So this post is pretty damn hard to write. This is something that I went through a long time ago, but it really had an enormous effect on me for a long, long time and it still does if I'm honest.
I kind of touched on this subject on my previous post in a letter to my younger self, which you can read here. But I feel it is time to really talk about it. For a long time, I wouldn't speak about it, I denied anything was ever wrong and always made it out to be a really small deal. Which, I suppose, is how many women deal with something like this.
According to statistics, domestic abuse is something that 1 in 4 women, in England and Wales, will experience in their lifetime. It accounts for 16 percent of all violent crimes, however, is still the least common violent crime to be reported. I understand this, I fully agree that people should always report a crime, but speaking from someone who experienced this, it ain't easy. To be open and honest about the person you love, who you think loves you, and out them as a violent bully isn't something you want to admit.
Even now, six years later, I struggle to get the words out. How do you tell people that you let somebody make you feel so insignificant, you let somebody treat you so appallingly that you didn't even know who you were anymore? Trust me guys this is hard.
I guess I should start at the beginning. This guy was always pretty intimidating to me, he was older, so confident and I had just moved to a new city, so was generally terrified, I didn't know anyone really, I didn't know the city...
The romance was fast moving, it was exciting, passionate, dangerous and thrilling. Who wouldn't get swept up in it? We moved in together pretty quickly and, what I thought was going to be domestic bliss, started to go downhill quickly.
You don't notice the little things at the time, hindsight is a wonderful thing. But looking back, I can see how quickly I was made to alienate my friends, 1 by 1 I started to lose them. One was made to look like a thief, she was accused of stealing money out of his pocket. I knew in my heart that it wasn't true, but my rose-tinted glasses were just too thick.
I was given curfews if I went out with my friends. The first night I missed my curfew he came to find me and pinned me against a wall by the throat. This was my first glimpse at physical violence. And it scared me. I had no idea what to do or how to handle it, so I ignored it, pretended it never happened and continued as normal.
Weeks passed and my friends began to drift away, not all of them, there are a special few who stuck by me the entire time, but I am lucky, I didn't make much effort to see them, I knew it wasn't worth the hassle. I avoided my family. I didn't speak to my Dad properly for nearly two years, my Dad and I are really close. I knew that if I saw him then he would know that something was wrong, I couldn't face that, I wasn't ready.
One night I decided to go out with the few friends I had left, I wasn't allowed a house key. This was part of the control. Again I was late, my curfew was 10:00 p.m. or I wouldn't be allowed back into the flat. This time, it was worse. I ended up with a broken nose and two black eyes. I was a mess, mentally and physically. I had no idea what to do, no idea where to go. I wasn't from this city, I didn't have any family around me and I had alienated most of my friends. So again I just ignored it, what else was I to do?
My Dad came to visit me a week or so later, we sat in a cafe and I remember, like it was yesterday, him asking me if I had a black eye. I looked down, ashamed of myself, and uttered the words "I walked into a door." To this day, I still cannot believe how cliche that was, but at the time, I couldn't think of anything else.
He moved me out of the flat a week later and I guess he thought it was over. I didn't tell them about anything that had happened, that I had no friends anymore, that I knew I would never find someone who loved me like he did.
Of course, I ended up in contact with him again.
Eventually, I did meet someone else, but it was a plaster on a giant open wound. It wasn't right, but I ended up pregnant with Marcus. I honestly think he may have saved my life at that point, not from my ex, but from myself. I was on a downward spiral just trying to do anything I could to block out any memory, block out the longing and the pain that I was feeling. I hated him for what he had done, but missing him was like having a hole in my heart. I hadn't made the choice to leave, that decision had been made for me and I wasn't ready.
I know, you're probably reading this like "come on girl how can you love someone who treats you like that?" If you haven't been where I was, and I pray you haven't, you can't understand just how reliant on them they make you. You end up not being able to do anything without permission, you seek approval for every, single, thing that you do. You worry about things that are outside of your control, basically, you are a shell of your former self.
So anyway, after I had Marcus I moved home. I needed my support network around me. Having a baby at 20 was hard, really hard work. And doing it alone was even harder. I sat at home, desperate for someone to be there for me and support me. I had been in contact with him up until mid-pregnancy. I still had him on Facebook and still kept up to date with what he was doing. So I reached out to him. Just one message to say "hi" -- it couldn't hurt right?
A month later we were back together and, as the first time, the first month was wonderful. I was almost sure everything that had happened before was either a complete miss-understanding or a really horrible dream.
Then it started again. He didn't like my best friend. So I didn't see her. He didn't like the judgmental looks my family gave him. So I didn't see them.
We went out with "mutual friends" (his friends) and I would get berated at the end of the night for showing him up. I was a slag, an embarrassment, a tramp. All I ever did was try to make him happy, it was like my life's mission.
I just didn't understand what I was doing that was so wrong. How could he not see that I was just trying to do everything I could to please him?
Don't get me wrong, we had some great times. There were weeks that we were the happiest couple in the whole world. But these weeks were the weeks that we were alone. On holiday abroad, a week off work together, weekends. Never when it was a part of real life.
The end of it all came one night when we had been out for a few drinks with his friend, his girlfriend and one of my old school friends. As far as I was aware we had had a great night. Laughing, dancing, singing...
We were in the last pub and it started again, I was a slag, an embarrassment, worthless. I looked to his friend for answers, but there were none.
We went home then and it continued, the girls we were with soon had enough of the names I was being called and confronted him, which of course just inflamed the situation. I ran upstairs to the toilet and to get away from it all. I heard him call me from the bedroom not long after. So of course, I went in to speak to him, hoping for an apology.
The next thing I knew I was pinned to the wall by my throat, gasping for air, listening to him tell me that if I ever showed him up again like that then he would burn my house to the ground, with Marcus in it.
I ran out of the house in floods of tears, I couldn't believe what I had just heard. How could someone that loved me say such terrible things?
When I returned he refused to leave, so I went to bed and decided to deal with it in the morning. For some stupid reason, I had decided that if he was really sorry then I would forgive him and we could move on.
Luckily for me, he wasn't. When we spoke about it the next day there was no remorse. I asked him if he was sorry about what he had done and the reply I got was "no and I would do it again."
That was my breaking point. Hearing those words snapped something inside of me, I couldn't, wouldn't continue this for Marcus' sake. It didn't matter if I was hurt, but when it came to my little boy. Nope. Not having it.
I packed his things and he left. It was strange really, normally he would have laughed and told me not to be so silly, but I think he must have seen something in my eyes that time. There was no turning back.
Domestic abuse comes in so many shapes and forms, so many variations. None of them are okay. No-one has the right to belittle you, to undermine you and to hurt you; physically or emotionally.
To this day I find myself asking permission from Andy to do things, I get a funny look and he tells me not to be so silly, I don't have to ask permission. But it is something that seems to be ingrained into me now. I put on a big bravado a lot of the time, but inside, even six years later, I'm still affected by it. It changed me to the core.
I am stronger, in so many senses. I don't take crap from people anymore and I will speak my mind. But there is still a part of me trying to please people, making sure I'm not an embarrassment. I guess that will always be a part of me now.
I know this is a majorly long post -- sorry guys. The point I want to make is this:
Don't ever let someone make you feel worthless, or belittle you, or hurt you. You are worth so much more, you might not believe it right now, but you are. Things do get better. I promise.
PS If anyone reading this wants to reach out privately, please feel free. I am always around to talk.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE SENSITIVE NOTE:
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for the National Domestic Violence Hotline.