He Didn’t Beat Me by Barbara O’Donnell


Recently, I changed my name on one specific online platform. Numerous enquiries followed, the majority of which were friendly and concerned.  I decided I want to be a lot less searchable on this particular platform.  My name change is not such a departure. The first name is one of my own, and the surname exists in my family.

I suffered Domestic Abuse by an ex, who has now shown up again online.

To clarify, I was not physically beaten. The abuse was emotional and financial.  He tried to isolate me from my work, family and friends.  There were insults, threatening, controlling and shaming behaviours, some in public, there were unwarranted criticism, belittling behaviours and withholding of affection.  At one point, he threatened suicide, making out that it was because of me and displayed other gas-lighting behaviours.  I would come home from a twelve-hour shift, not knowing what kind of mood he would be in.  Any time I called him out on it, he would beg me not to leave, and tell me that he loved me.

But he never beat me.

It was bad enough, that by the time I left, my work and friendships had started to suffer.  I kept getting physically unwell; constantly exhausted, unable to sleep properly or really take care of myself, much of which was down to him preventing me from doing so.

But he never beat me.

Shingles. Increased bouts of colds and flu. My hormones went so berserk that I had to start thyroxine – that one is for life. Increased musculoskeletal pain.  The result of tying myself into knots trying to fix the unfixable and maintain normality.  This is what we teach our women to do and our men to expect.

But he never beat me.

It took six months to be able to leave the flat I shared with him, to save the money for a new deposit.  I immediately blocked any and all contact with him online, on every single platform and left no forwarding address. But he worked in the building across the road, and so  was unavoidable unless I got a new job too.

But he never beat me.

Every time the abuser changes their profile and  shows up  again in “people you may know” because your old email information has been mined by some robot, you have to respond in some way – either block them all over again, or change your own profile.

You have to do something.

Granted, this is if you choose to maintain an online presence. As a writer getting out there into the world, I choose knowingly to do that.  The bottom line is, the anxiety never really goes away if the abuser displays any kind of stalking tendency, either in real life or online.

I regularly hear the line “but she’s such an intelligent woman”, as if intelligence is the only factor at play in these situations.  I know women, both personally and professionally, from all walks of life, who have suffered Domestic Abuse in various forms.

Insidious barely covers it – and all the more insidious for being harder to explain.  It is toxic stuff that permeates farther than just your immediate present.  It can also rob you of future happiness through fear of it being repeated.

I never thought for a moment that I would be one of those people.

He never beat me.

What is astonishing is how willing some people are to disbelieve you, or make light of it.  To imply you are overreacting.

Do anything other than lay the blame squarely where it belongs – with the person doing the abusing.

This is happening to our mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, cousins, and friends. It happens to men too, and we’re not hearing half enough about that due to incredibly biased gender identity roles and rape culture. I’d argue that men and so called “strong” people are actually at greater risk in some ways, because people just don’t believe them.

I was very lucky. My friends and family not only raised the alarm, but supported me amazingly.

It is hard to imagine where I might be now if I hadn’t had that support, and been able to leave.

But he never beat me.

November 25th is International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women 2015 http://www.un.org/en/events/endviolenceday/

#IDEVAW #domesticabuse #domesticviolence #YesAllWomen #MaybeHeDoesntHitYou #Butheneverbeatme