I have always said that my father did not physically abuse me. However, after delving further into the term “physical abuse” and all that it stands for, I am shocked to see that my claim is not true. He was physically abusive. I just don’t have any visible scars. In my quest to research the different aspects and consequences of abuse, I have fallen on new information. I have always believed that physical abuse was to be violent. The person on the receiving end would have scars and visuals to prove their abuse.
Research has led me to realise that there are many other appearances of this kind of abuse. My abuser was extremely threatening. If he did not get his way or I was disobedient, his threatening behaviour would follow. His deep, bellowing voice would resonate through the house or in public and the way in which he ordered me closer and breathed down my neck, talking at me through gritted teeth, all added to his aggressive demeanour. His physical stance and how he towered over me, making sure he had all the power as I cowered into the shadows. The way he would lure me into believing I was safe, even making a joke or choosing a lighter topic of conversation first before launching into his fit of rage and sudden burst of apocalyptic anger. The constant threats of harm against me that he made, telling me that I needed a punch – that it would “sort” me out or to go and kill myself to make his life easier. I never thought of it as physical abuse at the time but telling your own child to commit suicide must be classed as that. Oh and it’s abhorrent too.
His reckless driving and aggressive behaviour in the car all adds up to physical abuse. He put my life at risk every day I spent in that car with him. Every day I anticipated his anger and waited for another explosion. He deliberately chose the car as a place to shout and rant at me as I (in his words) had “no escape”. I wanted to release my seatbelt and fling myself out onto the open road many a time. The thought seemed better than enduring his continuous barrage of contempt.
A key part of physical abuse that I never recognised was how my abuser prevented me from seeking medical help or care. If I needed a doctor, he had to know the reasons why. When I refused, he exploded. The moment that stands out the most is the day of my massive Asthma attack in 2009* where my father refused point blank to call an Ambulance in the night for me, implying that I was seeking attention and being dramatic. The other option was that he drive me to a hospital at 1.am. He refused that too. He never felt worry for me, or fear for my life.
The way he would sharply raise his hand to my face holding it suspended, mid air, inches from my skin – surely that was physical? Yes, he never released it and let it slap my across my cheek but how can what he was doing be classified as anything else?
My father was an abusive man.
In every way.
* See post Notes.
In 2008, after a routine smear test, I was informed that my test showed abnormal cells in my cervix. I had been having smear tests for a couple of years before and the results were always good so I was surprised to see this change.
My initial reaction was “keep it a secret”. I couldn’t tell my mother in fear of her reaction. Her fear of anything related to my health frightened me into not immediately speaking of it. I couldn’t bear her gasps of worry from what was an easily dealt with complaint. The doctors had made it clear that I would have to go through a procedure called a Colposcopy. Here the surface of the cervix is closely examined with an instrument called a colposcope. This device carefully looks to see if their are any abnormalities or cancerous cells. I was warned that a biopsy of the cervix may also be undertaken to determine whether the cells were indeed cancerous. The doctors reassured me that it would not be painful, just uncomfortable but it felt pretty uncomfortable – borderline painful to me.
It didn’t even cross my mind to tell my father. It was plain to me that this would be another thing he would use against me. The myth that cervical cancer developed after being promiscuous was something my father believed. That the HPV virus (linked to Herpes and cold sores) must mean that I was a slut. He had implied how “promiscuous” I was before after a doctor friend (albeit drunken doctor friend who hated my mother and often flirted outrageously with my father) stumbled into my bedroom one day at a party at my father’s house. When I caught her in there, she muttered something in Bengali and left. I went over to my desk where she had been standing and noticed how things were slightly out of place. She had been spying on me and had clearly noticed my carefully placed medicine at the back of my desk. Behind a couple of asthma inhalers lay an open packet of contraceptive pills. I was twenty one years old. Surely, other than proving that I was sexually active, it also clarified that I was being safe.
My father didn’t see it like that and berated me for ruining his reputation. I was not to have any indiscretions or appear reckless with life. Sex was sure fire reckless and crude behaviour to him. Though he happily flirted and flaunted affection at his married, drunkard doctor friend.
Cervical abnormalities can affect most women in their lives but it doesn’t mean that they will certainly develop cancer.
My father did eventually find out whilst partaking in his usual habit of delving through my post. Medical letters were a thrill for him to find as it gave him tremendous power over my basic human right – my health. Of course, after discovering my ongoing problem, my father was quick to verbally scold me, humiliate me and lash out at me. An argument ensued and I was left defending a cause that my father should have been supporting me through.
Once he knew the truth, what was essentially manageable to me became a nightmare for the following three examinations over the next two years.
My father now had control over my mind and my body.