This is a post that I have been unsure about writing as it is part of my life that is very difficult to think about let alone speak about. I have been prompted to write it today by a social media post from someone trying to decide if she should stay in an unhappy relationship. This made me think that I should share my experience in case anyone out there is going through similar struggles to the ones that I went through in those darkest of days.
I met my ex when I was 16, looking back I should have seen his temperament as he was full of himself and always put me down. He would make fun of me in ways that could be seen by others as a bit of banter – but he and I knew that he was undermining my already fragile self esteem. I had led a quite sheltered childhood and I think that he quickly realized that I could be controlled and manipulated.
Over the next 10 years verbal and emotional bullying quickly turned into physical violence. I would be pushed, have my head banged against walls, be throttled, thrown to the floor and kicked. ….. He was mostly careful not to leave any visible marks on me, there was often bruising to the tops of my arms where I had been gripped or jabbed but they were easily covered up. Twice I got black eyes from him and I had to wear heavy make up to disguise it, if anyone noticed marks on me I would make pathetic excuses. Family and close friends guessed what was going on but I denied it – my pride would not allow me let anyone know what was happening to me. I was also fearful of a future that was uncertain, being alone scared me.
Neighbours often phoned the police when they heard what was going on, I would leave for a couple of days but always went back as I didn’t know what else to do. I believed it when he said no one would want a “fat” single mum with 2 kids – I was just under 10 stone at that point! One time, I thought he had broken my jaw and I phoned the GP – those were the days when you could ring for a doctor to come out to see you. I was so relieved when the doctor turned up as I knew he would never hit me in front of anyone else. The diagnosis was muscle damage but the doc had spotted the signs of domestic violence and on his way out slipped me the number of a domestic violence charity that would help. I kept the number hidden away, but never used it.
I spent many nights and days sobbing and wondering what I could do to get out, I never thought for some reason that it was as easy as walking away – I will never be sure why that was. Around 8 years into the relationship, I left after a violent row, to get me to return he said that he would never raise a hand to me again….I went back. For the next 2 years or so, he never did actually hit me again, but the threats were still the same. He would shout in my face and push me, he would raise his fist to jab me but then walk away leaving me trembling in case he came back and flared up again.
The violence and aggression could come from nowhere, maybe I glanced across the road when a man happened to be there and I would be accused of being attracted to him. I was accused on numerous occasions of having affairs at work, none was true but I constantly had to defend my actions and explain my whereabouts. I now realise that a lot of the things he accused me of were because it was stuff he was doing.
The fact that I had not been physically attacked for a couple of years had not made much of a difference as I was always aware of what he was capable of. I’m not saying that people can’t change, but he was nasty to the core and nothing was ever going to change that. It would only take the right (or wrong) thing to ignite that in him and I knew I was at risk.
Amongst all of what was going on I had 2 beautiful little innocents that – even if they didn’t see a lot of what went on, they must have been able to pick up on the constant state of fear and aggression that was present in the household. I started to think that I would be better bringing my kids up alone, in a calm and peaceful way. Scarily, my head was thinking of ways to get rid of him. Pushing him under a bus was the way to go I decided…..that was when I realised that I was in danger of losing the plot. I felt on the edge of some kind of nervous breakdown.
Over the next couple of months the violence loomed ever nearer, lots of shouting and threats. I discreetly placed some essentials into the kids and my bottom drawers, a couple of sets of clothes and toiletries in case I summoned the courage to make a hasty getaway.
The night I left came after an escalation of violent outbursts, I felt that I was in serious danger of being physically attacked, even more than usual. A neighbour had come around for a drink with him and I was getting nasty comments flung my way, threats were whispered to me so the friend couldn’t hear….I snapped. My mind was made up there and then, I realised that once the friend had gone I was in for trouble. I decided that for me to get out safely I had to leave while the friend was still there, he was 6ft 5″ and quite a nice man, he would never let a woman be attacked in front of him.
I went upstairs and quietly threw the essentials that I had stashed into a black bin liner. I then woke the kids and started making my way downstairs with them, they were 7 and 4 at the time. As I came downstairs, he realised what was going on and confronted me. Had we been alone, he would have kept me in the house using force, because the friend was there he tried to use the kids. He said that if they said they wanted to stay at home with him, he would let me go but not them…… He asked them, they were scared and clung to me saying they wanted to go with me, thank God. I left the house to taunts of “I will find you, they’ll find your body parts scattered all over Manchester”.
The friend followed me out telling my ex that he couldn’t let a woman and 2 kids walk the streets at night alone. He drove me to a friends house, I knew he would have to tell my ex where I was so I had to plan to get further away. I left Manchester for a few months, he tried to convince me to go back but I had finally seen sense. I had nothing but my kids, but the most important thing was that we had peace. No shouting, no fear.
It took time, but I found a place of my own. I let my ex see the kids as he had never physically hurt them. It didn’t take long for him to start letting them down, cancelling visits, but worse was the fact that he was trying to undermine my parenting by criticizing the kids. They would come home with messages like “Tell your mother to get you to a dentist – your teeth are awful” The kids regularly saw a dentist and the “problem” was simply adult teeth jostling with baby teeth – no problem! Another one was “Tell your mother to get some decent glasses for you, those are crap” My daughter had just started wearing glasses and was already self conscious of them. I made the decision that he was not going to do to the kids what I had stopped him doing to me and stopped all contact with him. He didn’t put up a fight and we heard no more from him.
2 years after my escape, I met a kind, gentle and funny man. I was so guarded and struggled to fully trust him at first, he put up with my emotional baggage and finally convinced me that he would always be there for me and never hurt me or the kids in any way. True to his word, he has never raised his voice to me let alone his hand. He is a true gent and has restored my faith in men.
I have been affected by my past, insecurities raise their head from time to time but they are quickly bashed down whack-a-mole style by my lovely family. There is life after domestic violence – and it is amazing.
Cover Your Tracks!!
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