MPs moved to tears by Rosie Duffield’s domestic abuse story
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MPs moved to tears by Rosie Duffield’s domestic abuse story

October 8, 2019


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 … one or two aspects of a much bigger and
more complex picture. Domestic violence has many faces. And the faces of those who survive it are varied, too. Abuse isn’t 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. They don’t threaten, criticise, control,
yell, or exert their physical strength in increasing 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. 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 that you can spend
all day, after twelve or more hours at work,
longing to see the person you love only to find 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 are left reeling,
confused, spinning around in an ever-changing but
always hyper-alert state, not knowing what
mood or message awaits you. But then it starts. In a strange city, his face changes in a way
that 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 sites 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. And then 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, 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 and public knowledge. The false promises
to start paying 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 a stage where
you are afraid to go home, So one night,
after more crying and being constantly
verbally abused because you suggest that
he helps 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 the sound of 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 have tried everything else
on Earth and know for certain, 100%, what awaits you
that night if you do not act today. 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”, “No one 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 is like withdrawal, and it takes six months. But one day you notice that
you’re smiling, that it’s okay to laugh, and it’s been a week or two
since the daily sobbing stopped. You realise you are
allowed to be happy. You dare to relax and
you dare to start to feel free. 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 that you have survived, but the brightest and most
precious thing of all is to realise that you are loved and believed by friends,
family and colleagues who believe in you and support you.​ So if anyone is watching
and needs a friend, please reach out,
if it is safe to do so, and please talk to any of us,
because we will be there and we will hold your hand. – Hear, hear! [Applause] I thank the honourable
Lady for that speech, which was simultaneously
as horrifying and as moving a contribution in the Chamber as I have heard in my 22 years of membership
of the House. Thank you.

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