I would never of imagined such a simple word could have such a big impact on how I viewed myself and the world I had lived in.
Applying for an AVO
I was in court, in the witness box to be precise. I was applying for an interim Apprehended Domestic Violence Order AVDO (note: they are called different things depending on the state you live in, which is in itself a problem). I have been in the witness box for over an hour. The only person I bought with me was the crisis worker from the shelter I was in. They even made her leave the courtroom claiming they may need her as a witness in the future.
Alone and scared
So, I am in the witness box completely alone. I am scared and worried that I will not be believed and after years of abuse I doubt whether what I have through even constitutes abuse. Whilst in the witness box I am called a liar, a manipulator and even an abuser by my ex-partners solicitor all the while he glares at me. Daring me to go on. I cannot work out if I am more scared to carry on or stop at this point.
Finally, it is over, the magistrate excuses himself to deliberate, and I am left sitting in the witness box in a courtroom with my ex, his aggressive solicitor and a barrister I met as I came into this courtroom. I don’t think I have ever felt so alone in my life.
The word that changed my life
I have no idea how long I sat there for; time had stopped, fear gripped my every breath, not that there were many even breathing was difficult. Eventually, the magistrate returned and his next words changed how I viewed what I had been through and gave me the strength to move forward and importantly reach out for help. His words were:
“OBVIOUSLY, there will be an interim AVO”
The reason I am sharing this, is the same reason the word was and still is so important to me.
To me at the time obviously seemed an odd word as I had little idea that I had been through was really abuse. I knew very little about the dynamics of an abusive relationship. On top of that I had spent years with my partner minimising the abuse and blaming me for everything I was subjected to.
Someone disclosing abuse doesn’t necessarily understand what has happened to them.
It is important to remember that often when someone discloses abuse they may have no idea the severity of the abuse or indeed if it truly constitutes abuse; especially in an abusive relationship that has no physical abuse. The person disclosing may be very confused about what is happening for them.
Getting them the right support is imperative, they will need the guidance of experts.
Self-care is so important.
When I first started to share my story I did not realise how distressing some stories I was sharing would be to those who had no experience of abuse. So, self care is important when supporting someone because it can be traumatic hearing about the things they have been subjected to. And your stress is not good for you, for the person you are supporting or the people around you.