But the story that is attached to me is not average. It is a big event ; it got into the media, it got into people’s hearts and minds and even now, it sometimes still gets discussed.
Because people know my story, and not me, it means that I have, at times, been subjected to people discussing me (or in fact, my story) to my face.
Add to this the fact that on the Internet anyone can access chat-rooms or give comments about articles or stories, and I’ve had some pretty interesting glimpses and insights into how people feel and react to my story and interestingly, to ‘victims of domestic violence’.
I’m pretty shy and generally a fairly private person. So when my story was bandied about in the media, I was ill prepared for the scrutiny that my character and actions were subjected to.
People focused on my looks, my age, my educational background, my work and what I had done.
There was a tonne of sympathy and support, compassion and love thrown my way. For this, I am unendingly grateful. But there were also some questions, some comments and even some accusations.
Amongst them, for example after I was interviewed by Andrew Denton were comments like this
“Why did she leave her daughter with him?”
“Why didn’t Ingrid just leave when her husband showed his true colours?”
(And my particular favourite)…
“I must say that your absolute crap about the young girl with an intervention violence order is the biggest insult you can give to the male population of this planet. You may have not been involved in this but I have. Women can lie there (sic) ass off and men are not believed. Women hold children to ransom to upset the father. That was the most biased story I have ever seen from you. Before you televise crap like that again I hope you do the research that has made you a great interviewer.”
This ‘crap like that’, by the way, was Andrew asking me about the murder of my family.
As much as these kinds of questions and comments hurt, there was nothing much that I hadn’t already questioned about myself. I already felt guilty, that it was my fault that they’d been killed. For daring to leave the man who was starting to act violently towards myself and my children.
What also emerged from the aftermath, though, was a desire for me to be a spoke-person about domestic violence. And the reasons behind that were just as revealing.
One comment included:
I say this because you represent another side to domestic violence. As a society, we usually equate this with women who are uneducated, living in Mt. Druitt and coming from a history of violence. You, on the other hand, came across as someone articulate, educated and a passionate person dedicated to change. I think that because of this more people will take heed, because it shouldn't happen to people like you.
Or more succinctly “People like you make a good spokesperson for domestic violence because you have all of your own teeth”.
“People like you”? What does that mean exactly?
There is so much judgement about what it means to be a victim of domestic violence. We are judged. And we are judged differently. I have no doubt, no doubt at all, that my character, actions and my life would not have come under such scrutiny had it been that a branch fell randomly from a tree and killed my family.
When I first came under all this scrutiny, my feelings of guilt made me think that everyone was looking for reasons, for blame. And indeed, some people were seeking to find reasons. And some even to blame me.
But what I’ve come to realize is that what most people are looking for is difference. How is she different from me? People don’t want to be anything like me because then it is possible that something like that might happen to them. So the focus has always been on how I am different as a person and how my story is so completely different from theirs. Because things like this happen to “people like her”, not “people like me”.
But guess what? I’m not that different from you.
Without “the story” looming over me, you’d see that I’m pretty normal and that I always have been.
Chatting to me at the football field or at the pre-school gate or at the water cooler, you’d have the impression of a fairly innocuous, fairly nice, fairly normal woman. I cry in soppy movies, love good linen, rue my grey hairs and have a fairly unhealthy relationship with chocolate.. Like I said; I blend.
So, rather than focusing on what’s different about me, let’s look at what might be the same.
I’m a woman.
And just being born female means that I am statistically vastly more likely to suffer violent acts from my partner.
What makes me a “person like that” is that I am a woman. Full Stop.
Because really, when it comes down to it, where I’m from or how educated I am or how I look or what I do…. None of it is relevant.
What I did, or what I said, or why I left or didn’t leave… irrelevant.
It’s just simply not about me at all.
It’s about him and his choices. It’s always about him. Not me. Not you, ladies. Him.
There is no such thing as “women like that” or “people like her”. This affects all of us, no matter where we are from or who we are.
But there is such a thing as ‘men like that”. Men that use their power to control women.
No matter what my background or behavior, no matter how I looked or what I said or what I did, my ex-husband would have been a controlling, abusive and violent man.
The man I chose made the wrong choice.
Men who choose control, violence, abuse have made the wrong choice.
There are other choices. To love, without control. To support. To respect.
The men in the white ribbon movement are showing the way. They are committed to honour, support and respect women.
They are committed to saying “no” to violence in all its forms.
They are committed to recognizing that violence is never the solution and that those who use it are quite simply, wrong.
The movement reminds us that that when someone is hurt, abused, raped, assaulted or killed, where the blame should lie.
The late great Maya Angelou once famously said that “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But they will never forget how you made them feel”.
To paraphrase this gorgeous sentiment, as I leave you to blend back into the life of love and chaos that I have carved for myself, I have no doubt that you will forget my forgettable face, and you will probably forget what I’ve said.
But my great wish for today is that I leave you feeling not devastated, but hopeful.
I hope that you remember, that even though my story included terrible violence, that it did not end there.
My story has continued. It includes memories and indeed, lessons hard learned. But equally, it is now full of love and joy . It’s full of my wonderful, supportive, respectful husband, my two gorgeous young children and, frankly way too much awfully ear-worming toddler songs (I have to restrain myself from breaking into “Look at me, I’m a train, I’m a train on a track, I’m a train, I’m a choo choo train, yeah-pretty much all the time).
It’s my hope that we all maintain hope for the end of family violence for everyone.
For the end of violence, although remarkable in and of itself, is just the beginning of what life can really be like.
It is my hope that my story reminds you of what is possible.