The news that broke this week of three women being held as slaves in London has shocked many people, and as the media drip feeds society with snippets of information many questions are already being asked. One question raised today has been around the ‘Invisible handcuffs’ used to control and hold these women for at least thirty years.
As a victim of abuse I know like so many the strength of these so called ‘invisible handcuffs’, my main abusers managing to control me in so many different ways and sadly over many years.
Abusers come in all shapes and sizes, they might outwardly appear to be upstanding citizens, even respected pillars of their community, who well just wouldn’t do that sort of thing would they?
How many cases in recent times have we seen, were people have been shocked at the news that person A or person B could even be implicated in such abuse. The cases were everyone says after the charges are laid or the guilty verdict given, ‘but they were just an ordinary family, normal, a nice person always willing to help anyone’.
In my own case I would never dare tell anyone about my abuse when I was a child, even when I was asked by teachers and professionals about home, I can so remember saying “everything was fine”. Even when I was asked once by a policeman if all was well at home, I dare not tell the truth, for fear and control had been part of my abuse from an early age.
By utilising physical control, beatings, punishments for mistakes like breaching the restrictions imposed upon you, or even just implying a physical threat, abusers can control their victims be they child or adult. Add into that mix emotional abuse, the psychological trauma that so many victims suffer and you have even more control.
Psychological abuse can come in so many forms, in my case they made me feel worthless, that the abuse was my fault, I was bad, it was what I deserved. Such repeated soul destroying comments, threats and restrictions tear away at an individual and over time you believe what they say. You realise that they (the abusers) own you, and it’s just safer and better to do as they say.
My main controller, well she would have been high up in the chain of command with the Gestapo, such was her ability to control and dominate people. She would interrogate me as a teenager, quick fire questions so I made mistakes, and then punish me for them. At one time I truly believed she knew what I was thinking, she could read my mind and to show me this she’d make; what I realise now where good guesses , but believe me at the time it played havoc with this victims mind.
She could inform me of what I was thinking without a second thought and her accuracy was terrifying, I daren’t even hate her for one second because she’d know, I daren’t think about escape for she’d know and then I would be punished.
I would follow her commands and instructions whatever they were, I was told once to run away from my school and despite fearing my teachers and the consequences of what would happen, I followed her orders to the letter. I walked along a beach as the tide came in, scared I might get cut off and drown, but still too afraid to leave the beach as she has instructed me to stay there.
Her control was such that I even told the Police who having mounted a huge search for me eventually tracked me down, that I left school because I hated it, when the reality was, school was my sanctuary. I took the officers lecture and the school teachers too and yet never once did I dare to break rank and tell them the truth.
I had so many opportunities as a teenager to leave my nightmare home, but it took me so long to be brave enough to seek the freedom I rightly deserved.
I know I am not alone, ask other victims of child abuse or domestic violence for their experiences and in many cases it will be fear that controls them into staying and often returning to their abuser. It takes a strong victim to leave, to break free and escape the so called ‘invisible handcuffs’.
Now I know that the full extent of the abuse, be it physical, sexual or emotional that these three women have endured may never be known, but please whatever you do, don’t judge them for staying. The reality is ‘invisible handcuffs’ can be used to control just as effectively as locking someone up, for the constant mind games endured by victims sadly do control them.
It took me years to leave my abusive environment and numerous attempts, I was 17 when I left that physical environment and I hid in fear for a while after, I was so terrified of the repercussions. But I still wasn’t free, in fact my abuser kept a check on me and in so many ways still controlled me and in turn guaranteed her my silence, even though I was no longer in her home. For years after I would try and break free of her control, each attempt failed and without a blink she’d be back in my life and I would find myself trapped once again, no longer in her home now but married and with a family I was still unable to break free fully from those’ invisible handcuffs’.
People who are controlled through psychological abuse are often trapped by the barrage of insults, and mind controlling commands instilled upon them, repetitively and often over time, that weaken them and break them down into submission.
It took me a further 23 years to finally severe my links with my main controller, I was 40 years old and even then initially I lived in fear of her. I was supported by a loving family who by now knew more of the real person behind the fake facade that she was and yet I still feared this women.
Today thankfully I am a stronger person, but I am still on my healing journey for all those years of abuse, trauma and control don’t just dissipate overnight. But just like those three courageous women who bravely took the first steps towards freedom just over a month ago, I am free of the ‘invisible handcuffs’.
I hope society ensures these three vulnerable individuals can be afforded the right help, support and care to allow them to heal. I also hope the media in particular doesn’t judge them, but instead can understand why they stayed, and the hold ‘invisible handcuffs’ can and do have on people.
If you are held captive today in any form of abusive situation, please seek help, you can break those ‘invisible chains’ and believe me, we all have the right to ‘FREEDOM’.