I had to do some banking the other day, and in conversation with the lovely girl at the teller’s window, she informed me that I still had two joint accounts with my ex. Helpfully, she suggested that if I could arrange for him to meet me at the bank, the accounts could be closed and the contents divided between us. Eager to help, she mentioned a number of ways in which this issue could be dealt with, all of which informed my ex finding out my general location. She was so keen to help, that I had to tell her: sorry, it can’t happen for safety reasons. The last thing I heard from my ex was a death threat: I’m not keen to manufacture a situation in which there’s any chance that we might bump into each other.
I was fairly calm when I explained this, and I spoke quite lightly and made a joke out of it (there are instances of dark humour which real people simply don’t feel funny, which survivors of violence tend to appreciate) and I was struck by the look of horror on her face; horror, and such fear that I was compelled to reassure her that everything was ok, there’s no threat at the moment and certainly no concern for her. But she was pale, and I could see that I’d knocked her with a reality that, while I’m no longer particularly concerned about it (if it was going to happen, it would have), I have been told by numerous people I do need to take into account in my meanderings through the world.
There are things that I take for granted as a social worker – things that I see as part of my nine-to-five that a bank worker (although she’d handle things that would leave me for dead: I don’t do numbers) simply wouldn’t conceive of. But there are also things that I take for granted as a survivor of violence, of daily fear, of threats, of rape, that real people struggle to hear about. I’m getting used to that knowledge, and I’m becoming more seasoned in choosing what to say, and what to keep to myself, when I’m talking to a civilian. I’m having these jolts of someone else’s reaction – oops, shouldn’t have disclosed that – less frequently. But this was one of them.
Real people generally don’t come across death threats, and they probably wouldn’t make light of it if they did, for all there’s really no reason to take it seriously anymore. Real people feel sorry for those who have been through such things.
I’m not one of those people anymore, and while there’s often a sense of regret and resentment of that, there’s also a sense of acceptance. I’m stronger for what I’ve experienced, and I refused to be scared of what frightened that lovely girl behind the teller window, and I refuse to be bowed down by it.
For today, at least. But I’m getting stronger, and odds are, tomorrow will be a strong day as well.