Assalaamu Alaikum Brothers and Sisters. My name is Julie Lock, I am a revert of 3 ½ years, a survivor of domestic abuse and an advocate for spreading awareness on domestic abuse. I have been a facilitator for almost 8 years now running domestic abuse support groups for women who have or are suffering from DV. We cover definitions of abuse, why it is hard to leave, boundaries, coping with grief, fear and guilt, assertiveness skills, warning sign, healthy relationships and more. The aim of the programme is to give the women some understanding of what they went through, why they have the feelings they do and some skills to help them start their journey of healing, to help them gain their self esteem and self respect back. It is very rewarding, even if in each group
you only help one woman get stronger. And for the last few years I have also been speaking at various events by sharing my story as a survivor to help people have a better understanding of domestic violence.
I was a speaker last year at the City Circle and I am honoured to have been asked to write a blog to highlight and bring more awareness on domestic abuse.
Most women who have never suffered domestic abuse say if their husbands raised his hand to them once they would leave. I was one of those women. I was very strong and had a lot of confidence. I had a lot of friends and was very close to my family, but what many don’t realise is that the Abuse normally begins way before the first hit. Many women have months, sometimes even years of emotional, psychological and verbal abuse before the physical starts. Some never get the physical abuse but it is still abuse.
This is just a small snippet of some of the things I went through. If any of this offends anyone please accept my apologies but there is no other way to explain these events.
Just as most abusers are in the beginning, he was charming and complimentary. I’m not sure when the belittling began, a lot of what I went through is a blur. His nasty comments always started off subtle. But he said things so often that I would start questioning my own judgment and decisions. Slowly but surely without even realizing, he was breaking my confidence and self esteem. I became unsure of myself and it got to the point that it was hard to tell the difference between one day and the next.
He started saying bad things about friends and family, putting bad images and thoughts in my head and making me question things. His behaviour eventually led to my family and friends not coming around or inviting me out. He phoned me constantly throughout the day even when I was with family and friends, much to their annoyance. At first I was flattered but I now know that the real reason for this was so that he knew exactly where I was every minute of everyday.
When I started working, he would say ‘you’re such a beautiful woman. It must be hard for the men you work with to concentrate on their work’ and I would always say I don’t know how they think. I’m just trying to do my job. He would constantly phone me at work, always ending with me in tears having to convince him that I was not acting inappropriately with men at work. I ended up getting a verbal and written warning for his constant calls.
He chose my clothes so that men wouldn’t find me attractive and blamed me if they looked at me. I wasn’t allowed to wear makeup apart from when it was to cover bruises and it didn’t take long for work colleagues to see this. I dreaded going to work and felt embarrassed and ashamed. I felt like people were looking down at me but they weren’t. They were scared for me. He never hit me in public. He timed how long it took me to go anywhere. The weight fell off me. I looked gaunt and pale. I don’t remember smiling much. If anyone talked to me I would make excuses because if I was even a minute late he would be walking up the road to find out where I was and would always accuse me of being with a man. Although he made all these accusations he still wanted me to work because I paid all the bills and expenses and what he earned he kept to himself. As time went on he would get more and more verbally and physically aggressive with his accusations. I always felt ashamed and humiliated. It got to a point people just stopped talking to me. I felt more and more isolated and so was my son.
During our relationship I moved house and I would have to get up about 5 am to iron his clothes and then do the housework and the washing up from the night before. I did this as otherwise I would be accused of looking at people from the windows of the house. The assaults became so often I can’t tell one day apart from a next when I look back. He would make me perform inappropriate intimate acts on him and if I didn’t do them properly he would beat me round the head. He would often beat me so bad that it hurt to move and then expect me to be intimate after. I was terrified that if I didn’t he would beat me again. He would do inappropriate intimate things to me that were disgusting and humiliating. He made me feel dirty and degrading. He would often drag me around the living room by my hair. Washing and brushing my hair was so painful all the time. He would put his hands around my throat and pin me to the fridge and let go just before I passed out.
One day he came home from work and as he was raging, he sent my son straight to his room. I thought something bad must have happened to him at work but then the accusations began. I was terrified, he started smashing up the house. He took my mobile phone and threw it against the wall and it smashed into pieces. He dragged me into the dining room, shoved me on the floor and started kicking me with his steel toes capped boots. He smashed a broom handle over my head and I still have the scars from this. He hit my legs with a hammer missing my knee caps by millimeters. The bruise from that stayed for years. He then told me to stand and strip and he smelt me and my clothes for the smell of a man. I was shaking with fear. I thought I was going to die. He then sent me out into my back garden and locked me out there naked.
He eventually let me back in and sent me to my room where he came and cleaned me up. I was numb with fear. I was too scared to cry in case it set him off again. He cleaned me softly and tenderly. That night even though I could hardly move he wanted to be intimate and I was so scared of being hurt again I lay there and let him do what he wanted. The assault happened on a Friday and I spent the whole weekend in bed. He wouldn’t allow my son to come to me because of how badly bruised I was, instead he told my son I was really sick and needed lots of rest. It was heartbreaking not being able to see my son and sickening listening to him laugh and joke with my son while I lay upstairs. The only time he left my house he took my son with him so that I wouldn’t run away.
On Monday I took my son to school and saw a friend and broke down. I was taken to the police station where I had to go over what he did to me. It was humiliating. I also had to have photos taken of my bruises and I had so many that I had to have them taken in my underwear. I just cried. It was humiliating, I felt ashamed, dirty. Numb.
I left many times and went back until the final time. Each time I left, all I took was my son and the clothes on our backs.
On one occasion I went to the council and was but in a grotty B&B. I was so scared that I moved the bed against the door so no one could come in before we slept. The toilet and shower room was so dirty I was scared to go to the toilet. And the kitchen area, well it was dirtier than the bathroom. As soon as it was light I went back to my abusive husband because at least then my son would be in a clean house. If it was just myself I may have stayed but I very much doubt it. I kept returning to my husband. At first he was always nice but it didn’t take long before he went back to his old ways.
The final time I left again I left with my son and just the clothes on our backs and I was pregnant. Again we went to a women’s refuge. My son and I had to share a room, we had to share a bathroom and kitchen with other women and their children. We spent most of the time cooped up in our small room. It was a very hard time. It was difficult to keep it together, to stay strong but I had to for my son and for the baby in my tummy. I would cry when my son was sleeping as I didn’t want him to see.
When we were finally given a new house he found me and once our daughter was born he began harassing me again. He would turn up to see his daughter but not leave for days. I would go to my bed and hope that he would just leave but he wouldn’t. He would get into my bed. I would be frozen in fear and he would rape me. This went on for months. Until my daughter was about a year old and I don’t know where the strength came from but I locked the house up and wouldn’t let him in. I called the police and sat on the stairs shaking with fear, scared that he would break down the door at any moment. He banged constantly on the door. He jumped my back gate and banged on the back door too. It was terrifying. The police eventually turned up. I told the police what had been happening and they asked if I wanted to press charges for harassment and for rape but I just wanted him gone. From that day I got stronger and stronger. What breaks my heart the most isn’t the physical pain or even the emotional pain that I went through but what my son went through. He was withdrawn and quiet, it took him along time to come out of his shell and trust people again. He lost his friends and he had to change schools four times. My son is now 22 years old and I know it still affects him when he thinks about it. When he thinks about it he says he wishes he had been bigger so that he could have helped me. No child should have to hear or see their mother go through that.
I am one of the lucky ones as I am here to tell my story. Many women don’t survive.
Julie Lock, a speaker at the City Circle, is a survivor of Domestic Violence, facilitator for Womens' Aid running support groups for Women who have or are suffering Domestic Violence.