Crazy love

This morning I have no voice.  I lost it over night to a cold
that has grabbed my throat and will not let me speak.  I put it down at a physical level to
ill health but at an emotional level to a talk I gave on Thursday
afternoon to a small group of academics.  
My talk went down like a sack of potatoes, at least it did as far as I
could see and I’ve been feeling sick, bad and voiceless ever since.
What did I do wrong I keep asking
myself?  I don’t think it was the
delivery.  I usually speak well
enough.  I have a clear voice.  Was it the content, one of those
situations where people do not know how to respond because I somehow wrapped it
all up and left no room for further discussion? 
The topic was not the easiest:
sexual domestic violence  and
feminism.  Perhaps I should not
have expected more from an unsuspecting audience. 
I threw a little theory at them and
one woman described it as a summary. 
Another said she agreed with all I had said and there was nothing more
to say.
I find I am re-thinking the whole
domestic violence thing.  The reign
of terror under which I lived as a child and for which I then held my father
responsible – his alcoholism and abused childhood – is shifting. 
I listened to another of those TedX talks in which Lesley Morgan Steiner tells the story of how she met and married
a man when she was 22 and of how this man was kindness personified when they
first dated.  Right up until a few
days before they married he did not threaten or abuse her. 
She married him and stayed with him
in part because she believed that underneath it all he was a good and troubled
man and that it was her job to help him. 
She stayed with him because over time he had made decisions to move away
from family and friends into a more isolated part of the world and she had gone
along because she thought it would be good for him.  
You do these things, she thought then.  You make sacrifices for your loved one
even if it goes against your own wishes and needs. Crazy love.
My mother agreed to come to
Australia on my father’s urging and my mother has described a similar pattern,
only now do I recognise more clearly the degree to which she became trapped in
an impossible marriage and could not get out. 
I recognise that statistics are
unreliable but it surprises me to read that people who get out of abusive
relationships such as Morgan Steiner describes – a man who pulled her by the
hair across a room, bashed her against the wall, and repeatedly threatened her
with a gun – are in serious danger.  
Seventy percent of such people, mainly women, will die at the hands of the
partner they are trying to escape. 
It is the most critical phase of such a relationship because the one
deserted will feel he/she has nothing to lose.
I’m troubled by the degree to which
Steiner describes her ex husband’s behaviour as pre-meditated.  He had sought to isolate her, Steiner
says, almost as if he were grooming her for abuse, but I expect the pattern
might seem like that in retrospect.  
Here again is another person who himself had been abused.  And although not all people who have
been abused go on to become abusers, some do, and I suspect much of what they
have learned at the hands of their abusive parents, or step parents, or whoever
it was who treated them so cruelly, they might well inflict the same on their
own loved ones.
My mother’s mantra, ‘ he loves most
those he hurts the most’, never made sense to me when I was young.  It does now.  Not that I condone it but I recognise that when someone has
been damaged they have almost no other way of dealing with their internal
trauma than to project it out and inflict it on those most vulnerable and
closest to them, their spouses, their children. 
Mostly this sort of violence occurs
by men towards women, but there are also men who get into abusive relationships
with women who have themselves been abused.  It’s not exclusively a woman’s club but it is a club of
those abused and abusers and the only way to help, as Steiner says, is to talk
about it. 
Steiner escaped her relationship
after she told others about it, her family, her neighbours, her friends.  Anyone who would listen.  
Funny that I should feel so locked
inside the bubble of my own childhood memories today, unable to get out of it after I
gave my talk last week, because I fear I may have unwittingly inflicted
something on my audience for which they were unprepared and rather than abuse me
back – they were not cruel – they froze me out with silence, not entirely perhaps but
polite and distant enough for me to feel like an outsider who has since lost
her voice.