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Partner and Head of Family Law, Rugby
British broadcaster, journalist and weather presenter, Ruth Dodsworth has recently featured in the media after her ex husband was jailed for 3 years for coercive and controlling behaviour. I watched an interview with her earlier on daytime tv where she shared some of her story and disclosed that it had never been part of her plan to make public what had gone on in her long-term relationship. However, the very personal information has emerged in the public domain and Ruth says she wants to use the media as a platform to encourage those who are experiencing abuse to seek help.
When asked about her experience of abuse Ruth described behaviours that we regularly associate with coercion and control; isolation, jealousy, paranoia, walking on eggshells, constant criticism.
The interviewer asked were there any signs of these behaviours at the beginning of the relationship, a question that is probably asked fairly often to anyone emerging from an abusive relationship. It occurs to me it’s a slightly odd enquiry, would anyone willingly enter into a relationship that they believed was going to unhealthy, controlling and potentially violent?
Ruth answered the question by saying that it is only with hindsight that she can now see that there was some suggestion that things were not quite right. Abusers can be very skilled at masking their coercive behaviours; jealousy and control can be disguised as caring and attentive behaviours which can feel flattering when a couple is first together. Critical remarks can be justified in the mind of the recipient by thinking their abuser is just stressed or in a ‘bad mood’ or they ‘didn’t really mean it’.
When there is a real desire for a relationship to succeed individuals are prepared to work really hard at it, ignore or justify all sorts of behaviours that they wouldn’t accept in any other context and really struggle to admit to themselves they may be being abused.
It is difficult enough to recognise yourself that your partner is coercive and controlling maybe even harder to admit the same doubts to others and seek help. It would appear that sufferers of abuse may actually feel some shame about the relationship, maybe it’s that they feel foolish that they haven’t seen it before now and left the relationship before?
Emotional abuse is insidious, it is devious and stealthy and by the time a person recognises the reality of the situation, they may well be too brow beaten and undermined to feel they have the strength and courage to leave.
Thankfully now there are agencies out there to support those who have found the courage to leave an abusive relationship, targets of abuse will be believed, understood and respected, be they male or female.
I strongly echo Ruth Dodsworth’s message, you don’t have to stay in a relationship that is unhealthy and abusive, you have nothing to be ashamed of, please seek the support you need to extricate yourself safely.
Brethertons have a team of experts who are available to discuss domestic abuse confidentially, they can offer understanding and empathy in a supportive, non-judgemental way, as well as offer legal expertise. You can contact them on 01788 579579.