Monday, 11 August 2014

A bit of a rambling

Our internet where we are is not very good, so while I don't have the time to post photos, I thought I'd do a quick cut and paste text only post which is prompted by the Oscar Pistorius case and a “hard hitting” TV drama a month or so ago called “Killed by my Boyfriend”.

How did Riva Steenkamp come to be shot while in the bathroom?

My speculation, is probably biased by my own experience of hiding in a bathroom some 30 years ago.

I have never hidden my story of my abusive first marriage and was once telling a girl I “car shared” with and she told me that having insisted to her parents that she would be OK and could handle it, her own sister had been killed by her boyfriend.

I consider myself to have been very lucky.

I first met Tony when I was 22, he was 24 and I thought I was very lucky to find a boyfriend like him, it was love at first sight. He was a real charmer, good looking, always smartly dressed, always said the right thing, ambitious, self-employed, a perfect gentleman – in public. But privately he was jealous, insecure, was “all talk”, a bit of a “Walter Mitty” and had a warped and sometimes cruel sense of humour. He also had a violent temper, normally when he didn't get what he wanted and particularly when I said I wanted to end our relationship. So the easy thing to do became going along with it and trying not to antagonise him.

The first manifestation of his violence was pretty minor and happened about 4 months into our relationship. We were at a party while visiting my parents some 200 miles from home and I spent too much time talking to a very good male friend of mine. Actually it was Harry, whom I'm still in contact with now. We had been friends since I was 15, purely platonic and nothing more than friends so he was not an “Ex” where there may have been cause for insecurity on Tony's part. Well on the way back to my parents he expressed his displeasure at my behaviour and during an ensuing argument, he hit me, I don't remember where he hit me, but of course there would be no public bruises (I was to learn that later). I was shocked as no-one had ever done that before and I reacted by hitting him back. A quick upper cut under the chin and chipped one of his teeth. I think that shook him!!!! It was all over in a matter of seconds and I thought it was a one-off, I should have been wiser and broken it off there and then, but I would lose face, I'd just told my parents the day before that we were getting married.

The following however, didn't come about because of something bad I did, nor was it in temper.

About a year into our relationship and happened one night whilst we were in bed. There had been no arguments so I was relaxed and could not have foreseen what was to happen next. The bedside light was still on and Tony was on my right side when he put his left arm behind my neck and around my shoulders, holding onto my left shoulder. He then leaned on my right shoulder which effectively held me down on the bed. He then put his right arm across my front, I thought he was being romantic and was giving me a cuddle.

I was totally unprepared for what was coming next.

He put his right hand under the pillow and pulled out the carving knife. With both my shoulders being held down on the bed, he then lifted himself up until the carving knife was pointing straight into my face.

I was horrified and my immediate thought was “If he means this, I'm dead”.

I laid there for what seemed like a lifetime, thinking how the hell was I going to get out of this. The only thing I knew was that I had to keep calm. The silence was deafening and he said nothing at all. I don't think I spoke, I can't remember, I had so many thoughts going through my head. Finally he pulled the knife away from my face, released his grip on me and started laughing.

LAUGHING!!!!! Like it was all a big joke, and that's exactly what it was to him, one big sick joke.

Once I felt I was out of danger, I flew out of the bed and ran for the bathroom as that was the only room in the flat with a lock on the door. I sat in there shaking, wondering what to do next. I was absolutely terrified and really angry, but I knew I had to stay calm. After about half an hour, I was getting cold and I knew I couldn't stay in there forever, so I eventually unlocked the bathroom door and ventured out into the hallway. I opened the living room door (which led to the bedroom and the kitchen) and he had turned off all the lights, the place was in darkness. I had no way of knowing where he was, or what he was going to do next.

I then flew into the kitchen and turned on the lights. By then I was in a rage and had lost my cool, and he still thought this was funny, but then I did say he had a warped sense of humour.

I really don't know what happened next but I can tell you I didn't sleep soundly that night and stupidly I still married him.

WHY you may ask yourself? Simply because I couldn't find a way out of it without:-

  1. Losing face
  2. Running away and leaving my home, friends and job
  3. Being beaten up
This lead to the only time in my life that I have been truly depressed and I know now that this was simply because I couldn't see a way out of my problems, we had already booked the wedding, everything was arranged and the easiest thing to do was to go along with life, don't rock the boat and he only hurt me when I said I wanted to end the relationship, so it would be ok.

About a year later we were married, although to this day I think that if on my wedding day I could have been magic'd away, never to go back I would have gladly taken that option.

As for his violence, well as I said it was normally only provoked by me trying to end the relationship. I felt I could handle it, I was strong, but I was wrong. There was the time when I cowered on the dining room floor two days before we got married saying “Don't hit me, don't hit me”; the reason why I don't like anyone touching my neck; the time he hit me over my head with the heel of his boot and quite a lot more, but finally I realised that I had to get out because I was afraid of what I was actually going to do to him. Then it had to end – somehow, so this was it.

One Friday night, 3 months into the marriage I was driving him home. We had been out separately and I hadn't had any alcohol as I had a 15 mile drive home, he had been drinking with friends. Anyway he decided that he didn't like my driving and we had a row. I don't want to give another long story, so I'll skip his unacceptable behaviour on the way home, but I did think he was going to kill us both if I didn't stay calm and not fuel the argument. When I stopped the car, we both got out (more unacceptable behaviour followed) and I was furious, but we were home safely. I walked up to him and in my “mind's eye” I could see him on the ground with me kicking and punching him, I wanted to hurt him, make him pay and for him never to get up.

Did I actually do this? No, he certainly wasn't worth doing time for and that may have been the outcome.

Instead I walked up to him but I did get in first, I slapped him in the face and said “F**king grow up!” I stood and prepared to defend myself from the fists that would come back. But I was not ready for anything else. He came towards me and actually head-butted me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We'd only been married 3 months. He hit me on my eyebrow, just above my left eye and there's still a dent there now, 30 years later. The force knocked me off my feet and blew me across the bonnet of the car. I was completely stunned.

I won't go into detail about what happened next, but he denied the damage he'd done to my eye, accused me of hitting my head against a brick wall myself. We even went out to dinner with friends the next night, with me not being able to open my eye and he behaved as if nothing was wrong. Our friends must have felt so uncomfortable, I certainly did, I had wanted to hide indoors.

On the Monday I went to work where I was the Secretary to the Marketing Director. As I walked into the office someone said “Wendy's got new glasses.... Oh... Wendy's got a black eye!”. My boss guessed rightly, so did one of the girls, but that's because her boyfriend was also violent. By then I had already resigned from my job and had to start my new job with a black eye, that I hadn't had at the interview.

I was a keen and regular netball player at the time and it was easy to pass it off as a sporting injury, even to my family, so not many people were suspicious or knew the real cause.

I hadn't been brought up with any violence in my family and thought this only happened to “rough” people. I was ashamed and knew after what I had wanted to do to him, I had to get out, I hadn't provoked it at all. I was lucky that we didn't have any children and certainly couldn't consider that in such a volatile environment.

I hardly ate for the next 4 months, which did wonders for my figure, I lived on my nerves. But I eventually wore him down by calmly and at every opportunity insisting that I needed a trial separation. Finally he left, shortly after Christmas. I immediately changed the locks, sat down and suddenly felt hungry for the first time in months – but he took my dog.

I was never alone with him again and I knew he would never touch me if anyone else was present.

Seven years later I had to get him to sign the divorce papers. They had been sent several times and he'd ignored them so I knew I'd have to face him and get them signed there and then. I found out where his “local” was and just turned up one night to the pub, I didn't even know if he would be there and he was not expecting me. I couldn't believe it, he was all smiles as if he was greeting a long lost friend – talk about denial! Ever the charmer. I got him to sign the papers and as I walked out of the door – I shuddered!!!!!! I have never seen him again and never want to.

Of course, my family knew nothing of any of this at the time and for some this might be the first they have ever heard, certainly in so much detail. But then it had to be my decision to end my relationship, not theirs.

If someone, somewhere out there stumbles upon this and it helps, even to help someone understand a loved one who is in a similar situation then it's been worth posting.

1 comment:

  1. Good on you Wendy. Even although it was a long time ago not an easy subject to vocalise because most people's reaction would be to wonder why you didn't walk the first time it happened. Life is never that simple or straight forward.