TW: Domestic abuse, domestic violence, misogyny, controlling behaviour, sexual violence
For many women, domestic abuse is something that is a reality they have to live with day in and day out. The problem is, so many women don’t realise at the time. I didn’t realise at the time, I was in an abusive relationship from when I was around 17 until I had just turned 20. It was never “bad” abuse, but it affected me all the same and I hope this enables some other women to speak out and identify behaviour that is unacceptable so that they can speak out.
I took off the bracelet and put it on top of the shelf unit where I usually left my jewellery before putting it in my box. We had been out for the night and it was lovely. We had decided, on a whim, to go down to Largs for the evening. Who goes to Largs on a night out? It was better than Paisley, the pubs were nicer as were the people and the town in general. He came to get me the next day and came into my bedroom. I went to the bathroom and when I came back, my bracelet was missing. I thought that maybe, I had dropped it down the side of my bed, but I knew and I was adamant that I had left it on top of the shelf.
“Have you seen my bracelet?” I asked.
“No. I haven’t seen you wearing it for a while, actually.” He said.
“I was wearing it last night.” I said, looking at him with a puzzled look. What was he doing? The thing is, he doubted my intelligence too much to realise that I was one step ahead of him. He had it in his pocket for whatever reason.
We went out for the day and when we sat down to have some lunch, he produced the bracelet. “You left this on the train last night. If I hadn’t picked this up, you would have lost it.”
I had never felt pure hatred for another human being like it and in that moment because I knew, before he arrived, that it was on top of my shelf. What was he trying to do?
“Really? I didn’t notice, because the last time I saw it, it was on top of my shelf before you came to get me.” He looked at me like I was stupid. The way that no woman or girl ever wants to be looked at.
“Well Lauren, you know what you’re like.” He said. Yes, I left things behind and lost things. But it was a piece of jewellery that meant a lot to me. He tried to make me feel guilty.
“It’s just…that cost a lot of money and I work hard for that money.”
He always spoke about how much money he earned and how much of it he spent on me, like I should be grateful for it.
I later found out that the bracelet was not quite as expensive as what he had claimed. I kind of realised this anyway, it started to tarnish not long after I got it. I played him at his own game. “If this is so expensive then why has it tarnished already?”
Not that the price mattered, it was more that he tried to manipulate me into thinking that it was expensive and therefore a higher value should be placed on it than the value I was supposedly giving it.
He was never violent. He never hit me. But sometimes, he would question my intelligence by telling me I was stupid, because going to university made you stupid. My intelligence threatened him, I think. Because I was clever, I knew how to “defy” him, when to work out he was a lying bastard. He would patronise me and condescend me. He would tell me that I would be unlikely to find a man like him and this was as good as it would ever get.
He used to take me out for dinner a lot- nearly every weekend. And although I loved the feeling of being wined and dined, it began to occur to me that I was putting on weight. I’ve always been curvy but I was starting to get bigger. And one day he took issue with this, telling me how much weight I had put on. He was on one of his weird diet phases where he would go to the gym all the time, but he still took me out for dinner, every weekend.
It didn’t occur to me until a few years later that he was probably trying to feed me up so that I’d get fat and no other men would ever want me again.
For me it became easier and easier to want to get out-it was just finding the right way and the right time. I think that came at the weekend of my twentieth birthday when he ditched me on my “birthday night out” to go out with his friends. With every day I was with him, I hated him more and more. Not only was he abusive, but he was racist, he was sexist, he was classist, homophobic and ableist and, to this day, he has very much shaped my politics. We would have arguments where we would argue about people on benefits until the cows came home. After we went to see The Iron Lady, we had the biggest argument ever in his car, outside my house, about how “great” Margaret Thatcher was. I couldn’t be with him anymore. He was a chauvinist and that shone through in his behaviour towards me.
For many women, they aren’t as lucky. Although I had an abusive boyfriend, I think I had it easy compared to so many women across Scotland that still suffer from violent and physical abuse at the hands of their partners, or other male relatives. Today’s statistics unveiled in the Daily Record show that domestic abuse is still a prevalent problem in Scotland today. Why? 20% of police time is taken up by domestic violence incidences. Why? Sir Stephen House, chief constable said that the figures released are just the tip of the iceberg. The number of stalking cases has gone up from 367 in 2012-2013 to 569 in 2013-2014. 58, 976 domestic violence incidents were reported last year.
What these statistics show is that either the problem is getting worse, or, the problem has always been this bad and women are finally gaining the courage to get help and support because of these incidents. The fact that men still perpetrate the majority of domestic violence towards women is a frightening thought.
Yes, men can be victims of domestic violence at the hands of women, but generally, this is because of an underlying mental illness rather than a desire to subvert women and to control and hold power over them. The men who are victims of domestic violence are more likely to have been abused by a male partner- the incidence of domestic violence in same sex relationships is also rising.
What is it about this horrible desire for power that makes men feel the need to hit women and subvert them into thinking that they are useless, ugly, stupid and worthless. It truly is Scotland’s shame.