I read an article today about risk assessment.
It was much more to do with business and Covid-19 than domestic abuse, but the words resonated deeply as I make art about recovery and moving on from partner abuse.
I know that there were times when I sensed danger as I started new relationships, at least subconsciously. I am not saying here that I was complicit in my own abuse because I knew it would happen. But rather that the warning signs were there and I was blindsided by them because of the bright lights.
Men who abuse women are usually charming. These men have little trouble attracting women because of that charm. They are often exciting, funny, captivating and some are very skilled at an almost immediate manipulation of feelings like sympathy and nurturing that so many women possess. These are the bright lights that blind us as we walk in like rabbits to relationships that many abuse victims have been in before. We do not hear the beeping horns.
The idea of risk assessment is a fascinating one. Optimism and hope lend themselves to an unfavourable assessment. Battered women hope desperately for better outcomes next time round. Optimism comes when there is a feeling that, surely, my time has come. The more you do the lottery, the more you are likely to win, in theory.
For me personally, I can recall that entering new relationships with a sort of gung-ho approach to my safety did give me a sense of control. I did not heed warnings from friends or family because I was entering something on my own terms, like a cowgirl, and I was brave: what could possibly go wrong when I had so much control over my own destiny?
Coercion and violence are nearly always invisible at the point of entering new abusive relationships. Months of therapy and self-understanding have given me the power to see camouflaged signs, but I know that I am as vulnerable as I always was, as all women are.
Risk assessment means that you need to know how valuable YOU are. There is so much to lose when you realise this. Unfortunately, women who are long term or repeat victims of domestic abuse, in all its forms, have lost all sense of self-worth, they have no value of themselves to themselves. And yet you are the most valuable thing in the world so putting yourself at risk is dangerous. You could lose everything, as many of us do, and at that point, it may too late.
© 2020 Pasha du Valentine