Note from the Editors,
Second in a series of Domestic Violence awareness pieces from our newly formed Unity Community Outreach Team.
It’s not me, it’s you…
How do you go from being a confident, outgoing, popular person to someone who feels like they are going crazy and someone you no longer recognise?
It’s called domestic violence!
Looking back, it is amazing how you become sucked in and once there, you struggle to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
For some, there is no light. It is just dark every day, waiting for the key in the lock, anxious at what mood you would have to face, the criticism over the house work even though you made sure nothing was dirty or out of place, the endless guilt that you are subjecting your children to in this situation.
Walking on egg shells becomes your choice of dance. Who would choose to live that way?
The truthful answer is it can be any one of us. It knows no gender, age, race, religion, social class or demographic. The sad fact is, it hits you when you least expect it, if you pardon the pun.
You know what you should do. You know you should run as fast as you can out of there but for me, it felt like I was stuck in treacle. I couldn’t move even if I wanted to. I just did not have the strength.
I was going to say that my domestic violence story started with my children’s dad, but I realised it did not. It started before him with a young lad who I was in love with and who I gave my virginity to before I was 18. Not long after, he turned violent by shoving me through a window whilst we were drunk. Thankfully, that relationship only lasted two months. It was the first time I had ever experienced violence. Then I met another lad who I started dating, whom I was not in love with and accidently fell pregnant by him. I took the test when I was at work and nearly fell through the floor when it showed positive. I did not want to be with my boyfriend any more and I knew I was not mature enough to be a single mother. Having said that, I had a month to try and figure out what to do. By the time I went for my first scan, I had made up my mind to keep the baby. However, as fate would have it, by the time I got to hospital, I had lost it.
This is important because looking back, I feel it was part of why I found myself in the position of being in a violent relationship.
When I met the father of my children, I was a very confident, happy and popular person. I was surrounded by good family and friends, a lot of whom were male. I was always out, trying new things and enjoying life. I was confident enough to walk away from two previous relationships because I knew they were not right for me. I could stand up for myself and never let anyone walk over me. I even used to confront bullies of my brother who were older than me. I wasn’t scared to defend myself.
There was a new vulnerability about me however. I had lost a baby. A baby I had decided I would raise as a single parent and I had not fully come to terms with it. A month after the miscarriage, I met my children’s dad. I was 18, young and naïve. I fell in love with him at first sight, more fool me. He was a real charmer with the gift of the gab and I was determined to make him mine. Boy did I not know what I was letting myself in for!
Four days after we met, I got my wish and I basically moved straight in with him and his brother.
I had given him my vulnerability straight away. I told him about my miscarriage and how it had left me with the need to have a baby. He seized the opportunity and promised me he wanted children too after a relationship where he said someone made him believe their child was his but it wasn’t. That turned out to be one of many made up stories. I always thought it took a few months for the signs to start but a few years ago, I read back in my diary which I have kept since I was 11 and realised that it started straight away. I was working in a supermarket, he wasn’t working. It wasn’t long before he was meeting me from work but he would get there early and wait at the bottom of my till.
I don’t mean to blow my own trumpet but I used to be popular with the boys. At the tills, I would be chatted up on a regular basis. My new boyfriend did not like it. On the way home, he would question me over and over about these men. I would reassure him they did not mean anything to me because I was 100% in love with him but that did not seem to satisfy him. It then started to become an issue that I had male friends. If he knew I had seen them, he’d barrage me with questions, making me feel guilty for wanting to spend time with them.
My friends would obviously get annoyed with my boyfriend and could see he was not good for me. I did not listen. It was not long before it became so unbearable, I had to leave my job as I was being accused of sleeping with all the males that I worked with or were my customers. I stopped hanging out with my friends and family.
Classic isolation technique of an abuser.
This left me reliant on him for money. Big mistake!
Verbal abuse began after a few months. It started with him criticising what I wore. I did not understand this as I was still wearing the same things I was when I met him. Suddenly he was calling me fat when I had put no weight on since I met him. My clothes were 'slaggy' and was I doing it for attention from other males? He started on my make up too. Again, was I doing this for other men? The first time I can remember him hitting me, we were out clubbing which we did virtually every weekend in the early days. We were very drunk and as usual, we ended up arguing over him blatantly flirting with other girls in front of me and him not liking the fact that other men were showing interest in me. After an embarrassing argument in front of everyone, we decided to leave.
We got outside and when we got near a doorway, out of nowhere he pushed me in and began punching me. I was in shock and through my drunken haze, I was not sure it was really happening. He made me walk all the way home when we usually got a cab (took an hour) and all the way, he shoved and hit me.
Next day, he blamed it on the drink. I had to go to work covered in bruises but he was clever. He did it all in places that would be covered with my uniform. How calculated is that?
I was humiliated and confused. Here was someone I was in love with who decided to use me as a punching bag in public. I have never allowed anyone to do that to me so why did I not defend myself? The thing that shocked me most, was no one helped me. Next day, he was full of apologies and blaming his past for it. I accepted his explanation that he never got over his mum’s death a year before we met, or all his girlfriends cheated on him, or he was traumatised from seeing his dad beat his mum……
"There were so many sob stories he used to justify his behaviour and promised every time it would never happen again. But of course he did."
In the end, I stopped going out socialising as he would either start an argument before we went out or during so it just was not worth it. This was exactly what he wanted. It meant he could still go out, turn off his phone and cheat on me while I was being the good girl and waiting for him at home.
I began to turn into a girl I no longer recognised. He would lie to me, cheat on me numerous times, verbal abuse me on a regular basis and on occasions become physical.
I began to feel like I was going crazy. In fact, it became like a game. Whenever I felt in my gut he was lying to me, I would become a detective and nine times out of ten I would find something which made me feel vindicated. I became a stalker trying to catch him in the act. He once was seeing a girl of 15. Yes 15!!! To my shame now, I went after her and beat her up, blaming her for cheating with my boyfriend. I am surprised I was never arrested because he had conditioned me to blame the girls, not him.
He would leave me for someone else making me feel like it was my fault and then beg me back once he had his fun. Or I would beg him back because I did not want to lose him to someone else. I felt pathetic because sometimes I would be on my knees begging him to take me back despite what he had done to me. It was like a ritual. He would do something to hurt me, it would kick off, one of us would beg the other back then we would be good for a while, then the cycle would begin again.
"All I can say is I was addicted to him. There is no other word for it. I knew logically he was no good for me and I knew I could do better than him but I just couldn’t walk away from him."
What made it all worse was we were actually trying for a baby. I was desperate for one after my miscarriage and he knew it. It was like a craving. I thought if we had a baby, maybe things would get better. He would love me for real for giving him a child. Eventually I did become pregnant with my son and all through my pregnancy, he continued to cheat on me with different women. What should have been the happiest time of my life was one of my worst but at the end of the day, I had no one to blame but myself. I decided to have a baby with him even though I knew what he was like.
I think It took three months after my son was born for him to be violent towards me when I had my son in my arms. Something in me snapped so I gave my son to his brother who was present and ended up beating him up. Like I said, I have always been able to defend myself. He called the police on me hoping to get me arrested but because they had been called on many occasions due to his violence towards me, they just pulled me aside and said off the record, why had it taken me so long to give him a taste of his own medicine. To this day, I still cannot answer that question.
Three months after that, I caught him cheating again so I left him and went back home to my parents. Having been caught and the shock that I left him, he pulled out all the stops to getting me back. Even promising me we could try for another baby which I was so broody for. I fell for it and we became pregnant straight away. By this time, I was not sure I loved him any more and when I found out nine months after having our daughter, he was cheating again, I left him.
Our split lasted two years and during that time, he was both physical and verbally abusive when he found out I had been seeing someone else. Despite that, I was doing a good job bringing my children up as a single parent, I had my own flat and I went to night college. It was not all rosy. I was struggling financially as I could not work with two babies so was on income support and their dad did not pay me a penny. He preferred to spend his money on taking other girls out and designer gear which I resented. I was eating just beans and mash to make sure my kids had all they needed.
My family were a God send . I was happier nevertheless because I showed him what I said all along. I did not need him. He only had children with me because he kept saying while we were together, no one would touch me with a barge pole with having two young children. It was a form of control same as him wanting to marry me. He would own me. Little did he know that behind his back, his mates, my mates, my ex boyfriends, people I met out and about wanted to be with me and on occasions asked me to leave him to be with them. They would have quite happily have taken on my kids and these were while I was still with him too.
For this I was grateful because when he would hurl abuse at me that I was fat, ugly, stroppy, cunt, slag……every vile word you can think of, in the back of my head I was thinking, ‘Well if that’s all true, why is your best mate telling me I should be with him because he would treat me better than you?’.
Without that attention from other males, I really do not know how I would have coped. I might have believed every single word he said and my confidence would have been in tatters.
So after being split up for two years, you would be forgiven for thinking that is the happy ending of my story. Oh no, I was not done making the same mistakes.
Towards the end of the two years, I was lost. My relationship had ended with someone I was still in love with and money was so tight. Also, the stresses of bringing up two very young children alone were like a lead weight because I felt so down and heart broken. I was drowning. In swoops the vulture to pick at me, assuring me if we get back together, things will be different, he had seen the error of his ways and he loved me. Over time, he wore me down even though I knew I did not love him but I just thought back then, better the devil you know. This time however, I had the control. It was my house and I would not put him on the tenancy so I would be able to kick him out. After getting together, he tried the tactic of buggering off out and turning his phone off like he used to, expecting me to be waiting at home for his return. Instead, I called my dad to babysit and I went on a night out and did not return until the early hours of the morning. As I said to him, I will never be waiting at home if he decided to try that crap again. He paid heed and did not do it again. It seemed better.
Under a false sense of security, we made plans for the future. My mum and dad moved out of London so we decided to buy our own place. I had come into money so I put down a lot of money as a deposit. However, he put the house in his name. Huge mistake! Big! I had just handed him back all the power. He now owned the house and he had successfully taken me away from my friends and family. I was isolated .
For three long years, it was hell on earth. The cheating started again, the disappearing out, his drinking escalated and the abuse got worse. I would make dinner and if it had peppers in it, he would make me take every last one out or fling his dinner across the room for just asking him to sit up at the table with his family. The house would be spotless and yet as soon as he walked through the door, he would find something to pick at to cause an argument. He would lock me and the kids in the house, taking out the house phone and taking my mobile so I could not communicate with anyone to ask for help.
I dreaded hearing the car pull up because I did not know what mood he would be in. It was a mine field. The worst thing was, he started to become verbally abusive to my poor little boy, calling him stupid and thick. Ironically, he never did that with our daughter.
I would sit in disbelief, asking myself why did I put us in this situation again?
The guilt is all consuming. I felt selfish and felt like a failure to my kids. I put them in this position even though I knew I did not love their dad. I did it out of sheer desperation.
Despite this being the worst time, it had some glimmers of hope like seeing rescuers with their little lanterns coming towards you in that long dark tunnel.
They were the new friends I had made straight away from moving up from London.
The mums at my children’s school. They were my salvation when things became unbearable. They never allowed my ex to scare them away, they stuck up for me and stood by my side. They knew everything. I was not going to lie for him. He’s that type of guy that everyone thinks is great. Some people did not believe me, they chose to believe him so for me, I knew they would never be friends of mine. I had safe places to go when things became too much. Some are still my best friends today. I was provided with shoulders to cry on and strength. It was like being given food after being starved. It was my first tentative steps to becoming me again.
My ex unbeknown to him, set things in motion for me leaving him. One of his many attacks started with me being a lazy fat slag that just drinks tea all day, I should get a job.
Now not only was he the type of person that would lose jobs because a lot of the time he couldn’t be bothered, I also knew me getting a job would not stop him verbally attacking me which I pointed out. I told him he would change it into a different argument. However, I took heed and found one job, then another until eventually I ended up with five small jobs that almost fit around the children.
I now had independence and my own money which he could not deny me. If I even needed something like new underwear, he would refuse saying he’s not giving me money to show other men my underwear. He was not working but at times to be difficult, he refused to “babysit” the children saying he’s not looking after them so I can shag my manager. Yep in all my five jobs, I was apparently sleeping with all the men that worked there.
As I would often point out, if I really was seeing someone else, why would I still be with him putting up with his shit!
Luckily, I had built a great support network of friends who knew my situation and were only too happy to help me out.
All through the three years, he kept throwing in my face that the house was his and if I left not only would I not get a penny but the children would have to stay with him as I would be classed as homeless. In the early days of moving, this is what I feared most.
The last year we were together was when I started to arm myself with knowledge because knowledge is power. Like I said, I now had five jobs. I was the one paying most of the bills as my ex was yet again out of work. I did not love him and I wanted out.
My first step was going to Citizen’s Advice Bureau (C.A.B). They were a wealth of knowledge. They suggested I seek counselling and ask a solicitor for legal advice. I was informed that back then, I was a good candidate for legal aid. Sadly, I have been told that that is no longer an option meaning people may be forced to stay in their situations because they cannot afford legal bills.
Behind my ex’s back, I signed up for counselling and the lovely counsellor knew I did not have a lot of money so she deducted a bit so I could afford it. She was mindful about calling me on the phone and she helped me unpick my thought processes. I also at that time sought legal advice, again in secret. I was entitled to get my money out of the house despite it not being in my name as I had proof of what I paid in. I was growing stronger by the day and it made being in the same room as him bearable.
The climax came three years after we moved out of London. For a month, me and my ex split up so I joined a social club as it allowed children in. It was the only way I could go out to socialise. I was not going to let my ex think that just because I had the children, he would get his way of it being the reason to keep me home. For some reason, which I cannot remember, we got back together. It was not long before things came to a head. One Friday night, like many other times, he disappeared after “work”. He had turned off his phone and left me livid. Usually I would be seething while sitting at home with the children, waiting for him to eventually stroll in ready for an argument. I thought, no! Why should I be the one getting myself worked up while he is out enjoying himself with God knows who and not giving a shit?
I got me and my children ready, called my mate and went to the social club. See how he likes it when he comes home and finds me out for a change, not knowing where I am. It felt liberating and we had a good time. I got home at 11pm to find he had been home but must have gone back out to drink himself stupid, angry that I was playing by his unspoken rules. In he strolled at 12.30am, stinking of alcohol and angry as hell. He tore my phone out of my hand (which I always slept with along with my key) accusing me of “fucking someone else”. When he could find no evidence, he chucked the phone at me. I decided that was it so I went in my daughter’s room where I had put them together to bed to get them out of the house. With my children either beside me, he began hitting me, biting me and head butting me, calling me all the names under the sun. I screamed for the children to get out of the house and knock on our neighbour’s door who knew the situation which then made my ex sprint down the stairs after them. Seeing red, I flew after him because I was not having him hurt them and I began punching seven bells of crap out of him before my huge neighbour dragged me off him. He tried denying doing anything but by the state of me it was obvious what he had done. The police had been called and he was arrested.
They took me to my family 40 minutes away . I was in shock but weirdly relieved. My family were in shock at the state of me. Although a humiliating thing to have to go through, when the police took photos of what he had done to me, I felt free. He had done something that had finally cut that shackle that I had around my neck, that was imprisoning me to someone who had no idea what love is and no respect for women. At first he was remorseful, begging me to take him back but when I refused he turned nasty and the true him surfaced again. He threatened me and got others to do the same. It infuriated him that I did not let it bother me. I called his bluff and I told his “mates” to stop being cowards and hiding behind anonymity. They knew where I lived. He is a coward. Only has the balls to abuse those he perceives as weaker. He no longer has control over me.
What does devastate me to this day is what he put my children through. I do not take ownership for that. I am not to blame, he is!
"People ask me why I stayed when the question should be, why did he do it!"
He is responsible for his own actions. I am responsible for mine.
All I could do was seek help for my children which sadly was few and far between. For them to know, I am here for them and never leaving them. To this day, they carry the scars in their hearts and it plays out in various ways. My son trusts no one and has suffered anger issues, and my daughter who was a daddy’s girl now sees her dad for what he is but mourns for him every day. He was and still is a master manipulator. He preys on vulnerable women and he has not changed. He has had many relationships since we split ten years ago even producing more children he does not pay for (including mine). I have had each and every one of his exes call me to say I was right about him all along and apologised for not believing me. I said you will be one of many. Any female he ends up with, I pity them. He tells them lies about his exes for the sympathy card. For instance, he told all his exes I was a bitch who cheated on him and I won’t let him see the children. I have always let the children decide what they want to do and have proof of that with many, many texts I sent him trying to get him to have an interest in his own children. I am secure in the knowledge that if he sees them in the future, he can never manipulate them to think it was my fault he did not see them as I have shown them virtually all the messages I sent him about seeing them. He no longer has a relationship with them and I truly hope he dies a lonely old man. He does not deserve anyone. He uses everyone for his own gain. Look up the word narcissist. That is him to a tee. He left me in thousands of pounds in debt. I stupidly gave him the money to pay the mortgage and bills when it was just me working but he took every penny and never paid them. Our names were joint on the bills so because I had no address for him, I was liable for it all.
But do you know what? I never let him get to me. I am proud because it took me five years to pay off all our debts but I did it by myself, whilst still having a decent life. He thought it would ruin my life. Instead, I stuck two fingers up at him. I did not need a penny from him. My children had all they needed and some of what they wanted and they knew I provided it. I proved what I said all along. I may struggle, but I will never ever need anything from him.
Where am I today, ten years down the line? I have never been happier. I was with my ex on and off for over a decade. I can only describe my 20s as a black hole. The only good thing to come out of my 20s were my two children. The rest was full of anxiousness, hurt, fear, darkness, sadness, anger and loneliness. I was 29 years old when left for good. I was determined to be alone for a while to get my life straight. We had to move out of the house as it was being sold and the local housing were so helpful. I found a private rent that the housing said I could have help paying for. I successfully received a nice tidy sum despite him trying to sell the house without me knowing and the icing on the cake was I met the love of my life two months after splitting up with my ex. I know, I know. A lot of people said that was too quick and I did question it myself, however, I was not looking for anyone. I had offers which I turned down for the reasons I specified, but in walked this man into my life and I could not say no. He was a single parent too with custody of his three children and basically we had very similar relationships. He owned his own home and ran his own business. The greatest revenge I could have reaped on my ex and I will never forget my ex's face, was when I introduced him to my new fella. My fella was/is blonde, tanned, gorgeous as hell and had muscles that popped due to his job. I was on cloud nine.
We have now been together ten years and it is not to say it has been smooth sailing. In the early days, I was so insecure and carried a lot of baggage. He did too , like an ex-wife and other women in his life who did all they could to split us up even though his ex-wife had left him.
Trust was a huge mountain to climb for me and it still is. It took me years to stop going through my fella’s phone because old habits die hard. Not once has he cheated on me nor raised his hand to me. We argue but there are no threats, name calling, he doesn’t hold grudges and most of the time he listens to my issues. He is so good to my children which they love and respect him for. He was the one who showed enough faith in me to encourage me to back to education. When I left my violent relationship, I was left with a feeling of ‘what do I do now?’. I had to get used to not living on my nerves any more, I did not have to fear going home and I could leave clothes anywhere I wanted without being shouted out.
Perhaps you would think it would be easy ? but it’s not.
You are suddenly set adrift, fending for yourself, having to learn to pay all the bills yourself and if you are now a single parent, having to learn your own style of parenting without the ridicule of someone else. I had lost most of my jobs straight after I left my ex. Although they said they were understanding with me having to have time off for police, housing, solicitors, children’s school etc, they said they needed someone reliable. I was devastated. My fella sat me down and in his calm, laid back manner pointed out I had hated those jobs so why did I not think about getting qualifications in something I really wanted to do.
I took his advice and made lists of all the things I was good at, then tried to think of what career fitted my skills. I eventually decided upon counselling. I wanted to help people who were like me in domestic violent situations. My first tentative steps back into education started with doing free bite size counselling courses. You see, I did poorly in my GCSE’s although I was an intelligent child. It was just my friends were more important and I also quit college at 16 to work. I was not sure if I would be any good. As it happened, I thoroughly enjoyed the 3 courses I did. I went back to CAB for advice on how I could go back to education and it turned out that as a single parent, you get so much help to gain qualifications.
I went from there straight to my local college and signed up to a two-year level 3 counselling course. It was the turning point of my life. Not only did I learn so much about myself that improved my confidence hundred-fold, it also led me to the path of going to University.
Never in my life had I ever dreamed of going to University. I never thought I was clever enough but my gorgeous fella encouraged me to at least apply. I found out my financial options and like I said before, if you are a single parent, you have so many more options open to you than you realise. I applied for Psychology and Sociology because I had always dreamed of doing Psychology. I tried to do it at college when I was with my ex, but it was made impossible with accusations of me sleeping with every male with a pulse.
It was such a surreal moment my first day of Uni. I stood there on the steps, looking up at the sign close to tears. I was in a place I had never allowed myself to dream of and to top it off, I had a supportive fella who believed in me. Three extremely hard but rewarding years later, I graduated with a 2:1 BSc (HONS) in Psychology and Sociology. The greatest thing about that day was my family were there with tears of pride and my children got to witness their mum achieving something great.
I have tears running down my cheek as I write this because 10 years ago, I never dreamed any of this was possible. My 30s had proven to be a decade of endless possibilities. I am currently trying to set up my own business providing the much needed service of companionship with the elderly. I no longer doubt myself, nor my abilities. If I want something, I go for it as I now know, the only person who is going to make me happy is me.
My favourite saying is, ‘If you don’t ask, you don’t get and if you don’t try you will always fail.’
I have survived something no one should have to go through. Something that was someone else’s issue, not mine.
He was the person that needed fixing, not me. He could obviously see that my light shone bright, making him invisible. The only way he could shine brighter than me, was to try and snuff me out.
These perpetrators are the most insecure people on this earth. Only unhappy people will hurt others to make themselves feel better. When they call you all the vile names under the sun, just remember that is how they feel about themselves and they are projecting it on you.
They see something good in you that holds a mirror up to themselves and makes them realise you are too good for them and they do not want you to know it.
The greatest power you can arm yourself with is, power is knowledge.
If you can find out all your options in a safe way, do it. Call a help line, talk to a trustworthy friend. It is the only way for you to realise you are not in this alone.
No one can tell you when you should leave an abusive relationship, only you will know the right time and those of us who care for you can only pray you realise it before it is too late.
Just know your life is precious and you are not alone. We (the survivors) are your army, your peoples, your tribe. We are here when you find the strength to make that first hesitant step, without judgement nor pity.
Just with love, empathy and compassion.
If I can do it, so can you.
Note From The Editors
If you are currently or have ever been affected by similar issues raised in this article, please do not hesitate to get in touch with our Unity Community Outreach Team for confidential and reliable support and advice via this email address – firstname.lastname@example.org
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Much love to all! In Unity We Find Strength!