You all know by now how I feel about domestic violence so I’m going to tell you a Christmas night story… it involves deliberate isolation, verbal, mental and emotional abuse, with an overhanging threat of violence.
So when an old friend eventually told me last night what was happening, I made a 2 hour journey to Falkirk, getting lost in the icy fog, in the process.
When I got there we hastily threw three black bags into the boot of my car, exiting the scene in under 5 minutes, breathing a sigh of relief as we left.
In the car on the way home, I had to pull into the hard shoulder to allow my passenger to open the car door, to be sick – violently sick. Apologies were in abundance; too many to feel comfortable with. I began to sense that things were actually worse than I’d originally thought… I was recognising the signs of why victims of domestic violence, don’t leave.
We set off again but I didn’t push any questions; the story would unfold when the time was right. And it didn’t take long, words came tumbling out about the partner who’d been drunk for three days – about lying on the floor in darkness, pretending to be asleep while the tyrant ranted and raved, interspersed with head-in-hands, tearfully crying, “sorry, this won’t happen again, I promise”, before returning to “this is all your fault!”. Lack of food and sleep deprivation had taken its toll; relief was still a million miles away and fear of what’s next, weighed heavily in the air.
The desperation and perhaps where the truth in the text messages had been picked up, had become so over-powering when life, or death hung in the balance; Christmas Eve, the drunken partner invites two male, homosexual friends over to visit, who were also drunk, and who quickly became threatening. Other events of that night were of drunken dis-inhibition and dis-order.
The friends started verbally assaulting the weakened and very vulnerable person they had in their company, later hitting the back of my friend’s head with plastic drinks bottles. It was at this point my friend realised that a life really could be in danger; their own!
What I haven’t mentioned here is that my friend had a stroke less than 5 months ago, completely losing power on the left side. Some of this has been regained but, in an attempt to get better quicker, further damage has occurred, causing excruciating pain with small movements in the shoulder and arm. I also haven’t told you that my friend is male.
Reading between the lines in the text messages, I somehow knew there was something radically wrong. I’d already known that the situation could be volatile at times, so when a day later, I offered to collect and wouldn’t take no for an answer – it was taken up, but not without a bit of a fight; he didn’t want to be the cause of another persons Christmas ruined.
For me it was a rescue mission that simply needed to happen.
I made tea when we got home, gently forced him to eat a little and I ran him a bath. We talked into the wee sma’ hours, or rather he did as I let him ramble, releasing some of the trauma of the past year. I occasionally steered the conversation into prioritising next steps to forge a way forward, before wrapping him up for a much-needed sleep.
He set me a task before I got into bed; to try getting into my nightclothes using only my right arm – I gave up after only a few minutes trying, unsuccessfully. Now I was beginning to get a sense of how powerless he felt he’d become.
After a few hours kip he awoke to a cup of tea and a cooked breakfast. He sat staring into space and revealed that everything felt surreal; confused and dazed, admitting being afraid of more punishment coming his way. At 12.30 he asked the time, exclaiming that for the first time in months, it was lunch-time and he hadn’t been shouted at.
My pal is now facing homeless-ness made even worse by disability; a daunting prospect for someone who has always been independent, a fighter – but at least for now he’s safe, we’ll work on the rest later. And maybe sometime soon he’ll get to breathe that sigh of relief.
If anyone from the Paisley area can offer any kind of assistance, advice or accommodation, please get in touch.