Several weeks ago I heard the remarkable Jenny Smith on Jeremy Vine’s program on BBC Radio 2. After more than 40 years, she still had trouble forming the words to describe the horrific abuse she had suffered at the hands of her partner. But form them she did and I cried along with her, for her and for the others treated as if there were something wrong with them, for inciting the violence they were the victims of.
It really isn’t too long ago that it was assumed domestic violence must be the consequence of something battered women were doing wrong. Worse still, it seems, that those who sought help were doped up with valium or referred to psychiatric services.
Amongst various treatments for her abuse, Jenny was subjected to Electroconvulsive Therapy – This because her partner beat her, because he burnt her, because he tried to drown her in the bath..
No doubt the people who believed this was somehow her fault may even still be alive. I can’t quite get my head around the limitations of those people’s thinking and yet they were in positions of power. Power enough to leave a woman literally running for her life because none of them were listening.
Jenny was one of the very first women to enter the world’s first women’s refuge in Chiswick in London in 1973 which was founded by Erin Pizzey.
To me we are most human when we attempt to understand another’s suffering, but we cannot do that without sharing the story first. So my heartfelt thanks and congratulations to Jenny for getting her story published.
I’d like to take the opportunity to honour her achievement in writing “The Refuge” – it’s on my Kindle queued up with some other memoirs as research I both look forward to and dread. I know it will both haunt and inspire me, so want to thank her for going through the pain of reliving the horrendous times, to place them on the page as record. I can only guess at how difficult that may have been, but listening to her, I know that it was.
This week over at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills’s Flash Fiction challenge is: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that considers history, near or far.
I’ve taken the liberty, as one or two others have, of condensing actual history to meet this challenge.
She should try harder; then it might not have been necessary. There must be something wrong with her. Was she so inadequate, she didn’t know how to keep her man happy? Ugo Cerletti was responsible for the latest insult to treat her ‘marriage problems’.
Now her man was out, the decision already made and no going back. She gathered the children and ran – afraid he would catch her first.
She borrowed money from neighbours for the bus and finally she was at Belmont Terrace being enveloped by Erin in hope and hugs.
“Come in Jenny. You’re safe with us.”
Refuge continues to offer women and children in the UK sanctuary from domestic violence.
If you would like to help Refuge with their work, need their help or would like to make a donation, please visit their comprehensive website here.
There is a growing awareness of domestic violence against men. Support can be found at Mankind who would be equally grateful for support and contributions to continue their work.