When Did You Last Beat Your Wife?

March 19, 2013 1:38 pm

As I grew up, I learned how much domestic violence there was around me. The earliest incidence I recall was from our next door neighbours.

Domestic Violence

There were constant arguments. She drank. He worked shifts in the local Rolls Royce factory. Whenever we heard raised voices, mum or dad would lower the volume on the TV and we had instant kitchen sink drama unfolding through the wall.

One night, it got out of hand. The man finally cracked and lost control after one taunting tirade about some ‘other woman’ at work. We heard his shouts, the screams of their kids. Something got smashed.

My dad and my oldest brother went round. They brought the woman back. Her face was bloody. She was crying. It was shocking. She was never the same after that. She faded into a blur of alcohol. Her husband carried on as normal.

It was the topic of conversation in our house for days, prompting my mother to tell dad: “You’d never do anything like that to me. If you did, well, you’d have to go to sleep sometime…”

Fat lip

Time moved on. I heard of other people, often family members, being perpetrators or victims of domestic violence. A male cousin cheated on his wife. He kicked her out and fired his air rifle at her as she struggled down the path with a few hurriedly gathered belongings and their small child.

In my teens, I had occasion to give a friend a fat lip when I walked in on him as he was beating his girlfriend up again.

Some women I met were on the re-bound from abusive relationships and they told me pitiful stories of cruelty, how the cycle of abuse began, proceeded, peaked then started all over again.

I encountered one of these ‘exes’ who was determined to win ‘his’ woman back and saw me as the only obstacle. This guy saw my laid back nature as a weakness and did his level best to intimidate me. I was in the local Sainsbury’s. He stood behind me in the queue. He could have gone to any other check out but he chose mine. I ignored him. He followed me outside. I felt his eyes burning into the back of my head as I made my way over to my battered Cortina. I looked up and he was stood across the car park, staring. Maybe it was relief, I don’t know, but I gave him the finger as I opened my car door.

He vaulted over the barrier and strode towards me. I was in the car, starting her up, except it wouldn’t start! Bugger. Sitting inside a vehicle made me vulnerable and he might have taken it out on the body work. I got out to meet him.

I leaned on the open car door. He started to berate me. He dug his digit hard into my chest and told me what he was going to do to me. I swiped his hand away and he lunged at me. He got me in a head lock and proceeded to punch me in my kidneys. Wiry little me, I managed to perform something like a judo throw on him – don’t ask me how – and down we went together. We rolled on the broken tarmac of the car park. I distinctly remember a slow-moving car gently diverting around us as we grappled on the ground.

I got up first and, as he struggled to his feet, I gave him a kick to the head and he went down.

“Don’t get up or you’ll get another,” I told him, breathing hard.

He got up slowly, brushing himself down. His body language told me he was less keen now.

“So, stay out of my way or you’ll get it off me,” he said.

You’re  the one who’s bleeding,” I said. He was too. There was a slight cut on his forehead. “You don’t mind beating a woman up but when it comes to a man, it’s a different story, isn’t it?”

He kept away from us after that. Over the previous twelve months, he had stared malevolently at us whenever we were out. He once spat at his ‘ex’ when she had been shopping in town. He had blackened her name to all their mutual friends. A few weeks later, his story was all over the front page of the local paper. He had taken an overdose and his father was blaming the council for not finding them a house and that was why their marriage had fallen apart, according to him. Some people will go to any lengths. He even got the medics to phone her and tell her that he was asking to see her. She didn’t go.

Closer to home

domestic-violence

Another friend of mine used to treat his wife like shit for the 14 years of their marriage. He never used violence, some don’t have to. He was abusive, controlling and only had to lose his temper, shout, throw a few things, humiliate her in front of everybody, to get his way. I remember once, at their house, he couldn’t find a pen. He looked everywhere. He took out each drawer he could find and emptied the contents on the floor. She trailed behind, scooping it all up.

She left him in the end. He found out she was seeing one of his oldest friends. There was a period when he thought he might win her back. She would come to visit their son. He had been snatched back when she had left with him. Oh, no, she wasn’t having the boy. He was his property and if she wanted to see him she would have to come to the house. Well, all of a sudden, he was house proud. He cleaned the place from top to bottom to try and convince her he had changed. She saw through all that. This went on for a few years until the son was old enough to move in with his mother.

In the meantime, my ‘friend’ had another relationship. She was a woman who saw what he was and ended their relationship. He used to walk his dog at night and stand in a field at the back of her house. He would stare at her windows to see whether he could detect the presence of another man. And so he went on. He descended into a world of drink and drugs. Under the influence, he attacked me once and our friendship ended. The last I heard, he was living in somebody’s garden shed, hooked on crack.

A few years later, domestic violence came closer to home. My sister was married to an ex-soldier. They had three kids. He had left the army and settled in Civvy Street. He was a hard worker but he drank and he gambled. Whenever I visited, you couldn’t get a word in. It was all about him. He didn’t like me. I used to challenge his racism. Someone once said: “Scratch a racist and you’ll find a sexist.” Makes sense. He was a racist and displayed little respect for my sister.

When I moved away, word reached me their marriage was in trouble. My widowed mother told me she had phoned the police when my sister and her kids came round from their house in their pyjamas. My sister had been dragged by her hair down the stairs and beaten. This wasn’t the first time. It started when she had decided to go to college and better herself. He didn’t like it. He couldn’t understand why she thought his ‘bringing home the bacon’ wasn’t enough.

My mother said to me: “If your father was still alive, he’d go round there and sort him out.”

Trouble was, this guy used to box for the army, so I resisted the urge to intervene. I thought calling the law was a much better idea.

The police arrested him when she agreed to press charges. He received a restraining order which he broke on several occasions. He got at her through the kids. He told one daughter, a thirteen year old, she was ‘a slag like her mother’. To the older daughter, 15, he said she ‘was a fucking dirty lesbian’. He was a real charmer. Funnily enough, when he found another woman, the abuse died down. He obviously had another ‘project’ to work on.

Ultimate control

The most tragic case was a female cousin, Linda. She married a man called Phil Mitchell (the only faintly amusing thing about this story). They were happy for a while. They had four young children aged 6 – 8, two of them twins. I heard they had separated but didn’t keep up with family news much. One night, I watched the regional TV news. A family photo flashed on the screen: “That’s my cousin Linda,” I said.

Mitchell had been a weekend dad for some time. He’d picked up all four kids and taken them out for the day. By eleven that night, Linda was concerned enough to phone the police. They were found the next morning by staff at the factory where he worked. His car engine was gently turning over. A hose had been fixed to the exhaust. The father and all four kids were asleep…forever.

It was the ultimate control. “If I can’t have you, you can’t have the kids…”

********

DV poster

What is domestic violence? It’s physical, emotional, sexual, mental abuse which takes place in a close relationship. Most abuse is by men over women and is rooted in the idea of male dominance and control within the family.

Domestic violence affects women regardless of class, race, age, disability or lifestyle. Abuse can also take place in gay and lesbian relationships and is occasionally perpetrated by women against men.

Some facts about domestic violence:

  • One in four women will experience domestic violence at some time in their lives
  • Two women are killed by their partner or former partner per week
  • A woman is raped, stabbed or beaten every six seconds
  • There are more animal sanctuaries in Britain than refuges for women fleeing domestic violence

(Information: Campaign Against Domestic Violence (CADV) Tel. 020 8520 5881; e-mail: enquiries@cadv.org.uk)

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