The Dark Side of Valentines Day

It’s the dark side behind the romance of Valentines Day, that the card manufacturers and gift companies don’t like to mention.

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A significant increase of violent domestic incidents occurs around holidays and special events.

Emotional pressure, expectation, financial strain and the consumption of alcohol are more likely to lead to perpetrators causing harm to their victims.

Womens Legal Services report a spike as high as 46% in calls following Valentines Day.  Men are also statistically more likely to experience abuse at the hands of a partner around this time.  Romantic, huh?

Women’s Aid defines domestic abuse as an incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading and violent behaviour, including sexual violence.  New Mankind, who support men facing abuse, offers a similar definition.

The problem is, that for both genders, domestic assault still carries huge stigma and as a result often goes unreported.  Especially if you’re older and have perhaps been in the situation for a long time, you might feel it’s just ‘too late’ for you.

Womens Legal Services report a spike as high as 46% in calls following Valentines Day.  Men are also statistically more likely to experience abuse at the hands of a partner around this time.  Romantic, huh?

Domestic violence survivor *Lisa is sharing her story this Valentines Day in the hope that such victims understand that it can change – you just have to be brave and make it happen.

When do you know you are a victim?

“I would like to say I am an intelligent, hardworking woman and confident as my role as a Mother and in my career.

“However I was also a victim of domestic abuse for over 10 years and didn’t realise.

“What is domestic abuse? Or rather, what did I think it was. My understanding of domestic abuse was portrayed many years ago in large black and white posters of women with black eyes, tear streaked faces, and hair a mess.

“To my young mind, these woman staring back at me were weak victims who should just  ‘get out’ of their situations. I didn’t feel any sympathy and could not relate to it. I was strong, powerful and independent.

“It would never happen to me.

“I was so wrong

“I was single and had come out of a long-term relationship. I met him through work which involved some travelling and competitive events.

“He was utterly charming, we became a couple until I found out he was to be married! I broke it off but he pursued me with calls and texts – even on his Wedding day.

“His persistence won me over, but he was leading a double life – even when I was pregnant he was living with his wife and me, making excuses that he was away with work etc.

“I left him again and the pattern continued.  Eventually, he and his wife separated for good –  I thought it was a fresh start when his divorce came through and he asked me to marry him.

“There was never any ‘one’ incident that marked that descent into abuse. It was all very gradual, he moved me away from friends & family, he corrected the way I spoke and mocked my accent.

“He texted and called up to 30 times a day sometimes. He bought me clothes ( his choice) and he wanted sex all of the time.

“You might wonder why didn’t I leave him? It was simply because I loved him, I didn’t see anything was wrong;  I genuinely thought I was the problem, and he made me believe this. My fault – so why would I tell anyone. I doubled down on efforts to be ‘better’.

“He had moulded me. I did have doubts after our second child, he started drinking heavily, I was constantly walking on egg shells.

“By now real violence was regular. He was so calculating in his nastiness towards me. His rages involved dragging me by the hair, hitting me over the side of the head ( so no bruises would show ), kicking me, pushing me over and smashing things in front of me and the children.

“I stayed now because I was scared and also I honestly thought he would change. It’s so true when women say ‘99% of the time he is lovely’, but that’s how they get you to stay – after all if they were awful all of the time, and you had no hope, it would much easier to go.

“After each episode of abuse he would become the perfect Husband giving me flowers and gifts and being romantic, it was so confusing and my confidence was gone.

“Months turned into years and the abuse continued. Friends avoided coming to the house and I didn’t go out unless it was with him, or if I did he would constantly text or phone.

“The final straw came after he attacked me and was going to shove a glass in my face but for the fact our son had woke and was screaming for him to stop.

I actually thought he was going to kill me.

“It wasn’t until two days later while at work something in me snapped and I called Women’s Aid. They were sympathetic and kind and encouraged me to report the incident to the Police.

“I did, he got arrested. After making my statement and reading it through I finally, absolutely realised I was a victim of domestic abuse.

“I joined a group called The Freedom programme where I met other women who had become experienced similar abuse.

“It taught me so much about who I’d been living with. Women’s Aid supported me for two years.

Police, Social services and my children’s schools were involved. This sounds scary, but honestly, it was the best thing that could happen.  It needed to happen to make sure nothing worse occurred and I was never tempted back.

“Domestic abuse does not just affect you it affects your family, friends and work. As I started to heal I realised how much I’d lost.

“The children and I moved home and schools, we are now near family and friends and could not be happier. I just wish I’d done it sooner.

“Victims of domestic abuse need to understand that they are victims. If you are in a situation like this or know someone who is, seek support and encourage them to find help. Only the victim can make the hard decision to leave, its definitely not easy but it may save their life and the lives of their children.”

*names changed to protect identities

For support with Domestic Violence contact the domestic violence helpline, 0808 2000 247.
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