Violence has been on my mind since I wrote about self harm, as self harm in its psychiatric incarnation of Deliberate Self Harm is often considered an act of violence. The “self” part indicating the obvious: DSH is violence that a person commits against themselves.
For some, the idea that DSH is violence may seem far-fetched, given the stereotype of self harm being injury that doesn’t require medical attention. To be fair, if self harm doesn’t require medical attention, it is still self harm. It’s just that it tends not to be something that people consider as violence.
Another aspect of violence with regard to mental illness is abuse. I’ve said it before, but it bears reiterating: abuse and mental illness do not always go together. There are people who have been abused who do not develop a mental illness and there are people with mental illness who have never been abused. There are however some conditions where having endured abuse is a classic feature, but this is not true for all conditions.
It is probably worth mentioning too, that people with a mental illness can be violent: mental illness or not, we’re all human. For some people, it is the height of their risk of violence to themselves or others that means they are in psychiatric hospital. It is possibly also worth mentioning that people who are mentally ill are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators of violence.
It’s the likelihood of a person who is mentally ill being a victim of violence rather than a perpetrator of violence that leads me back to daily life. Mr. Juniper has endured a lot of violence in his life. He bears the scars of violence that was committed against him which led him to be violent towards himself, though he himself hasn’t been violent towards others.
Up until a few weeks ago, I had no cause to think Mr. Juniper would be a victim of violence again. But then one morning, during a few brief days of respite, the phone rang. It was a sunny day, too. October holidays. Juniper Junior playing in the living room. Grocery shopping all over the kitchen floor. “I didn’t want to tell you,” Mr. Juniper began, quietly. “Yes?” I said, knowing he had been on a rare night out to see a comedian the night before with a friend, what had he been up to?
I kept expecting to cry, though I knew I couldn’t with Juniper Junior around. Instead, I put the groceries away while Mr. Juniper’s night unravelled. “I’m okay.” Milk in the fridge. “The police have been great.” Cereal in the cupboard. “I didn’t need to go to hospital.” Bread put away. “The other guy, the Good Samaritan, he didn’t come off so well.” Fruit on the rack. “But we were able to get him to safety.” Sorting out jars. “I really am okay.”
Despite not needing immediate medical attention, my darling husband came home looking like he had been assaulted. Small mercies, the GP was able to confirm there shouldn’t be lasting physical damage. Small mercies, there were a lot of witnesses and CCTV. Small mercies, Mr. Juniper was soon home. Small mercies, the police were wonderful. And that was when it was harder to hold back the tears. All too clearly, I could remember the last time police helped Mr. Juniper.
There wasn’t meant to be any more violence. Those who had hurt him in the past couldn’t do so any more. The hurt he committed against himself was barely a fraction of what it had once been. This wasn’t how it was meant to work. The person who assaulted Mr. Juniper unwittingly completed a violence hat-trick. Childhood, domestic, stranger. Mr. Juniper had endured them all, now.
Violence used to be so far away. Violence used to be something that was absolutely in the past, albeit with a continued emotional impact. Now, violence has an impact it didn’t used to. Police. Forensics. Specialist officers. Court. And nightmares. Every night for Mr. Juniper. The random act of violence people endured that night won’t disappear when the bruises fade and the wounds heal.
And then comes Juniper Junior, who was so happy to have his Daddy home. Who had no idea what had happened to his Daddy in the days, or years, before. What he does know, is that no matter who it is doing the hurting, it’s not okay and not acceptable. And I thank the universe, that despite Mr. Juniper having to endure another act of violence, it was not so great that he might never have come home again.