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A Letter to Women In Abusive Relationships - From a Survivor, Me

16/07/2015 17:36 BST | Updated 16/07/2016 10:59 BST

My dear Comrade,

It took me a while to figure out what to address you by, but as a woman who understands more than most what you are going through, I thought 'comrade' was perfect.

Because you're not alone you see, there are many of us 'comrades' out there who have experienced or are experiencing abuse at the hands of a man they love. And I hope that might just make you feel a little less alone for starters.

Loneliness is one of the worst things isn't it?

When we are in a relationship that is damaging and unhealthy. I can remember it now.

Feeling too embarrassed or ashamed to tell anyone how the man I adored - and who claimed to adore me - could hurt me so much, in so many ways.

My abusive relationship happened over 16 years ago and yet I can still vividly remember that horrible feeling of knowing that I had to 'keep him happy' in order for everything to be ok.

Oh yes. I remember it very well.

The exhaustion. The pressure. The way my heart would sink when a furious look would cross his face or he'd start with his interrogation.

It's not normal you know. This behaviour. I say this because it can often feel 'normal' to us when we are in it.

Was it like a fairytale at the beginning?

Did he come in and sweep you off you feet? I know the man I loved certainly did.

I mistook his aggression for passion, his criticism for care, his smothering for love. At the beginning, he was my 'hero' but he soon turned into something far from that.

First came the put downs. Then the control started. The questions. The rifling through my belongings. The demands. The mistreatment. The cruelty. The abuse.

Sound familiar?

It's so subtle that by the time you've noticed what's really going on, it's too late.  

Before you know it, you're in way over your head wondering what the hell has happened. You become confused, upset, bewildered and terrified.

You long for the man you met and don't recognise the monster he has become, as you hang on to the memories of the man you fell in love with and to any bit of positive, reasonable behaviour as proof that he is ok.

But deep down in your heart, you know the truth. As did I.

I say this to you because I understand what it is like to love a man whose behaviour is often monstrous.

Because it infuriates me when people say "why doesn't she just leave?!" as if it's the easiest thing in the world to do.

Most people like or need to think that abusive relationships are black and white, but they're not are they? We know that.

The abusive men we love or have loved don't start out hurting us at the beginning nor are they always total monsters. That's what makes it all so confusing and so hard.

But they are weak. And cowardly. And demanding. Experts at manipulation, tyranny and bullying.

Every time I tried to walk away from my ex, he would cry, apologise, or occasionally, even threaten suicide.

I often left him but I always went back. Until the last time that is.

Because I did manage to walk away and here I am now, a very different person from the hurt, confused young woman I was back then.

I am happy. I am confident. I have a good life. And it can be the same for you.

Escape from the prison that he has created, to control and terrorise you, is possible.

Perhaps not now, perhaps not even next year, but it is. Honestly it is. Hold on to that thought when things get tough and you feel like you're in hell.

I know you will have lost your confidence. I know you feel weak and broken and incapable. I know you feel a mere shadow of your former self. And I'll be honest with you. It won't be easy.

It will take time to recover. It will take time to heal. But that pain can be overcome.

Life can become happy and peaceful again. Take that from a woman who's been there and survived.

You will know when the time is right for you to leave.

In the meantime, there are things you can do to help get you through. Stop denying the truth to yourself.

Be hopeful and make plans, even if you're only thinking of them. Dream of a better life and know that it is possible. Talk to someone - anyone - about what you are experiencing.

Go to the police. People can and will help, if you let them.

Organisations like Refuge and Women's Aid can provide practical advice as well as emotional support to help you to rebuild your life.

Finally, I salute you comrade and your bravery and resilience. The way in which you try to protect yourself. The way you try to protect your children.

And I salute your huge capacity to love. Because to keep loving a man who is unloving, is no mean feat.

I know you can do it. I know you can be happier. I know you can find a gentler kind of love and a more peaceful existence.

And from the bottom of my heart, I wish you all the luck and courage in the world.

Katie Portman writes Pouting In Heels, an award winning parenting and lifestyle blog. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.