Spoiler alert…I think, I don’t know, as usual I’ve just started writing and I don’t where I’m going with it. I just need to write.
I’m watching Maid on Netflix, it’s amazing and has me gripped, it was recommended by a friend and I’ve loved it. It’s just everything I needed to see, it’s women’s empowerment, it’s overcoming adversity, it’s the challenges and dysfunctional unfair systems of support for homelessness and domestic abuse victims. It’s just a story that I could connect with. I cheered, I cried and I felt it all, it reminded me of where I was and how far I’ve come.
Now my situation was nowhere near as bad as Alex’s, I didn’t sleep on the floor with my daughter in a ferry station, I didn’t have to get my mother sectioned after she self harmed. But I did hide abuse, I did think people wouldn’t believe me, I did feel trapped and I did walk out without a plan just a need to get me and my daughter somewhere safe. I did face people telling me I was wrong for leaving my abuser, I did face people enabling him to hurt me more and I did have to fight to build my life back up. Most importantly, I had to fight my own fear like Alex did, I still do.
One day I will write and tell my story, it needs to happen for several reasons, because someone reading might find strength in my words, because I will find some closure in telling it and because people need to understand more about the cycle of abuse and how easily people can slip into those relationships and situations without even realising until it’s almost too late. Because it just needs telling, we need to stop silencing ourselves about issues that need preventing and stopping. The post is there, half written in my drafts and I muse over it from time to time, reading it, writing a little and my finger hovering over the publish button, but I’ve yet to click it. Something just doesn’t feel right just yet and watching Maid made me realise what.
As a society we still don’t recognise abuse for what it is. We see domestic abuse as violence, it’s hitting, it’s kicking, punching and whatever else abuser physically do to hurt someone. But it’s not just that, hiding bruises and black eyes with make up and long sleeved t-shirts for work were the easy part. I could reel off a tall tale about my then step son accidentally whacking a tennis ball at me whilst playing in the garden to put someone off when they asked how I got the green, purple and black explosion on my bicep, that was easy, it became part of my facade of a happy marriage. What was hard was the sneaky emotional and underhand ways I was coerced and controlled. What was hard was the manipulative behaviour that chipped away at me over time, that lost me confidence, positive behaviour traits, healthy lifestyle habits, cost me friends and lost me money. That was the hard part, the abuse that’s had to see and prove, the abuse that can actually paint you as the victim in a bad light when in reality you’re being belittled and suppressed. When you’re going through what the character Alex goes through.
Emotional abuse is in reality how it starts, then it gradually gets worse and it becomes physical and that’s what Maid highlighted for me and that’s why I loved it. It showed how the emotional abuse is the hardest, the most dangerous and what it can lead to. It showed the long lasting effects of it but most importantly how hard it is to pin point and quantify. It demonstrated how the system doesn’t support emotional abuse survivors enough, it doesn’t recognise it well enough and often plays into the hands of the abuser. My work with women’s aid has shown me this, how despite leaving some victims are still subjected to the coercive, bullying behaviour of their abuser because of flaws in the system that is supposed to support them. It’s hard and painful to watch but we are slowly moving away from this and luckily just like Alex, more and more victims are able to recognise emotional abuse and find the strength and courage to fight for their physical and emotional freedom.
Oh wait a minute, I describing Alex, I’ve described me. So as much as my situation was different to Alex’s and as I watched I could see that I was lucky in terms of having a better support network and places to put a roof over my head, but then again I wasn’t lucky. I had to do the same as her, I had to find the same resilience, strength and courage as her. I had to muster up the determination and persistence to fight to get my life to where it is now. So as much as the practicalities of our situations were different, the fearlessness it too were the same.
There’s a scene where Alex is on the floor of the refuge and another women shouts at her to get up and get angry and I felt it. I got it. Because that’s what I had to do, I had to get angry to be able to get strong and save me and my daughter. I needed to get some fire in my belly and pull myself together and stop crying about how bad my life was. I had to get angry to get happy again. I loved that scene, it was so true and a message I needed to hear when the abuse was at its worst and I couldn’t find a way out.
Another poignant scene was in one of last episodes, in group therapy where they all write and talk about their happiest moments and remembered mine. It was a couple of days after walking out, it had been a traumatic weekend involving police, arrests and sneaking back into my home whilst my ex wasn’t there to get some basic essentials like clothes, nappies and toothbrushes. I’d been on the phone to my local domestic violence service and a solicitor, they were helping me find ways to ensure we could be safe. They were helping me get paperwork in place and my happy moment was walking across the town centre in between solicitor and court appointments, collecting bank statements to help me prove my legal aid so I could get the orders to keep us safe. My ex-husband was ringing for the hundredth time that day trying to threaten and frighten me into returning to him, blissfully unaware as I diverted the call to voicemail, that I wasn’t going back and was actually putting one of the most important measures in place to ensure my freedom. I walked across the high street with the sun beaming down, it was May, there was spring breeze, everyone else was bustling about their Tuesday afternoon business whilst I was giddy, almost cheering to myself. Because I was finally free, I’d done it, I’d walked away and was getting papers signed to keep me free forever. I had butterflies in my tummy because I was nervous and scared but free, oh so free. That was my happy moment. That’s what I’d have said on Maid.
Watch Maid, it’s real, it’s raw and it’s oh so good because Alex gets free, she fights and she gets free and gets her life just like she wanted.