To whom this letter finds,
It’s been 11 years since I left an abusive relationship and this morning after leaving an email unread for 7 days, I was finally brave enough to open and read it. It was from this incredible woman who reached out to tell me about her domestic violence experience; she said “2 years ago, I had no-one who understood and you were the one person who’s advice and book were so relevant to me, and helped me tremendously in one of the hardest times in my life’. She then attached a letter that she sent to all her friends, who are great people, but who failed to speak up for her when she needed it, because they didn’t know what to do.
Reading her letter, has left me crying on my deck, her words, as if I was reliving my past all over again and had written the words myself. Her strength and vulnerability to share her story with me, has ignited something within me that I think has been missing for awhile.
For the past few months, my whole world has been flipped upside down, a lot of change, even more chaos and I’ve been really struggling to find my spark, I have felt like every time I get a glimmer of it, another curve ball has been thrown my way and I’ve felt a bit lost. Like I had something still to heal from. Until now.
It’s amazing, 11 years later, reading words written by someone else could leave me so touched and inspired. Pieces of myself I thought I had healed still needed to be turned over and worked through.
Looking back, it’s hard to say that I would have followed the same path had I of known what I do now, but it’s also shaped me to who I am today. For all of the pain, heartbreak, struggles, and being beaten down, it’s the strength in finding a way to stand up again, when you don’t think you have any more to give, is what makes us grow. I can now say I’m honestly so proud of the woman I have fought to become.
It hasn’t been easy though. When I met him fifteen years ago, that was when my ability to feel safe was destroyed. My basic human right of safety was taken from me at 17 years old. At the time I didn’t know how bad it would get, but over the next four years he obliterated all of my basic needs and rights of being a human. He made it near impossible for me to ever feel ‘normal’, and to believe that I deserve to be loved in return. For the following years after I lived life debilitated by fear. I’ve fought battles that no-one should ever have to and that most will never even know about, for years well long after he was gone. Yet in the society we live in, he goes on living life seen as a ‘top bloke’.
But it wasn’t all bad, as all great manipulators do they feed your humanness to see the good, with flashes of happy moments and promises that there are better times to come. I was left holding onto hope that my life would get better, continually protecting him throughout it all, after all surely life had to be better than this. Where you feel like you are walking on egg shells dating two people, the charming man the rest of the world sees who makes you believe he is the only person who will ever care about you, and the one who rips every part of your worth from you in a matter of seconds, who uses your insecurities and fears against you. Never did I think though that my strong, independent personality would ever fall victim to a master manipulator, an abusive man, a charming charismatic narcissist, a man who would literally and figuratively suck the life out of me and beat me to rock bottom.
I had no-one. My friends were pushed away, I was isolated from my family, my work colleagues were threatened if they spoke to me and the people who were in contact with us during those 4 years were his friends who never stood up for me. And I’m not saying this to make anyone feel bad. To his friends, he was someone you trusted, who entertained you, who charmed you. He was a ‘top bloke’. And you are all great people, but my world grew a lot darker when you didn’t stand up for me or say anything. My suffering made it impossible to share with anyone the extent of what I went through and my pain, until I was finally brave enough about 2 years ago to speak about it for the first time when I launched my book. And I know no-one is a mind reader, and we were young, but I just hope now that if anyone was to see something even remotely similar they would stand up and step in, even if it made them feel uncomfortable, or if they didn’t know what to do, because even doing something as simple as asking are you ok, it could save someones life. Not just in life and death, but saving them from years of emotional trauma down the track. You have the power to turn someone’s darkness into light, and don’t ever forget that. Turning your back on it, it makes it worse.
I understand that to everyone who knew me throughout the relationship, your opinion of me was based of information you received from him. So when he built this narrative over the four years, that I was depressed, emotionally unstable, jealous and maybe crazy, you had no choice but to believe him. Fuck, he convinced me that’s who I was too. That is why when l finally left him, I had to leave all of you behind as well, and that part of myself as well, because I know that I only had enough energy left to survive. I didn’t have the strength to convince you of the truth, or fight for how you saw me, all I could do is take the last little bit of strength I had and try and rebuild myself from scratch again. To try and find who I actually am, to find something in me to believe in who I am again and what I can offer the world. I didn’t have enough in me to fight to have you on my side as well.
But in all honesty I just needed someone to have my back. To be my friend. To love me for who I am, not what someone made me out to be. To believe me. All things I still want.
A women experiencing abuse can start to believe what the perpetrator says and thinks about her, she may start to believe she is stupid, ugly and fat, which can create life long issues. All of things I was told and believed for a very long time. She may (and will most likely) blame herself for the abuse, I know I did.
The constant criticism lowers a woman's self esteem and confidence, and over time it breaks you, making it very difficult to leave the relationship, you become emotionally dependant on them. Something I still fear to this day being dependant on another person, which has been detrimental to me on occasions. It often also has long-lasting consequences for mental, physical and sexual health, all things I’ve been through. I still struggle with intimacy and trust to this day.
Abuse is everyone’s business and it is preventable. It is also a bigger issue than most are willing to acknowledge and recognise, let alone talk about. It is a topic that isn’t openly spoken about, in fear of being judged, not taken seriously, being made to feel it was their own fault, or in fear of one’s life. To the few people I did open up to briefly, I was told ‘He’s such a great guy, what did you do to him?’. This might seem appalling but it’s actually a common response.
The other thing I’ve heard a lot is, well why didn’t you just leave then. And it’s probably the most hurtful thing someone could say. Not only are more people are concerned with why women stay in abusive relationships than why men are abusing women. But the fact is you don’t stay because you’re in love, you stay because you have become paralysed by fear. I had two hit man hired to kill me, when I left him, literally hiding in a bathroom cupboard one night so I wouldn’t die.
And then you get the naive who say ‘but did he punch you?’ As if that is the only description to abuse that makes it ok. I was hit with a baseball bat, my entire spine bruised for weeks. I was pushed, pulled, dragged, locked into a room, made to go to the toilet in a bucket, called the most horrendous names, my belongings were thrown onto the natures strip if I was 2 minutes late from work, I could go on.
Abuse is never ok - no matter who is doing it or what they do. It’s still domestic violence. You don’t have to die, or be put in hospital. They don't have to hit you, choke you or slam your head into a wall in order for it to be domestic violence. They can degrade you, humiliate you, blame you, scream at you, lie to you, cheat on you, and withhold finances, or even just try to control and manipulate you. It is all forms of abuse and it is not ok.
Every day there are people who are abused by their partners (I know men who have been abused by women as well, it’s all not ok), there are a multitude of ways someone can abuse another, and although I can only speak from my own experience as a woman, as a whole it’s not exactly a friendly world for us to live in, especially in the current society of fuck boys, gas lighters and ghosters. But to the amazing, incredible men out there, who I know personally and are still yet to meet, who value women, who lift and inspire them to be better, who respect the women in their lives, the world would be so much more unfriendly without you, and I am so grateful for your existence. I am thankful for all the good guys, the guys who are loving husbands and fathers, friends and brothers and sons and who are there to restore our faith as humans and to feel love and kindness after the violence or trauma we have suffered. Thank you, you a huge part of what’s helped me heal!
I carried a burden of guilt and shame for a long time, ashamed of who, I was aggressively influenced, to believe I was. The violence my heart has withstood will probably always be there, but it’s important for me to look in the mirror, and remind myself of how far I’ve come, and what I’ve survived. Because here I am, strong as ever, still struggling but moving forward, still healing but kicking ass in a way I never would have imagined for myself. Choosing to live an epic life on the daily no matter my past. And I am not a victim. I am alive, and not only am I a survivor, but I am also in charge of my life now and dedicated daily to continuing to try and do good in this world, and make a positive difference. To leave a positive mark on the world, and the people I come into contact with, making sure that no-one has the ability to break me or the people I love again.
So if you can take anything from this, please stand up for what is right, even when it makes you feel uncomfortable; continue to ask questions like are you ok, to people who you might not even know that need you; be kind always, you never know the battles people are facing behind closed doors; and if you have experienced abuse or are dealing with it currently please know that there is happiness and light at the end of this nightmare and you deserve all the love in the world, no matter what you’ve been told. It’s all going to be ok, you’ve just got to have 10 seconds of insane courage to know you deserve better.
Healing only begins when you start to accept the truth: they are wrong; you did not make them hit you, nor did you make them yell at you. You did nothing to make them belittle you, make you feel less than human or worthless. Nothing you did made that happen. There is nothing that a person can do to deserve being abused. Their actions are purely the result of their own choices. And just because they are a ‘top bloke’ or ‘great chick’ doesn’t mean their friends shouldn’t stand up and call them out on their unacceptable behaviour.
You are a queen, king, someone’s daughter or son, grand daughter, sister, brother, father, mother, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, cousin, friend, hero and no one has the right to make you feel any less that that.
Life is too short, and there are too many epic people, places and memories to be made, so spend each day doing things that make you happy and surrounded by people who make you laugh and feel loved. There is beauty that exists within you even on your darkest day, the strength that the world sees and depends upon, you already have, the courage others who still are suffering in the darkness need to find their own way to their own light, you are showing. You’ve got this. Welcome back to the land of the living, you amazing epic human. The world is a better place to have you in it.
Love Tam xxx