Coercive Control

Eight years ago I was going through the process of divorcing my then husband. I divorced him on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour. I had spent many years subjected to his emotional abuse. I was lucky that on the number of occasions that I had to call the police to the house or I went to the station to report a particularly nasty incident. The police were very understanding and didn’t just dismiss my complaints against my husband. Even after our divorce, when he was no longer living at the marital home (by court order) he was still subjecting me to harassment.

I am glad to say that he no longer behaves that way towards me. I don’t have much contact with him, for which I am glad, but when we do speak on the phone it is usually very civil. He is in contact with our sons which is as it should be. They are young adults themselves now, they don’t need me to make arrangements for them.

In recent days there have been reports in the news that The Home Secretary is about to announce new powers against non violent abuse. In theory I can only say that this is a good thing. However I have mixed feelings about all this.

I guess I should be jumping for joy that now (or at least soon) it won’t just be the people who use their fists to control their partner but also those who employ mental abuse, who can be convicted for their actions. Don’t get me wrong I am really pleased that mental abuse is being recognised as damaging to those subjected to it. You no longer have to wait for the abuse to turn physical, you don’t need to have bruises as evidence of suffering.

I know that those in authority want victims of this kind of abuse to come forward. Nobody should suffer the way so many do. I have been hearing and reading that this could lead to abusers receiving up to 14 years in prison. This is what worries me. I wonder to myself, will this encourage victims of abuse to come forward? I am not so sure that it will.

My own feelings about this are that when I was going through the misery caused by my then husband, I wanted him to stop, I wanted to escape from the whole situation. What I didn’t want was for the father of my sons to be put away in prison. I wanted a better life for myself and our children. I wanted peace, safety and my sanity back. That didn’t mean that I wanted my husband behind bars, I just wanted him to leave me alone.

Today I had time to think about all this and I asked myself the question. If at the time of our divorce, the police had had the powers that reports state will be vested on them in the next few months, would I have wanted my husband to be convicted of Coercive Control? I am not sure I can answer that. I was in a very desperate state and needed things to change. If that had been the only way to escape, to give my children a more peaceful life. Maybe. Maybe not. I was already depriving him of our home and our children. Would these new laws have encouraged me to report the abuse, I don’t think so.

We already have laws regarding physical abuse but that doesn’t mean that every victim of physical abuse will report it. Why would this be any different? What we want is protection from our partners, we want to stop looking over our shoulder, waiting for the next punch, insult, controlling device. We don’t always want our abuser locked away. Our children deprived of their other parent.

I do want the victims/survivors of emotional abuse to be given the same protection by the law as those who suffer physical abuse. I just don’t think that the promise of a jail sentence is an incentive to persuade sufferers to report their abuse.

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Age, we all have one or two

I am not well, nothing serious just a common cold but it is miserable. I was up coughing/nose blowing every 10 minutes sometimes 20 minutes throughout the night. My nose is red from all the tissues that have been wrapped around it as the hours crept by. Finally I slept for an hour until about 10am. Waking up, I came to the realisation that today is November 13th. My youngest brother was born in  the early hours of November 13 1964.

We are not friends on facebook but I endeavoured to leave him a birthday wish. For which he thanked me saying that he is finding it hard to get his head around being 50. It has come as something of a shock to me that the youngest of our mother’s children is now 50. There are three of us, myself the eldest and my two brothers. It’s funny but I always think of myself as still being 17. similarly my youngest brother will always be 12 in my mind, yet our middle brother has always been the age he is at the time. He is not stuck in the past in my mind.

I remember once my mother was telling me that she had been asked about her children and it had been a hard realisation that all three of us were over 30. I wonder how she feels to now have 3 three children in our 50s.

My mother is now in her 70’s, but apart from her mobility problems following various knee ops adding to her MS problems, to me she is still in her 50s. She is still the same person she was when I was a young mother of 4 boys.

Much to his disgust Owl turned 60 earlier in the year, but although I know how old he is I have to remind myself that he is not a young man. His health and fitness at the moment are probably the best they have been since I first met him. I look at him and see this man with a good head of dark brown hair. You have to look really closely to see that he does have perhaps a dozen grey hairs on his head. This of course adds to the illusion of youth, that and that I can’t believe I am married to a man near to retirement age. Especially when the toddler behaviour surfaces from time to time (less frequent now than a year ago).

I guess having a semi retired husband is a constant reminder to me that I am getting older myself. I am not the young girl that my head thinks I am.

Happy 50th birthday little brother.

Life in a mirror

Recently I did something that I couldn’t believe I was doing. It was a Wednesday evening and I had just arrived at a meeting of the Writers Circle that I now belong to. The meeting hadn’t yet begun, the last few stragglers were taking their seats. It was announced that due to personal reasons our Treasurer was resigning after 15 years. A request was made for a volunteer to take up the mantle.

That was when I heard it. It was my voice, and the words, not unfamiliar, were not what I expected to hear coming from my own mouth.

‘If nobody else wants to do it I will.’

It didn’t make me feel good, I had misgivings about this. Although I had done it before, twenty years ago I was the treasurer of our local Playgroup. I was worried about having other people’s cash in the house whilst we were struggling financially ourselves. Over the last couple of weeks since we sold our car, our own situation has become more relaxed. I began to feel better about my new role.

This weekend I called round to visit my predecessor for the handover of all the Treasurer’s paraphernalia. We chatted for several hours. We didn’t spend much time discussing the Writing group. Instead we talked about our own lives.

I had never imagined that I would meet another person whose life was such a mirror of my own life. She has lived my past, she has lived my current life. She is living my future.

It is strange but the revelations that came about through our conversation are both scary and at the same time comforting.

The difference a year makes

This time last year things between us were not good. We had been married for a whole 6 months. When we married I felt happier than I ever remember being in my life. Three months into our marriage we had our wonderful honeymoon in California. But within days of returning home things began to go wrong. My husband was not himself, he was showing signs of dementia or so I thought. However it turned out to be a mixture of anxiety attacks, and an over indulgence in secret vodka drinking.

The anxiety attacks were dealt with by the taking of anti depressants. The alcohol abuse is an ongoing situation, but at least I now know what I am dealing with. At the time I was extremely angry, I felt that I could not trust my husband. I felt betrayed.  More than anything I was angry with myself for not realising what had been going on.

Owl still drinks but, we never go out to the pub anymore. Back in March Owl had a fall in the road  due to his legs giving way. His alcohol level had dropped. I took him to hospital with a cut head and broken hand. There he was given some medication to replace the alcohol he hadn’t had. He was promised help by the hospital clinic. This didn’t materialise other than one appointment where he was told that he is a binge drinker and should cut down for a week then stop. Ha ha what planet did that advice come from.

Anyway, for a time Owl was not able to do much at all. Gradually though he has become stronger and fitter. He has been very busy working in our garden doing all the things he should have done last year but wasn’t in the right place to do anything much except sleep.

The shed that I bought for him last year was finally erected. Owl began by making it stronger in places by making wooden braces. He painted the shed forest green.shed 1  shed 3 before adding fixtures for everything to go inside, there is a purpose build space for everything that goes in there.IMG_1944 then he painted the old shed green to match the new one. IMG_1947 the back gate was also painted green to match. This also involved taking off the ironmongery to be painted black.back gate When he had done that he reorganised the space near to the back gate which meant adding a hanging basket bracket to the wall as a hose tidy.under magnolia tree Once all this had been done he turned his attention to the hedges that he had hired someone to cut a few weeks prior. He was not happy with the way they were looking. He spent the next couple of weeks cutting the hedges by hand. hedge 1 now he is simultaneously working on the five bar gate and taking up the decking at the front of the house.hedge 3 Oh and I nearly forgot he has painted all the fences under the hedges and along the outside of the house.

None of these things would have been possible a year or even 6 months ago. I am so pleased with the progress he is making. I am also pleased that he has even begun to apply for work outside the home. Ok so I have been applying for jobs on his behalf but he has sent his CV to some places too. Step by step we are getting back to where we should be.

Better than before

I recently discovered Betternotbroken a fellow blogger who has escaped from an abusive relationship. I have only read a few of her posts one of them being four sly abusive tactics. Reading this post I recognised these signs although at the time I hadn’t figured them out.

Sleep derivation, yes I was subjected to that, I would be asleep when he came into the room shook me awake and began talking (rambling about anything) if I started to fall asleep again he would shake me again “I’m talking to you.” This would sometimes go on for hours even though all he was doing was going round and round in a circle telling me the same things over and over.

He would insist that I join him in the pub, or often it would be to collect him from the pub. I would end up sitting at a table with our boys for hours on end whilst he talked to his ‘mates’. Sometimes he would buy me an orange juice but he wouldn’t bring it to me. He would be too busy having a conversation with one of his fellow drunks. He would have the same conversation with each mate as they came in. Everyone in the pub knew who I was, I knew most of their faces, I also knew their names because he talked about them a lot, I wasn’t sure which name belonged to which face though. I couldn’t make a scene in front of all his mates, what would they think of me. He was very popular, everyone liked him.

How many times did he tell me how much he fancied the barmaid, he could give her one! It didn’t matter where we were but if he saw a good looking woman, he could always give her one. It didn’t matter that he was married and his wife was there. There was one woman who was a regular in the pub, she was not good looking, she was another drunk, she also had a downs syndrome daughter. (I did feel sorry for her to a degree). My husband would spend far more time talking to her buying her drinks, than he ever did me or our children. (I wasn’t totally surprised when they began living together after we divorced).

When I turned 40 I decided that yes I did want to have a party, not to celebrate being 40 but to celebrate being alive, I had been in remission for a year. I asked my husband to organise it. At the last minute he booked the function room at the pub, I would have preferred somewhere else but that didn’t matter as long as my family and friends were there. He managed to stay for an hour.  He didn’t even go next door to the bar, he went home!

Slow sabotage. He would tell me that I was fat, and yes I had put on weight after having his children. Whenever he felt guilty for spending too much time in the pub, he bought me chocolate, even though I was trying to diet. On mothers day or my birthday, he bought me chocolate (often end of date, price reduced). He would often produce lovely sweet desserts for me to eat, if I failed to eat it all, I didn’t appreciate the effort he had made for me. So although he told me that I was fat he did everything he could to stop me for losing weight. For many years I was told that I was ” Fat, stupid, ugly, with a  brain like a sieve.” I was lucky to have him as nobody else would have me. I couldn’t wear make up or have nice clothes, I lived in baggy t-shirts, sweatshirts and jogging trousers. After our marriage ended I began wearing nice clothes again. Now I prefer skirts to trousers.

When the children were very small I had a number of part time jobs. In theory he would come home from work and I would go to work. Only this didn’t actually happen. Sometimes he would be late home (because he had stopped for a drink) so I would be late getting to work. Other times he didn’t come home, instead I would have to ring in sick or have a reason for not going to work. Gradually I realised that because of him I was slowly becoming unemployable. Who would want to employ me when I couldn’t be relied upon to turn up on time if at all.

There were other ways that he undermined me, like constantly telling me that my friends were not nice people and they were just using me. I shouldn’t trust my friends. If he came home and found that I had a friend with me he either went to the pub or else hid upstairs in our room until they had gone. He was making my friends feel guilty for being there. Gradually most of my friends stopped visiting.

In the days before I had a mobile phone, my husband would phone me from work numerous times each day. He was checking that I was ok. I couldn’t go anywhere without telling him. If I was late getting home from the school run because I had chatted to one of my friends on the way home he would know, because I wasn’t there when he called. When I got my first mobile phone he was able to call me wherever I was. It didn’t matter where I was, for whatever reason, he would be constantly phoning me. When I was out with my mother she would get so fed up with the phone calls that she would tell me to turn the phone off. Of course I never could.

By this time the only times I ever went out without the boys was with my mother. If I was going out for any reason and needed my husband to look after our sons, he would be out until I was due to leave. I would be panicking that he wouldn’t get home in time for me to go.

When I was out ie my mum’s graduation, he would call me with an emergency that meant I had to rush home. I only ever went out 2 or 3 times a year.  (not including day to day stuff).

All this stuff was just how my life was day to day, nothing major, there was no violence, just slow drip drip control, separate and defeat. Once I finally had enough and managed to bring our marriage to an end (the abuse intensified for the 7 months were we under the same roof). It was a difficult time but I fought so hard to get out of that situation.

Moving forward a few years, I was at a party with a friend, when I met Keith. I liked him and we swapped email addresses and phone numbers. By the time I got home he had text me and emailed me. Over the next week or so we exchanged emails and text messages. We talked about meeting up the following weekend. Then he asked me why my marriage had ended. I told him that my husband had been emotionally abusive. Keith then admitted to me that he had been emotionally abusive to his wife, in the end she killed herself. ( He was a respected member of his local community). We talked about my husband and I said that I didn’t think my husband was aware of what he was doing to me. Keith told me that my husband knew exactly what he was doing. I declined to get involved with Keith. I had fought so hard to get out of my marriage that there was no way I was going to put myself back in that situation, especially knowing in advance what he would be like. Oddly he still thought I would go out with him. It took weeks of ignoring his messages before he finally left me alone.

 

Getting back on track

I have done two things this weekend that are getting me back on track.

Firstly, I have made a decision to do something that I first did 19 years ago.  When my then husband found out what I was doing he was furious. He thought I was trying to do something to him. He believed I was set on ruining his life.  He just couldn’t see that what I was doing was for me and the children. I was taking care of us. I was making it possible to stay in our marriage. So what was this thing that I had done? I went to Al Anon. For those fortunate enough not to know what that is. Al Anon is a worldwide group set up for the families of alcoholics. Just like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) it is anonymous but instead of helping alcoholics with their addiction, supporting them as they manage without alcohol.

Al Anon is a support group for the wives/husbands/parents/siblings and children of alcoholics.

Al-Anon Family Groups hold regular meetings where members share  their own experience of living with alcoholism. Al-Anon does not offer advice or counselling, but members give each other understanding, strength and hope.

When I took the decision to go to Al Anon, all those years ago, I was in a deep despair. I was pregnant with my fourth child, my husband was drinking heavily and our finances were in trouble. I wanted desperately to leave but I had no money and nowhere to go. If I couldn’t go, then I had to do something to make life easier.  First I sought help from an alcohol and drug abuse councellor. He told me that as I was not the one with the addiction he couldn’t help me but he advised that I had to make a choice. Either leave my husband or if I chose to stay then I must learn to take care of myself and my children and let my husband look after himself. This I actually found easier to do that I had expected. For years his drinking had been the centre of life for all of us not only him.

Anyway, I went along to weekly meetings for about six weeks before he cottoned on to where I had been going. During these weeks I learnt about The Serenity Prayer which has become my Creed. Everything that I learnt there stayed with me and helped me to get through the next ten years.

Recently it was suggested to me that maybe Al-Anon could help me in my current situation.  The person who suggested had no idea that I had been before (why should they). I did explain that I had found the meetings a great help in the past. Then I got to thinking about it. I have been coping with the situation with my current husband  but maybe now is a good time to go back to meetings. Maybe I will learn more, perhaps there have been changes in the help and advice that can be given since that time in 1995. I looked up when and where the local meetings are. Yesterday I was in town and walked to the side road where the meetings are held just to acquaint myself  with the venue.

This time I have been upfront about it and told Owl that I intend to go to meetings, I shall be going for my own benefit.

Secondly, a few months ago I took on a proofreading course, partly because I felt that it might help me with my writing. Also there is a chance of adding to my income.  I am midway through the course. I had not touched it for a few weeks for various reasons. This weekend I promised myself that I would get back to it and this afternoon that is what I have done.