Wednesday, October 5, 2016

How Hurtful Other's Comments Can Be to Victims of Abuse

Katharine Robinson is my first guest blogger for Domestic Abuse Awareness Month. 
Since leaving her abusive partner, she has earned a degree in English and Psychology and has written a dissertation on Domestic Abuse. She gives talks to health professionals and works with victims as an Independent Domestic Violence Advocate, helping others leave a violent relationships and create happy lives. 
Katharine lives in the UK and feels blessed to have a new supportive and understanding partner as her rock. She is also very proud of the adults her children have become. She is currently working on a book (working title: One in Four) telling the story of her struggle within the abusive relationship, her escape and journey to wholeness. She shares how the experience affected her family and her determination to become an advocate.
Here is Katharine’s experience in her own words:

It takes at least 35 times for a woman to be abused by her partner/husband before she will speak up about it. She might tell a close friend, family member or the police, following an incident where she has had no choice but to call them for her safety.
So when a woman then decides after any period of time to end an abusive and/or violent relationship/marriage the last thing that she wants to hear are negative comments. However, all too often this is exactly what a victim will hear from those least expected.
The comments that I heard as those around me became aware that I ended my marriage were such as the following;
My parents actually said, ‘why didn’t you tell us before, didn’t you think that you could trust us?’ Not completely negative, but I felt a little deflated about it because I did trust them, but I was way too scared to leave. They couldn’t understand this and still today, some 7 years on, my mum will ask why I didn’t tell them sooner. I had told them I was not happy in my marriage two years earlier but not the full account.
Many people who were friends years before the end of my marriage, stood back over the last few years. Now they are speaking to me again and have said, ‘I always knew he was a bad egg. There was something not right about him. That is why we stopped speaking with you and of course him.’ What they didn’t realise was what they had done to me at that time—they ostracize me. When I told them that the marriage was over they told me this and I felt low about it again, feeling I had made a poor judgement, I was useless and worthless for making that poor decision.
Probably the most common comment that I heard, was simply ‘why did you let him do this to you, why did you allow him to behave like this?’ as if I had stood, thought about it and had made a conscious decision to let this happen to me! I found it hard to answer because I didn’t let him do this to me. I didn’t allow him to behave this way. He chose to take control of me and use and abuse me. I didn’t once stand there and allow it.
I was asked to attend a workshop as a guest speaker and survivor. A professional who works within the public health service asked me why I had stayed with this person for as long as I did if he was that awful. Why hadn’t I just left? Again this is something that people seem to have no idea about. The effect that a perpetrator has on a victim from the beginning can be phenomenal and from my experience my ex-husband took the control of me and my life from the first day we started dating.
Some people said, ‘your poor children look at what they have been put through for all of those years!’ Those people had no idea exactly how awful I felt about what my children had heard, seen and witnessed? Still to this day, I feel horrendous guilt about what I had put them through, what they had endured at the hands of their father, believing that it was partly my doing. I know that I should have tried to protect the children more. That is easy to say but so hard to do when your life is in the hands of a perpetrator. Thankfully, my children know it was never my fault and don’t bear a grudge. However, other people’s lack of knowledge or understanding is hurtful and I wish that they would have thought a little before they spoke.
I wish that people could have said something positive, like; well at least now we can all look forward to new beginnings and positivity. Raising matters from the abusive past and about my former partner’s behaviour, made me endure the abuse for a little bit longer.


  1. Yes, those are very hurtful comments. Sometimes it is amazing to me what people will say to a victim. I am so thankful that the response I received from the majority was, "I'm so sorry this happened to you. You are so much better off without him."

    1. That's a much better response.
      Thanks, Caroline.

  2. I would like to add that when ignorant askers say, why didn't the victim just leave, tell them 58,000 children each year are taken from safe mothers and ordered into the custody of batterers and molestors. Victims are the experts in their cases and know the batterer and what they are capable of. Batterers are gaining custody of kids from family courts at an alarming rate. They have found another way to punish victims.