I met my partner just before my 14th birthday. It felt so special in the beginning and I can remember the overwhelming feeling of being in love with someone who was totally smitten by me!
My partner was 2 years older than me. He had left school, so during lunch we would meet. He would be waiting at the end of school and often arrive at my house at 8.30 to walk me to school. At that time, this was all the signs for me of a true gent! Nonetheless in a short space of time he became jealous of friends, in particular boys and started to become controlling.
My earliest memory of him being controlling was when he took my diary off me and began to read it, it spoke of small crushes I’d had on boys in my year (before I had met him). I can remember being in the centre of town and he kept my diary, he decided to dump it in the bin and he placed it on top. I pleaded for it back and then begged for him to just push it lower in the bin where nobody else could find it. This didn’t happen and I left my diary in the bin where he had put it. I felt betrayed, sad and anxious for days that somebody I knew would find it.
Other times he punched holes in my mum’s house; my mum was on her own and worked hard to provide us with the things she did, and it really bothered me when he behaved like this. It didn’t stop him though, as much as I would plead for him to stop he carried on.
He smashed up my sister’s new stereo and once kicked a large pot of gloss paint on a newly laid thick pile carpet which had cost mum a fortune! I can remember crying as I knelt scrubbing the carpet thinking of how I could explain this to my mum, I felt so angry and upset but most of all hurt for my mum.
I took the blame for much of the damage he had caused, I felt this was easier than telling the truth but also that it may cause trouble and nobody would understand. I felt so alone and isolated from friends because I had spent so much time with my ex-partner that my relationships with my friends were not so close.
I remember trying to break up with him but he would never allow it, I was so confused. Why was it others could end their relationships and I couldn’t?! He would turn up at my house and be so defensive about his behaviour and start to get agitated. I never wanted others involved, so I would do anything to calm him down. I worried about my Mum and him arguing and how far it might escalate!
He took my contraceptive pill from me saying that it was for girls who wanted to sleep around and so by 17, I became pregnant and moved out of my mums.
Once when I was pregnant, on a bus leaving town, I can remember him wanting £40 which I had for groceries for the week. Because I wouldn’t give it to him, he slapped me in front of by standers and ripped the money up! I wanted to get off the bus and run to my mums, but I knew he would follow and so I sat down frozen to the spot, I felt trapped.
The physical abuse spiralled once I left home and I was repeatedly hit when I was pregnant, even holding my new born son! He was always sorry after and usually hated the way he behaved towards me, however I realised the tears were for him and never for me.
This is just a small chapter in my life. The extent of the abuse kept growing over the years, I felt trapped and totally consumed by fear.
I feared What he may do to me and my family. I was convinced because of the threats he had carried out on me and the disturbing things he would say that he was capable of killing me and hurting my family. I had been kicked, punched, spat at and bitten, my hair ripped out and I had been strangled. I just accepted that this how life was going to be for me. However much, over time I battled with this, I deserved to be happy.
In January 2013 at the age of 35 and 20 years on and after the worst Christmas ever, I felt I could no longer live the nightmare I had been living. I went to Women’s Aid on the 3rd of January and lived there for 10 months!
The support I received there was invaluable, life changing! At first they supported me with taking my children to and from school; without this I know I would have returned to my partner. He would have been waiting at the gates of the school and I would have been overwhelmed at the thought of confrontation there, and the consequences of saying no.
I didn’t go out for weeks, but the staff noticed this and I was approached and encouraged to go to a coffee morning. I was reassured we would go as a group and I would have their support, but crucially for me I would be safe. They became my safety blanket.
After forcing his way into my mums to look for me the police became involved and he was placed on remand for ABH and false imprisonment, this gave me time to rebuild my life. I went back to University, joined a gym and found myself a social network.
On reflection I look upon my time in refuge with fondness, for me it was a place of rehabilitation a sanctuary.
I was surrounded by special people, my support workers. I call them my Guardian Angels and I thank them and the organisation for helping me to find my wings to fly!