Falling in love and staying in love is one of life’s main source of happiness. In a relationship women expect ups and downs, and manage this, knowing their partner is there for them, respects them and is kind to them. However one out of 3 women in South Africa remain silent about the life they live because it hurts them so badly.

Domestic violence is love that hurts. It is love that is confusing, scary and difficult to leave.

I offer you a glimpse into one woman’s experience of domestic violence. And in case you know a sister, a friend, a mother, perhaps yourself, who is currently in a love relationship that hurts, please read my guide on Surviving Domestic Violence.

 “Dr Eve, I have been in a relationship for 5 years to a narcissist. We have a 3 year old daughter together – we were engaged but my engagement ring got smashed to smithereens with a hammer by him. For the last 3 years he goes out at night & comes home next morning, once or twice a week. About 2 weeks ago he hit me numerous times (slapping in the face) and just about strangled me with his forearm over my throat. I grabbed my child and drove off to a friend to spend the evening – I have no family here in Cape Town.

Now my predicament is: I have been looking for pet-friendly and child-friendly places. My second option is to move back to my family who live in a different city. He is aware of me wanting to move back to my family. I  am hoping to do so at the end of the year. But if things go down with him hitting me again it will have to be sooner.

 Do I stick it out and wait until the end of the year as I have on numerous occasions felt that he will harm me or my child so much that I fear for my life? We all stay under the same roof. The last incident (prior to 2 weeks ago) I had him arrested and the cops let him go with a warning. What do I  do, I am feeling lost and don’t know what to do?” 

Dr Eve replies:

“Your life – and the life of your child – is at high risk.  Leaving your partner  places you at higher risk.  You know this, which is why you have stayed for all these years of abuse . You have done well to survive. 

Plan and strategize a way to leave as safely as you can . You cannot depend on the police to protect you. It’s a good thing to report abuse to the police so you have records . But you are on your own in planning protection of yourself. Find support, arrange support so when you are ready to flee, you have somewhere to go. 

I urge you to document all incidences of abuse – for your own self – so you can track your risk and this will also guide you and motivate  you to leave. 

Strangulation is a high risk sign of femicide . In other words, once strangulation happens, you are at risk of being killed. 

I do not wish to alarm you – merely to alert you to your danger – and to remind you that you are not going crazy to imagine this is terrible. It is terrible! And it is terrible for you.

If you are able, I’d welcome supporting you through this process. If it is unaffordable for you, then please urgently find a trauma center, a women abuse center or a counsellor who can be there for you all the way.”

If you resonate with this letter of domestic violence, I have written you a guide. Perhaps it will comfort and empower you.

GUIDE TO SURVIVING DOMESTIC VIOLENCE.

  • If your relationship feels unsafe due to emotional, physical or sexual abuse, then it is unsafe
  • You are at a higher risk of violence if you tick off these items:
    • He abuses substances
    • He owns a gun
    • He has extreme jealousy
    • He controls your daily activities
    • He destroys property when he angers
    • If you have attempted to leave in the past year
    • If he is chronically unemployed
    • He threatens to kill you
    • He forces you to have sex
    • He isolates you from friends and family
    • If you have a child from a different biological father living with you both
    • If he threatens suicide
    • If he is violent during your pregnancy
    • If there have been prior incidences of violence.
  • You cannot just leave so don’t blame yourself for staying.
  • Staying is a way of keeping yourself and your children alive  – it is more dangerous to leave, so well done for surviving.
  • Staying includes you plotting and planning to leave – even if it takes years. I know you are biding your time stealthily making plans. Be proud of yourself.
  • People get confused when you protect and defend your abuser – but it is your way of surviving as you know that if you don’t you are at risk for more violence once you get home.
  • Laying a protection order and then recanting it is understandable – you fear his violence increasing. Don’t judge yourself.
  • Keep a timeline or a catalogue of all the incidents. It is a way to see if there is escalation in violence.
  • Keep reaching to safe people for support.

Remember that your time to leave will come.  Right now be proud of yourself for surviving yet another day of domestic terrorism.

Written by: Dr Eve – Clinical Sexologist and Relationships Expert