IT was described as one of the most moving contributions heard in Parliament as Labour MP Rosie Duffield bravely spoke of her harrowing experience of domestic abuse.
The 48-year-old gave the speech on Wednesday during a Commons debate on the Domestic Abuse Bill. She described in emotional detail the controlling relationship she endured, leaving colleagues in tears.
Labour MP Rosie Duffield bravely spoke of her harrowing experience of domestic abuse[/caption]
Her words are a stark reminder of why it is so important to fight for the safety of people abused by their partners, as stressed in The Sun’s Give Me Shelter campaign.
Today, we share the Canterbury MP’s powerful words in full.
‘WHAT is domestic violence or abuse? And where do we get our ideas about it from?
Often we see the same images and stereotypes on TV; housing estates, working class families, drunk men coming home from the pub, women surrounded by children and a sequence of shouting followed by immediate physical violence or assault. But the soap opera scenes only tend to focus on one or two aspects of a much bigger, more complex picture.
Domestic violence has many faces and the faces of those who survive it are varied too.
There are 650 MPs in this place, 650 human beings.
We know that statistically it’s highly likely some of us here will have directly experienced an abusive relationship and we are just as likely as anyone else to have grown up in a violent household. Abuse isn’t only about those noticeable physical signs. Sometimes there are no bruises.
Abuse is very often all about control and power.
It’s about making themselves feel big or biggest — but that’s not how abusers present themselves.
It’s not how they win your heart. It’s not how they persuade you to meet them for a coffee, then go to a gig, then spend an evening snuggled up in front of a movie at their place.
When they ask you out, they don’t present their rage and they don’t tell you they like the idea of strong, independent, successful women but not the reality.
YOU’RE LEFT REELING
They don’t threaten, criticise, control, yell or exert their physical strength in increasingly frightening ways. Not yet, not at the start.
Not when they think you’re sweet, funny and gorgeous.
Not when they want to impress you. Not when they turn up to only your third date with chocolate, then jewellery.
Not when they meet your friends, your parents or the leader of your political party.
They don’t do any of that then — it’s only later when the door to your home is locked.
Only then do you really start to learn what power and control looks and feels like.
That’s when you learn that “I’ll always look after you”, “I’ll never let you go” and “You’re mine for life” can sound menacing and are used as a warning over and over and over again.
It’s when the ring is on your finger that the mask can start to slip and the promises sound increasingly like threats.
It’s then you can spend all day — after 12 or more hours at work — longing to see the person you love, only to find that on the walk or Tube journey home they refuse to speak a single, solitary word to you. Eventually, at home, they’ll find a way to let you know which particular sin you have apparently committed.
“Your dress was too short.” “The top you wore in the chamber was too low-cut.” Or you didn’t respond to a message immediately.
It starts slowly. A few emotional knocks, alternated with romantic gushes and promises of everlasting love, so you’re left reeling, confused, spinning around in an ever-changing but always hyper-alert state, not knowing what mood or message awaits you.
You tell yourself to be less sensitive, less emotional, to stop over-analysing every little thing. Ignore the moods — he never stops saying he adores you, right? All seems good again.
A whole week goes by, a week of summer evening walks home and maybe a drink on the way.
A long weekend booked and organised as a surprise while you’re at work. The journey there is full of promise and promises.
YOU SIT AND WAIT
Time away alone together in a place away from stress. But then it starts . . . in a strange city, his face changes in a way you are starting to know and dread. In a way that tells you you need to stay calm, silent and very careful.
He goes for a walk, you sit in your hotel room and wait.
You read a city guide and plan which sights you want to visit, mentally packing a day full of fun.
But he seems to have another agenda. He doesn’t want you to leave the room. He’s paid a lot of money and you need to pay him your full attention.
You’re expected to do as you are told. You know for certain what that means, so you do exactly as you are told. In the months that follow, those patterns continue.
Reward, punishment, promises of happily ever after, alternated with abject rage, menace, silent treatment and coercive control. Financial abuse and control.
Fellow MPs comfort Rosie after telling her story of domestic abuse[/caption]
A point-blank refusal to disclose his salary or earnings, an assumption and insistence on it being OK to live in your home without contributing a single penny as bills continue to pile up.
A refusal to work as your salary is great, on public knowledge.
The false promises to start paying some specific bills, which you discover months later remain unpaid. And the slow but sure disappearance of any kindness, respect or loving behaviour.
You get to the stage where you’re afraid to go home. After 15 hours at work, you spend another hour on the phone to your mum or a close friend, trembling, a shadow of your usual self.
You answer the phone and the sheer nastiness and rage tells you not to go home at all.
So you leave work with your best friend, exhausted, shaking, and buy a toothbrush on the way, knowing the verbal abuse followed by silent refusal to speak at all would be 100 times worse tomorrow.
THE MASK HAS SLIPPED FOR GOOD
Every day is emotionally exhausting, working in a job you love but putting on a brave face and pretending all is good, fine . . . wonderful, in fact.
Then, the pretence of the public face starts to drop completely.
Being yelled at in the car with the windows down, no attempt to hide behaviour during constituency engagements.
Humiliation and embarrassment now added to permanent trepidation and constant hurt and pain.
Impossible to comprehend that this is the person who tells his family how much he loves you and longs to make you his wife.
But the mask has slipped for good and questions are starting.
Excuses are given to worried friends and concerned family, colleagues who’ve started to notice.
So one night, after more crying and being constantly verbally abused because you suggest that he help pay a bit towards your new sofa, you realise you’ve reached the end and you simply cannot endure this for another day or week, and certainly not for the rest of your life.
Having listened intently for two whole weeks to his morning shower, timing the routine until you know it off by heart, you summon up the courage to take his front door keys from his bag.
You’ve tried everything else on Earth and know for certain, 100 per cent, what awaits you that night if you don’t act today.
Heart banging, you hide them carefully and creep back into bed, praying he won’t discover what you’ve done. You know for certain what will happen if he does. You know an apology will not follow.
PLEASE REACH OUT
You know for sure that it will be because of what you’ve done and that it is all your fault.
He leaves for the gym, telling you how much he adores you. He tells you to remember that you will always be his. He kisses you lovingly as though there has never been months of verbal abuse, threats and incidents he knows you will never disclose.
He tells you he’ll bring something nice home for dinner.
And sure enough, the next few days and weeks are a total hell.
Texts and calls yelling that “You’ve locked me out like a dog”, “Nobody treats me that way”, “This is the last thing you will ever do”.
You cry, you grieve for your destroyed dreams, you try to heal, you ignore the emails from wedding companies, but it’s like withdrawal and it takes six months.
But one day you notice that you’re smiling, that it’s OK to laugh and it’s a week or two since the daily sobbing stopped.
You realise you’re allowed to be happy, you dare to relax and you dare to start to feel free.
MOST READ IN FABULOUS
You realise it’s not your fault, you realise he is now left alone with his rage and narcissism. You dare to start dating someone and you realise you’ve survived.
But the brightest, most precious thing of all is that you realise you are loved and believed by friends, family and colleagues who believe in you and support you.
So if anyone’s watching and needs a friend, please reach out if it’s safe to do so. And please talk to any of us, because we’ll be there and we’ll hold your hand.’
We should all reach out, if safe, to help people suffering domestic violence[/caption]
- Need help? Call the Refuge freephone 24-hour national domestic violence helpline on 0808 2000 247.