I know now that social isolation is a form of domestic violence, designed to control the victim. With hindsight, asking me to move to Ireland may have been a most extreme form of social isolation, but I really can’t bring myself to believe that. I know that when I arrived there I realised that The King had painted a picture of me to his family and friends as some kind of perfect creature, and it was an impossible standard to live up to. At first I did well, and his family and friends adored me. His mother and sister fussed over me, and his mother believed we would get married. We stayed with his sister and her then boyfriend, and I remember one night The King and the boyfriend had a minor falling out. The look that The King gave him I will always remember. It shocked me. He glowered at him and pursed his lips in a way I would later become familiar with. It was a look he used whenever he wanted to threaten or scare someone and which he would later use on me along with a clenched fist. I remember the sister’s boyfriend physically backing down.
We first started having serious arguments in Ireland. The novelty of me being there must have worn off and The King had begun to act like he normally would. We had already moved in together, into a one bedroom tiny flat. He would have had us stay at his sister’s place indefinitely, I’m sure, and he only made the effort to find the other flat after I moved out of her place on my own and into a share house. Prior to that he’d refused to look for a place; the day after I moved out he came into my work place and told me he’d found us a flat.
One of the first arguments I remember was when we had left the pub one night and we were both drunk. I was upset because he had ignored me all night, which he often did, spending the night with his mates in a different part of the pub and leaving me with his sister or his mother. I grew so frustrated on the walk home that I threw my own mobile phone on the road. It was an old plastic Motorola and it didn’t smash, just scratched a bit on one corner. I don’t know what I said but it must have angered The King a lot because he said he was going to lock me out of the flat that we shared. He had the only key and for some reason I didn’t doubt that he would do it and I would be stuck outside in the freezing cold. I had no choice but to change my approach and try to pacify him, practically begging him not to lock me out. By the time we arrived home he did let me in. At the time I didn’t realise that this was mistreatment, that it was a form of emotional abuse designed to frighten and control me. I thought that I deserved it.
The first New Years Eve I spent in Ireland, The King spent most of the night in a different pub to me across the road. He left me in a pub with his mother (and maybe his sister) and he went across the road to another pub with all the boys. I know it seems strange now. Why didn’t I just go over there? But I think I did that and it was clear that I was not welcome, no women were welcome. I was perplexed and couldn’t work out if it was normal or not. I think I felt it was wrong but The King rationalised it somehow. At the end of the night a brawl broke out in the street and The King was glassed by his friend. I don’t know why that happened, but I went in the back of the ambulance with him to the hospital.
The antagonism between men and women in the town was palpable to me and far worse than anything I’d ever experienced in Australia. He treated his mother and sister very badly. His mother seemed resigned to it, but his sister (although she loved him dearly and they often got along very well) was often in tears at his treatment of her and the way he disregarded her and their mother in favour of his mates and the pub, or the Playstation, or the tv. All his mates also treated the women in their lives with similar disrespect. There was open hatred of the young local women as “slags”. Some of the men also mistreated their animals. I remembered hearing that a friend of his threw a kitten in the air and it fell to the ground. I know now that mistreatment of pets often accompanies domestic violence.
When we lived in Ireland he dealt hash intermittently. He kept it in the top of the cupboard in the bedroom. He smoked it every night and on the weekend, but I didn’t think this was much of a problem. I didn’t like it, and I said as much, but I didn’t press the issue for a number of reasons. Firstly, I didn’t believe in asking someone to stop doing something that they had always done before they met you. I also didn’t realise that cannabis can be so destructive. And lastly, I didn’t really think there was any chance that The King would stop. What I was yet to realise was that although the smoking was affecting our relationship, and that I was not able to live with it, The King would behave the same way towards me whether he was smoking or not. For the meantime, it meant the flat was always filthy, no matter how well I cleaned it, he never helped with anything and he got angry with me if I asked for help. My friends commented on this when they visited one time, but nothing changed. He would just play the Playstation and go out Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday night. Sometimes he would be out all weekend. I soon learnt not to worry about him.
He was not supportive of me making any friends outside his town. When I started working in Dublin, I started to make friends through work. I often invited The King to come up to Dublin with me to parties with them, but he wouldn’t. Finally I managed to get him to go with me one weekend. He was rude to all my new friends and nearly got into a fight with one of them back at their house. In the morning he insisted we leave early without saying goodbye to any of them. After that I went out with them once or twice more times on my own. They often used to say to me that I deserved to be treated better. I remember at that time that I used to defend The King and I didn’t realise what was happening. I didn’t understand what they meant.
Looking back its hard to believe I put up with his behaviour, but the truth is this was only the beginning. Things got much, much worse. It is scary to think what a hold he had on me psychologically and emotionally at such an early stage, less than a year in. His tactics of control and manipulation must have been so subtle and sophisticated that I didn’t even realise what was happening, and I still can’t identify his tactics during this time as well as I can in later years. Despite this I was still resisting. Making sure I was employed, keeping in touch with my friends back home, making new friends, sitting through an humiliating appointment by myself with the judgmental and reluctant local doctor in order to get the Pill so I wouldn’t get pregnant. Our romantic plan, in our young and naive way, had been to spend some time in Ireland and then return to Australia together. But by the end of the year of my working holiday, it was clear he wasn’t going anywhere. I had to leave as my visa was expiring. I was secretly relieved. I remember having a strange premonition that if I stayed there and had children with this man, I would never, ever be able to escape or bring my children to Australia.