There is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action. Goethe
Two weeks ago, I was summoned to do jury service. It was my second time and as luck would have it involved a woman being manipulated and abused by a man again.
The first time around, about eight years ago, the man was the defendant and was accused of four counts of marital rape. The defendant seemed calm and composed while the victim appeared highly unhinged. Her memory of events was hazy and there were many incongruities in her statement. Moreover, there was no tangible proof that rape had taken place as the wife had not confided in anyone at the time the ‘alleged crimes’ had taken place. Therefore, we had no other alternative but declare the defendant not guilty on all counts.
At the time, I was still married and had not gone through the pain of narcissistic abuse. Like most people, I did not know the intricacies of a toxic and abusive relationship. I did not know about the devastating effects that domestic abuse can have on a victim. Although my marriage was not ‘ideal’, I had never suffered abused at the hand of my partner and was only able to assess facts from my own experience. I did not know about abuse amnesia. I did not know about cognitive dissonance. I did not know about trauma bonding. I did not know about Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I was ignorant. I was biased. I was naïve.
This time around, though, things were very different. The woman was the defendant and I was armed with my thorough knowledge of domestic abuse. The defendant was accused of three counts of ‘acquiring criminal property’ and one count of ‘attempting to obtain funds by deception’.
Before I get any further, I would like to say that since the trial is over and was public, I am allowed to talk about the case. What I am not allowed to do is talk about the other jurors and what was discussed in the jury deliberation room. Therefore, I will keep to what the prosecution, the defendant and the defence said.
The defendant, a young woman, was married to a man who had been running a fake room renting scam. He was renting rooms that did not exist and had the money transferred into an account that he had asked his wife to open -in her name- because he did not have a visa and could not open his own bank account. The defendant stated that, indeed she had opened the bank account, but that she did not have control over it as she had given her husband the bank card and pin number and that he had total control over it.
In her witness statement, the defendant made it clear that she never questioned her husband’s motives as he was not the kind of man that you question and that she trusted him implicitly because he was her husband. She was working fifty hours a week while he did not have a job, but she believed that he was getting money from his family abroad.
What made my blood boils and nearly led to me having a panic attack in the courtroom, is the fact that the prosecution based their case on the fact that no intelligent woman, as they proved she was, would ever let herself be manipulated in such a way and that she had to be aware of was he was doing. “What didn’t you tell him to open his own bank account”, “Surely you could have told him that you didn’t want to.” You are an intelligent woman; you must have known what he was up to!”
It is hard to give an accurate picture of the case without getting into more details, but I hope you do get the gist of it. There is still a lot of ignorance about domestic abuse. Most people believe that it involves physical violence. They do not understand psychological and emotional abuse. They cannot fathom that an ‘intelligent woman’ would let herself be manipulated and would unquestionably do what her husband or partner tells her to do. They do not know about brainwashing and gaslighting. They have never experienced it and cannot imagine that it even exists.
I was one of these people once. I lived in my bubble. I thought that I was too strong and clever to let something like domestic abuse ever happen to me. I thought I was immune to it. I was so wrong. I learnt the hard way!
There is still a lot of ignorance about domestic abuse, psychological abuse, emotional abuse and narcissistic abuse. This ignorance is allowing abusers to carry own abusing without facing the consequences of their abuse and leaving the victims helpless. The police and justice system are unknowingly complicit of this abuse and I hope that one day they can awaken to the problem.
Because something never happened to us does not mean that it does not exist. We need to listen to victims. We should keep an open mind, step out of our shoes and try to put on someone else’s shoes.
To finish my post, I would like to say that we did find the defendant not guilty. She burst into tears when she heard the verdict and I must admit that I shed a few tears too.
I do my bit to raise awareness of domestic and narcissistic abuse, but there is still a long way to go. I am not giving hope though.