It starts with something simple: He thinks her jeans are too tight even though the jeans fit perfectly fine. He doesn’t want other men to look at her and though she thinks it’s cute, soon he is telling her not to wear make-up, where she can go and where she cannot go. He tells her she is nothing without him. He calls her names. It is not long before the beautiful woman who had so much self-confidence and a strong will to face the world is being locked up in her house, isolated from the rest of the world and feeling like she cannot look even her best of friends in the eye.
If one of her friends does try to call or text her, he goes into a rage. Cutting words fly. And so do fists. She must learn the lesson. It can only be him in her life. There can be nothing else for her except him. He must control her. He must own every last part of her: her mind, her body and her soul.
If she tries to push back, if she tries to hold on to the last vestiges of her personal identity, she pays a hefty price – a black eye or a cuff on the head that sends her flying across the room. She lies on the floor, dizzy and shaken, knowing she must relinquish everything inside her to make him happy – or leave.
She also knows she cannot leave. She has no way to make money for herself. He made sure of that. He made sure she was completely beholden to him alone for everything, including the food she eats and the clothes she wears. She is not allowed to work or go to school. That would give others too much influence over her and he wants to be the only one to control her.
Where would she go even if she could leave? He has chased off all of her friends and pissed off all of her family. They all warned her. After her first attempt at suicide, they begged her to please stay away from him. After she cried to them about how sad and lonely she was, they pleaded with her to make the right decision for herself.
Oh, but he knows how to hook her in again and draw her back. He tells her how much he loves her and how he never wanted to hurt her. He tells her how he cannot live without her. If she ever leaves him, he will kill himself. He buys her a special presents to show his love: flowers, candy, jewellery. He makes their relationship seem so normal, for a while.
She buys into his words dripping with honey and his overly expressed love. She wants to believe that his possessiveness is because he loves her so deeply, even though it scares her to her core. She tells herself that he needs her. Her friends and family just don’t understand because they have never experienced love this deep.
He has snagged her again. Those days of violence and control were just a bad season, a passing phase. He has changed. She starts to think life can be good again, so in hopes of reconnecting with others she texts a friend to say how happy she is. He comes home while she is contentedly cooking his dinner and he hears a reply to her text message come in. He loses it. Pots and food start flying, dishes are breaking and blood is flowing.
It all happens in such a whirlwind that she cannot catch her breath. She cannot fathom what happened. She lies on the floor again, broken and bruised, as he slams the door yelling that he needs a drink. “Don’t even think about leaving this house!” He takes her phone with him.
Her innate common sense and self-preservation tells her to run. Get away as fast as possible. But where can she go? She has no friends left. He made sure she couldn’t go back to her family, too. She has no money to get a place of her own. The house, car and everything they own is in his name. She cannot even call anyone for help because he took her phone.
She knows her life is on the line. If she doesn’t get out now, she knows she will die by his hand one day – either physically or mentally.
Can she go to the police for protection? She knows of other women who tried that only to be laughed out of the police station or told to go back to their abusive men. She cannot face any more mockery or disdain right now.
She needs someone who will believe in her, someone who will care about her for a change. She needs a safe place to go. Does the government have a safe place for her? Are there any social programmes that can help her build a life that is not full of constant fear and dread? She cannot think of any such programmes.
There only seems to be one way out of this – death. Either he kills her or she kills herself. In utter despair, she finally starts to cry. She thought she had lost the ability to cry a long time ago. This goes on for a very long time until she hears a knock on the door.
She is afraid it will be him coming back already, but she answers it. It is her neighbour from across the street coming to check on her. This sisterly neighbour has always been so kind. The neighbour lady helps her clean up the broken dishes, the food strewn everywhere and the dried blood on her face.
The Sister from across the street knows a safe place she can go. She has already called and made arrangements for her to leave right away. Will she leave? Will she please go to this safe place? Hell, yes!