TRIGGER WARNING – DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND ABUSE
I stayed for five years. I stayed with him for five, long, years. When I eventually managed to escape I did not know what the real world looked like. I was questioned by friends and family about why I put up with it? Why did I let it get so bad? Why did I not call for help or tell anyone? Why did I keep going back? What did I do that made him that way?
I was never asked if I was ok. I was the victim, yet the blame was on me as I must have asked for it, done something to anger him or maybe not done something that I was expected to do, ie. Sex. I stayed for five years. My tolerance lasted for five years until I broke and realised that the life I was living was not one that I would ever wish on anyone, and at that point, I knew I must do something.
Rewind twenty years and I meet someone online. He lived 400 miles from me but we fell in love over instant message and agree to meet. Within 8 weeks him and his family had convinced me that I would be better off moving out of my parents, quitting my job and school, to move in with the love of my life. I was promised freedom, I was promised adulthood, I thought this was the start of the perfect life. The first night there should have been a warning sign. He expected sex but I was emotional having left my parents and was having doubts, I was tired and just wanted someone to hug me and tell me it was ok. Instead, I got pushed off the bed and told to stop being a pussy, I was then ignored for the next 48 hours by him in an attempt at emotional blackmail. I stayed in this one bedroom of his dad’s house, only allowed to leave for the bathroom. I was in a strangers house and it was clear I was not welcome. I didn’t eat for 48 hours. I had sips of water when I was brave enough to go to the bathroom when everyone else was asleep. Eventually he got bored of the silent treatment and instigated sex again. I gave into him, not wanting to be ignored any longer. I thought that the affection would make me feel better. It didn’t. I cried and he got mad at me. I begged for him to understand, I said I was sorry and that is when I found the correct words to say to pacify him. I’m sorry.
Whatever it was, I was sorry. I took the blame. England get knocked out of the world cup? Yeah, I was sorry and took the blame. He lost at a computer game? I’m sorry, how can I fix it? I want to have a job and a social life? No, I’m sorry, I should not have thought that was a good idea. The times when I did not say sorry quick enough or convincing enough resulted in being ignored for days or weeks at a time, but during those spells I was still expected to perform all girlfriend duties in and out of the bedroom. We eventually moved into our own flat together and I had been told that this was the big change. Now we had our own space and did not share with his parents we could be ourselves and life would be perfect.
It was a perfect breeding ground for a toxic relationship to develop into domestic violence behind closed doors as none of his family were there to witness the events. Our first night in the flat together we ordered Chinese takeaway, sat on the floor and drank fizzy pop out of coffee mugs as we had nothing else. For a short moment it was perfect and what I imagined getting a first house would be like. Then he realised that his order was wrong. They had put mushrooms in his curry when he had asked for none. The mug closest to him was hurled at my head for not checking the order before him and realising the mistake. My apologies fell on deaf ears while he continued to take his anger out on me. I was frozen and could only think that real life must be like this for everyone in relationships, this is how they are depicted on soaps and tv. This is normal, I just need to learn to be better. I was the one at fault.
As we now had the privacy or our four walls the instances of being abused by him increased. It was now a daily occurrence that I would do something wrong and have to plead for forgiveness and make up for my wrong doings. I started to get braver and snap back, this would lead to him pinning me down and screaming into my face. One day I had enough and I wanted out of the flat. He was becoming more aggressive with me I started to fear what may happen. As I reached for the front door he grabbed my hand and fingers, digging his nails in, he twisted my arm behind my back and pinned me against the hallway wall.
“Don’t you even dare step foot outside this flat. You belong to me and you will do as I say.”
The blood ran down my hand as he dropped my arm and pushed me away. The neighbours had heard the screaming, someone would come and check that I am alright, wouldn’t they? No one came. No one cared.
I sat in the hallway with a jumper wrapped around my hand to try and stop the bleeding. I needed stitched up but I knew that was not going to happen because I would be asked what had happened, and it was obvious from the cuts and bruises that it was not caused by falling over. The next day he left the flat leaving me alone. I had not been to bed as I was too scared so sat in a dark living room all night till the sun came up. I thought about leaving then but did not know how I could manage it. I had no money or transport so I stayed, exactly where he had seen me last. I waited for my abuser to come back to me.
Guilt had got the better of him. He knew he had taken things too far. He had left the flat to go shopping, to buy me gifts and jewellery, more importantly a ring that would have the purpose of covering up the cuts on my ring finger that required stitches. The garish bling would distract from the other scars as they healed. This also was a form of proposal. I was his and by accepting the ring it would mean things could start over.
Over the five years there were many instances like that. I was stabbed with a fork, locked out of the house, stopped from seeing my friends and family, not able to have a job, have driving lessons, have an opinion. I even discovered he had installed a key logger on my computer so he could monitor my web activity and see if I was talking to anyone else. I was assured by his family, the only people who I could see on a social basis, that this was normal and every relationship had moments like that. I was exaggerating and I just needed to learn how to make him happy.
What about my happiness? What about my ambitions? Was this what life really was going to be like forever?
Five years I stayed. Five years I stayed with him until one day I broke. I waited until he went to work on his night shift, packed a bag, phoned a taxi and then got on a train to my parents house. I was terrified. What had I done? What would he do to me when he came home and I was not there? I had already prepared his dinner, that was waiting in the kitchen with a letter that I had written, at least I would not have to say sorry for not having his dinner ready on time. Maybe I had made a big mistake and all those things he said to me about no one else ever loving me, that I was damaged goods, I was useless and I would not amount to anything in life, maybe all that was true. It had to be true, why else would he say that to me?
As I got to my parents house and explained the situation I started to unravel the life he had me tied up in. I went to bed that night and I slept properly for the first time in five years. But in the morning came the fallout from him and his family as they realised I was now gone. I had doubts, I thought about going back. I thought about saying sorry. I became scared of the future and what might happen, surely it’s better to be loved by someone who’s not perfect than not to love at all? Lucky for me my parents stepped in and spoke to him for me, they fielded the phone calls and texts so I would not have to deal with it. They gave me space and time to find out who I was again.
While this all happened twenty years ago, I still bare the scars, but not the garish bling. I have grown as a person so much since then, I am proud of who I am and of my achievements. My life is far from perfect but it’s mine. I am not owned by anyone, I am pushed to do better and to live the life I want by the people who love me. I still can get triggered by simple jokes and gestures taken out of context, PTSD from an abusive relationship will do that to you, but I understand that there is nothing wrong with showing emotion and being honest about how things can be triggering. I am lucky my partner now understands and has listened to my waffle and tells me not to be sorry for things that are not my fault.
I do wonder what would have happened if the neighbours had come to see if I was ok. Would things have been different or would it have made it worse? I do want to say that if you do hear anything, there should never be fear about checking if people are ok or calling the police. I wish that all those years ago I had the balls to call the police or get out sooner. If you are reading this and you see any of the traits or instances as familiar in your relationships and you are worried, please reach out to someone for help. Anyone, do not suffer alone. Do not convince yourself that it is normal. Believe that you are better and worth more, because you are.
Love, hugs and live safe