I was surprised to get a Whatsapp message from a former coaching client a couple of weeks ago announcing the publication of her first book. It is just over two years since we worked together, but I’d never known she wanted to write a book, our coaching sessions had been about getting out of a dead end job and finding work that gave her more challenge and more space to be herself (which she’d achieved already).
When I clicked on the Amazon link, I was even more surprised: the subject wasn’t one we’d ever discussed in our coaching sessions either, it was about domestic violence and how money worries can keep you in an abusive relationship. I did a bit of a double take, it was hard to match the confident, articulate and always impeccably turned out woman I’d seen with someone who’d suffered domestic violence.
But that’s the thing, as a coach you only know what someone chooses to share with you. It is an incredibly privileged relationship and while I ask questions, and will go on asking them if I think it helps my client, there is a line to cross or not cross, and I don’t feel it is my job to pry. Domestic violence is often buried under so many layers of self blaming and shame that it is never voiced. Deborah’s decision to share offers a self-help guide for women who have lived in silence because money has forced them to live this way. She says the book is not intended to name and shame her aggressor, but to help shed light on a subject matter that many women around the world, particularly in Africa (she has a British African background), where it is a taboo to discuss violence from a man or husband towards a woman or wife.
I think it has been a taboo everywhere but that now women around the world are opening up those closed doors. This month I’d arranged to catch up with an Australian friend and former colleague while on a trip to Asia. Viv told me she is about to publish her own book and has started a blog Unbeatable , and yes the topic is her experience of leaving a violent partner, something she’d never told me about before. She’s now an award winning TV documentary maker who’s told extraordinary stories about people all over the world: at last she’s telling her own story. She too wants to help other women know it is possible to leave, to start again and to create a new and successful life.
And as if I needed to get the message just a bit louder, I also met a British documentary maker Anna Hall who has made a powerful film Behind Closed Doors (shown on BBC One) about domestic violence in the UK. It’s based on the stories of three women, Jemma, Sabrina and Helen, who were prepared to tell their stories on camera. Anna worked with them and Thames Valley police for a whole year. She always gave the women the choice to back out and remain anonymous. But they didn’t, and the documentary is all the more compelling for their courage.
With International Women’s Day fast approaching on 8 March, I want to take the opportunity to applaud these brave and beautiful women who’ve overcome their fears and vulnerability to boldly speak up and to share their stories. What they are doing will genuinely help other women to stop thinking what they are suffering is OK and realise that they can make the change themselves. #BeBoldForChange