“More than 1.1 million or 7% of women and 720,000 or 4% of men have been victims of some kind of domestic abuse in the past year, official crime figures reveal.
The full scale of the hidden world of sexual assault, family abuse and stalking is revealed in official figures that show that nearly 5 million women or 30% of the adult female population have experienced some form of domestic abuse since age 16.”
“On average, 2 women a week are killed by a current or former male partner.”
How do you know when somebody is the wrong person for you?
When your friends are all telling you that he’s no good?
When your mum is tearfully begging you to leave him?
When you start to become isolated and he becomes the only person in your world?
When as a consequence of him being in your life, you have been forced to cut everyone else out of it?
I think that as a consequence of a childhood full of submission and constant adherence to rules, we begin to form a natural rebellious streak as we become older which can eventually lead us down wrong paths and into making the wrong choices. Alternatively, sometimes, the rebellious streak is implanted within us through role models.
As a teenager I was the perfect daughter; I took on the burden of being a second parent remarkably well from an outside view, got great grades at school and Sixth Form College and focused on my ambitions of getting into University. Anything and everything other than that I perceived as a hindrance and a distraction.
However, moving out of home for the first time and releasing myself from the shackles of my family I immersed myself into University life and towards the end of my three years there, I had already decided that I would not be returning to the place I had once fled.
When I was 20 years old I made friends with one of my fellow bar colleagues in the SU Bar I worked in during my last year of University. For the purposes of the tale, we’ll call him Don. I had known Don for a while from afar and he had become a strange mystery to me – which only added to the attraction. When we eventually became friends, things quickly spiralled where suddenly we were each other’s confidants and we couldn’t imagine life without each other. I felt all the more comfortable with Don because he was gay and I felt like I didn’t have to compromise myself for his attention; he gave it willingly. When we got on, it was like the world outside didn’t exist; nobody else understood us and anyway we didn’t need anybody else because we had each other.
However, there was many a bad time filled with passionate and emotionally damaging arguments. In my eagerness to refrain from having to move back home (by now my family had moved out of London and I would have done anything to stay the hell away from Dartford!) when Don asked me if I wanted to move in with him, of course my answer was yes. I knew that we had our problems and at times he could scare me with his intense jealousy and aggression, but none of that mattered to me. My friends all despised him; to them he was controlling and creepy but to me he was protective and alluring. My mum and I fell out because she couldn’t bear to watch me make what was in her eyes the biggest mistake of my life. But because I blindly disagreed, I just saw my mum as unsupportive – making me all the more cling onto my perpetrator.
As I started to date other guys, Don’s behaviour became all the more aggressive and frightening; yet again I made excuses for him. He knew that I had been hurt so much in the past and so in my head he was just looking out for me. He would check my phone when I wasn’t looking and it soon became apparent that he was reading my diary because he would mention things that I knew were only written and which I had never spoken to anybody about. Soon on nights out, he started to hang onto me wherever I went; if I was talking to or dancing with another guy, he would be right by my side watching me. On a night out with friends, I nipped outside to have a cigarette with a guy I had been talking to and I came back inside to find Don waiting for me; he was furious with me and began to scream at me in the middle of the club, demanding to know where I had been, who I had been with and why I had left him. Feeling drunk and cocky I refused to be made to feel like a child as he had previously done so well and screamed back at him, demanding to know why he was being like this until suddenly he slapped me in the face. Really hard. He did this in front of a club full of people and in front of my friends. I was completely shocked and in a great deal of pain I ran away into the toilets. The girls followed me in and begged me to leave and never speak to him again, but I lived with him. I felt like I had been disowned by my family for the choices I had made and therefore I felt that I had nowhere else to go. I also felt like I had made my bed and therefore I was now obliged to lie in it.
When I broached the subject of my moving out perhaps being the best thing for us, at first Don was furious that I had had the audacity to tell people outside of our relationship about what happened between is, and then just as suddenly his approach transformed into despair as he threatened to commit suicide if I left him.
We were never in a relationship, and yet we had this unspoken promise that we were bound to one another. He clearly could not cope without me and I had settled on the belief that I could not cope without him either.
Eventually as Don’s behaviour became radically worse, I took my belongings and fled while he was away for the day with his mum.
This unhealthy phase in my life took me many years to recover from and to this day, I can honestly say that I still bear the scars.
I’ve been thinking a lot about unhealthy relationships – partly because I had experienced one myself and moreover having grown up watching the destructive relationship between my parents. Stories about domestic violence in relationships are finally coming to light – particularly amongst the age range of 16-25 years; at the moment even more so due to the incredible BBC Three drama “Killed By My Boyfriend”.
I watched my father’s behaviour towards my mother and vowed that I would never be “stupid enough to make the same mistakes”. It never really occurred to me that you could have unhealthy relationships without actually having a physical relationship with someone. Furthermore, because of the lack of love I had received from my Father, Don had become the protector I never had and until then, hadn’t realised how much I’d always craved.
After I moved back home with my family, Don soon started to send letters to me. When I fled the flat, I had broken the agreements of our lease, which therefore made me liable to pay outstanding rent and fees. Luckily I had quickly acquired a job and had arranged a payment plan directly with the Agency, however before I could start my payments, Don took it upon himself to pay the entire amount on my behalf. Therefore he now had an excuse to continue his hold on me because I was unwillingly in his debt and now owed him money. His communication was relentless as not only was he sending letters, he was also sending me emails.
Some of the letters didn’t have postmarks or stamps on them which meant that they had probably been hand delivered. I had never given Don my address as we had always said that our home was where we had lived together. While living together I’d had a notion that he had regularly been through my things in my room, but this confirmed the fear and I went to the police with my sister in hysterics that he know where I lived and I felt unsafe. However, unfortunately the police were unable to help as he had not done anything physical to me; to them he had just posted a few letters, and so what? Furthermore, they felt that he had every right to write to me because I owed him money.
Funnily enough after my visit to the police the letters abruptly stopped. Perhaps the police found out where he lived and gave him a warning after all. I’ll never know because he never replied to my emails asking for his bank details in order for me to repay my debt. In fact, I never heard from him again.
When I eventually realised the hold this man had on me, even after my escape it was only then that I recognised that I had been emotionally abused – abuse which had continued even after my attempt to find refuge with my family.
I am incredibly thankful that my story ended the way it did and I shudder to think that it all could have ended radically differently as regrettably so many other stories do.
Unfortunately, emotional abuse is still not regarded as a crime and therefore is not included in statistics such as the ones quoted at the beginning of this post. Furthermore, unfortunately emotional abuse is still highly unrecognisable compared to physical abuse; physical abuse although just as horrific is more blatant for the world to see if the marks are in places visible to others. Emotional abuse on the other hand is almost always invisible to the outside; it breaks you to the point where you begin to believe that you are going insane because he could be a complete charmer in public but an emotional terrorist at home.
At the time and for months afterwards I was so ashamed of what happened to me.
At the time I blamed myself each time Don flew off the handle and felt disgusted with myself for making him feel the way he did – particularly when he threatened suicide; I perceived myself as a vile human being.
When I moved back home I blamed myself for making such an embarrassing mistake; I should’ve known; why didn’t I see the signs? Why did I move in with a guy I barely knew? How could I bear my soul to a guy I barely knew and allow myself to be completely naked and vulnerable for him to manipulate?
Hindsight is a beautiful thing.
The reason for my sharing this story is so that I can finally close the door on this chapter in my life. I can proudly declare that I no longer blame myself; mistakes are made to be learned from. From that chapter forward, I have never let anyone – be that a friend or partner, manipulate me like that ever again.
If you are suffering from domestic abuse in any way, shape or form, please do not suffer in silence and do not under any circumstances blame yourself. What is happening to you is wrong.