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Just arguments or domestic abuse?

Arguments are normal in any relationship – no two people can agree upon everything. But there is a clear line between arguments and domestic abuse, where a normal dispute becomes something more. In this true domestic abuse story, one of our volunteers tells us how fights just seemed like a normal part of her relationship – and how abuse is not always as clear-cut as it seems.


This account contains some scenes of violence that may be upsetting to some people:


I’ve had a black eye and bloody nose, and a chipped tooth from an uppercut punch to the jaw. He’d pull me about by my hair while I curled up on the floor trying to hide my face. Sometimes I’d lock myself in the toilet; he kicked the door in so the lock broke off. I’ve had to barricade myself in our bedroom. I’d push the bed in front of the door so he couldn’t get in, and I’d just sit crying and waiting till he calmed down or fell asleep on the sofa. This usually wouldn’t take too long if he’d been drinking. It would depend on how angry he was.


These episodes only happened when we’d both been drinking, or he had been drinking. We never had a fight like this sober.


One night our neighbour called the police on us. We’d had a huge argument, it got out of control. He hit me several times in the head and face. I had become so frustrated about what was happening I didn’t hit him back. I ended up kicking a mirror, smashing it and cutting my leg up.


He helped me and we started to calm down, then the police turned up. Our neighbour must have let them into the flat because they were right at our door. The police asked us questions, in separate rooms. We both lied. To us, these were stupid arguments that happened when we were drunk. We blamed the booze, brushed everything under the carpet.


At first, I hated my neighbour for calling the police. I felt like she had stuck her nose into our business. What happens in our flat and our relationship is between us, I thought. Then I thought, actually, I don’t think I would have ever called the police – maybe she’d done me a favour. She had raised the alarm and put us on the radar.


I lied to my family about how I had hurt myself. I can’t tell my family about any of it, even now. They wouldn’t understand. They wouldn’t understand why I loved him or stayed with him for as long as I did. They would be upset that I didn’t tell them about it, or didn’t feel able to talk to them about it.

People who have experienced abuse don’t want third parties, whoever they are, to immediately say, ‘why don’t you just leave him?’. Some friends were helpful – they said I could call them up whenever I needed too if I needed to get away. They didn’t get too involved but were there if I needed them, and I was grateful for that. But a few close friends also said these things to me. Yeah ok great, thank you – I appreciate that, but it’s just not that easy.


I loved him and would do absolutely anything for him. When he was sober he would do the same for me. We had some very dark times but we also had some incredible times. It was a very passionate relationship. We spoke about him getting anger management help, which he had been to before but it didn’t seem to work. He would always say that when he got angry he couldn’t control himself – ‘seeing red’ came up a lot. I also believe a lot of his actions were down to alcohol abuse.


I think people need support as third parties to abuse – to help them understand that it’s not as simple as people think it is. A safe place where people can speak about their feelings, and have people listen to them, give third parties a chance to get the support that would be beneficial for all parties involved. Sometimes people don’t know how to react to domestic abuse. But often, people in abusive relationships don’t know how to react either.



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