October is Domestic Violence Awareness month in the States.
Domestic abuse can happen to anyone; whether the abuse is physical violence, controlling behavouir, or threats. In the UK, two women a week are killed by abusive partners and in the US, three women a day are killed by their spouse.
Even celebrities can be affected by domestic violence. In 2009, the world was shocked when pictures of the young pop-star, Rihanna, were leaked to the public. She’d been beaten up by boyfriend, Chris Brown after a Pre-Grammy party. Her injuries were bad enough to make her cancel her own performance at the event.
Rihanna’s experience got the world talking, but the truth is that thousands of women live with domestic violence every day, and for the most part the public turn their heads. One in four women in the States report being involved in some kind of abusive relationship at some point in their lives, and those are just the women who will talk about it! Many women refuse to admit or speak about what they are experiencing at home.
When I was younger, I was in a controlling relationship. The guy in question cheated on me and I found out. After I forgave him, (more fool me) he completely changed, turning the tables on me. All of a sudden, I was the one who he was suspicious of. He berated me with constant accusations and threats. I ended up never wearing make-up and always wearing baggy clothes to avoid the endless questioning about who I was dressing up for. I stopped going out or seeing my friends.
I’m not a weak person by any means. I’m outgoing and confident, yet this person managed to get around all my defences and I didn’t even realize what was happening. It wasn’t until he threatened, ‘If I ever see you with someone else, I’ll kill him and then I’ll come after you’ that something clicked. It was like someone took blinkers off my eyes and I remember thinking, ‘hang on, this isn’t normal. This isn’t right!’
I was lucky. We weren’t living together and I had a great support network around me so it was easy for me to give him the boot. But I can totally understand how another woman who might be married to this type of person, who has children and their lives tied to them, would struggle to make the break.
A while ago, I ran into my ex standing in front of a local supermarket. My reaction... I hid. I ducked down behind the nearest car and then crawled between the vehicles to get into my car and drove away. Even after several years, the person created an instant reaction in me. I’m normally someone who doesn’t take any shit, but from this man, I fled.
The main character in my novel, Alone, is a woman trapped in an abusive relationship. She was a challenge to write because most female characters in urban fantasy novels are strong, snarky, kick-ass heroines. My character, Serenity, was none of those things. She’s tortured, both physically and mentally, by her abusive husband, Jackson and can’t see an escape.
Serenity was difficult to write because I wanted the reader to be on her side without thinking she was a weak person. Her inability to leave comes from years of abuse and it’s all she’s ever known. She doesn’t know how to exist in a life without a controlling man. I wanted to make the reader understand how it feels to be in her shoes and empathise with her as opposed to dislike her for not having the strength to tell her ass-hole husband where to go.
I’ve had some complaints from readers about the violence in the book and how it made them ‘uncomfortable’. Good. Domestic abuse should make people feel uncomfortable. For me, these comments simply mean I did my job right and portrayed domestic violence as it should be – cruel, unnecessary and horrific.
The character in my novel does change and she also finds someone who will help her (in this case, a vampire!) but many women remain trapped in these relationships.
To give a little back, for the month of October I’ve decided to donate 25% of all revenue earned from the sales of Alone to the charity, ‘Refuge’. It might not add up to much, but at least it’s something and I hope everyone else out there will take this month to think about all the women (and some men) trapped in violent and abusive relationships and maybe even give a little something to help.