I wake up in the middle of the night, look at the door.
I can’t really see it because the lights are switched off.
Have I remembered to put the chair behind the door?
My heart is thumping.
No I haven’t
I throw the covers off, quickly get out of bed, drag the chair and wedged it behind the door, so that the door handle cannot not be pulled down.
The doors of our house have no locks. The only door with a lock is the bathroom door, and oftentimes that would be my place of safe refuge.
I have spent years afraid of being hit.
Sometimes when he comes into the bedroom and I’m lying on the bed, with my back on the bed, a very vulnerable position to be in, when you are living with someone who is extremely volatile, I get even more concerned for my safety.
He paces up and down my side of the bed.
Anything can happen, and I mean anything.
My hand goes towards my chest. My right hand crosses over to my left shoulder in a protective gesture, I pull my chin down towards my chest.
In actual fact, I’m trying to protect my neck. I’m trying to do this, hoping he won’t notice my movement.
In my mind I’m thinking, I hope he won’t try to strangle me.
What if he hits me over the head instead?
Well, then I have to go into a foetal position and cover my head.
It took a while for those bumps that I got from being hit on the head the last time to go down.
All these scenarios are playing around in mind as I keep my eyes on him, and at the same time trying to smile making light conversation with him.
He continues to pace up-and-down, by the bed.
Eventually, he leaves the bedroom, and I breathe sigh of relief.
It’s been like this for years now.
It’s the anxiety, when he comes in close vicinity to me…
Sometimes all he hears is that I am on the phone talking to a friend, laughing and enjoying myself, he doesn’t like that. So he comes into the room and starts pacing up-and-down, up-and-down.
He has nothing to say to me.
He refuses to talkwith me.
Yet, he doesn’t want anyone else talking with me.
He doesn’t seem to like seeing me happy.
When he comes into the room that I am in, and starts walking up and down, up and down, I take the cue.
For me it’s a signal.
It’s a danger alert.
I know that I have to come off the phone.
I know I have to get up from the bed.
And I have to find a way to leave the room without upsetting him or without him suspecting.
I find my way to the bathroom.
The only room with a lock in the house.
The only place where I can be safe.
I lock the bathroom door.
I breathe a sigh of relief.
This trauma from having to live in a very tense situation, day in, day out can have a tremendous effect on a person’s physical and mental health.
Having to be on your guard at all times.
You walk on eggshells most of the time, trying not to cause an offence. Most of the time, you don’t know what’s offending them, because they never tell you.
You find yourself constantly trying to appease a person who can’t be appeased.
You’re constantly watching your back, watching your actions, you are in constant fight or flight mode, because you can’t even work out what the triggers are.
Women and children who have to live in an abusive unsafe environment are always tense, fidgety, clumsy and nervous. They can be timid or aggressive.
The negative impact of living in an abusive or violent environment may trigger or exacerbate physical, emotional or mental health issues; they themselves can become violent and abusive too.
However, having a parent who is willing, able and motivated enough to intervene on behalf of the child and family can make a big difference, in making the home in a safe enough environment for healthy growth and development thus, curtailing the negative effects of being consistently exposed to abuse or violence, but to do so often requires support.
Support from family, friends, a support network and support agencies.
We are encouraging you to join in with this movement and work with us as we reinstate peace and safety in homes.
We need all hands on deck.
A woman suffering from domestic violence has many needs: housing, people to befriend, talk to her and support her, sometimes she needs medical help and counselling, and at other times it’s financial or legal help that she needs.
To help the problem, partnership working is greatly needed.
We need to work with families, counsellors, schools, work places, legislators, the government, places of worship.
Each one of us needs to be doing their part proactively.
Let’s join hands together, and make homes a safer place.
Become a partner.