She then went on to say that he'd damaged her cooker on purpose, and seemed genuinely more upset by this than by what he had been calling her. I said "Mum, you have the weirdest sense of priorities of anyone I've ever met". She said "It'll cost 200 pounds to replace that cooker, and he'll have to pay". I replied, as gently as I could, "Mum, it's only a cooker - it doesn't matter. You know he'll never pay for anything he damages, so don't worry about it".
Gradually, she calmed down, and I fetched soft toys for her to pet until she was calm enough for me to touch her. Then I held her in my arms and rocked her until her body was no longer racked by sobs, and the crying had died down to just tears.
She said "All the neighbours will have heard what he said. We've already had one lot of neighbours move out because they couldn't stand it." I said "It doesn't matter what they think. They're not important. You're important."
I said "We have to get you into counselling. You've got to learn that this isn't normal, and get some of your self-esteem back."
I said "You've got to get your divorce sorted out". She said "But I can't afford it". I asked her "What value does money have, when compared to your life? We've got to get him out, so that he can't damage you or your property any more".
I said "Look, sometimes strong words are acceptable. It's OK for a gay or bisexual person to call themselves 'queer'. It's OK for a black person to call themselves a 'nigger'. It's OK for a woman to use the word 'cunt' for her own genitalia because she happens to like a nice earthy word for it. But it's not OK for a man to call a woman a 'cunt' as an insult. It's objectifying you. You're not an object, you're a person, with feelings."
She said "He calls me Cunty", and broke down again.
I said "I don't understand what happened to you. You're a strong, confident woman - I know you are, as I'm like that and I must have got it from somewhere. How has he managed to knock all your self-confidence out of you?".
I said "I know you had self-confidence once, as you had a good job - and you gave all that up to get married and have a kid. I'd never do that." (She earned the equivalent of �60,000 a year in modern money).
She said (and I've never heard this before) "I didn't know he was going to make me give up my job".
I told her "What he does to you is as much abuse as when he hits you. You can't let it go on."
She said "I can't get the mortgage transferred to my name. I don't earn enough money." I said "Richard will help you - he'll buy part of the mortgage for you. He loves you, he wants to help you."
She said "I thought he didn't like me". I replied "Of course he likes you - he's not [my ex, who didn't like anyone]. He's just not prepared to go to all the trouble of getting the mortgage if you don't go through with the divorce. Neither of us are going to help you if you don't start helping yourself."
My father is an abuser. My mother is a victim. She's not strong enough to get out of the situation, so it perpetuates - it goes round and round and round. I'm the only child of the couple, so I get dragged into it on a regular basis. I try to stay out, but I can't allow someone I care about to be hurt like this.
I wish my grandfather was still alive. He would have stood up for my mum against my dad. Instead, my grandmother takes my dad's side in all the arguments. She says my mother should stay with him because he is a good husband who provides for her (He hasn't given her a penny since I turned 21 - he doesn't even pay his share of the bills). She won't even begin to believe the extent of the abuse, and my mum would hardly say the word "cunt" to her mother, or be able to explain what it means.
Richard's dad laughed when I described their family as "sane and sensible". I tried to explain, by saying that they're "mad, but in a harmless way. Whereas many members of my family are vindictive, and they're all busy stabbing each other in the back." He sort of understood that, but just barely. Richard's parents barely exchanged a cross word in 39 years together. My father has spent 30 years destroying my mother.