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On Saturday, Brian McFadden, formerly of Irish boy band Westlife and now a personality in Australian media, tweeted “Men who hit women are pathetic. Women who make excuses and stay with the guy are just as bad,”  He copped quite a backlash from all walks of life here with the media and general public speaking out against his ill-informed tweet.  He later apologised for his comments.  I’m not jumping on the bandwagon to have a go at him.  I once had the same attitude as him but I so wish people would realise the devastating effect they can have on an already fragile soul by putting the words out there.  Here is the letter I’d like to write to him.  He may never read it, but I need to write it..

Dear Mr McFadden

I’m writing this because, chances are, I’ll never meet you and you’ll never get to know why I was so upset with your tweet the other day about women who stay in violent relationships being as bad as the pathetic men who hit them.  I’m not going to harp on about why you were wrong or judge you.  I had the same opinion as you for many years, so who am I to judge? I also realise that it’s pretty hard to make yourself completely understood in under 140 characters, so we may have even lost the real point of your message but sometimes, shutting up until you’re sure, is a better way to  handle things.

You’ve apologised and that’s great, but I do wonder if your apology came from an understanding of the reality of such situations or from a suggestion from your publicist who said you needed to say sorry? I hope it’s the former. It’s much more important, from my perspective for you to understand and not say sorry, than to say sorry but not understand.   Regardless, I think you and anyone else with the same belief (which once included me) need to be made aware of the reasons people stay.  I say people, because it’s not just women. Men stay too for similar reasons and men feel even more isolated at times due to the fear of ridicule by their peers.  It’s an awful situation for everyone involved.

I recently wrote an article on my blog for White Ribbon Day which tells about my situation so I’m not going to rehash that.  You can read it here.  But I will tell you a few points that I didn’t make in that blog.  Not all victims of domestic violence are weak.  They don’t always stay because they love the person any more, though some do feel that.  They usually stay through fear.

Mr McFadden, can you possibly understand what it’s like as a parent, to be so controlled financially, that you don’t have the money to buy a loaf of bread to put in your children’s lunches?  Instead you ask them to come home for lunch as you do have leftovers or a can of baked beans in the cupboard… but no bread and no money to buy any.  Can you understand how it feels to  not want to ask for anymore, because you know it will end in a full blown fight. 

Can you for one moment, put yourself in the shoes of a parent, who’s child is being dragged outside while it’s other parent is saying, “if you leave me, you’ll never see him/her again?”  Do you possibly understand how it feels as someone’s daughter or son, to hear the words, “if you leave me, your mother/father will pay for it”?  Can you possibly understand the fear that invokes? And can you try to imagine, how it feels, if you DO  find the strength to leave, to have to sit up night after night, standing guard over your family?

Not all domestic violence victims are weak.  I’m a very strong minded, opinionated, educated woman who never thought I’d find myself in the situation that I did.  I didn’t realise it was happening, the abuse was so gradual.  Domestic violence is usually depicted as women being beaten to a pulp.  I didn’t fit into that category. I didn’t have black eyes or a bloodied nose.  I didn’t have broken bones or teeth.  It was much more subtle than that.

I was teased to start with… which turned into belittling… which turned into humiliation… which turned into abuse.  I had no idea this was a means of control.  I’m not a stupid person but I honestly didn’t realise this was abuse.  I was financially controlled.. I was timed when I went places.  I was told everyday how useless, ugly, fat, worthless I was.. Not always in those words. That’s the really horrible part and the part you don’t seem to understand. 

I’m strong. If someone hits me I’ll fight back, no doubt.  If you call me fat, ugly and worthless to my face, I’ll fight back too.. But it doesn’t always happen just like that.  It’s usually a slow erosion of your self esteem.  It’s picking out the little things that you already feel self conscious about and making them seem worse than they are.  If I got dressed up to go somewhere, he would ask if I was really going to wear that, didn’t I think my legs were a bit too chunky in it.. Or that color lipstick didn’t really match what I was wearing.  My hair was never quite right.. too long, too short, too colored, not colored enough.. Most of these things were said with a smile..  Surely that can’t be considered abuse?

By the time the really nasty stuff started, I believed what he said.  Those sort of comments on a daily basis over a period of time acted like the tide beating against a cliff face.. They eroded my whole belief in myself, which wasn’t great to start with.  I mean, I am a bigger girl… and people on television, like your “great mate” Kyle, love to ridicule anyone who doesn’t fit the mould of the ideal woman so why wouldn’t I believe what he says.  I really must be the worthless person he said I was.  I deserved the crap I got.

It was a relief when he finally put my head through a wall. As I lay on the floor, trying to get back up to protect my kids, but still feeling sick and dizzy, my head pounding from being rammed through a plaster wall, I felt a sense of relief.  At last there was something that I could say to myself, okay, that’s domestic violence. That one was clear cut.. I had an excuse finally. Maybe people wouldn’t think of me as a failure as a wife after all. 

Trying to get help from authorities was near impossible though.  I didn’t fit the image of battered wife.. so I must just be the ball breaker he said I was.  Police didn’t want to know most of the time.  They called it a “tit for tat situation” because I dared stand up to him and fight back.  If I didn’t have the support of friends and family, I possibly would have gone back… it would have been easier.  Unlike your friend, who you publicly lumped in the same category as their abuser, I had people who were prepared to help me. 

So you see, I feel completely angry & upset that you put me in the same category as my ex husband.  It makes me angry.. It makes me doubt myself.  It makes the guilt I feel go into overdrive.  It makes me feel unworthy, all over again.  In short.. you have made me and other survivors and victims of domestic abuse feel like crap.  We don’t deserve that! I, for one have battled long and hard to not feel that way.  You have no right to put me back there.

Please,for your sake and the sake of women everywhere,  in future, hand your twitter account over to your publicist and make sure they change your password so you don’t know it.  Then if you feel the need to have a rant in your 140 characters, text it to them.  If they think it’s not going to send your image into a worse downward spiral than it is now, they’ll upload it for you.  If they think it’s going to put you in the firing line all over again, maybe they can rework it for you.  It will still be your words with a modicum of common sense and clarity put in.  It can only be a good thing.

You may never read this  Mr McFadden.. but I’ve written it and I feel better as a result.  I know you probably think that any publicity is good publicity so I’ve possibly just playied into your hands but hopefully, even if you don’t understand why your tweet was so wrong on all levels, someone else reading it may take a lesson from it.

Happy non-tweeting.. Livvy

Not violent - not silent

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