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The Scars Inside
January 20, 2004
by George Rolph

Most peoples experiences of domestic abuse are not the extreme examples often portrayed in the press. The experiences most of us go through are the drip, drip, drip kind that wear away at our self-esteem, our confidence, our ability to fight back. Often we are not battered to the point that we display horrendous scars, visible bruises or lumps and bumps. Some of us are not even struck at all. Instead we find ourselves on the end of horrific and constant internal wounding. Every part of what makes us human is shredded over and over again by false accusations, ridicule, put downs and constant vicious lies being hurled in our faces day after day. Such wounds may not be as spectacular to the press as the picture of the woman who face has been slashed, or the man with the horrendous knife wound in his back, but they are no less debilitating and, sometimes, can have effects that last a lifetime on the psyche of the victim.

About ten years ago I met a woman dressed in shabby clothes and reeking of alcohol. She had stopped me in the street to ask for money, she said, to buy food, but I suspected she really wanted to buy booze. I gave her a few pounds anyway and stood talking with her for a while. As we talked a friend of mine happened to pass by. I walked off with my friend and asked her if she knew the woman I had been chatting too. My friend told me she did know her and had for many years. "She used to be so beautiful but her sons were nasty horrible brutes and they destroyed her." I wondered if they had beaten her but my friend said she was not sure. I made up my mind to ask the lady the next time I saw her.

About three weeks later I met the lady again and asked her outright about her sons. "They are bastards!" She spat. I asked if they were still living with her but she told me they had been gone for five years. She did not want to talk about them at that time and shuffled off down the street. I did not see her again for a few months but then one day I heard a shout behind me, "Hey! Have you got any money?" It was Lily. Drunk again and looking the worse for her lifestyle. I told her I would give her three pounds if she would talk to me about her sons. She agreed and we sat on a wall outside a school to talk. The tale she told did not have a single mention of physical violence. It was a tale of mental and emotional torture that had gone on for ten long years. She had suffered two breakdowns in that time, the first happened just 2 years after her husband had died and the sons' abuse had begun. The second came three years later and it was then that she started drinking.

The two thugs were just teenagers when they decided to make their mother the object of their hate. They spent their early days simply doing what they wanted and screaming insults if their behaviour was challenged. At first, Lily put this behaviour down to the loss of their father, but she came to realise as time went on that the two boys were just nasty thugs who enjoyed abusing her.

As Lily talked I watched her face. As she described the flood of insults, personal remarks and constant humiliation she had endured her face would flinch as if she were hearing those cruel words for the first time. Lily's arms were covered in cigarette burns and when I questioned her about the array of small circular scars that were dotted up and down her arms she told me that sometimes she would burn herself to, "Check if I am still alive." I gave her the money and my address and told her that if she wanted help, or just to talk, to stop by one day. She never did and a few years ago I stopped seeing her around. I made inquiries and I heard she had died of a liver disease. Another forgotten victim of unspectacular, but deeply cruel, domestic abuse.

Another victim of this non violent abuse was Paul. A young man of 34 years old, Paul was always smartly dressed. I had met him in a cafe when he shared my table over breakfast. A waitress dropped an empty tray nearby and resulting crash made Paul act like he had been shot. So violent was his reaction that, at first, I was taken totally by surprise. He had physically jumped backwards, almost falling from his chair. His hands had flown to his head and he had begun to sob loudly. I was conscious of the stares and sniggers of others in the cafe and I felt deeply embarrassed for Paul who was still sobbing quietly. We never finished our breakfasts. Instead I took him out of the cafe and the heartless stares of others and walked with him down the street. As we walked he told me his story.

Paul had fallen in love with a girl of 23 just three years before. They had got a house together paid for by Paul's parents and seemed to be a happy couple. Four months after moving in he said his fiancé became a monster. She began by driving away all of his friends by being rude and anti social to them. She was consumed by jealousy and would fly into rages if Paul even looked at any other girls. After storming into his office one day, screaming about an affair with another office girl Paul had never had, he was fired. Little by little she came to dominate his entire life. She took all of his money. She ripped up clothing and smashed his possessions, including his beloved guitar. She burnt all of his family photographs and ripped up his passport after accusing him of planning to go abroad with a neighbours wife he had made the mistake of wishing a good morning in the street one day.

Paul explained that in between these episodes she was a normal and loving girl and that made it hard for him to leave her. "I loved her so much but there were times I hated her too." He told me. His feelings for her were mixed and this confused him deeply. He felt guilty about his anger and so he kept it too himself. When he did try to speak out about her behaviour she flew into a rage that lasted three hours and he was terrified that his neighbours would think she was screaming because he was hitting her. He left the house and went to a local pub but she followed him and created a huge scene. Furious accusations were hurled at him in the pub, "But the worst thing she shouted was, 'I bet you lot don't know he likes to have sex with little kids do ya?' When she said that I ran out of the pub and went to the park. I sat on the grass and just cried for ages." Paul had never been arrested or even suspected of such a horrible crime.

He told me that it finally ended with his ex after she spent six hours screaming abuse in his face in their living room. "I just snapped inside." He told me. "I felt it happen. It was like a part of me just died. Ever since I have been terrified of women. I have something wrong me now and I can't work anymore. I am 34 and I am finished." I asked him where his ex was now. "She moved a new boyfriend in the house a week after I had my breakdown. She never even came and saw me in hospital and she burnt all my clothes. I was left with nothing."

Paul was suffering with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He may never get better. Not all abuse leaves visible scars but all abuse hurts. We have to fight it all. We have to make a decision that we will support all victims of domestic violence no matter what their age or gender. It is up to you and I to say that we will not tolerate those bullies and psychopaths who terrorise and destroy others for their own gratification. You and I can make a difference to all the Lilys and Pauls in this world by refusing to turn away and by sharing with them some of the compassion we keep for our own loved ones. If we do not act then one day the screams of pain and the shattered lives may belong to our own sons and daughters.

Help us to fight by making a contribution to our costs. Help us to help others by joining us in our determination to get ALL victims, male, female, young or old, the support they need. When you look at your little daughter, mother or sister you can at least be comforted by the knowledge that there is help out there for her if the worst ever happens. When you look at your father, brother or little son, the truth is, there is very little help out there for him. YOU can change that. Don't let journalists fool you: The pain of domestic violence is not only measured by the amount of stitches or scars. It is often hidden deep inside and the pain is worse because it may never go away.

George Rolph is webmaster of Man2Man. Man2Man is changing its name to NO-MORE-SILENCE. A web site will be up shortly thanks to some generous friends in America who support the idea of mens rights to be male.

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