A writer has bravely shared her story of domestic violence at the hands of her husband; “Shelley” also proudly looks at the future change in this country.
Domestic violence is a relevant topic right now. The attention it is getting is long overdue, and I can only hope that there will be an improvement of some kind, because little has changed since I personally endured it.
It was the 1950s when I became a victim of domestic violence. The years since have not helped to remove the memory of my feelings at the time. I was the mother of two very young children and I was living far from the town I was born and raised in. My family and friends were not close, and many times I felt isolated and miserable.
In hindsight, I realise that I fit the pattern for violence to occur. Young and immature, I crumpled into a heap when I should have stood up to my husband and let him know right from the outset, I wasn’t going to tolerate such disrespect. Instead, I became more and more fearful of him. He did a job on me. At first there was the humiliation, then I was kept short of money, even though I was working, and placed all my earnings into a joint bank account.
Before the physical violence, there were many years of him scoffing at the way I looked, the way I spoke, and in many ways he let me know that he was superior to me. I held very little value at all. Any ideas I put forward were brushed aside as being worthless. After the first two years of marriage, I gave birth to my first child, a girl. A couple of years later, another girl. The violence by then had become physical to the point where he tried to strangle me. By that time, I left him.
We went to court for custody and maintenance, which was granted by the court. My husband appealed the decision and my custody and maintenance rights were quashed. The judge told me that according to a law passed in 1912, I was goods and chattel of my husband, and I should now go home with him and work on a reconciliation.
This meant that I was left wide open for my husband to come and take my eldest child from me, which he did so. Thankfully no harm came to her but it took me four years to get her back, and that was only due to my husband being convicted of a criminal offence. He was given a seven-year sentence.
Many people wonder why women stay and put up with such treatment. For the most part, fear. Vulnerability and being kept short of money are very powerful ways to keep a woman from enjoying her life. Itemised accounts were required when clothing was to be purchased for the children, but clothing for me was never on the agenda.
By that time, I was completely lost. A vegetable had more get up and go than I did.
There were very many more incidents to which I could refer. To cut a long story short, however, I endured my unhappy situation for almost ten years. By then my self-esteem was non-existent and at one stage I teetered on the point of suicide.
Women are not equal in this society.
If we were, we would not be collectively trying to change the situation. We know that we are strong, courageous and quite clever in many ways. We are intelligent and resourceful and to be recognised as such; we must stand up for ourselves and command our rights as equal partners sharing our lives.
We need to declare ourselves as worthy.
We need to put those men who are violent toward women on notice, and let them know that we won’t put up with it any longer.