Domestic abuse is something that everyone knows about, but you don’t want to imagine it happening to someone you know about, your brother or sister, your best friend or your neighbour.
There were times when I was sat on the floor, sobbing as he told me I was a waste of breath.
You don’t hear about the other side of abuse, the emotional and financial and psychological abuse a person can suffer at the hand of someone claiming they love them.
The warning signs are there, they always are, but you don’t necessarily see them, and that doesn’t make you foolish.
This is my story of how my happy ending turned into the worst mistake of my life.
It started off like any relationship- it was fun and a little sneaky, he was ten years older than me and it was exciting. It was my first proper relationship, introducing to the parents kind of relationship.
We did normal things, got takeout and watched a film and then he drove me home in the early hours and I snuck into my parents’ house. We went out for meals and saw friends, and the relationship moved very quickly. Those infamous three words were said probably far too quickly over a fancy meal, and then I had to move away for work.
The distance was hard, but I think I was determined to be one of those people who met their partner when they were in their early twenties and it was all happy from then on.
I was perhaps too stubborn or determined to see the flaws, the possessiveness and the paranoia and the constant calls. But to me, that was just one of his quirks, something that would go with time as we adjusted to living hours apart.
Friends were telling me what I already knew- he wasn’t right for me and I should move on.
I decided that after my 21st birthday, that would be a perfect time. Little did I know, he had quite opposite plans, and on the night of my birthday in front of all my friends, he proposed to me.
Of course, I said yes, twenty-one years and engaged, I was thrilled. I forgot about all of our issues, fading into background and being replaced by a glittering diamond. The next few months went by fairly uneventful, although I should say I chose not to tell my family and only a select few people knew.
Looking back objectively, it’s very easy to say that was a definite sign. I know this story sounds very obvious, but this is looking back with red tinted glasses on. There were good times. I believe at one point in my life, I did love him. And when you’re in love it’s hard to see the bad and even harder to convince yourself it’s true.
The Following Winter
Flash forward to the following winter. Against all parental advice on my behalf, we moved in together. There were many promises made during this time, that he would get a job, and that the move would only be for the next two years until I finished my job contract and then we would both return to our hometown.
The move was based around this initial promise, as I couldn’t afford the house by myself and would have had to move in with strangers.
We opened a joint bank account, the sensible thing to do. Everything was going well, and I felt happy in my new house in this amazing city, until the cracks I’d seen nine months earlier, turned into huge holes, impossible to escape.
I started to realise I was trapped. He soon had both cards associated with our bank account, and into that bank went my life savings and the majority of my wages. I had to ask him for an allowance, £5 a day for my bus fare to get to work and for my lunch.
If I didn’t reply to a text message, I then got called and yelled at, the verbal abuse flying at me when I got home. There were times when I was sat on the floor, sobbing as he told me I was a waste of breath. He’d throw things and then storm out of the house, swearing he’d never come back, throwing his key at me as he stormed out.
But he always knew how to get me to come back around. Just when I thought ‘please don’t come back’, he’d always know the right words to say, the right things and what to do. I knew of course, exactly what he was doing. But I had no other option.
He had all of my money, bar the £50 I’d kept hidden in a savings account he didn’t know, and I had nowhere to go. I was in a foreign city miles away from home, from my family, and the city I’d loved so freely last year had become a prison. Or so I thought.
This story is not a tragic one, it’s a message of hope. I did have a family around me, not the blood family I knew all my life, but a new family that helped me.
My friend didn’t particularly give me a choice in moving me onto her sofa. She helped me find the courage to finally leave him. It was a horrendous night, hours and hours going back in this circle; him telling me he would change, he knew he hadn’t treated me right but it’ll be different, if only I just gave him a second chance.
She cooked for me and fed me, until I got back on my financial feet. She eventually helped me pack up my old house, and helped me carry it all across the city on the bus.
Anyone can get into this situation. It doesn’t reflect badly on your character or your personality. Men, women, and children can become abused, or be abusers. There are no stereotypes in these situations, it can happen to anyone, at any time, or anywhere. But it’s important to remember there is always, always someone to help you.
Your family and friends will never judge you for getting into this situation, and there are also anonymous numbers you can call for help, aid charities and refuge centres.
Abuse can also come in all different shapes and sizes, and one isn’t worse than the other. They don’t have to hit you in order for it to count, and no matter, it’s never your fault.
There is nothing anyone can do that justifies them being in a situation where you don’t feel safe, and it is never okay to control, abuse or manipulate someone.
Everyone deserves a chance and the right to feel safe in their own home.