Surviving a murderous marriage
RiverTriber Viv McGrath survived a murderous marriage to find love and international
TV success with the Sky TV series, Lady Boys. Here she tells us how her idyllic childhood - partly spent in Twickenham - gave her little preparation for the trauma that lay ahead.
I was just 22-years-old and seven months pregnant the day my husband nearly killed me. He squeezed his hands around my neck; his eyes fixed in a cold, murderous stare.
A voice cried out but it didn’t sound like me.
It was a horrific rasping sound, squeezed out on my final desperate breaths of air. I was begging for my life. That sound was what scared me the most; it was pure fear. I thought I was about to die.
I’m not sure how long I was unconscious, but I came around as I was being dragged by my hair across the broken glass covering the floor. I didn’t even feel it cut into me. Then, for some reason, he just dumped me and went into the kitchen to smash everything in there.
I ran for my life, terrified that he would follow me.
Barefoot, with blood trickling down from the cuts on my legs, I walked to the nearest police station. In a hoarse, barely-there voice, my throat now dangerously swollen, I said to them, ‘My husband tried to kill me’. They drove me to the hospital, took out a restraining order against my husband and charged him with assault.
Fast forward nearly 30 years from that terrifying day - and I’m happily remarried to a man who is my soul-mate and best friend. I have two beautiful, grown up and well-adjusted sons and I’ve had a successful career in television; as an actress in Aussie soaps then as Foreign Correspondent and Producer, covering major news events across Asia for Sky and Fox News. I am the Executive Producer of the ground-breaking Sky TV series, Ladyboys which means I am lucky enough to still spend plenty of time down by the Thames with my UK Tribe. I’ve spent years telling the extraordinary stories of people across the globe.
I want to tell my story because I believe the lessons I learned can stop others from entering abusive relationships.
Unbelievably, I went back into the marriage but finally found the courage to leave when I realised my baby could be in danger. I packed everything into my car and drove off in the middle of the night. I had to start my life again as a young, single mother. It was one of the toughest, darkest times of my life.
The violence had come as a shock to me. In terms of public understanding I wasn’t the typical battered wife. I wasn’t from a broken home and there was no history of violence within my family. My three sisters and I grew up living a comfortable middle class life, with a mother who was an academic and a father who was a judge. We all went to an elite public girls’ school and enjoyed time in the UK where our parents owned a flat in the UK. I had no perception of what lay ahead. Yet, the fact is anybody can become a victim of domestic violence.
If I had not left this relationship there’s a good chance I would not be writing this today. Leaving a violent man was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.
I believe it is no easier than withdrawing from heroin or crack cocaine. I equate loving a violent man to being addicted to a drug. What hooks you in is that violent men can be charismatic, charming and
Intoxicating but on the other side of the same coin are manipulative and often sociopathic.
It took me many more years to understand what had happened and why the hell I’d stayed with this man when I should have run a mile.
I had to learn that we only attract what we think we are worth.
As a young woman my self-esteem was so low I attracted a man who treated me as worthless.
I had to raise the bar. I also had to change my own behaviour, so as not to head straight into another abusive relationship. I had to break the cycle of violence.
It might sound strange, but I don’t regret having been through such an abusive relationship when I was so young. I looked deeply at my own flaws and my response to others; something I might never have done. It taught me the skills that have allowed me to have more functional relationships in every aspect of my life. And it taught me the responsibility to choose my own response when confronted with dysfunctional behavior in others and ensuring I didn’t fall victim ever again. Once you have that knowledge your life changes forever.
When I made the Sky TV series I felt that I had far more empathy when dealing with the complex transgender issues involved precisely because I had been forced to look at my own insecurities and challenges.
Why am I speaking out now? Because the statistics are shocking. Violent men kill their partners on an alarming scale. It is a crime that can happen to anyone; even those who seem to have charmed lives. There is no kind of love worth dying for. I want others to know there is no shame in seeking help. There is life after abuse. If I can survive and go on to find success in love and life, anyone can.
If you want to read more of Vivian McGrath’s story you can follow her blog: www.beingunbeatable.com
©RiverTribe Magazine 2017