I’ve only been asked once about my scars, by a new friend whilst on my travels. Lounging by the pool one day, my sleeves rolled up, she trailed her finger down one of them and asked me for my story.
Even now, it’s a story I don’t fully go into. There’s usually a reason for why it’s brought up…it’s not something I feel the need to talk to people about. I choose who I tell and at times it can be the most bizarre of people I confide in. I almost feel sorry for them as the bombshell comes their way. I can see them question every past occasion when they saw my ex, what did they miss, how did they miss it?
“I would never imagine it to have happened to you”. I despise that line. Every person confided in has used it. It’s a line which never serves to make me feel small. It’s a line which makes me wonder why the image I portray to people wasn’t one I had throughout the abuse. Yet violent relationships are complex and can’t be defined simply by a line. Let’s stop belittling those who speak out. Abused woman aren’t the ones you imagine. They aren’t timid, tired looking creatures. They are your everyday street smart, book smart women broken down over time.
There were clues during my marriage if people looked hard enough. A rare text waffling to my brother about how he never checked in. A distressed voicemail to an elder uncle whom I would ordinarily never phone, ignored. Appearing at a family housewarming with swollen eyes, in pain and having spent the hours beforehand crying after being attacked. Marks on my hands and the excuses never really quite adding up. The list of subtleties is endless.
They all missed it. But they’re not to blame. I’m frank with them though so we can try to prevent it happening again. We can’t predict abuse but perhaps this time we can pay more attention to the ones we love. Woman abused don’t shout it from the rooftops begging for help. We don’t appear at family parties with black eyes. For the most part, we aren’t obvious.
We speak in riddles. We hope you’ll ask the questions. The smashed table, the broken light, the cracked television……they all speak about something unspeakable. We are dying a little each day by what is happening. We want help but we are too ashamed to ask.
So when we do find the strength to speak about it, we already know you won’t imagine it to be us…..we know…..because we never expected it to be us either.