A Question Is Abuse? The Royal Racism Row

It is not your fault if someone hits you. If someone does hit you, you have choices. If you want help to leave an abusive relationship, all you have to do is ask and people will come running to help you.

Now, let’s hear from a domestic violence service manager who went to Buckingham Palace to be honoured for her work and is now famous for the following words.

Everything has to be taken in its context, so the context is domestic abuse, erm raising awareness. That you have asked me a question, and I have answered it, several times in fact, and you do not stop until you get the answer that satisfies you that I really can’t claim to be British. Right? That’s clear. I have clarity, I’m not under any illusion. Right? This happened. And one of my many thoughts were “This could happen to someone who is affected by domestic abuse.” Trauma is in the room, right? And if I am affected like this and I consider I am someone who, you know, I can roll with the punches. I’ve been around this environment for a long time. I’ve seen things, but this. I let my guard down in a space I thought I was safe in because we deal with violence against women. Now, violence is not always physical. It can be verbal, and that felt like violence to me. And when you put your hand in my hair, I’m not, I’m not even a person. You can just do what you want and say what you want, and I don’t want to be in your presence, but I have to consider too many people, so I stayed. How many times do we stay in situations where we are clearly uncomfortable so that we don’t make other people uncomfortable? That’s a conversation that has to be held.

Well! This was Ngozi Fulani talking about her horrific ordeal of being asked – in Buckingham Palace of all traumatic, triggering places – of where she was from. Will’s godmother, Lady Hussey, is 83 years old and has served the Queen and the royal family well for decades. Apparently, this evil old hag moved poor Ms Fulani’s hair away from her name badge to see the name on her name badge. She should have her hand chopped off for that.

No one has ever moved my hair or put their hand on my person to move me out of the way of an on coming bus or to prod me when I am the most convenient person to have a go at on any ward I have worked on. Absolutely not. Women are not the sole offenders of this violence. Absolutely not.

Having seen Ngozi Fulani give this inspirational speech, showing personal restraint, coherence and Aristotle level logic, I want to learn much more about her organisation, sponsor it and recommend it to women fleeing domestic abuse. I can see that Ms Fulani is a woman of integrity who is clearly emotionally balanced and so is the right person to help women take steps towards emotional well being and independence. Ms Fulani is a beacon of light in a dark world.

Ngozi Fulani said that being asked a question she did not like was “abuse”. And with that one statement, she has minimised and trivialised everything that her service users go through.

“I am someone who can roll with the punches.” Er, what punches? Er, no, someone who gives a lengthy speech about not feeling safe about being asked a question several times when taking part in a cordial event at a palace is not someone who can be classed as robust.

“There is trauma in the room.” Has anyone just been raped? No. Has anyone just been on the front line of a war and had their legs blown off? No. Therefore there is no trauma in the room.

This reminds me of a worker we took on in one of the cleaning businesses I work in. She was living in the women’s refuge because she had left her husband of 15 years who had convinced her she had schizophrenia. OK. How does someone convince someone else that they have schizophrenia? Makes no sense at all if you know what schizophrenia is, which is seeing people or things that are not there and hearing people and things that are not there. You often behave in ways that seem odd to others, and speak in coded language. For example one of my friends said “Everyone else are onions but you are a carrot and no one talks to you because you are a carrot.” She was obviously talking about being the odd one out, but couldn’t order her words or thoughts. She thought all her posters were looking at her so she took them all down. Sometimes she didn’t know where she was and asked us where she was. You’re in my hallway, bouncing off the radiator. Her house was freezing. She was very kind, a lovely person and retrained as a hair dresser and is doing well. No one can convince you that you have schizophrenia. It’s absolutely bizarre that anyone could make this claim.

So yes, the woman who said her husband had “abused” her by convincing her that she had schizophrenia said that she would start going to workshops for “trauma”. I said, “Very nice” and walked out of the room and hoped I would never have to work with her again.

She wasn’t traumatised. She very clearly wasn’t traumatised, chatting to me casually as she cleaned a cupboard as though she were talking about having afternoon tea with her mother. What a lovely affair. She was not traumatised. I have worked with people who were traumatised from sexual abuse and war. They hardly spoke, they could barely function, they were clearly mentally disturbed almost all the time. Some took drugs to block out the memories. Others drank to block out the memories.

I can’t stand women’s groups. I really can’t. They get money, funding, for however many people go on their courses, go to their groups, and so of course the women running the groups want as many butts on seats as possible, and so of course they are going to tell women that they are severely mentally ill and need to go on all their courses about trauma. They convince women that they are in a much worse state than the women are actually in, and they perpetuate lies about violence, men and women. And the women are keen to believe these lies.

I remember earlier this year, Refuge – a leading UK charity for women fleeing domestic violence – put out a statement that “50% the population live in fear.” Oh. Really? Who are these people because no one I know lives in fear. Oh! It refers to women being half the population. They mean that all women live in fear.

No. We. Do. Not.

I made comments to this effect on Refuge’s facebook page, and that 75% women go through their lives without any violent incident, that women can take charge of their own lives and live equally to men in the UK as we are equal in law and have the same education and do better in education and the workplace than men according to all statistics and that the women on the Refuge page should take that as an encouragement… And I was blocked by about 200 women.

200 women did not want to hear good news about how amazing women are and how able women are.
I also notice on any social media page about combatting domestic violence against women, that any time a man says “Most men are not violent” which is true according to all statistics and my “lived” experience, and some men comment saying that they have been beaten by women, several women on the page swear at the men, tell them to F off, wish all sorts of illness and violence on them and are really aggressive.

So on a page that is supposed to be against violence and aggression, women are incredibly aggressive with wishes of violence.

That shows what sort of women use these services. The fact that 200 or more women blocked me for writing several positives about women and our position in the UK shows what sort of women use these services.

Organisations around domestic violence have a financial interest in women being perpetual victims. The organisations convey the message that all women go through domestic violence and that all men are violent and there is nothing women can do to stop a man being violent to them. Notice I say “women”. There are no national domestic violence organisations for men in the UK despite the fact that in 2019, 49% – half – of all domestic violence victims in the UK were men.

There are also no refuges or hostels for men fleeing domestic violence in the UK.

There is a service in Manchester that takes male service users as well as people of other genders. The service is called CWA and it uses a different model where service users are placed in flats rather than in one hostel. The service saw that the traditional model of a hostel did not work for everyone and excluded men and people of other genders, so they changed the model.

When I first worked with homeless people in Rochdale in 2001, I had a number of men on my caseload who were homeless due to domestic violence. There were no women at all in the building who were with us due to domestic violence at that point. The women’s refuge took all the female victims of domestic violence, and the refuge workers cared for them. Good. The men, on the other hand, were left to be homeless.

It’s the same with male survivors of childhood sexual abuse. The men end up sleeping rough, the women are in refuges and specialist houses for women abused in childhood. There are no specialist services for male survivors at all in the UK apart from one phone help line.

Living with domestic violence is a choice. Every second, every day that someone stays with someone who is violent or plain unpleasant, it is a choice. This is not Afghanistan. Women in the UK have choices. So do men.

But the financial situation.

It’s never going to be a perfect time if you want to leave a violent person. You have friends, you have relatives and you have work colleagues. I have worked in care homes where workers got colleagues out of their home to safety. One night from one home, the head of care left a party when a junior carer phoned her and said that her boyfriend was hitting her again. The head of care drove to the flat, got the junior carer out, packed her stuff up and drove the carer to her parents’ house.

If anyone needs help to escape domestic violence, people will come running to help you. All you need to do is ask.

I chose to live with my abusive mother because the other option was to live in a nasty place in a nasty part of town. I was not earning much at the time. So every time my mother kicked off, every time she made me ill, every time she was absolutely vile – and her behaviour is shocking to anyone who has witnessed it – I got my calculator, pen and paper out and did my sums and decided whether or not it was financially advisable for me to move out. I made choices.

I made the choice to save my money and live in a warm, comfortable home, and stay away from the vile person as much as possible. As soon as I had enough money, I gave my mother the choice to behave like a decent human being, and she insulted me straight away, so I told her to bugger off and not come back. I have disowned my mother, my violent sister, and I hardly spoke to my violent and aggressive father before he died. I made choices for what was best for me at that point in time.

I am intelligent, I am equal to a man, I have agency, I am not someone with learning disabilities, I do not have dementia and I am not a child, therefore I can make decisions for myself and I should be treated as a grown adult who can make decisions for themselves.

Oh but you have such an easy life. My problems are a little bit bigger than most people’s. I never chose my situation. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time a couple of times. What I do choose is how I deal with it. I am thankful for the life I have. I am thankful to be a UK citizen, I am thankful for my freedom and I choose to live a good life as a good, upstanding citizen to the best of my abilities.

I have been given choices and I choose the right choices, the best choices every time. I’d love the NHS to give me someone to check on my stress levels like they used to. It’s the only complaint I have. I’d love to have support, and I have asked for it many times. My MP has just said he can speak to the NHS on my behalf. I get no support so my compassion for other people is now depleted. I have to use my compassion on myself. If you’ve wondered why I have little to no compassion, this is why.

In the West, we can do anything. We have a free education, a free library service, free public parks and places to go. We have great human rights and equal rights. We have the internet. We can achieve. When people stick with a violent partner and then want to make domestic violence their entire life’s narrative, I just think that is a waste of a life.

Look at my siblings. My eldest brother is an IT expert and worked for some big names. My other brother founded one of the top companies in the world for sustainable energy – solar power etc – and he specialises in powering shanty towns with renewable energy. Me, well, there is the, er, “fun” side of my life mixed in with me working with street homeless people, on hospital wards, in mental health units and more for 20 years, and then you have my sister who didn’t finish high school, was taking cocaine aged 12, is violent and got involved with prostitution aged 15.

We all make choices. My siblings and I all have high intelligence and every opportunity in the Western world. Yes, we come from violent homes, but the past should never determine the future. Three of us made a go of things and used the talents and intelligence we were born with to make a difference in the world. One decided to choose other things. She had a lovely singing voice and could have sung professionally, and she wrecked her voice when she chose to smoke. No one at home smoked. No one at home took drugs. No one at home was a prostitute nor encouraged it in any way. Very much the opposite. My sister made choices. We all make choices.

It is not your fault if someone hits you. It is your choice to stay or leave.

This is what is wrong with a lot of domestic violence services. They never talk about women having choices. They just want funding for butts on seats and keep their jobs. Therefore the services often perpetuate the lie that women are always going to be victims, that women have no choices, that women have no hope and all men are bastards.

Having met some women’s services workers, well, I wouldn’t send any of my clients to some of them. Some service providers – who are supposed to help women become independent – are nervous, look down when they speak and are a bit of a mess.

However, as I have said before, there is a great service on Teesside that teaches women how to recognise patterns – because many women who leave a violent partner will go and get another violent partner. As I have said before, my best friend from school and college’s mother had a revolving door of abusive men which caused my friend to hate herself and develop an auto immune condition. The service on Teesside teaches women how to recognise their patterns and how to break their patterns so that they stop choosing violent men. It’s not politically correct, but it works. It tells women that they do have choices and can live independent and successful lives.

The service on Teesside also works with men who want to change their behaviour which is also a fantastic way forward and will reduce violence women face in relationships. It is always the violent person’s fault for being violent, and some do want to change. Good. And there is a service that helps men to change. Good.

I have also worked with amazing women in Edinburgh who worked in the supported house that specialises in working with women who have been abused in childhood. These workers are full of compassion, they understand women, they are relentless in their determination to help the women in their care and to encourage them forward in life. It is a very loving environment. These women workers do not sensationalise violence against women, they do not tell women that all men are bastards and that all women face violence. They deal with each woman as an individual and encourage her to life her best life.

I learned a lot from working with these women, and I admire the work that they do. They changed my working practice, they changed my understanding, they gave me understanding. I had identified that I had no idea how to work with women and so my boss put me on shift in the women’s unit as an extra body, and I just listened to the workers, and they gave me articles to read. Within three months, I was working on my own in the women’s house on quiet Sunday afternoons. I wouldn’t say I was the best person at the job, but I had learned a lot, I was better than when I started and the clients trusted me to look after them.

It is possible that Ngozi Fulani’s ridiculous statements could prevent a woman from seeking help. If a woman can’t work out what Ngozi Fulani is talking about when she talks about “spaces” and simple questions being “trauma”, then that woman may not access Ngozi Fulani’s services when she may be in need of them. People in need don’t want to feel any more confused than they already are. People seeking help want to feel safe. How can people feel safe accessing a service run by someone who makes strange comments that most people are not able to understand?

I know that all the issues around domestic violence are not things I will understand. I know I am incapable of understanding them. I’m not wired up that way. However, I can talk about the choices I made to stay with a violent parent and the choices I made to kick that violent parent to the kerb when I had enough money, and that I am free to set my terms and conditions for any friendship or relationship.

I’m also not going to chat utter shit that I am “traumatised” because I come from a violent home. I do not say that a person who asks me a question that I do not like is being violent to me. I’m not going to accuse someone of a different generation who has a different understanding of the world of being deliberately bigoted.

I’m not going to minimise and trivialise anything that anyone goes through. I am insensitive and cold and callous, but I do have some standards of how I treat my fellow human beings. If I live near a person and they ask me for help to leave a violent relationship, I will come running. I always intervene in violent situations in the street, and I will always help where I can. Most people do.


About catherinehume

Catherine Hume: Writer, social care worker and a liver of a life less ordinary.
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