Will someone restrain this dominant male
who simmers with rage from his head to his tail,
yet hides it beneath a wrapping of smiles
and flattering words and shimmering wiles.
He pulls out his history and smudges the files,
stretching the inches and shrinking the miles,
then lays me down on cracked and torn tiles,
blinding my mind as my flesh he defiles.
Will someone please free me from this man
who puts in the boot whenever he can;
a boot that’s concealed by a subtle disguise
as a kindly look or a word to the wise,
or misunderstanding, or a fault in my eyes,
or a generous gift of mini-pork pies.
He pretends to be hurt and he looks at his feet,
when I remind him once more that I never eat meat.
Will someone please help me, I have to escape
from the crushing abuse and the practiced brain-rape.
I’ve tried every way that I know to stay strong,
but he’s chipped me away for far too long,
and everything about me seems so wrong.
I’m floating in nowhere, stuck on a prong.
I’m stupid and worthless, I don’t belong.
There’s nowhere to go, but I need to be gone.
There are those who despise women caught in this horrific trap; folks who say “It’s her own fault. She could leave if she wants to. She must enjoy the abuse.”
They are mistaken. They they lack both empathy and imagination.
Never under-estimate the destructive skill of the brain-rapist. If you get too close he will tear you apart. He is likely to leave you mentally crippled, unable to escape until he chooses to let you go. Even then he might continue to play cat-and-mouse with you, begging you to come back, promising he’s changed. He will use your family and friends in order to get his way. He’ll trick them, make them believe that he loves you, that you will be happier with him. He’ll get your children to beg you to reconcile with their dad. Don’t be fooled.
You might be determined to make it work. Maybe you’ll tolerate being given no grip on the purse-strings… being presented chocolates when you are dieting… being accused of flirting when you say hello to a man you work with… watching your partner deliberately pretend to be in love with your worst enemy… seeing him buy your favourite perfume for her birthday and saying that it is HER favourite, wrapping it carefully… picking up a cheap fake sandalwood spray from the pound shop for your birthday… pushing away a meal that you know he likes, saying “That looks awful, I can’t eat it” whenever you have guests to dinner… suggesting, from his disgusted glance, that you’re a mess when you’ve taken particular trouble over your appearance… never doing an ounce of restoration work in the crumbling house, yet becoming annoyed when you pick up the timber, the plaster, and the tools, and set to.
You start to get the message – you are worthless, you are ugly, boring, irritating, clumsy, stupid, dumb, crazy, deluded, sluttish. You are nothing, yet still you have to pander to his whims. You must find money for his half-baked business ideas, even though he holds all the cash. You have to wash and iron the clothes that your thieving stepson changes out of twice a day to save himself from showering.
He somehow manages to cheat you out of the deeds to the house that you alone paid the deposit on (from the sale of your previous home). You ask that your stepson’s fish tanks be confined to his bedroom. Within weeks someone has bought seven tanks. They’re scattered through the living room and hall. The smallest is four feet long. The house belongs to him and his son. At best, you are a skivvy. Your children are less than that.
Your stepson makes your four-year-old daughter put her hand in the piranha tank. He pushes cake into her face at her fifth birthday party, to humiliate her. He pimps up his bedroom with new carpet, picture, bedding. He buys new clothes and can’t afford to give us housekeeping money. What little cash there is starts to go missing. You make meals out of nothing. You set a trap for the thief, already knowing it is your stepson.
You win a round; you throw your stepson out. He goes back to his mother, makes now friends, learns a new trade; house burglary.
The house gets repossessed because you so-called partner hasn’t paid the mortgage. He’s spent all the money on a fax machine which he doesn’t need, a car which he has to arrange to be stolen since he can’t afford the repayments. It’s just another insurance scam to add to all the others.
Friends, family, strangers are all thrown into this pot of poison to be fed to you in bruised and burnt portions.
You watch your children walking in the rain with holes in the bottoms of their shoes, keep your mouth shut when he steals from shops. You tidy up the mess he leaves whenever he carried out a task, apologise when he discovers you forgot to put the toolbox away after using it yesterday – even though you’ll be using the tools today. He interrupts with childish jokes when you try to discuss something important with a family member or friend. He pulls the rug from under your feet, day after day, in every way he can.
Although you know he’d never hit you, you feel physically sick when he gets angry, and his anger is always simmering beneath the surface. He lies and cheats his way through life, often with no cause.
Your daughter has holes in her shoes again, but there’s no money for new ones, as he’s just gone out and spent a stupid amount of money on a navy pleated skirt and beige twin-set from the Scotch Wool shop. He knows you wouldn’t be seen dead in it; that’s what makes it the perfect choice. A few weeks later he buys you an XXL man’s tee-shirt emblazoned with the slogan “Dip me in chocolate and throw me to the lesbians”. He acts offended, pretends to think you’d find it funny. You have friends who are lesbians, and they weren’t amused, either.
You fall ill. You are ill for weeks. The pain increases until you can’t leave the house without help. He refuses to take you to hospital. You get worse. One night, your six year-old daughter finds you curled up on the stairs, unable to move, afraid you are about to die. She wakes the only sensible person in the house – her eight year-old sister, who calls for an ambulance. You are put on antibiotics, but you’re ill for months. You later find out that the infection had been left for so long that you could have died. He tells you he wasn’t to know you were so ill.
While you are bedridden, things happen behind closed doors. You don’t find out about them until years later after you’ve escaped him…
You are surprised when he agrees to go with to see a marriage guidance counsellor. You think that maybe he wants to be in a happy relationship after all. The counsellor is a woman. Blinded by his charm, she hangs on his every word. She tries to hide, it, but she thinks you are a neurotic fool. Everything you say is turned against you.
You hate her for adding to the damage, yet you begin to doubt your judgement, your sanity.
You get up in the middle of the night, walk to the bridge over the river, watch the scummy water swirl. You think of your children, your mother, try to weigh your pain against their love. You have no value. You are worse than shit on an acrobat’s shoe. You try to jump, but you see images of your children in the grasp of that man, with nobody to protect them; your children with no mother to watch them grow. You go home, climb into bed, lie right at the edge so there is no risk of any part of you touching the monster who sleeps.
You take that 3 am walk again and again, each time recycling the same thoughts. Deep down you’ve always known you’d never jump, but it’s reassuring to feel you have the option.
You try to find ways to feel worthy, working harder and harder in every way, cooking, cleaning, knocking down walls, designing, stripping woodwork, waxing, rendering, sawing, screwing together custom shelves, making everything from scratch out of whatever you can find. For some reason he demands your presence when Eastenders is on. You obediently sit through it, trying not to wriggle while the unlikely story painfully unfolds. He slackens your strings and you slink away to finish painting the bathroom cabinets you built, not understanding that he resents your ability to do so many things well; that every time you pick up a hammer and knock in a nail, it’s comparable to constructing your own coffin. On the other hand, if you didn’t do these jobs, he would be angry that the place was so decrepit.
He enjoys attacking your political views, your ethics and your compassionate nature. He belittles everything you stand for, everything you do, everything you are, his every action, word and look designed to destroy you.
There are big things, like the way he sabotages your efforts with the children, and crazy, petty things, like the coffee issue. For twenty years he never drinks coffee in front of you, saying he doesn’t like it. After you leave him, you will learn that he enjoys coffee, but since it is your choice of drink, he must oppose you.
You sing loudly to drown your thoughts, but you can’t ignore how the abuse goes on and on and on. Always you are in the wrong.
If you tell your friends, few of them believe you – even if they have seen a couple of his games. He always covers them up with a joke, or finds a way to wrong-foot you – or they don’t care, because they are flattered by his attention… but some… some know. Some recognise it the moment they set eyes on him. Some shudder, and never want to be anywhere near him again.
They are the wise ones; the intuitive, insightful, unshakeable angels.
They are your saviours.
©Jane Paterson Basil