Disabled and Domestically Abused

What’s your opinion of people advising you to ‘just leave’ the relationship?

That works great in theory, but in practice, it’s not so simple. There were many reasons I couldn’t just leave. Some of them we’re practical & others psychological. I was diagnosed with Hypermobile Elhers-Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder that affects collagen. I function with the help of various braces, splints, medication & mobility aids including smart crutches & occasionally a wheelchair

In August 2015 my ex-attacked & raped me, which my son witnessed. It was this event that started a cascade, which eventually, 5 months later, lead to us getting out safely.

In the weeks following the attack & rape, I educated myself about sexual abuse. As it turns out, that attack in August 2015 was not the first time he’d raped me. There is a form of rape called coercive rape. It had been a feature of our relationship from the earliest of years. I saw it as the price I paid to keep us safe, a toll taken out on my body so it wasn’t taken in other ways. Besides, it’s a wife’s job, isn’t it? To ensure her husband is happy his needs are met & her children are safe. Yes, I really did believe that.

The attack was the first time I identified I had been raped, there was no grey area in my mind. He knelt on my dislocated ankle, I told him to stop, yelled at him & told him to get off me. He didn’t. He wrapped his hand around my throat & carried on, my son standing at the bedroom door. That fore filled my criteria for rape.

Within 10 days my son disclosed that he’d been enduring abuse silently at the hands of my ex who’d wait for me to be out or asleep to hurt him. My son was just 12 years old. Saying, “just leave” is woefully naive; being supportive of a survivor would be more helpful. It takes time for a survivor to find the strength to leave, so be supportive whether they’re ready to leave or not.

“Has Domestic Violence Affected You Mentally”

Yes, absolutely. I don’t think anyone can experience an abusive relationship without being affected. I was diagnosed with complex PTSD. I have triggers & flashbacks & nightmares, anxiety, disassociation. In the weeks & months after leaving it was terrible. I described myself as broken. Damaged goods.

Yes, my mental health has been negatively affected, that is indisputable. However, there is a flip side to it. There are positives & I say this without wanting to trivialize or diminish how adversely I’ve been affected. I’ve come out of this stronger. More resilient, capable & independent. I survived the worst things one human being can do to another short of murder. I draw strength from that knowledge. Strength to keep going, strength to be the best mum I can be for my boys, strength, to speak out, to keep fighting to tell my truth.

“Why do you think so many victims blame themselves”

I think often our perpetrators condition us to believe what they’re doing is our fault. Accepting the blame rather than defending yourselves is generally safer, apologizing could potentially de-escalate an otherwise dangerous situation, but it doesn’t always work. There’s also an illusion of control if you blame yourself. You know you can’t control what is being done to you, so you blame yourself. If you make it your fault then you can pretend it’ll never happen again or that you deserved it because you can control your own actions.
Speaking as a woman, I believe our society as a whole reinforces that conditioning leading to the victim blaming so many survivors encounter. It’s a toxic combination that presents further obstacles for the survivor.

“What are the first steps in seeking help?”

For me, the first step was admitting to myself that we we’re being abused.
I’d trivialised & minimised & made excuses for years by that point. Finding out my ex had been hurting my sons just days after being attacked & raped was that point for me.

I stopped believing my ex when he said he was sorry, it’d never happen again and that he’d make it up to us. I’d heard those lines so many times before & nothing ever changed, he’d be ok for a day or two & the cycle would start all over again. I learned that we’d been experiencing many types of abuse & that coercive rape was a regular feature in my relationship. Because of how extreme my ex’s behaviour could become, how dangerous the attacks were ie using weapons, strangulation, fire I knew we were at significant risk. I knew that he was capable of murdering us which he’d threatened in detail and it was only his own questionable self control that stood between us and not making it out alive. I had finally acknowledged the seriousness of our situation & how high the risk to us was. During the course of my online research, I found my local woman’s aid: Coventry Haven. I’d reached out to them via email some years previously during a failed attempt to leave my ex. I reached out again. That phone call this time, was the most important call of my life, certainly the call that saved our lives.

Monifa Bobb-Simon

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