As part of She’s Right’s participation in 16 days of activism to end violence against women, each article will be dedicated to a New Zealand woman who has lost her life due to gender-based violence. This article is dedicated to Azalia Wilson, killed by a man on 17 November 2019 at the age of 22.
Edited by Jessica Sutton.
Abuse isn’t always how it seems on TV. When you are a kid, and the “silly people” on EastEnders are yelling at each other. And as you get older something pops up online or on the TV and your parents tell you that it is never okay for someone to hit you. And you promise that if they ever do you will tell someone, and you will leave them. You can’t ever imagine being with someone who hurts you and therefore you never imagine having to leave. Because love is meant to be all fairytales and happy endings. And people don’t get into relationships like that, they just don’t, right?
The first time it was an accident, you pushed him too far. He didn’t really hurt you anyway, you were just up in his face. He locks you out of the house. Well, you should have left him alone when he asked. Then one night you wind him up far too much, argue way too hard and he loses it and punches the TV. Blood pouring from his hand, you bandage it up and take him to A&E. Every night you clean and dress the cuts and as his hand heals, so does your relationship. Suddenly you are best friends again and nothing can ever touch you two, you are inseparable. He was just stressed at work and these things happen, right? It won’t happen again.
You’re right, it won’t. It gets worse instead. He starts turning on you. He grabs you too hard and leaves bruises. If he’s smart, the bruises aren’t visible under your jeans and the abuse can be hidden. Denied. Pushed down. Blocked out. Until you yourself don’t even remember. Maybe you did make it up. Maybe it was your fault. It never is, but that is somehow easy to forget. You take photos of the bruises because deep down you know it’s not okay, but he gets drunk and deletes them. He promises it won’t happen again. But it does. And eventually you get up the courage to tell someone. But then he finds out, and all he can say is how dare you talk about him like that, how dare you tell people bad things about him. How dare you turn your friends against him.
But now someone knows, and he knows someone knows, and finally, things are good again. Maybe he tips cold water on you in bed when you play up. Locks you out sometimes. Leaves you at the mall or on the side of the road, kicking you out of the car when he’s annoyed. But that’s what couples do, right? They fight. After every big fight is weeks, sometimes even a month or two where things are really, truly amazing and you love each other more than ever. You travel, see the world, go to parties, get drunk and fall asleep in each other’s arms. After all, you are soulmates, right?
And then one night you have another one of your fights. It doesn’t even seem that bad, at first. He goes to ignore you with his video game, and you go to turn it off. And he punches you in the stomach. Not hard, but it takes you a few seconds to catch your breath. You run outside panicking and call a friend, and finally tell someone everything. Just like every time before, he apologises afterwards. But he says really it was all your fault, for not leaving him alone when he said to. For not doing what you’re told.
But this time you leave, actually leave, walk away and don’t come back. Because suddenly you remember what you promised your parents when you were a kid, that if someone hit you, you would leave. It’s never that easy because a huge part of you loves them and truly believes that it will work. If you just change. Shut up more. Don’t hang out with that person he doesn’t like. Be a better partner. Then maybe it will work. But beneath everything, all the self-doubt and the feelings and the confusion, there is still that tiny part of you that knows, all of this is wrong. And you leave. And eventually you will be stronger for it.
About the Author:
This contributor has chosen to remain anonymous.