It has taken me a while to write this post. (This is not about anything that has ever happened to me).
My friend Sarah* is the oldest of three sisters, she comes from a loving family and has what most people would call a normal happy upbringing. She is a strong, independent and courageous woman as is her younger sister. However her youngest sister Nicola for some reason has always been troubled. She was badly bullied at High School and left home at 16 claiming to have been kicked out (not true). She has never gone back to her parent’s home and moved in with her older boyfriend, she is now 19.
When we got off the plane in London last week I received a text message from Sarah to say that Nicola had been beaten unconscious by her boyfriend. It made me feel sick. But I knew that this wasn’t the first time he had beaten her. Sarah has agonised about how to get through to Nicola.
She told me about a conversation they’d had when she begged Nicola to leave and asked why she stayed. Nicola’s response – “I love him and it happens in all relationships doesn’t it. I mean can you seriously tell me that Chris (Sarah’s boyfriend) has never raised his hand to you?”
Nicola is lucky to the extent that her friends had been in the house earlier and had seen that things were not going well. When Nicola’s boyfriend kicked them out of the house they called the police. Nicola came round to the police light being shined in her eyes. He spent the weekend in the cells and was up in court first thing on the Monday morning. Sarah hopes that this will be the wake up call that Nicola means to get away and stay away – even though Nicola is stubbornly independent and after being discharged from hospital she insisted on going back to the flat that they shared, as it is her home. The system however seems to be mixed up. Firstly the police called Nicola and asked that she bring fresh clothes and belongings for his court appearance. This just seems ridiculous to me, of all the people to call, his victim? Secondly he has been released on bail because he pleaded not guilty – I don’t know the legal system and I’m coming at this from a purely emotional stance. But a man beats a young woman unconscious and he is allowed to walk free from jail after two days because he says he didn’t do it. Sarah has learned from their lawyer that this is a legal loophole at the main hearing he will probably plead guilty for a reduced sentence.
It makes me angry that a young woman believes that being hit is part of a loving relationship. It makes me angry that the legal system doesn’t seem to be able to protect her. It makes me angry that there is nothing I can do to help. It makes me angry that I can’t make him feel as scared and powerless as he has her. It makes me appreciate the loving, supportive relationship that I have with O. It makes me appreciate the fact that, to my knowledge, my Mum, my sisters and my friends have never been victims of domestic violence. It makes me grateful for the shelters and women that support victims of domestic violence.
* I’ve made the names up but the story and emotions are real