I’ve never really spoken to many people about what happened to me four years ago. I kept it quiet as I was ashamed what I had lead myself into. I felt scared that people would judge me or tell me that I had deserved what I went through. Even now I hate talking about it to my close friends and so it’s not often that we open that chapter and talk about it.
Recently I read a thought provoking article about abusive relationships and it made me realise that by keeping my past hidden away isn’t only affecting me, it is also preventing me help those who are victims of domestic violence. Despite the efforts my friends and family made to pull me away from the man that I thought loved me – I chose not to listen. However maybe if I had read this moving article back then, I might have woken up to see the reality of how my life really was.
I want my blog post to not only make those who are victims of abuse know that they are not alone, I also want to make everyone else aware of the damages an abusive relationship can do. It’s so easy for an outsider to question the reasons why people stay with their abuser. I was once one of those people. Unfortunately it is never that easy to remove yourself from your capturer.
Even now I get annoyed at myself for how weak I was. At that time, he was all I wanted in my life and I would have done anything to be with him. See that’s the problem when you’re a victim of abuse – you don’t see what is really happening to you. Deep down you know that what your partner is doing is wrong, but you tell yourself that it’s OK and that mistakes happen. But hitting and bullying someone doesn’t just happen.
When I met X I couldn’t have been happier. Spending time with him was heaven and being apart was pure hell. We loved each other and that was all that mattered. We created a bubble around us that no one could break. We were inseparable and as far as I was concerned, life was perfect with him in it.
After four months of pure bliss, X asked me to move in with him. I was so excited and happy to take our relationship further and I knew I would do all I could to keep him happy. Little did I know that keeping him happy would be a continous challenge.
The abuse started around six months into our relationship. That’s what abusers often do. They make sure that they have you in the palm of their hand before the ‘real’ them appears. X started to make comments about me, whether it was how I looked or my character traits. He would pick at my quirks and my faults – gentle reminders just to let me know that I wasn’t perfect. I let the comments go over my head, thinking that he was only joking. I never responded – I just laughed and agreed half the time. Then the comments started to pick at my intelligence and my life. “I don’t understand why you’re at uni – it’s not like you’re going to have a good career?”. The comments started to become more hurtful as the weeks went on. I remember one day he told me that I was fat and that I should consider going on a diet. Hurt but determined, I started to watch what I ate – but then he would turn on me, asking if I was trying to impress someone else. The irony was that the only person I was trying to impress was him – and he knew that.
I was forever treading on egg shells. Never knowing what person I would wake up to in the morning. It was like living with Jekyll and Hyde. Months went by and I was heading into my last year at uni. I had a lot of exams and so I moved back to my uni flat that I shared with five others. I needed to study harder and attend my lectures but X didn’t like this idea. In fact I noticed a huge change in X after I moved back. He would text me every single hour asking what I was doing. If I was at the gym he demanded that we had to FaceTime, just so he could see whether my gym clothes were appropriate and not seductive. Christ, who knew lycra could be so sexy? On nights out with my friends, he would call me and quiz me on who I saw that night and whether anyone had flirted with me. His controlling got worse over time, despite my efforts to make him feel less insecure. I knew it was wrong but I made excuses for him. ‘He only does these things because he loves me’. I can still hear myself telling that to my friends when they pulled me up on it.
One night I went out with my housemates, including two of my male friends. We all had a ‘house photo’ taken of each other and it was such a lovely photo that I instantly uploaded it to Facebook. Within seconds X called me. He was mad and was screaming. Apparently I had ‘disrespected’ him. Having a photo with male friends wasn’t allowed, yet he was regularly going out with women draped all over him. I argued with him – I couldn’t see his logic. I cannot tell you how innocent this photo was. I was just stood next to all of my friends – male and female – smiling at the camera. It was just a photo but to him I was a disgrace.
Upset I booked a train the next morning back to London to see him. I felt awful. I couldn’t believe I had upset the person that I loved. When I arrived at his flat he told me things had to change. I had to delete my social media accounts or tell him my password for each account. Reluctant and confused I told him my passwords and watched as he deleted “good looking” men off my friend’s list. It didn’t end there. Anything I did upload on to social media he would scrutinise, regardless of whether it was a photo of me or an article I had liked – he would pick on me every single day. I was losing a battle that I was never going to win. My friend’s noticed a huge change in me and my family feared that I was depressed. I walked around like a zombie – exhausted from his torrent of daily abuse. If I ever did fight back, he would break me more. How dare you speak to me like that! He would scream at me if I ever questioned why he was mean to me. There wasn’t an option to talk things through – it was his way and no other way.
Abusers often have a pattern. They usually start with snide comments, then the control and jealousy follows after. When they feel that they can abuse you easily, that’s when the physical abuse happens.
It was a week until Christmas and we both came home after a night out celebrating a friend’s birthday. I could tell something was brewing inside of him. He was drunk. It was actually the first time I had ever seen him get ‘loose’ and from the way he was acting, I was beginning to see why. His behaviour became aggressive. He started cornering me asking me questions about my exes, which celebrity I fancied and out of all my boyfriends who was the best ‘shag’. I started to get angry and frustrated. Enough was enough. I could no longer be spoken to like this and I definitely should not be quizzed in such a horrible way. I retaliated asking him to stop. I think I said it ruder than that, more along the lines of “Fuck off and grow up!”. He then started asking me why I had recently done a photo shoot for the lingerie brand, Ultimo. Because they’re a great company and my images were on billboards across the UK – of course I wasn’t going to turn down a well paid job. You’re a slut he spat at me. He opened my laptop to look at the images which had also featured in the Daily Mail. Trying to defend myself I said the images were in no way distasteful, but that turned out to be the wrong thing to say. Within moments of me speaking, he broke my laptop in two. I yelped – all of my uni work was on there. Thank god for hard drives! He then kicked my screen and keyboard and I watched it skid across the floor. Before I could even say anything he dragged me by my hair and pulled me round his apartment. I kicked and screamed – even now I can feel the sharp pain of my hair stretching behind my ears. He then pressed himself against me and and started to strangle me. Eventually, after what felt like hours, I managed to kick him off me and I ran to the bathroom where I locked the door and hid. After an hour of hiding away, the very drunk X had fallen asleep, which allowed me to make my escape. That night I stayed in a hotel and told myself I had to leave him.
But I couldn’t.
I stayed with X for another six months after his violence. In fact he continued to hurt me on a weekly basis. I’m not sure why I stayed – maybe I was unwell? It was like I was suffering from Stockholm Syndrome – I loved him enough that I forgave him for the way he was treating me. I was captured – the thought of leaving him was torture, I needed him.
Of course, looking back I didn’t really need him. Abusers are clever – they make you feel that you can’t do anything without them. They isolate you from your friends and family because that way they can have more power over you. They also tell you everything is your fault and that you deserve what you are given. I remember once, after being slapped, he told me that I had made him so angry and that it was me who drove him to breaking point.
After a year and a half of abuse I woke up one morning and asked myself what the hell am I doing? I waited until he had left for work and quickly I packed all of my belongings and headed back to my uni home in Bath. Driving up the motorway I called him laughing like a mad woman. I’m leaving you! He didn’t believe me – I had made similar threats before. When it eventually did sink in that I had left him, he drove from London to try and get me back. It was too late – I was done with him and his abuse. I thought he’d leave quietly but he put up a fight. Annoyed that I was no longer in his control, he spent weeks sending me daily texts and emails, calling me every name under-the-sun. It didn’t bother me. I had escaped and I was out of his control. It was liberating. I thankfully enjoyed my last year of uni without the grasp of X – I was finally free!
I appreciate a lot of women experience different types of abuse. Domestic violence doesn’t have to be physical, it can be verbal. A lot of people don’t want to leave their partner because of financial reasons or because there are children involved. Whatever the reason, you can get help and you can leave.
An abusive partner will never change unless he actively goes and gets help. If you are a victim of abuse please know that it is never your fault nor should you feel embarrassed by it. Talk to as many people as you can and get support. I promise you that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.