scorned” file.  It was made up of exes who had told the police their ex boyfriends/husbands etc had violent tendencies and may be the ones responsible for the attacks against these women.

“Women Scorned”.  That’s what telling their story had boiled down to – being entered into a brown folder with a not so clever name.  A not so clever name which implied they were jilted lovers and not abused women.

And that, for me, is the crux of it:

What is the likelihood of being believed in a court of law? 

Attempting to gain justice in the face of those who will regard me as nothing more than a women scorned.  Reading about Councillor Mckenzie’s experiences in court only served to solidify my own feeling that the system is “stacked against victims”.  The pursuit for justice comes at the expense of opening up my private life, unrelated to my relationship, in a court room and that feels unfair.

And what actual evidence is there for them to ever believe me?  I doubt many of us have footage of abuse taking place.  A few scars in my case for which there is no proof and my memory (or atleast the memories I haven’t blocked).    I’m acutely aware if it was between us, I would never come across as the more likeable character.  Many abusers are notoriously and frustratingly charming – I on the other hand have never been described as charming in my life.

And if the flippant words of a high-profile detective are anything to go by, it’s not too hard to imagine with an already shocking statistic of almost 60,000 reported cases a year of domestic violence in Scotland; there will be another shocking statistic for those of us that made the agonising decision to forego justice.

 

 

 

23 Replies to “Why I Never Reported My Abuser”

  1. I never really saw myself as a victim. Put up with it fof 12 years of emotional abuse and then 2 years of physical abuse which started when i was heavily pregnant with our first child and then reported it. I knew that day our marriage was over. I never realised it was happening until officers came and arrested him and told me it was abuse. I couldn’t quite believe it. I didn’t see it as that then. It went to court and he was let off as the arresting police officer had not cautioned him. Result? Him and his family saying that i was a liar and made it all up. Worst of all it happened in front of my girl’s who used to say ” dadda was hitting mamma”. A few years later after some brainwashing they were saying “mamma was hitting dadda”. that was a bigger blow than the abuse itself……family were super supportive but never really acknowledged that was the reason for relationship ending.
    Still never really saw it as abuse. 1st time he slapped me, i slapped him right back so i guess that makes me an abuser too?

  2. As parents of a daughter who has just ‘left’ an abusive relationship, reading your words, is hearing our daughter discuss all the reasons why she didn’t leave her marriage, until a health visitor visited her husband and in-laws abode. The health visitor was alarmed at the way my daughter was treated, and questioned her, to find out that she was being regularly emotionally, mentally and physically abused, which confirmed everything she had witnessed upon arriving at the premises. She declared an intervention and pulled her out, recognising the toxic, and very dangerous environment she was living in, but her husband and in-laws refused to give her the baby. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until nearly a month later, that my daughter was reunited with her baby by triggering the legal procedure and being granted residence. It is very important not to hide behind silence, but to stand up to say that this is wrong. It will always be wrong. Abuse of any kind is not acceptable in any relationship. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Thank you for sharing your story. I’m sorry for what your daughter went through and I’m so glad that healthcare staff were trained so well to spot the signs that they could take her out of the situation. I think there’s a lot of educating needed and only after going through it myself do I realise how subtle the signs to an outsider can be. X

  3. The trauma from crimes like these never leave you. And you don’t want to speak about it because it is like re-living that episode. It’s too painful and you block it from your mind.

    Something ‘daft’ happened to me many years ago. But unbelievably, I reckon I have some PTSD from it that EVERY August time for last 17 years I have anxiety dreams. Long story short – a pakistani middle aged man stalked me from my high school to my home. First asking where post office was, to asking questions and persuading me to go to McDonalds and then walking me home. I was mortified, I was 17, I was polite – I wanted to die! He wouldn’t back off. Got home and I told mum in panicked voice n my face said it all. Mum told him to get lost.
    I was so upset. I felt guilty, stupid and naive. What was wrong with me? That week I decided to leave S6 and through clearing went to Uni. 100% unpredictable move. I made sincere duaa that we move home… and we did 8 months later! Life was good, I forgot about the evil dude and Uni life was amazing.
    However, every August when schools start… those nightmares return. That I am alone, confused and both in high school & Uni. I can’t find timetables for high school and adv higher exams are approaching. The dream usually end with me deciding to never return to school and not informing them (which is what I kind of did in S6 – I just told my guidance teacher n few friends when I got acceptance letter from Uni)

    Is it anxiety… is it guilt… something, a fear, deeply embedded in my subconscious that to this day causes anxiety. Yes, I know – I told you it was trivial!

    So … I can’t even begin to imagine what actual domestic physical violence can do to a person. How bullying can mess up peoples lives…

    I will be speaking to my psychologist cousin… of how to ‘deal’ with such trauma. Intriguing.

    And yes, you can never for once imagine a charming, friendly, humourous and smiley person to be the opposite behind closed doors. Things you learn with life…

    1. Hello SA, sorry it’s taken me a bit longer than I’d have liked to reply to this comment! Thanks for sharing your story here, it doesn’t sound trivial to me. Essentially someone, who was from what I can understand, stalking a child. That’s terrifying. Interestingly I am going to do a post related to PTSD soon so perhaps you’ll have your own insights to add in. I hope you are able to talk to somebody about the anxiety you experience as it must be very lonely going through that yourself xx

  4. A really interesting article! Do you know if there is a similar register in England? It’s taken months of counselling to realise I wasn’t to blame for his abusive behaviour. Shortly after i left my marriage, my mum said that when the community ask why I left just to blame his infertility! I refused to feel ashamed and lie so have told people he was abusive and unfaithful – my mum has since been super supportive. People’s reactions have surprised me (even his own cousins!) Who have been kind and understanding. He got in touch a few weeks ago wanting to reconcile (despite being in a sexual relationship with another woman!) And deflected any blame me for him “restraining” me. I blocked his number straight away 🙂

    1. Hi Aliyah, I’m afraid I don’t know if a similar register exists in England. I do know Clare’s law was rolled out in England first and it may interest you to read about that. That took massive courage for you to make that decision and tell people the real reasons your marriage ended – hats off to you!!! I’m so glad the response was positive! And it seems like you have immense strength that you knew it wasn’t a relationship you wanted dragged back into again!! Xxx

    2. Ayeesha Bhutta says: Reply

      Hi Aliyah, There is indeed a register in England. It is maintained by local police forces so you’d need to contact your local force. The Met police’s info for people in London in here:
      https://www.met.police.uk/cy-GB/advice/advice-and-information/daa/domestic-abuse/clares-law/.
      it does have some of the same issues that Faiza’s article raises: allegations have to be made to the police which are then disclosed upon application, which puts an (unfair) burden on those who have been abused.

      Ayeesha

  5. Bitches make it up. Not happy with your man getting bored of you. he doesn’t want to be with you so you all scream abuse. no wonder you know you won’t be believed. Because it’s shit.

    1. Unfortunately that mentality is part of the problem. And I’m not really convinced entering into conversation with yourself is going to change anything

  6. I went through a long decision of whether to have him charged. I’d had to run out the house eventually one time in my night clothes thinking he was going to kill me. Neighbours heard it all but no one helped. I reported it to the police but dropped it because my family told me to just leave it and get on with my life. It’s hard and I feel a bit resentful that I didn’t get treated like any other person going through crimes do.

    1. It is a difficult and emotionally difficult journey if you like. I think the only way I have some control over it in a sense is by knowing I’ve not take it off the table completely yet. Xx

  7. Reported to police and he was charged for slapping and punching me. Never went to court as lack of evidence. Wasn’t any point to report it – just a lot of time kept hanging

    1. Sorry to hear your experiences and thank you for providing insight into them. That’s the problem isn’t it – lack of tangible evidence but this is where our judicial system will need to make changes as most cases don’t have evidence!

  8. I was a victim. Powerful. Yes I’ll say it with you. I was a victim. And never got any justice. Two broken teeth. Brokwn wrist. But I’m not the type it happens to either. I’m auccesful strong woman in my field. Nobody has ever known. Thank you for making me feel human.

    1. Like you for a long time, nobody knew. As I started to do some work and start a process of healing, I soon started telling my close circle of friends and talking to them. It was almost liberating. I feel silence serves to make us feel worse. I hope you’re able to open up to someone close to you one day and until then I’m glad you were able to connect with me here x

  9. I AM a victim. I’ve not left. He’s generic good guy and I have nothing to my name. Nothing to be gained by leaving. Nowhere to go. So I’m jus living in hope of something. I don’t even know what anymore.

    1. You’re worth more than living a life where you aren’t treated right. There are a couple organisations that run excellent confidential lines and you could speak to them avout options? These two are based in Scotland but if you’re not then don’t worry as they will direct you to the appropriate service in your area x

      MWRC : 08088010301
      Scottish Women’s Aid: 0800 027 1234

  10. Love this writing Fai. Worldwide conviction rates for gender based violence speak volumes not just about patriarchy but about the failure to upgrade our judicial processes to address this.There are so many examples where the credibility of those reporting crimes was weighed upon far more than the evidence.Culture, class, status….anything but the voice of person reporting it.
    I think as well as shame, the other key difference between being robbed and the crimes you described is power.Gender based violence, and I’m including rape as a crime of violence here, surely is about a demonstration of power, of seeing women as property and of a warped sense of entitlement.When you add experiencing that to the attached feelings of shame then it’s at least understandable to see why someone would try to cling on to being able to define their abuse on their own terms.Then there’s the inevitable incoming negativity of the word ‘victim’….

    1. Hi Tiff. Thanks for your kind comment. I feel really strongly about your comment re judicial process needing updated. Unfortunately I’m not a policy maker so don’t have much direction of how but it’s clear that many cases of abuse do not have tangible evidence to be provided to a court. And as a result are too many women or men being failed by the system. No doubts.

      You’re perfectly correct that anybody who has been through any ordeal should be allowed to define it in anyway they choose which allows them to regain control of the situation. I think my point was probably a frustration at what I knew Katie would be feeling at that word – having avoided it for many years.

      I’m not sure if I agree that the diff in views between abuse and being robbed etc is also about power. I feel what differentiates it is society’s undermining of the seriousness of domestic violence, the emotions it arises in others which unfortunately means the needs of the real victim in amongst it all gets lost. x

  11. Such a strong piece of writing, thanks for sharing your experiences it couldn’t have been easy at all. I grew up in a house of violence, my father violently abused my mother and myself for decades. My mum left countless times and was literally hunted down and ‘told’ to return. I was actually kidnapped by BOTH parents on a number of occasions and back when I was a child the Police simply didn’t want to get involved and friends, neighbours and family turned a blind eye.

    Thanks again.

    1. Hi Andy. Thank you for sharing your really difficult experiences and all that you witnessed growing up. It sounds traumatic. It seems that to an extent times have changed with regards to the police having to take domestic abuse accusations seriously. However unf in other ways times haven’t changed much as there is still plenty turning of a blind eye which goes on.

    2. So sad to hear this. Hope you have found some peace.

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