Silence me

by Cristina Costache

A doctor shares her personal experience with domestic abuse.

Published: Monday 25 November 2019
BMA in the news Illustration

I don’t remember exactly where my story began, or when the relationship I was in took the turn that it did.

I was a medical student, I had always dreamed of becoming a doctor and was in a long-term relationship that was my pillar of dreams and plans for the future.

However, at some point, I lost myself, and turned into a girl that was not good enough anymore, amid the unrelenting drip of manipulative and derisive comments from my then partner.

‘Why study medicine, your IQ is too low anyway, you will never be a doctor’

‘Why not give up and just be a good wife?’

‘You are not good enough to be my partner anyway’

‘I am ashamed that you want to do voluntary work, what is the use?’

‘If you go out, I will leave you, and you don’t want to be at fault for our breakup again, do you?’

Domestic abuse is ‘an incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading and violent behaviour, including sexual violence’, or so the definitions that can be found on the Internet state.

In reality, it is a constant state of hypoxia; one that you don’t notice until it’s too late and until you are shaken out of it by either too much pain or by someone else. 

How would a doctor, someone that dedicates their life to caring for people, who has a sixth sense for safeguarding, be exposed to domestic abuse?

We work so much, we dedicate ourselves to our patients and our teams, we get lost in rota gaps, we finish late, we work unsocial hours and rigid rotas.

As a result, we inevitably miss birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, funerals, Christmas, New Years, and other special occasions, which can in turn give rise to feelings of guilt

We are pictured as ‘strong and responsible’ intellectuals, we earn this strict image through hard work and long years of studying.

We are born ‘selfless’, as our profession needs, so we are easy to be turned into walking sacrifices.

The abuse I endured saw me caged into spending limitless hours in the library to meet my partner’s expectations, but the reality was that I was only ever told how I didn’t measure up.

I was too thin, too chubby, too weak, too rebellious.

I was once physically abused in order to not attend a lecture.  At the time I accepted it, I didn’t think it through more, because most of my thoughts were focused upon how I would not upset my partner again, how I could be good enough in order to not be abandoned again.

Each and every time I remind myself of it, even though I am healed, my 20-year-old self is still there blowing a fairy dust of fear and guilt into my eyes.

I used to fear being forgotten, but the worst thing I did was forget and lose sight of myself.

Today, seven years down the line, I want to help victims notice this thick and heavy shadow that domestic abuse is, to gain the courage to leave.

It is not your fault, you are enough, you are allowed to be happy and you deserve to be loved and supported.

You are strong, you are allowed to heal, be patient with yourself.