Jessica MacDowall currently with the autobiographical book “A violent love – the road to a worthy life” – talks about the horror relationship

Jessica MacDowall currently with the autobiographical book A violent love
Jessica MacDowall survived – but the violence in the marriage left its mark

Published: Less than 20 min ago

full screenJessica MacDowall tried for a long time to hide what was going on at home. “I had so much guilt and shame that I stayed,” she says. Photo: MAGNUS SANDBERG

If you’re reading the text below and recognize yourself, then book author Jessica MacDowall has a message for you: Stop hoping.

She knows. She herself has survived ten years of violence in a close relationship.

It won’t get better.

– Leave him, she says.

Violence in intimate relationships takes place in just about all walks of life.

Jessica MacDowall is a telling example of that. While she worked as a television producer at a successful production company and lived in a beautiful house, she was also exposed to mental and physical abuse at home.

In the end, her ex-husband was sentenced to prison for gross violation of women’s privacy. It took a long, painful legal process and tons of testimony, but today Jessica is free to tell. And she does it in the book “A violent love – the way to a dignified life”.

A driving force is that she wants to teach the public more about one of our biggest social problems, violence in close relationships, she says.

– If you do not understand the mechanisms behind violence in a close relationship, it is difficult to help.

In the book, she describes a whirlwind love affair. But also how the road to violence began with words. With a decomposition process. It was about little chicks in the beginning. Things that bothered Sebastian – like how Jessica dressed, who she hung out with.

– We were hugely passionate and in love at the beginning, and I lived in the rush of love, but then those little girls came when I least expected it. I was very confused by it, and it settled. One second I was on a pedestal, and the next it was like I wasn’t quite ready. I began to adapt quite soon, gradually. Then the maids came more and more frequently, the boundaries were shifted in the relationship. The balance of power between us was upset, I was at a disadvantage right from the start.

First battle

In the book, she also describes how Sebastian used silence as a weapon in the relationship.

– I started to avoid conflicts, because it could lead to him having angry outbursts or refusing to talk to me. He could shut me up for a week, which is another form of mental abuse.

– But everything I’m mentioning now was mixed with passion and love, we had a lot of fun together too, so it wasn’t constantly bad, but rather a roller coaster.

The first blow did not come in the first or second year. The physical violence became apparent when Jessica and her young son had moved in with Sebastian. The decomposition process had then gone a long way, as had her attempts to “adapt”. She held on to the hope that things would get better, she says.

Her social life was then also curtailed, as Sebastian became annoyed when she hung out with her friends. The bubble shrunk and she began to live his life more and more.

And then came the first blow.

– Of course, a wise and healthy person wouldn’t stay in a relationship that starts with punching and punching, but when it happened, I was already co-dependent. You have to see it in the light of a normalization process where both parties have moved their borders. So what was completely unthinkable at the beginning of the relationship eventually became normal. It’s like a dance of death, she says.

full screen – When you live in big houses with big gardens, nobody hears you when you scream, when the violence happens, says Jessica MacDowall. Photo: MAGNUS SANDBERG

Could have cost her her life

– He never said sorry afterwards. I irrationally reasoned with myself that it was a one-off and that he was probably too embarrassed to apologize. I hid my bruises after the first beating, it looked terrible, and I thought “If he sees what he has done, he will leave me because he cannot live with what he has done”. So we never talked about it.

Jessica and Sebastian got married. But the violence escalated, as did the outbursts in front of Jessica’s son. A child he promised to adopt, but now rather pushed away. Soon another bond was formed: she became pregnant with his child and they bought a house together.

Women like me come into the emergency room and say that they have fallen, slipped on a patch of ice, fallen off their bike, they don’t tell the healthcare system what has happened.

In the book, she tells of at least two instances – Sebastian is convicted of both – that could have cost her her life. At one point she was pushed down a flight of stairs, then he slammed her head into the wall. In the second case, she was thrown into a bathtub where her back hit a large turn-of-the-century faucet.

– It is dangerous to live with violence in a close relationship. Many people associate deadly violence with guns and attachments, but that’s not how most people die from domestic violence, but you can die from a fall. I also have physical problems, but from that, a pain in my back that I will have to live with, after the fall into the bathtub. And it could have ended much worse, she says and continues:

– Violence in close relationships also costs society billions a year, women like me come into the emergency room and say they have fallen, slipped on a patch of ice, fallen off their bike, you don’t tell the healthcare system what has happened. That is why it is so important that the healthcare system documents all injuries, because there may come a time when the woman is ready to tell.

Relatives wondered

Leaving seemed increasingly difficult, and Jessica did everything to hide what was going on within the four walls of the home. Even when colleagues saw bruises on Jessica’s skin.

– I had so much guilt and shame before I stayed. I was so full of defense mechanisms and survival strategies.

– A lot of people around me did the right thing, they questioned, but today maybe they would have gone further and made a police report or a report of concern. I lied about why I had bruises and then some people were satisfied with that, and those who were not satisfied and continued to worry, those people I broke up with. I stopped hanging out with them.

The nice villa area became a crime scene, where Jessica stayed every day. And the accommodation itself posed a danger to Jessica, she says.

– When you live in big houses with big gardens, nobody hears you when you scream, when the violence happens. You are more isolated that way. If we lived in an apartment, a neighbor could have had the chance to hear what was going on and call the police.

The children were ill. Today, children who witness violence are considered victims of crime, but that was not the case then. But concern for the children finally made Jessica realize that she must leave, must report to the police. But in the nice residential area, she met a solid resistance, she says.

– This happened four years before Metoo, and it was a completely different time and attitude in society then. Where we lived, people told me that “Of course we know what he is doing, but you can’t report it to the police, because then he will lose his job, it would ruin his life and career”. Those words are so hard for me to forget. I was told that it was better to just leave him and divorce in a normal way, but that is impossible when you live with such a person. He had crushed me. I would never have made it through this without the legal system. So I hope the book gives hope to dare to report and go through the legal process.

– And after I reported to the police, people stopped visiting me in the area where we lived, the children were no longer invited to children’s parties. In the end we had to move from there. It also took a full year before charges were brought, and during part of that time we lived in sheltered accommodation while Sebastian was able to live normally – and he went around smearing me in front of a lot of people in our social circle.

Has left a mark

The time after the breakup was tumultuous. What followed is one of the things that hit Jessica the hardest, she says.
– When I then needed to live at a protected address, the legislation said that the children must see the father. Otherwise I would lose custody.
– That children today should be able to handle their father’s questions about where mother keeps her house somewhere. How will they manage to withhold that information?
It is a total lack of child perspective that can have devastating consequences, she emphasizes.

But Jessica fought her way through the district court and the court of appeal, Sebastian was sentenced to prison.

But it doesn’t end there, the road to healing is often long.

Who but left this relationship with you?

– I have my wings clipped. The trust in people and in love was damaged, it’s like he has removed a piece of my soul. I was single for nine years afterwards, that’s a very long time, before I dared to open my heart again to a nice and healthy relationship.

– The pain is in the muscle memory. And I have protected identity, so it’s like I’m in society and yet I’m not.

What is the most difficult, when you think back on these years?

– The most difficult thing is the guilt I feel towards my children, it is a lifelong sadness. That above all my eldest son had to live ten years in a dysfunctional family. And all that they have seen and heard, which no child should have to be exposed to.

Today, Jessica uses her experiences to make a difference. She lectures, guides women in legal proceedings, her documentaries and book are yet another way of opening eyes to the societal problem of men’s violence against women.

The children encouraged

The friends and colleagues who once tried to reach her in the bubble of violence, are now part of her life again. She lives in a loving relationship.

The children encouraged her to write the book, she says.

– They are very proud.

If anyone reading this can relate to what you describe, what is your advice to that person?

– To leave the relationship. It will never ever get better, it will only get worse. Give up that hope that the relationship will develop into something nice. Contact a women’s shelter near you, you can remain anonymous. Report to the police, get a lawyer, document your injuries. Do not be ashamed of what you have been exposed to, but be proud that you are now making a difference for yourself.

Footnote: Sebastian is a fictitious name.

full screen Today, Jessica uses her experiences to make a difference. She lectures, guides women in legal proceedings, her documentaries and book are yet another way of opening eyes to the societal problem of men’s violence against women. Photo: MAGNUS SANDBERG


Jessica MacDowall

Age: 51.

Family: One daughter, two sons, boyfriend and dog.

Occupation: TV producer and writer.

Lives: Stockholm

Three productions by Jessica that made a difference: “A violent love”, “A body for sale”, “Den som får finnas”, three documentary series for Svt, two of which were nominated for Kristallen.

Change Jessica wants to see: “Don’t force children to spend time with a parent who is a perpetrator.

And classify violence in intimate relationships as a public health problem. A good example is Spain. There are special courts for men’s violence against women. Within three days, both parties were interviewed and an initial assessment was made on further measures. At the same time, psychosocial support is provided. This has paid off and given women confidence in the system.”

Current: Autobiographical book “A violent love – the way to a worthy life (Forum).

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