Sally Challen

I am losing faith that anyone actually reads my posts. They’re thought about, constructed and written into my little laptop in between writing, working and caring for two small humans. When I press post it disappears into the ether. I, of course, tell all I know that a new post is out there however, if my husband can’t be bothered to read anything I have ever written (including my book which sits proudly on the shelf behind me) then I have very little hope that my words are anything more than the sound of the tap tap of my keyboard. I don’t receive any replies other than random spam from generators trying to promote their own website (mainly Russian, or so it seems). So, it does make me think – does the system actually work or am I just wasting synapse action on a laptop?

The answer comes from seeing the campaign for Sally. Finally after all the hard work from her incredible sons, she has a retrial (it’s a somewhat tenuous link but bear with me). I can’t say I knew her, she lived at the bottom of my road and she once asked if I received her post (The street shared a postcode and the houses were divided by names so I always admired the diligent hunt by frustrated postmen). My impression of her was she seemed ‘perfectly Surrey’, perhaps slightly ruffled a sort of ‘anxious country set’.

Nearly nine years ago; the day after my baby shower for my son, the police knocked on my door and asked if I knew her? I was more concerned what the police thought of why a heavily pregnant woman was still in her dressing gown at 11am but I needn’t have worried as they merely wanted a ‘no I do not know her’ from me. The newspapers subsequently calmed my curiosity by informing me Sally had ‘bludgeoned her husband to death’ the day before.

I’ve never met the T.V. script image of a murderer. If I could write one then he would be a narcissistic, cruel man wearing a black cape and a warning sign of ‘beware’ across their forehead written in blood (or wearing a cap with ‘make America great’ blazened across it.) It wouldn’t be Sally. The briefest of moments of meeting her I thought she was anxious but nonetheless sweet.

Over the years I’ve learnt about the Gaslighting she endured at the hands of her husband. The psychological manipulation which sowed seeds of doubt making her question her own sanity and forcing her to accept the years of abuse by a man, who to society, appeared a loving husband and father.

She knew no other man in her life as she met him at sixteen. She could not fall back on her own strength to escape as she did not have the learnt resources of understanding herself to know she did not have to love this man – she could survive by herself. Instead the years of marriage created a deeply unhappy, paranoid woman who could see no other escape than killing her husband. Ultimately wrong? Yes, but thankfully to a 2015 law acknowledging emotional abuse Sally Challan can have a fair retrial that understands the state of mind she was reduced to after years of cohersive control.

Could this sad death be avoided? Yes in so many ways but maybe life or fate begins and ends with a script that no one reads except for the person writing it. Sally met her husband when only 16. She would have seen the narcisstic traits from an early stage in their relationship but didn’t understand them until it was too late.

So the small extract I’m offering this month is how Olivia met Mark as described by her friend Carolanne:

”…’No dancing with wild abandon then. I’m sorry I left Ol but as usual one of them – Tom I think, short, squatty man, the one with the hairy mole above his left eye, remember? Looked like he had a third eye? Anyway, he suggested they should all take bets on which of you two they could sleep with first.’ …….. Carolanne had not been a loyal friend but I didn’t mind as she had told me that Mark wanted me. Unfortunately, the insult that I was a horse to bet on had bypassed my young ears…..”

It’s subtle but it perhaps shows the disregard and disrespect some relationships begin and how this is sadly missed by the innocent. If not caught then this warped relationship morph into a cruel controlling marriage.

I’m so pleased for Sally and I wish her all the best in her retrial. You and others like you are the reason Olivia was written and I hope it will help to understand why the 2015 law acknowledging ‘cohersive control’ was written.