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"What's the first thing that comes to your mind when I say domestic violence?". The popular answer I've heard is 'a man abusing his girlfriend or wife'. My life revolves around soap operas and when it comes to the topic of domestic violence I always remember watching a storyline of a man abusing his girlfriend or wife. Which is why I guess I used to think like that. Showcasing that on a show millions watch is fantastic as (unfortunately) a lot of people can relate and those experiencing domestic violence can reach out and get help.
Watching these shows I used to ask myself,"if someone is in an abusive relationship, why on earth do they not run a million miles away from the problem? I mean if my boyfriend so much as told me that I'm not allowed to go somewhere, in the words of Beyoncé, 'boy, bye!'". But I soon realised it's easier said than done. Because I found out after being in a relationship for 2 years, my best friend, my sister from another mister, was in an abusive relationship. With her girlfriend.
I know my friend inside out and I thought there absolutely nothing she can hide from me, even if she tried so hard because I can read her like a book. So imagine how I felt when I found out she had been beaten and abused and I knew nothing, not even suspected it for so long.
When I first met her girlfriend (LeAnne) I was so smitten with her. She was sweet, kind, funny, kinda hyper, had amazing fashion sense, hair on point, spoke passionately - especially about animals and I could see she fell for my friend. "Those two are a match made in heaven". Words I kept repeating in my head every time I saw them together. There was a time when this old, smelled-of-fags, drunken guy started harassing my friend and hitting on her like he honestly thought he could have a chance if he kept bugging her. LeAnne came into the rescue and pretty much saved my friend from things getting out of hand. "This woman is perfect".
You pretty much get the idea of LeAnne. Seems like a woman that sounds too good to be true to some. And she was. Fast-forward to 3 years later, in 2016.
Every time I saw my friend she seemed normal to me. Nothing seemed wrong. She was her usual self. I feel so stupid for not realising the subtle things that meant something was wrong.
5th September 2016. Me and my girlfriends and a few of my boy-friends (...) were getting ready to head out to Soho to celebrate my birthday. Got a little pre-drunk and spent about 3 hours getting ready. Which honestly felt like 6 hours. And I'm noticing something. My bestie was being quiet. We're getting ready for a night we'll never forget and she's radio silent. ABSOLUTELY NOT LIKE HER. I go to talk to her and she's giving me blunt answers. "Yes". "No". "I'm fine". When a woman say she's fine with no expression on her face, she's not fine. I asked her why is she not wearing the dress she bought for my bday. She said it doesn't fit. It doesn't fit? After wearing it, modelling in it for 10 minutes in the store and was absolutely confident in buying it, it suddenly doesn't fit? She was dressed like a bloody nun, which isn't her usual style. I kept grilling her and she ran away and locked herself in the bathroom. What happened next I'll never forget. It still haunts me to this day.
I quickly follow her to the bathroom, now with every bit of me dying of worry. She slams the door and I'm left face to face with it. I can hear her crying. She sounds so broken. "Please, don't let me ruin your day. I'm just being an emotional bitch". To me, that sounded like someone who's hiding something. "I'm not leaving or going anywhere until you tell me what's wrong. If this was the other way round you KNOW you would not stop until you found out what's bothering me." She quieted down. I hear the lock lifting and she lets me in.
"Don't be mad. I wanted to say something but I was so scared." She lifts her top up and all I see are bruises, cuts and cigarette burns. I couldn't even tell what her normal skin colour was. I stood still. I couldn't comprehend what I was seeing. I broke down. I slowly walked towards her and just gave her a hug. I was fuming inside. I wanted to question her. But I kept looking at her face and I just wanted her to feel safe first. We both cried. She apologised so many times and I understood why. We both come from broken homes and we only had each other growing up. We tell each other everything. But she kept this from me. "You're staying with me. I'm not letting you out of my sight."
The straight face that used to come after a smile. The phone calls she dreaded answering. Covering herself shoulder to toe, even in the hot weather. Constantly looking over her shoulder. What I dismissed before, made total sense now.
6th September. A report is made and the she-devil is arrested. Charges are made against LeAnne. Fast forward and guess what the punishment was? To stay away from my sister. No jail time. Just, stay away. Knowing that a wild animal is loose on the streets is enough to lose sleep over. Knowing it could hurt someone else.
11th June 2017. Things are pretty much how they used to be. But I can never get rid of the guilt. I can not stop feeling guilty about not knowing the danger my sister was in. When I found out it killed me. But I soon learned the reality of it. This wasn't a soap opera. A lot of victims of domestic violence are brainwashed. They get a beating. Their partner is "sincerely" apologetic and says they'll never do that again. They break down in tears. Enough to convince some. Others fear if they say something things will get worse. People they love will also get hurt. People will not believe them.
She's my nonbiological sister. I feel like I have a duty towards her to keep her safe from anything and anyone. I failed.
She's happy now and talks openly about what she went through to aide others. She's stronger than I imagined. I'm extremely proud of her.
Domestic violence is not limited to one gender. A man can hurt a woman. A man can hurt a man. A woman can hurt a man. A woman can hurt a woman. That's what surprised me. What also surprised me is how in similar cases like my sister's, some are not taken seriously. A man beating a woman: What an animal! A woman beating a woman: Girl fight! I want this to be spoken about more. I want people to learn. What I don't want is anyone going through the unimaginable pain my loved one went through and the guilt I felt. For me, still kind of feeling to this day.
Don't agree with same-sex relationships or someone being LGBTQ+? Fine. Shame on you honestly. But we're all humans. None of us should endure senseless pain.