A significant minority of mothers live daily lives, separated from their children and I am one of them. I have become very aware that my story although a nightmare is not unique...

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Shame she can't call the Police

I've just listened to the twists and turns of another gripping episode of the Archers here   Where thankfully Helen gets back baby Jack, from the hands of her ex husband Rob. it could have been so much different if a tree trunk had not just happened to fall in the path of Rob's route out of the village as he fled with the baby. If only life could be so neatly wrapped up.
I am sure all listeners where shouting Go Helen as she finally gave him a piece of her mind. Many, I am sure,  including me, were shouting at the radio again call the Police. Bearing in mind , she had wrongly served time in prison,surely she was fully aware of the serious threat Rob posed to her and her two children. So why didn't she call the Police?

This is of course hypothetical , I cannot see into the mind of  a fictional character or even into the scriptwriters, but if this was real life ( apologies to anyone who I have upset with that revelation and the tooth fairy IS real *) she** will be riddled with shame and her twin sister guilt , coupled with their close cousin denial. Shame, both self generated and applied to the victim from outside sources such as family and society keep her trapped. Full of self loathing and unable to move on to rational decision making, such as calling the Police or disclosing the full extent of the abuse .

Shame can be a useful tool, to make someone toe a line, to stop unacceptable behaviour and we all would have experienced it or indeed used it. Anyone who has ever been made to stand outside a headmaster's door in the "good old days", will certainly have been full of shame before the door even opened for the supposed punishment.

Clouds your perception

The type of shame felt by a domestic violence victim, unfortunately is not fleeting uncomfortable and  but permeates her very being, distorting her view of herself and her situation. Some quotes from survivors :
"I used to cross the street when I saw someone I knew, I was so ashamed" Victim of coercive control
"I would count every penny I spent on myself, I never bought magazines or anything to treat myself , I wasn't worth it" Victim of two abusive relationships
"I would only dress in camouflage colours and kept covered up as much as I could, as though I could merge with the background" Victim of CSE , then an adult survivor of  marital sexual abuse.
The abuser may degrade the victim externally, but eventually she is fairly skilled at beating herself up internally and doesn't trust herself.

She should
Expectations of  external regulators, also increase that burden of shame, just as happens in cases of CSE:
"Single parents responsible for the national debt not the bankers" OK that's a made up headline but you get the gist
" Why didn't you say the first time he hit you" Friend
" It is far better for the children if you stay together" Retired education professional
So the message goes on, slowly eroding any tiny morsel of self esteem she may have clung onto.

Ironically, I think, shame plays a large part in the abusers make up as well . In my experience , the abuser , can not bear to feel small or at all slighted by anyone, this will start the cycle of abuse , directed at anyone he can bully or degrade to puff himself up. A healthy person can say" I am alright your are alright"  In contrast sick person can only say I am alright and you are wrong always. This has been beautifully portrayed by Rob, who has got a sly dig in at anyone when he get away with it. This is just a personal observation but many are kings of the road, appalling drivers who get pleasure out of bullying anyone who dares to get in their way, the tailgaters, those who cut you up. Fortunately even Rob could not overcome an uprooted tree.

The painful reality
As Helen found out , helping agencies do not always help...  Helen may very well have a distrust of the Police, after all they didn't believe her the first time did they? So would you like some more shame to top up ,what you already have madam? 85% of victims sought help five times on average from professionals in the year before they got effective help to stop the abuse Safelives.org.uk

Helen, will need TLC, to overcome the shame as it does not evaporate once the relationship stops, which is part of why woman can end up in repeat abusive relationships. Talking to Jess, Rob's other victim would have helped, but this needs to be built on by using tools to better understand herself , such as group therapy and assertiveness training. Once the penny drops, she will never get in an abusive relationship again, though I am not so sure about Pip Archer , perhaps Helen will end up as a role model.

* if you have read this far you should be old enough not be disappointed;the tooth fairy isn't real.
** I use she, but of course I am aware that men can be victims too

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