Ann's newsletter is back!
ICYMI, I didn't post for over a year... and I still don't have a proper 'name'
Hola, newsletter buds.
First off, I’m sorry I just *stopped*. Lots of reasons why, but mostly, I’m a self-employed single mum, and paid work became a priority. Big, juicy, exciting gigs kept rolling in, and they were some of the steepest learning curves I’ve experienced since starting uni, learning to drive terrifying cars or, erm, becoming a parent.
Also, there is a toll to writing this type of narrative every week; no-one asked me to! But it’s not easy.
As of now, this newsletter will still hit your inboxes on a Sunday morning, once a month. I hope that you find it interesting enough to sit with, maybe enjoy a coffee or a tea, and learn more about coercive control and how its effects ripple out.
I know it’s heavy reading and not terribly jolly, but that’s the point - when people meet me, I’m all big gold hoop energy, MAC Ruby Woo and jolly. That is true. However, it’s important to me to share that the effects of abuse are long-running and, mostly, hidden. We all hold secrets of joy, pain and trauma, a texture of the life we’ve had, the childhoods we enjoyed or endured, the skin, countries and class we were born into.
My job? Use my chattiness and ballsiness to speak up for myself, and, maybe, for others. I wouldn’t be as blind to say I speak for every survivor-victim; I simply hope to add to the chorus saying “See us. Hear us. Believe us. We don’t want to live like this.”
This newsletter is for the people in my life who don’t quite believe me, or other victim-survivors, when we quietly say “Yes, but he told me not to take that job”, or, “I’m sorry I had to leave your wedding but he wouldn’t let me stay - yes I know he stayed at home but - ”, or, “It wasn’t really fair for me to have savings when he was skint …”
For those people who tell me, about other friends “Yeah, but like, couldn’t she just …”. No, she fucking couldn’t. Please listen. She couldn’t. Could not. You’re looking at this with the wrong fucking glasses. You’re mistaking their relationship for something equitable, where love builds up both people, grows them, helps them to grow through support, disagreements and cooperation.
These relationships are fundamentally different. She’s hoping against hope that he’ll change, that the sweet side of him she sees on a Sunday morning will be the same one that comes home after work on a Friday night.
He (it’s usually a he) has systematically made her believe that she’s unlovable, untalented, incapable of an independent life without him.
When she speaks up, tells you these things, it’s the tiny spark of her that’s still there, fighting to get back out. Throw her a lifeline. Listen.
Remind her: I see you. Thank you for trying. I’m sorry he spoke to you like that - that’s not okay. You’re fucking brilliant and I love you, warts and all.
Leaving is brave, but it’s only part of the battle. Because the abuser’s MO is to take you apart, belittle you and leave you emotionally, psychologically and, potentially, financially crippled.
Society mostly hears the stories of survivors. Until last year, I didn’t have the courage. At work, I was gregarious, confident, plucky. Inside, I was a sparking, fiery mess of pain. The tiniest knock-back would leave me reeling, unable to cope for days.
Not everyone has the privilege of healing, not everyone feels confident to speak up and not everyone enjoys writing.
So whilst no-one asked me to do this, I do feel it’s my responsibility to be another voice, adding to the texture and nuance around why some of us fall under the control of abusers, why we’re so fucking good at hiding the truth, and how we need help, laws and tangible support to rebuild our lives and find “the girl who used to be me” (from best film of 1989, Shirley Valentine).
Previously, on my newsletter…
My friend Liam was in and out of school, but a stabilising force for him was army cadets. His friend Jay, 21 to our 17, would be around on our boozy Wetherspoons nights out. As Liam and I walked home from school, hung out in his room or talked in study periods, he’d ask me about Jay, if I liked him.
On NYE 1998, Jay and I danced, drank and smoked - well, he didn’t drink, he was driving. And as I lay on the floor in my sleeping bag, in Liam’s room where I’d slept over and over, safe in the snug of my friends, that night, a very sober Jay took advantage of me.
Unfortunately for me, despite breaking up with him once, I didn’t manage to get out for 4.5 years. There are many reasons why, and this newsletter tells stories to help people to understand the risks of someone falling into abusive and coercive relationships and, as the journalist Sophie Wilkinson says, how we struggle with the long shadows of abuse.
It took me 17 years - a time that encapsulates the birth of my children, the beginning and end of an unhappy marriage, an almost ruined career and many - to understand how the actions of one man almost stole my whole life.
His voice, and the voices of his family, still bang into my brain. But now I can isolate their bullying, I can see it, take a breathe (or five, maybe have a cry, maybe text a friend), and gently move on with my life.
Still - still - it’s there. His voice will always be there. It gets less powerful over time. I’ve had the good fortune of being in therapy for over two years, compassionate friends and professional networks where I can share the reality of my messy self.
Healing takes time. But it is possible. I’m a lucky survivor. Many others aren’t. Some of my favourite people are living, right now, with partners who would rather crush them than allow them a full, living, colourful life. So I write for them to remind them that they are seen, heard and loved, whatever that man says.
And that, if they can manage to leave, I will be there. And if you’re too scared, I don’t judge you. Life is hard.
Stick with me. I promise to show up.
Next up on Ann’s newsletter
Playing with fire: on trying to leave
I haven’t been following the Heard/Depp trial because, well, my mental health hasn’t been great. I don’t have anything profound to say but, if you’re mocking Amber Heard, you’re mocking survivors. Get fucked. And keep reading this newsletter so you might get educated.
Women! If you have to speak for your job or business, I cannot recommend this course enough.
Bought this for a job, (and because my kids love Dungeness) and loved the meditation on growing: Derek Jarman, Pharmacopoeia
Watched a banger about Jackie Collins last year; what I wasn’t expecting was learning how even Jackie Collins fell prey to coercive control. But she escaped. A nuanced story of complexity, pragmatism and female ambition.
So I bought one of her iconic novels to learn about how she structures her work (pace! rule of three! being brilliant!). Lots of fun (and I genuinely think my best English Literature tutor would be delighted).
Picked this up in Libreria; not finished it yet, but loving the accessibility of the lessons in Nikesh Shukla’s new how-to write your own story book