I am usually in bed by 10pm but last night, I was up chatting with a friend. She was fuming because someone she knows is constantly being beaten up by the husband.
My friend wants to help badly, so she sought my advice. I'm not one to advocate divorce but in a situation like this, it is obvious that this victim should leave asap.
If she has kids, it is even more important for her to remove the kids from the abusive environment. Kids are very sensitive. You can't hide the simmering tensions at home from them. And they remember more than you think they do.
While it is clear to us that she needs help, the victim is often in denial. Many women end up suffering in silence, thinking they're destined to live a life like that. According to my friend who has an understanding of the victimised psyche, there is a degree of learned helplessness that needs to be reversed. It's like the abused animal that is afraid of leaving the cage.
I agree with her because I've been there before. Amidst all the abuse, threats and harrassment, it actually took a lot of courage for me to walk out the door. What if the threats were real, what would happen to the kids? Will we be safe? Will I be able to walk in the streets with my head held high? So many questions and fears kept clouding my mind.
Seeing that I needed help, a friend dragged me to her lawyer to start the divorce proceedings. I almost hated her for it but now I think it was the best thing she had done. She saved me and the kids from a life of misery and despair. Her one act gave me my life back.
Even then, I was reluctant to proceed. The paperwork was ready but I was not. I told my friend and lawyer to hold on. They shook their heads in disbelief. I was mentally weak. I felt sorry for the one who was making my life a living hell. When the abuse got from bad to worse, I bit the bullet and gave the lawyer the green light. Finally I was on the right track.
That was just the beginning. The ex wouldn't let go. He put up a big fight. Several times, I almost lost my mind and gave up fighting for custody of the kids. Thankfully I had strong support from friends and family. Without them, my life would be in a mess.
All this is behind me now and I don't like to bring it up but I must because there are women out there who need help and support. It was hard for my friend to believe that I lacked courage. To her, I'm a brave, outspoken and capable woman who can handle anything that comes my way. Yes, I only flourished when I came out of that cage.
When you are in an abusive relationship, whether physical, mental or emotional, you lose your sense of identity. You live in fear. You're treading on eggshells because you never know what will trigger your partner off. You envy your friends and you grief in private.
Even dynamic and successful women at work could return home to abusive spouses. Not all marriages work and if it fails, there is no shame in ending it. Everyone deserves a better life.
And yes, there is life after divorce and you have to believe in it. Divorce is a process that will take you through phases of grief, loss, pain and then stability. You don't have to look very far to see how many divorced women are thriving with a renewed sense of purpose and enjoyment.
I warned my friend to be prepared to face resistance and hostility. She's expecting that but she's willing to risk getting bitten first. I'm sure she will be appreciated later. What a true friend to have.