A letter to my younger self

This letter was written by a brave member of SafeLives staff, who is also one of our Pioneers. She has chosen to share her story with the hope of raising awareness and empowering other survivors.

To my younger self

Just because he is black doesn’t mean you have to defend him whatever he does. Just because you stood up to prejudice and married a black man doesn’t mean you have to deny what he is doing.

When people are racist to him it’s right to defend him, be angry and hurt, and support him, but that’s separate from accepting his violence and anger at you.

You are not his protector.

It’s not ok just because he is a victim himself.

It’s right to want to try and escape. Its right to want to protect your children, his children from seeing and hearing his bad behaviour.

I know it’s hard because he is fitting that horrible prejudiced stereotype of a violent black man and you don’t want him to be.

You want to be able to prove them all wrong, all those racists. All those people who say these bad things about people of colour are wrong… but so is he.

He is wrong to be violent and controlling.

You don’t have to be as good a cook as his mum. You don’t have to fix the window he broke by pushing you through it. He should fix it. He is responsible, not you.

You don’t have to lie when your colleague asks you about the marks on your arms.

You don’t have to make everything ok.

I so understand why you want to make everything alright and calm again, because it’s a much nicer place when he is calm and nice.

Also, you know when that colleague at work says to you “why don’t you just leave” please don’t question or doubt yourself, just remember that you know this man inside out and you knew when it was the right time.

Remember you got you and your children out safely by waiting for the right time.

When you tell his mum and she says you must “turn the other cheek”. ……Please don’t.

When you leave, and you were brave to leave, please don’t feel guilty that the children don’t have their dad at home anymore. It was for the best. Your boys’ lives will turn out well.

They will grow into good men; clever, emotionally intelligent and above all kind.

When one of the boys asks you “Will I hurt ladies like dad does” because everyone tells him he “looks like his dad” please know that you were right to reassure him that of course he would not, and that violence and abuse is a choice.

And please know you were right. Neither of them turned out like their dad….. In fact the complete opposite.  In years to come you will look at your boys sometimes and almost burst with pride.

When the time is right, talk with your boys about what they saw and heard so they can equip themselves to deal with their dad going forward and know they are not to blame. Don’t think you need to protect them from knowing their dad is violent and abusive. You need to protect them from being confused by the truth not being told.

And by the way, he will never go on to hurt your mum and dad like he threatened or tell your police colleagues things that will make you lose your job…. He won’t because he is just threatening you to get you to do his bidding.

One day in the future you will make all this work for you. You will use it to make a difference to lots of other people’s lives. You will not have a vanilla life; you will have a life with all shades of colour because of this experience.

You will turn the negative into positive and you will flourish and reach your potential. Just not in the way you dreamed of as a child. Sorry but you won’t be a famous dancer!

You will be a well-respected police officer, a light in domestic abuse work nationally and most of all a good mum, daughter, sister, friend and wife. This will be your collateral good

If you’re worried about your relationship, feel scared of your partner or are concerned about a friend, help is available. You can call the National Domestic Violence Helpline (run in partnership between Women’s Aid and Refuge) 24 hours a day on 0808 2000 247 – if you’re in immediate danger always call 999 and ask for the police.

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Our Pioneers

Pioneers’ expertise and passion makes our work meaningful, authentic and effective. Find out more about Pioneering at SafeLives.

Survivor voices

A group of experts by experience came together and named themselves the SafeLives Pioneers, because they want to use their experiences and passion to change the world. Their voices inform everything we do, and together we aim to transform the response to domestic abuse in the UK – for every victim and survivor and their children.