AN OPEN LETTER TO THERESA MAY
Dear Mrs May,
I want to say thank you for your admirable stance on domestic violence. Absolutely, our laws do need to be clearer and more extensive and yes, people need to know what help is available and how to access it.
That’s all wonderful. But it’s not enough. Not nearly.
There are still so many grey areas, still so many people who will have lost their confidence, their zest, their sense of self. There will be many people out there for whom the abuse has happened so gradually they may not have realised until it was too late. In fact, there will be people out there going through domestic abuse right now who have been so drilled down, so slowly, they may not even realise they are being systematically mistreated.
A STEP FURTHER
Let’s take that a step further. There will be people out there perpetrating abuse who do not realise they are doing so. There will be abusers out there who need help themselves.
Most of us are raised to know that if someone physically beats us in a relationship we’re supposed to get out. I would hope most of us are raised to know that we should not set out to hurt someone we are in a relationship with in the first place.
And yet it happens. People hurt. People get hurt. The cycle continues. The grey areas become wider.
We are not adequately taught about the huge swathe of unacceptable behaviours that lie somewhere between true love and flying fists. Our children, our teens, our adults, do not know enough about the signs to look out for – either as someone who may become abused, or may become an abuser.
Our media, our TV programmes, our belief systems are still so hooked into believing that domestic abuse is as simple as a man hitting a women. It’s not just that. It’s so much more. It’s not just men. It’s not just women. It’s not just physical violence.
There’s not enough education about ‘gaslighting’, about emotional abuse, psychological abuse, sexual abuse. There’s not enough education out there about the kinds of domestic abuse that happen to all kinds of people – all across the gender sphere – in all kinds of relationships, in all walks of life.
We need to understand what’s happening. What could happen. How to prevent it. What happens if we end up in that situation. How to spot it. How to get help. And our kids need to have an awareness of this BEFORE they enter into relationship.
And if we still end up in those abusive relationships? Then we need more help and support.
Mrs May, some of the charities and local authorities out there provide amazing services already, yet even they will admit more is needed. There are facilities and support systems out there to get people into a a shelter, a safe house, to provide some counselling, perhaps some legal aid. But then what?
Support systems have to cut off at some point, I know. We do not have endlessly deep coffers – we’re reminded of that frequently. But we do need to do something.
There’s not enough to help people rebuild after domestic abuse. There’s not enough to help them regain their sense of self worth, their confidence, their hope. There’s not enough to help them get past the self-loathing, the anger, the sense of being stuck in some limbo between having ‘escaped’ and facing an uncertain future full of fear and anxiety. There’s not enough to help people build solid foundations, to understand how amazing, how powerful, how awesome they truly are. There’s not enough to help people break the cycle of hopping from one abusive relationship to another. We’re not doing enough to help people rebuild their confidence and strength, we’re not doing enough to help them find their purpose. We’re not doing enough to help people beyond those labels of ‘victim’ or ‘survivor’ which, ultimately, keep them glued to the energy of their past.
As someone who’s been through abuse, I’ve been working with Lincolnshire County Council to create a new kind of empowerment offering for people who’ve been through abuse and the results, even from one pilot workshop, have been wonderful. We’ve changed lives. We’ve given people hope. We’ve helped people find new direction and start to get back into society with energy and confidence. The light has reappeared in their eyes. We need more work like this. We’ve been fundraising to create more opportunities as well. We need work like this – the empowering work that is sometimes needed long after the relationship has ended – to roll out across the country. And it doesn’t matter if that’s me, or someone else. But it does need to come from people who’ve been there and come back stronger, people with a strong skill set and plenty to offer. We need action, determination, compassion, understanding, education, options, hope. We need to help people find a different way to look at their past – we need to help them absolutely believe that they are worth more, that their past does not need to dictate their future.
LET US BE PIONEERS
So, Mrs May, I salute you for the work you’ve done so far towards improving our offerings and regulations in respect of domestic violence, but please, please, help us achieve more. Help our country lead the way with new ideas, new solutions, new hope. We need to go beyond the stereotypical ideals many assume are their only option – we need more than legal support, we need more than safe houses, we need more than a capped number of counselling sessions and a box of tissues. We need people to understand there’s more available than this, and that it’s available when they realise they need it – and, Mrs May, sometimes that realisation will not hit until long after the relationship and after that person has effectively left the designated support system.
Please, Mrs May, let us be pioneers in educating our young people and providing more. More understanding. More support. New support. New hope.