Underneath the Christmas Tree
She lies in the shadows of the tree, amongst shiny packages choked with coloured ribbons secret parcels promising fleeting happiness for the two angels who lie still in their beds, waiting in frightened silence for her to kiss them goodnight, to make everything better again.
Her shaking hand lies exhausted on a nest of broken glass. Egg-shell shards of gold reflect the emptiness in her eyes.
She can not feel the trickle of blood from her nose that catches the glow of the lights as they flash on- off-on-off. Over and over. Mesmerising.
Lulling her into a dream-state where she doesn’t know whether she¹s awake or asleep.
It’s late. It’s quiet. He’s gone.
Her broken body rests alongside her crushed spirit and fractured dreams. Although she no longer cowers under the waves of his emotional and physical fury, she lies foetally in the on-again off-again kaleidoscope between reality and make-believe.
She is completely, hopelessly and utterly alone. A defeated moth whose relentless path of self-destruction into the flames of his rage has finally left her shrouded in gray ash. A white ribbon of surrender curls up above her, through the dying branches of the tree.
She dimly remembers a time when Christmas meant life, colour, beauty, love.
When she had eagle’s wings and the heart of a lioness. Not now.
Slowly, she moves, testing her body for damage with each movement. She limps gently and silently towards the bathroom where she carefully washes away the night.
She is grateful for the nightlight in the children’s room when she enters. They don’t need to see her as she is. One at a time, she holds them close to her chest to heal their damaged souls with her heartbeat. She stays with them until they drift off to sleep, where dreams take away their sadness.
She sighs as she closes their door and sees the broken glass around the tree. As she reaches down for the dustpan and brush, she wishes she still believed in Santa Claus.
This view from underneath a Christmas tree is not one that most of us will ever see.
But, a staggering 33% of Australian women have suffered instances of physical violence in their lifetimes. That is one woman standing in pain between two who could be holding her up. And who¹s holding up the 1 in 4 children who witness physical violence against their mother or stepmother?
82% of women abused by their current partner never report the controlling behaviours, the verbal abuse, the property destruction. They don’t report that their partner tracks their whereabouts and limits contact with their families. One in five Australian women is also affected by sexual violence in their lives, but only 5% of those will ever tell the police.
Those numbers are so distressing to me, but even more of a worry to me is this.
The average amount that each person in Australia spends on Christmas gifts is around $500. And that is less than usual.
Last year, the Women’s Legal Service assisted 3500 women. It costs about $420 a year to provide assistance to a woman in crisis. The dedicated staff and volunteers of the Women’s Legal Service work tirelessly to put protection in place to keep Queensland woman and children safe.
Next year, instead of spending money on people who don’t need anything but food, shelter and love, maybe we could start to give to people who don’t have any of that. Maybe we don¹t even wait until Christmas to be people who stand tall and hold our hands out to others who are falling down.
Christmas is perhaps a time to become positively disruptive and think hard about what is important, to us and to our community.
The True Face of Domestic Violence
If you would like to donate to the Women’s Legal Service, or to people in need, have a look at the links below:
Women’s Legal Service: http://www.wlsq.org.au/
Givit- Goods for Good Causes: http://www.givit.org.au/
Merry Christmas everyone, and have a wonderfully positive and disruptive 2014!”
A nurse and counsellor by trade, Caylie Jeffery has had many adventures and experiences that have made her into a strong, independent, and interested woman. Being a mindful parent in a world that loves to turn children into mindless robots is her biggest challenge yet, and she is determined to instil passion about life, books, art and people into their hearts and minds.
Caylie has a blog where she writes familiar essays about subjects that catch her breath. She is establishing herself as a freelance writer, and is an emerging author of children’s stories, teen adventures and creative adult non-fiction.