Author and survivor Emetaron Tata Abuah, who was supported by North London Rape Crisis, talks about her decision to write about the abuse she experienced in the powerful and inspiring book ‘My Side of the Story’.
Why I decided to write this book
I decided to write this book simply because it is only now at the age of 47 that I have finally found my voice. For many years I was controlled, exploited and abused due to being from a family dynamic which after years of counselling and working on myself I deemed to be highly dysfunctional. I was part of a culture where intrigue, deceit, lies and secrets were normal and a way of life. Healthy, open, communication and discussion were not at all allowed or initiated. Instead dialogue was tense, sterile and stifled.
For many years I did what I was told and was not allowed to ask questions such as, “why is this happening? Why must I do this? Who says this is right? Is this not wrong? This is wrong!’’ I was met with anger, discord and ambivalence. After a while I reasoned that the discord was designed to perpetuate the abuse and make sure that the perpetrators were able to get away with it and keep that cycle of abuse going. This was to make sure that the truth would never be given the opportunity to reveal itself and in doing so allow them to face justice.
I therefore saw it as my moral duty to share my story and bring awareness to a wider audience in every part of the world that abuse, family dysfunction, violence and corruption should not be tolerated especially if the end goal is to build a world that is ideally safe, fair, just and friendlier. I understand that this will take time, and change takes time but by being one of the voices that can speak out it is at best a good start.
I don’t want people to suffer like I did and for so long, because there is always a way out, there is always something one can do but it takes courage and fearlessness.
Even though I suffered a great deal, I was able to learn many lessons. I know that one of the legacies of abuse and its consequences is that it will pass from generation to generation if care is not taken to weed out the abuse and address why it is happening. By speaking out and writing my story I want people to understand how abuse can start, as well as how it can infiltrate every aspect of one’s life until it has total control of one’s life and then escalates into a living nightmare. I don’t want people to suffer like I did and for so long, because there is always a way out, there is always something one can do but it takes courage and fearlessness.
I suffered in silence and there was no way I could end it until I eventually came back to London, England where I was able to receive a tremendous amount of available help and support. However I had to help myself. I was very lucky. Not many people who have had similar issues to me have been as fortunate.
I wrote this book to give something back to the system that was able to help me and to be a voice for the many silent voices and untold stories of abuse and injustice, which we rarely ever have the opportunity to hear about.
I also wanted to share and reveal my insight regarding the fate of women particularly, women of colour and those from ethnic minorities. Many especially from developing countries do not have the convenience and luxury of a welfare state system, which women who are resident in Europe can access very easily. Therefore if their marriages break down they are left with no, or virtually no, support be it financial, or emotional support from their friends and families, simply because on a cultural level, when situations reach breaking point it is rare that people stick around for the long term and continue to offer assistance. After a while this begins to cool off and people back away from any involvement. However if the woman in question has the privilege of being in meaningful employment where they receive a salary and are therefore in a position to help and support themselves then they will fare better than those that don’t.
Women need to help and support each other first, regardless of race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or economic status.
However, this is not usually the case and most of them find themselves ostracised, undermined and expected to do nothing. As women we need to support and acknowledge each other when this happens, instead of pretending it is not really happening and dutifully mind our own business, just in case people presume we are being too sympathetic. At times help is not offered simply because some women in question automatically assume that if they show interest and get involved they may face the same fate and injustice. This is very unfortunate. Women need to help and support each other first, regardless of race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or economic status. Nothing will ever change unless we make a commitment to lead the way for change on a grand scale especially concerning women’s rights and nuanced cultural rigid abuse malpractices.
Finally my mother’s story is an example and warning to all women particularly in the developing world where the achievements and contribution that women can make are not recognized or encouraged. I believe that it is far better in the long run to speak out and confront the abuse and the abuser. Dutifully keeping quiet within a culture that imposes harsh penalties for confronting the issues at large verbally serves very little purpose, in most cases it will eventually backfire and create more problems and trouble for you. I encourage anyone who is having a hard time deciding how to proceed to firstly share and discuss the issues with trusted friends or family if one feels comfortable doing so with them.
I would also say that it is worth the risk. Living in fear, isolation, and being silenced is designed to intimidate, shutdown and coerce you into being small, cowardly and without a voice.
At times acquaintances can fit this remit, especially if they seem understanding and approachable, it may be worth the effort and time. I would also say that it is worth the risk. Living in fear, isolation, and being silenced is designed to intimidate, shutdown and coerce you into being small, cowardly and without a voice. As a result nothing will ever change. The cycle and machine of abuse continues which damages you, your children and the relationship you may have with them. Even if they may not be able to help, there is a possibility that they may know someone who can. If not find a counsellor, therapist or psychotherapist depending on what feels right for you. Often third party can work well as they will be impartial, it will be in most cases a confidential scenario and they never tell one what to do, give advice unless one is in danger of harming another or themselves.
If you are a victim of domestic abuse, share this with someone. As difficult as it may seem, take action. Again, let me quote Oprah Winfrey, “people who love you, don’t hurt you. Love does not hurt”.