Falling Down The Rabbit Hole

I started to feel myself falling down the rabbit hole when my sister played me the tapes the police had given her of the interview with her ex after he had been arrested for assault. They asked him (the next day when he was sober) what he was thinking when he attacked her with a hammer, pinning her to the floor, drawing blood, as she begged and begged him to stop. ‘I was glad I was hurting her,’ he said. ‘For a brief moment I thought I might kill her.’

His tone was so dispassionate, so cold that I had to rush into the bathroom and splash water over my face. ‘I had a lucky escape,’ my sister said.

It’s hard to explain what goes through your mind when you realise a family member was in so much danger she could have died at the hands of a man who professed to love her. Your mind almost goes silent, as if it is having trouble processing the information. You feel a little bit like you are burning slowly from the feet up, but it doesn’t hurt, you just turn to ash.

A lucky escape. I thought so too until my Mum rang me in a panic on Friday afternoon saying that the ex was in my sister’s house and had stayed the night. My Mum had gone round to see my sister and was shocked to find Oliver ensconced in the living room watching the midday movie. She thinks it was ‘The Wedding Singer’ but she couldn’t be sure because all she could focus on was the empty beer bottles on the coffee table.

‘We’re just talking,’ Millie said. ‘We need to sort out our finances. Don’t worry, it’s not like we’re getting back together or anything.’

My Mum remained unconvinced. Yes, my sister and her ex need to sort out their finances but that doesn’t include him staying over and drinking a six-pack of beer by noon. Millie convinced Mum to leave, that everything was all right, but a pall had been cast over the day that couldn’t be shifted.

How quickly some people can bring themselves to travel over the same old ground. How willingly some people will thrust themselves into situations they know will end in tears. How hard it can be to kill off old habits for good.

Loneliness. A word coloured grey, etched with grief and pity. A word my sister fears more than any other. I fear it too when it applies to her. She embraces it, enshrouds herself in it. I think of her on dark nights when a sudden wind changes your point of view, moving from being alone with her little dog, her books, her pianos, to being immersed in loneliness. And wanting to break free.

I know what she is thinking – that Oliver has sensed the depth of her loneliness, that he has come to save her from it, that he has changed, knocking on her door in the middle of the night when she was beginning to wonder if her loneliness would go on forever. I wonder if that small part of her that can recall the horror of the police tapes is fighting with the part that can only remember the loneliness. I fear that the part which will destroy her will win.

She has told us to stay away. That she is sorting things out. We have called the police but they have told us if she has willingly let her ex in, then there is nothing they can do.

So we wait. Again. Sick of it. Hoping she will come to her senses, walking in the garden at so frantic a pace that every fallen twig is turned to dust. Every time a cloud covers the sun we bow our heads and cry just a little, recovering ourselves when the light breaks through.

We feel like Alice, curious in a perverse kind of way to see how it all ends, searching for rabbit holes to fall into, a door to a world where the way things seem are not the way they are. How nice that would be – to live in a world where greatest fears are never realised. But alas, for many of us, that type of world remains nothing but a dream.

27 thoughts on “Falling Down The Rabbit Hole

  1. oh selma,, i so know what it is like to be her… she cannot believe that he really felt that.. she wants to prove to him that she is worthy of his love,, and to herself that he really does love her,, and her “just said that….” strange,, but when i read this i can feel the little part of me that would be doting on him and indulging his every need in order to make him see how much we loved eachother… knowing full well as i do here in hindsight,, there will always be a next time….


  2. It’s a spiral this kind of abuse and alcoholism. I’m not sure what you do. And that is the hardest thing. It really is. Maybe there are agencies that can help — provide you with advice? (Just a thought.)


  3. I’m so sorry for your pain and what you’re having to deal with. My husband’s family has been going through something akin to what you’re facing. His older sister is mentally ill and living with a very abusive husband. I see their pain and it breaks my heart.

    Sending you many hugs and much energy to get you through this next round of life, m’dear. I’m always here for you.


  4. Your sister needs to get out and to meet people to break up the loneliness not let that piece of sorry ass work through her door again.
    A number of years ago 15 to be exact, I visited a female friend of mine in the hospital 2 weeks after she was admitted.
    I waited that long because that’s how long she was in a coma for, it took a year to reconstruct her face.

    Her then husband beat her almost to death, as was his intention.
    His reason, he had none other than he was drunk at the time.
    For that he found himself in jail for fifteen years.
    I was surprised to learn that it had been going on for years.
    First it was the temper tantrums then the occasional slap, which escalated to her almost being killed.
    The whole time she believed that if it wasn’t for him, she would never find someone and be alone forever.
    She thought that way because it’s the illusion her husband planted in her head.
    Today she lives in the UK and is remarried.

    Loneliness is something we create to punish our selves with and we have the power to make it go away.
    The options are there to create a fun social life without a partner, maybe even find someone to spend time with but most people lock themselves up in their houses when they find themselves single again swimming in their own self pity.

    Your sister has to keep him away from her unless she likes dancing with the demon.
    I didn’t say devil because even he would have some mercy on her not like her husband.
    If she has to deal with him then they should do it in a public place with witnesses or through lawyers.
    No one deserves to be beaten like that for any reason and from the content of the tape he knew what he was doing and didn’t care.
    Being drunk is NOT an excuse.
    I fear as I am sure you and your family do that as soon as she lets her guard down it will happen again.
    I wish her luck but she has to make her own luck not wait for it to come to her.


  5. I am so sorry, Selma. It is so hard to break that kind of cycle. She wants to believe. I doubt anything you do will make her change her mind. It is an addiction, her love for this man, and she will be with him even though she knows it’s bad for her. The most you can do is make sure she knows you will be there for her if and when she finally decides to break free. Let’s hope that is how it ends.


  6. “I was told a story once that made sense. If you put a frog in boiling water, it will jump out. If you put a frog in cool water and slowly turn up the heat, it will boil to death. As victims of abuse, we do not understand that the water is boiling, because it was a gradual turning up of the heat. Our friends can see it but until we do, the abuse will continue.”
    Domestic Violence

    “Abusers are First Class Manipulators. They seek their prey and they attack them with their poisonous charm. They will tell them things like, no one could love you as much as I do, I’d never leave you, I’d never do anything to hurt you, and you are the best thing that has ever happened to me.

    As time goes on, their love becomes suffocating and the victim cannot breathe. When someone comments, “I would never let that happen to me,” it is so unrealistic. Nobody knows it is happening at the time and before they know it they are sucked into their partners misery.”
    Why Women Won’t Leave Their Abusers

    ‘One psychopath interviewed by Hare’s team said quite frankly: “The first thing I do is I size you up. I look for an angle, an edge, figure out what you need and give it to you. Then it’s pay-back time, with interest. I tighten the screws.”
    Another psychopath admitted that he never targeted attractive women -he was only interested in those who were insecure and lonely. He claimed he could smell a needy person “the way a pig smells truffles.”’
    THE PSYCHOPATH – The Mask of Sanity

    “You can work tirelessly and compassionately to social work, counsel, and support the victim. But if you ignore this critical piece of making sure the system puts failsafe brakes on the perpetrator and his violence, it will be for naught. The perpetrator will continue to stalk and terrorize or worse. The victim will still be trapped in the violent relationship no matter where she has moved and how much independence she has attained. In fact, the freer she is, the angrier he gets.”
    Why Doesn’t She Leave?

    “According to Wikipedia, the definition of “learned helplessness” is as follows:
    “Learned helplessness is a psychological condition in which a human being or an animal has learned to believe that it is helpless in a particular situation. It has come to believe that it has no control over its situation and that whatever it does is futile. As a result, the human being or the animal will stay passive in the face of an unpleasant, harmful or damaging situation, even when it does actually have the power to change its circumstances.”
    Learned helplessness and empowering women.


  7. PAISLEY – that’s what worries me – the next time. It’s like waiting for the world to end. Unfortunately, it’s all I can do – wait. I’m tough but sometimes I just feel like getting in the car and driving very far away. I’m praying a lot that everything will be all right.

    NAT – we’ve been to social workers, psychologists and the police advisory service. They’ve all been great but there’s very little we can do. It has to come from my sister. It’s a tough one.

    BRITT – you just did. Knowing you know means a lot. It makes me feel less alone. XXOO

    KAREN – And I’m always here for you. Always. It’s hard waiting in the wings, isn’t it? But I guess we have to let people live their lives.

    WALKER – I’ve said it before to Gypsy and I’ll say it again. How wise you are. How hard it must have been for you to see your friend in a coma as a result of violence.I am so glad she got away from her abuser. Everything you have said is excellent advice. I can’t thank you enough.

    INGRID – I hope that’s how it ends too. The alternative is too horrible to contemplate. You are completely right – she has to be the one to make the break. I hope she has the strength to do so.


  8. DAVID – excellent quotes and points. You should work as a researcher (sorry, maybe you already do) because you have a knack for finding pertinent points and articles. I really appreciate you taking the time to do so. Thank you. XX


  9. We so often forget how bad things can get – especially when the present doesn’t feel all that rosy. We all have that imp of the perverse in us, and all friends and family can be are bystanders.
    Comfort comes from knowing the person involved is ultimately sensible – and that most of the time, they pull back from the brink in time.


  10. ANTHONY – how well you describe it – ‘that imp of the perverse’, such an apt description. I hope my sister is ultimately sensible. Knowing that is a distinct possibility makes me feel a little less uneasy. Thank you.


  11. This is a story that has been repeated over and over, around the world. How terrible and how sad that it’s someone you love that’s affected by this kind of behaviour.

    I hope that your sister finds the courage to make a real break and stick to it. I know it must be incredibly hard for her too but what choices does she really have?

    Your stress level must be through the roof Selma, sending a big hug and good thoughts to you and your family for a good resolution. Hugs,G


  12. My mother was married to a man for nine years – from when I was 6 to 15 – who was an alcoholic and abusive. Mostly it was emotional and verbal abuse, but when it became physical, it was terrifying and completely out of control. I was an only child and protected her as best I could, but was not always successful. Its such a helpless feeling.

    Though it is true that she is the only one who can really end it by walking away, that makes no difference to those of you around her who love her. My heart truly goes out to you – in a big way.


  13. JONAS – yeah, I know it. The trouble with teetering is that you can’t keep it up forever. I remain hopeful that she will get off the edge of the precipice before she falls.

    GERALDINE – oh, you’re right. So many women endure this on a daily basis. I spoke to my sister’s psychologist last week and she told me more than half of her clients deal with self-esteem/depression issues as a result of domestic violence. How heartbreaking it must be to treat the same problem over and over again. I am a little stressed but surprisingly OK. I have done as much as I can and I will be there if she needs me. Hope you are well.

    HOLLYGL – how nice of you to stop by. I am still thinking about your dog, Brindle. She reminded me so much of my little one. Oh, I am so sorry you had to go through that as a child. How scared you must have been. I understand the feeling of helplessness, I really do. It means so much that you understand. Thank you. I am truly grateful.


  14. Oh Selma, I’m so sorry about your sister… I totally understand you and her… i’ve been there and no matter how bad it got somehow I went back even though my friend would keep trying to make me see what was really going on… it is all a blur of how it all ended but eventually I did leave him and start a new life and hopefully your sister will finally start hers soon too before it is too late. Loneliness is a big factor but you have to overcome it. I used to think that what will I do without him and that no one will love me like he did… that’s why I say I know what your sister is feeling, yet i know what you are feeling too cuz now I look back and see what my friend went through trying to save me from the ex. I have grown up and matured a lot since then, I was very young and naive and i always say to myself no other guy will ever do that to me again – my guard is always up now.

    I do hope your sister leaves him once and for all – she is playing with fire.


  15. TBALL – she is playing with fire, all right. The worst thing is that she knows it yet she can’t help herself. You’re right – the loneliness is incredibly hard to bear, but surely living in fear is worse. Thank you for your support throughout this difficult time for me. I really appreciate it. XX


  16. Selma if we were on the same continent I would be right there… and yes living with fear is worse but she probably doesn’t want to face it and it leaves you living that fear for her – all I can tell you is be strong for her…


  17. Oh Selma. I’m so sorry. I had so hoped she was free of him, and I’m still hoping that. I’m sending you both strength.


  18. DAOINE – it’s over. For now. Hopefully for good. Thank you for your kind thoughts. BTW, love your avatar. Very, very cool!


  19. Hi Selma, sorry to hear your sister is going through this, as well as you and the rest of your family…..As I said before, keep on doing those things you love. Keep you, YOU. This is the way to cope. By embracing those things that support you, your sense of self, your creativity. Much peace & love, kid.


  20. LISA – you are always so positive. I can see you in the future being some kind of ambassador for peace. I’ll be right there cheering you on!


  21. Selmas,

    Your sister’s situation is so familiar. I’ve watch a few relatives and friends go through similar situations where they were being manipulated, sometimes even abused by spouses. It’s horrible to watch people you love suffer in the victim’s role not realizing that when they choose to get out, the power will come.


  22. FLORA – it is absolutely the worst thing I’ve ever had to watch. My sister has got out of the situation now and I can see the power returning to her. I just hope it stays. I appreciate your comments. Thank you.


  23. Gosh that’s awful. You seem to have violent acts going on around you – the attempted abduction outside your door at night, and now this. I thought we Americans had the market on violent crime cornered for the so-called “developed world”.

    That sucks. Totally sucks.


  24. RWHACKMAN – Australia has its share of violent crime. Sadly. We have very strict gun laws, however, which is one good thing, but it is a shame when you hear some of the stories in the news. Seems to be the way of the world these days. Sounds trite to say it but I wish people could work things out by talking instead of resorting to violence. But that’s just me, last of the hopeless idealists.


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