My personal story

R: I do get very assertive. I need the kind of boys to know that I'm here and that I'm not going to take any rubbish and I think than the more I get to know guys, the less I, the more I kind of calm down. I don't know I think it was just the school I was very used to being hurt by guys like a bit bullied and things. It kind of... It really stems from, when I meet guys I get like a fighting instinct. I have to protect myself...

I: Does it happen very often that women are bullied by men? In schools or on the streets?

R: Yes, I would say so.

I: And is it commonly accepted?

R: I think so. I think it is strange, I think, like you know, in my extended family my aunt and my uncle have a very violent relationship and ... and I think there have been times when she's ended up in hospital and things, but... she won't leave him. And that is completely acceptable. That she is, like it is for a lot of people, they think it is terrible what is happening, but no one is forcing her out of this marriage, which I would assume, if it were children being beaten by their father, then someone would come and take those children away. If it was a man being beaten up that badly by his wife, I don't know... would it be the same?... I think it is acceptable for men to dominate woman. Absolutely, it is acceptable and I find it very hard to deal with. ... At school, the boys shouted louder and got angrier, and when they were the funnier ones. Everything they do was about not only kind of outstepping each other, but also... yeah and I think ...

I: So, there is verbal aggression, obviously, when they start shouting things at you, but apparently there is also physical aggression like in the case of your uncle beating up your aunt. Does the police take action then, or does she file a complaint? Or not even those things?

R: No, no... I know that my cousin once had to phone the police. I think the police have been involved before, but nothing really happens. My uncle has got a lot of money and he is very well connected in his, where he lives and I think that a lot of the time things get overlooked when they shouldn't. Because he is very well connected. I mean, he is in trouble, he gets in trouble with the police anyway, because he does a lot of dodgy dealings with some people that he probably shouldn't be doing business with. I think he's got a lot of power in a lot of areas, he's got power over my aunt, he's got power kind of over people who should really be authority figures. I don't know. Really I think it is still a men's world. Maybe not in kind of the legislative aspect. I think you know there's like, I would say like brilliant progression in I think culturally, woman are seen as a lesser sex still. I think it is a shame. (…)

I: Coming back to the situation with your aunt and uncle: would you ever accept a partner that would beat you or insult you?

R: No! I wouldn't accept it. I completely understand why people get scared. I think it is totally understandable that anyone in that situation would be too scared to leave. You know, they have got 2 grown up children, they've got lots of property and they have got lots of investments together, she never worked either because he earned such good money and I think that it got to a point where she's scared that she won't have anything if she leaves him. And she don't want to be on her own. I mean, sad, what happened was ... it's... I think that it is very easy for me to say that I would walk away and I wouldn't stand for it and I wouldn't... but it is not until you are in that situation that you don't know how you will behave. I think if I was in a relationship with a big guy, you know, a big strong man and he was hurting me, and then turning around and saying that he was really sorry, and that he loved me, and things like that. I think it would be very easy to... to stay there.

I: Also, as you describe, since your aunt is depending on his income, and property.

R: Yes, she's got no independence and, you know, I do talk about it with my parents a lot. They're very open about talking about these kinds of things and ... and it is a shame because it seems that if she had filed for divorce when her children were younger, she should have had more of a chance of coming away with enough to settle a life of her own. But now the children are grown up, there is not really a - you know - she might not get as much because she is not fulfilling her caring role, I suppose. You know... and it is funny, like, does that mean that you put worth on a woman depending on which one of her conjugal roles she fulfils? Like... do you know what I mean? If you're not... if you're not earning money, if you're not looking after children and you're not looking after the house, when you start stripping different roles away, does she become worthless in that kind of a situation? Here she is trying to walk away, and trying to... really, save herself... you know, she's my aunt has been dealt with some real big blows... and it is I think it happens. It is such a hidden thing. The only reason we know about it was because there was a complete breakdown. It got to a breaking point apparently she had to come down. But it was funny because it had nothing to do with domestic violence. He cheated on her. With a, they were in their forty's and he was having an affair with a 21 year old and that was breaking it for her. That he, that he would break that trust. But why it is acceptable for him to be hurting you, it is very bizarre, it is difficult to understand.

I: So, do you mean that for her it was more painful to realise that he had cheated on her than to being actually physically hurt by him?

R: Yeah, I think that is quite surprising...

I: Yeah, well, I think emotional wounds run very deep.

R: And... I think she felt like she was being made to look like an idiot. Because he was, there was a stage in their marriage; she said where every day he would come home with gifts for her... Every day there would be like diamonds the size of people's fists, you know, just sitting on the dining table waiting for her. And when it all came to light, she said: 'well, what were all these gifts for? Are they because you were guilty?' and he said: 'Yeah, I just needed to keep you, keep you... strung along' and it was just I think it was the humiliation. I think, yeah, and it is such a shame. But then she expects everything to carry on as normal now. My aunt, my aunt is quite an unusual person in her personality and I think she expected a huge drama to happen, when she was moving down and she came and lived with us for a bit. And every night she would be crying on the phone to him and stuff like that and had, you know, and crying that ... my uncle’s family were phoning us up and things like that. I think it is just quite unusual, she is expecting things to get back to normal now, I think because she's so used to things going back to normal. That she expects us to be able to do that. She stayed up one night with my dad and just poured her heart out about what had happened and then, I think went into a lot more detail than what I know about certain, certain events and certain things that happened. And this Christmas, she wanted us all to come up and celebrate Christmas together and my dad said: no. He said he wouldn't entertain time with a man who does that to a woman. He said that: 'If I had friends who I found out were treating their wives like that I certainly wouldn't be spending time with them’, he said, now probably take it upon myself to fix this situation kind of thing. He said: 'Why on earth would I then go up to stay with family, and stay with my wife's sister, who got a husband who is doing that to her?'. And when it came back to my aunt that this was the reasons behind us saying that we couldn't go, she's decided that she doesn't want contact with her family anymore. He's got her completely controlled, completely controlled. And my aunt has characteristics of being a very strong woman. ... and there has been other situations when they went out, they went to New York to visit some of their cousins, my mum and my aunt went to New York to visit their cousin and they found out that he was a heroin addict.

I: The cousin in New York?

R: Yes, the cousin in New York. And she dragged him back on a plane. She refused to leave until he came home with her, because they said that they weren't gonna leave their family in a situation, and you know... she's the kind of woman that would drag a 40 year old man back on a plane and force him to come back home to his family, because he is in such a bad state. It is surprising that she... I think it just shows the level of control that then when she's at home and her husband is around, she can't muster the energy even to say... she want to carry on talking to her sister. I mean, it is clearly, in my eyes. And this is me being very ... making huge assumptions about what might have happened, behind closed doors. But it would seem logical to me that he is so scared of anyone who might be telling her that he is not good for her... that he cuts anyone out. If he, if he thinks that someone is breaking up their marriage and therefore the control he has over her, then I think he just eliminates them. And so we don't hear from her anymore. We don't hear from any of their family. They are not allowed to talk to us. Which I think is really funny. I would hope that I would never get to a stage, I have got a little sister, and I hope that in our lives, we never get to a stage where we don't talk to each other.

I: And definitely not because you have partners who are hitting you!

R: Yeah, I can't believe that men have that control. But, you know, in saying that, there's woman as well who beat up their husbands, it is just, I think it is harder for men to come out and say that: 'I'm being hurt by a woman'. Because it is not very masculine... So, (interruption by the signal of a mobile phone)...

R: Yeah, you know I think it is a shame. I think it is hard, though, you would never predict those things. You know they've invested so much in that relationship and they have been together since they - they are in their mid-forties now - and they had been together since they were teenagers. And I think the more and the more and the more you put into a relationship - and you know for her it must take a lot to stay with him, in terms of, you know, in terms of, you know, that takes a lot of, like emotional investment, to stay there. But the more you invest into something the harder it is to walk away from it. And that's the thing and I suppose it only gets harder and harder to walk away. They're married, they got children. But he's... the way he behaves with his children is very strange as well. He's got a daughter who he buys flats and cars and things like that and he's got a son, who - he came out that he was gay - and he's not really allowed back into the family. I think this guy is - my uncle grew up with seven brothers and I think he's got very strong ideals about what being a man should be. And they grew up in a very rough - he made all his money himself. So I think he's come from a background where as a man, you fight for your turf, and there was probably a lot of competition between his brothers, they really didn't have anything. And then the sense of achievement and power he gets from gaining so much wealth over the years, kind of has turned into a bit of a fatal combination. In terms of what he deems as acceptable and what he thinks he's allowed to do. It is a shame really, I don't think, you know... I mean, I certainly assume that everyone my age doesn’t go, doesn't start here and think, you know, by the time I'm 40 I want to be in that position. No one asks for that.

I: No, it just happens.

R: It is a shame isn't it? It is a real shame... (…)