Thursday, 24 March 2016
The Ghomeshi verdict has everybody talking. They say that's good - but what I fear is what it's got everybody thinking. Specifically, any victim of abuse who's ever considered working up the courage and self-esteem to stand up for themselves against the very person who has stolen both their courage and belief in themselves.
It also has many on the outside looking in - questioning the victims' motives. Hopefully, it will raise the topic of WHY victims don't speak out, can't speak out. Which is a hard thing to answer, when most victims can't even tell you why.
I married my abuser. And I was a strong person, with solid self-esteem, an incredible support system, family and friends. I was well educated and outspoken. And still, abuse erodes away everything good that everyone else tells you about yourself, until all you can believe is that you aren't worthy, and that you deserve the cruelty you live with. And you try HARDER. Until you're ashamed and embarrassed to leave, and everyone looking in still thinks he's a wonderful guy. There was only one incidence of physical violence - which was never repeated, probably thanks to my brothers' presence in my life and the arrival of my Great Dane - who made my house feel safe for nine years. The mental abuse was pretty much continuous, and exhausting enough to keep me emotionally off balance for years.
I was lucky. My friends and family never once turned away from me. They never once gave up on me. They gave me back the strength I gave away. How many victims don't have that kind of support? Even with that kind of support, I couldn't muster up the courage to make him accountable. Losing more than a decade of my life is the price I paid for my silence. Until the courts and the general public understand victim behaviour, we cannot hope for different verdicts in these cases, and I am very afraid that these results will keep future victims silent. If you haven't ever been in their shoes: listen, and don't judge.
And never, ever give up on them.