Silenced suffering

4.6 million women in England and Wales have experienced domestic abuse. One incident of domestic violence is reported to the police every minute. On average two women are killed every week by a current or ex male partner.

If 4.6 women were being tortured by a single man, he would be hunted down like an animal.

If two women a week were being murdered by a fanatical group, the media and the world would be baying for blood.

Why is the world so silent? Why do these women have no names?

We suffer in silence. We are muted by terror. Hushed by a loving smile in public that says ‘wait till you get home.’ What we once would have run from we stay and accept. We know when the storm is coming, and when it does we take the full force. We cower down, arms up protecting our head, or worse still, we shield our babies with our bodies. This is our reality, this is our normality.

He rolls his eyes at me, white froth building up in the corners of his mouth, flecks of spit showering my face and clothes. His pupils are the size of dinner plates as he stares at me in a wild rage, and screams at me over and over again. “You slag! You slag! You dirty fucking whore!”

My heart hammers, my chest rising and falling with each erratic beat. I can’t catch my breath, can’t move. I want to be brave. Be brave Danielle. He stares me down, then spits. A huge lump of phlegm hits me straight in the face. He turns in to our bedroom and slams the door in my face. I stare at the back of the door, I can hear my heart beat banging in my ears. I take a few deep breaths, OK, that wasn’t bad. Not bad at all actually. He didn’t hit me at least. There’s a dirty mark on the back of the door. Kids. Must remember to clean that…’

‘I wash up the breakfast things and wash and dress the children. I’m halfway through putting a pile of ironing away when he walks into the bedroom. ‘Ok?’ he asks. I smile over my shoulder at him. ‘I’m fine.’ I even convince myself. He sits down on the bed next to my ironing and asks if I fancy going to the beach. The pile of clean, fresh, neatly folded clothes starts to slide down towards him. I watch it get nearer to him, unraveling, the folds falling apart. He doesn’t touch it, just stares at me. He knows it’s falling.

At the beach he sits on the sand watching me play in the water with the children. I smile at him and wave. He waves back. He is wearing those sunglasses with mirrored lenses and I can’t see his eyes. I hate that. If you can see someone’s eyes, you can tell if they’re truly smiling.

Later when we get home I am in the kitchen and suddenly I see his eyes and he’s not smiling.

That night I can’t sleep because of the throbbing bruise on the back of my head.

I wake up in the morning to a happy husband, already up, faffing about in the kitchen by the sound of it. I stretch and turn over into my pillow, my head not hurting as much as it had. He sounds pretty cheerful, whistling to himself. I hear the kettle boiling and then footsteps coming down the hall. He pops his head round the door. ‘Morning Princess’. He comes in and sits beside me. I turn to face him and he tenderly strokes the hair off my face. ‘Tea?’ I smile and nod and he gets up and strides off back to the kitchen. I close my eyes. This might be a good day. Hope fills my heart and I doze off…

I wake, heart hammering. Heavy footsteps thundering down the hallway towards the bedroom. He looms over me, his fist connects with the side of my face, I literally hear my nose pop and then comes the blood. Hot, sticky blood that just keeps coming. And then there’s another fist, round my hair and it drags me out of the bed, across the floor to the bathroom. As I cross the threshold I see little eyes on me, watching as I’m pulled out of sight. He hoists me up and pushes my head towards the sink. He turns the tap on and starts throwing water in my face. I can’t breathe, water and blood drowning me. I’m sputtering and choking. And then he lets me go. My knees buckle and I slide on to the cold, blood-stained, tiled floor.

He leaves then, taking the children out to do something nice. Wonderful daddy. I do what any good wife does, I stay at home and clean up the mess. My blood all over the sheets, a smeared trail across the floor, a blood bath in the sink.

Then, I pour away a half made cup of tea, and wait to welcome my family home.’

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