Stories of Hope and Survival: Day Four

Hello, my name is Rachel and I was a victim of domestic abuse.

My story starts back in 1993 when I fell for Darren, he was charming and funny, with a dry sense of humour, he made me laugh. We soon became close and after a year I fell pregnant with our son. I already had a son from a previous relationship who was 2 years old when I met Darren.

My abuse started when I was 7 months pregnant. We were having an argument, he lifted me off the floor by my throat. Darren could do this as he was 6ft 7in and 22 stone, he was massive. He trained in the gym 5 nights a week. He only released his grip when I turned blue. This shocked me and I wanted to finish with him, but once he fell to his knees and begged for forgiveness and cried like a baby I soon forgot and forgave him, until the next time.

Yes, there were many more next times. As time went on and I got to know him more I realised he suffered with his mental health, and he was also brought up in an abusive home.

I was controlled and suffered mental and physical abuse, which consisted of; many arguments, hot bowls of stew being thrown at me, my clothes being thrown out the bedroom window, doors being ripped off, sly punches to the back of the head, spitting in my face, and I think the worse was being spoken to in public like something he had just stepped in.  After years of this abuse, I decided to leave.

I did leave him for a whole week and I felt liberated, but that soon changed as he bombard me with text messages and phone calls, bouquets of flowers and cards and not to forget the pleading and crying. He always promised he would change, but it never lasted much longer than a week or two.

The older I got the less tolerant I became of his behaviour and abuse. The straw that broke the camel’s back was when he slit his wrists in front our son Jack; this was after he strangled me. The date was Saturday 9th July 2011. I thought if he could slit his wrists in front of Jack what else was he capable of, and this scared me.

I left and went to stay with a friend. I filed for divorce (which was something I never got as far as before) and I put the house up for sale. All of this shocked Darren, he then took a different tactic to try and woo me back because the pleading this time fell on deaf ears. He took an overdose, quite a big overdose, and was in hospital a few days. This time I knew that I was serious because I never reacted to this.

During the next six weeks Darren appeared in Court for assault and was granted bail. My home was reinforced, I had a panic alarm installed, the Police arranged for my bedroom to be turned into a panic room. This was in case he broke his bail restrictions and came to the home.

All this was not necessary though because he didn’t come to my home. On Friday 19th August 2011 he came to the hairdressers where I worked, armed with a shot gun. There was a battle in the salon, and he did shoot me. Thankfully I was mentally one step ahead, after he hit me on the head with the butt of the gun and I fell to the floor, I had the sense to pull my legs up onto my chest which took the shot!! He shot twice, the first one hitting me, the second skimming my ear.

After the shooting when he put the gun down to reload, I grabbed the gun and held onto it because my life depended on it!! He couldn’t retrieve the gun, so he then proceeded to stamp on my head and rained me with punches of sheer muscle. Thankfully I didn’t lose consciousness and was aware when he had fled the shop.

After a few hours, later in hospital I was told that Darren had committed suicide. Yes I was relieved, but it should not have even got to this point. I spent six weeks in hospital, I had a major operations on my leg, which was saved even though initially I was asked to have it amputated. I was finally discharged on 23rd September 2011.

Our son Jack had distanced himself from my family as he wanted sympathy for his dad’s death which he couldn’t fully get from us, so he was staying at his paternal aunties house. Jack had disappeared; on Monday 26th September 2011, around tea time, I was told that he had taken his life.

This was when my world fell apart. I could handle the shooting but losing my son, this was something else. Since this happened I have got stronger. My case is tragic; I never thought for one minute that leaving my abusive husband would result in me losing my precious son.  I want people to know abuse does not just affect the victim; it affects the whole family, children, parents and friends.

I’ve removed the victim label and I now enjoy the peace and freedom I so wanted and deserved. I will not drink that bottle of poison called bitterness, because the only person it will affect is me.

I have a new life that I embrace with both arms. I have a man by my side that is the most loving, kindest and supportive man I have ever met. We only get one go at life and we need to live it and not just exist in it. I have learnt not to become fearful of a new life; fear is something that we create.

Become the Victor and not the Victim.

Rachel, 2014