This is Women’s Refuge Appeal Week. Well, it’s appeal month, and there are also charity auctions on TradeMe, but this is when the street collectors are out. Please consider taking a minute to make a donation.
I’ll nag about this every year, yeah. Two years ago I wrote this, which should explain why this is an issue so close to my heart.
Earlier this year, my mother died, and for the first time one of my brothers and I actually talked about my father, my mother’s abuse, and the hell my brothers had lived through. Because in my family, three of the victims of domestic violence, who were beaten and verbally abused and made to feel utterly shit about themselves, were male. He talked about coming home to visit to discover that my mother was gone, he and my Dad angrily asking each other “Where the fuck is she?” About having to get his grandmother to testify to who he was so that he’d be allowed to get in touch with his mother. And not about the fear he must briefly have had that my dad had finally gone too far and killed her.
And I went some way to assuaging his thirty year old guilt over leaving home, abandoning her, by explaining that she’d waited so long to go because she wasn’t allowed to take her teenage sons into the Refuge with her.
My cousin talked about the first time she saw my mother with black eyes and her wrist in a cast, and how while Mum covered it up (“I tripped over the hose”), my Dad admitted what he’d done and apologised. He was always genuinely sorry.
So, bearing in mind my reservations, and my opinion that “Well men should just set up their own damn refuges” is about the most callous and empathically-bankrupt response to victims of violence I’ve seen, still do this. Because the Refuge saved my mother’s life. It meant that the experience of violence that my brothers and I have carried throughout our lives, that still affects our intimate relationships, finally stopped after seven years. It provided a circuit-breaker for her, somewhere she could go without putting anyone else at risk. And I know that all around me, particularly in Christchurch since the earthquakes and the inescapable constant stress we all live with, what happened to my Mum is happening to women right now. There’s not a lot most of us can do to help, but there is this.