The date on this mail is a bit erroneous, as I have been pondering this for a long long time. When I conceived of ‘Behind Closed Doors’ it was all about sharing positive stories. The people and communities we work with are so often misrepresented, and society as a whole can be both fractured and judgmental, simple happy stories were all we wanted to tell!
As time went on, and Dave and I started to look at who we wanted to work with, it became unavoidable for me that I wanted to work with X and H, and that work would in some way be about domestic violence. I had to examine the reasons why I had wanted to resist this – a cliche? I kept telling myself that I wanted to focus on the positive, the fact that these women – and all the others I have met through domestic violence projects – are strong, bright and with loads going for them, and in no way the shrinking violet or screaming fishwife media stereotypes perpetuate.
What I eventually had to admit to myself was that the reason I was resisting domestic violence being the subject matter, was because I too had to do what I was asking them to do and open my doors. Which meant, amongst other things, acknowledging my own experience of domestic violence, and not only that, the things in my past that may have contributed to this happening to me.
The reasons I had resisted this for so long are many and various – but I think first and foremost it is shame and embarrassment. I don’t want to be defined by this. I don’t want my professional contacts and peers to know. I don’t want to expose my husband and children to something I have gladly left way in the past. And – despite this blog – my days of exposing myself warts and all ended 20 years ago. Yet if I’m not prepared to do this myself, how can I ask it of others?
When I met with H and X, for the first time I offered a brief description of my own experiences. I doubt either were that surprised, after all this happens to 1 in 3 of us, so why so secretive? All the reasons above and more. What both X and H were interested in is how far down it is buried – it is now something I don’t talk about, or if I do, dispassionately as if it had happened to someone else. To both of them I was able to say, because I was lucky, despite desperately wanting children, I was aware that neither of these men would make good fathers, and because it was just me I was able to get out, and despite hitting rock bottom, able to pull myself back up again and escape.
What I can’t imagine for both H & X and the 1,000’s of women with children who like them who have actually been strong enough to survive a domestic violence situation and get out, is how they cope with having to see their abuser week in week out. I pride myself on being strong, but their strength is phenomenal