A few weeks ago Amy shared the first part of her story with us, recalling her experience of living with a violent partner. Today I bring you the next chapter which is similarly graphic and violent in places, as she tries to break the cycle. Amy, thank you for speaking out and sharing your story.
So why did I leave? What made me escape this hell? So many hours were spent sitting in my kitchen (we by then had bought a lovely home) gazing out of the window willing someone, anyone to take me away from all of this. In my head I’d invent this beautiful man that wanted to love me, father my beautiful daughter and take us away but I knew he would never come unless I left this hell. I was turning into him, I was becoming unemotional and I couldn’t do it anymore.
One day I uttered those 3 words for the last time, I asked him what the matter was and the rage was like something I had never seen before. I had followed him through to the kitchen out of my daughter’s sight, but he instantly had his hands around my throat and picked me clean off the floor, dragging me into the living room he then threw me onto the sofa and straddled me. I looked over at my baby, hysterical and strapped in her high chair desperately trying to wriggle free..If he didn’t kill me that night the sight of her screaming so desperately would, and it will haunt me for the rest of my life. He squeezed tightly as I struggled and then suddenly he stopped, “This time” I said coldly, “do it, and do it properly because I can’t take anymore”.
I grabbed my baby and ran upstairs to pack a bag but he followed, never has the saying to shit yourself been so apt, holding me by my neck he held me over the stairs, screaming and screaming at me to get out of his house, she was clinging to me for dear life. I only managed to get a changing bag and I ran to the car.
I drove and drove for miles, I dont know where we ended up, I opened the bag and all we had were rusks and an empty bottle! I had to laugh; otherwise I would have cried and never stopped. Funnily enough the memory of sitting in the car, eating Farley’s rusks and asking my two year old what the hell do we do now is one that makes me smile every time!
So we left. It wasn’t easy at all; in fact I even considered that it would be easier for me to stay. (This would explain why so many women return, time and again, you crave your quiet, head down and get on with it, life-but it is in the most chaotic situation there is!) and as soon as I told him he begged, he pleaded, he sobbed daily, he went to his GP and got a prescription for sleeping pills and antidepressants to help him cope as apparently I was having an affair (there could be no other explanation), he self harmed, he attempted suicide and threatened it more times than I remember, he wanted full custody of my daughter and swore he would take her from me, he followed me around and left endless Jekyll and Hyde messages on my phone. He even turned up crying at my parent’s house because I was being so unreasonable and so, so cruel to him, and he was at a loss as to why I was and could behave this way.
I lost my beautiful house (my fault – I walked away from horrible memories, but in hindsight it was a beautiful house and I would love to live in it now!), many friends (how could I leave him, he is not only wonderful but mentally ill too), and most of my belongings (none of any worth, but hugely sentimental – I discovered down the line he had taken it all to the tip, including every single baby video I had of my little girl). I then owned just 2 bin bags of ‘stuff’, our birth certificates and passports but more importantly my daughter and my life.
Amy’s mantra for life
The road to being a domestic violence survivor is a massive road, and certainly doesn’t end the day you walk out of that door, that is the beginning of a long, difficult road, but one that will make you stronger every day.
I went on to work in a women’s refuge after I left, by chance a job as a child worker came up not long after I left him and I jumped at the chance to help other ‘women like me’.
I didn’t receive counselling, but I should have, and I’d urge anyone to please at least try. I ended up in another almost equally dangerous relationship with D about six months after I left S. I hadn’t realised it but I was still very vulnerable, I almost radiated an aura that only controlling men could sense and I found out that what little self esteem I had salvaged would then take another beating. ( I found through my work in the refuge that this is also very common, a vicious cycle that is so hard to break).
How ironic, how could I be working in a women’s refuge, counselling women, advising women, helping women feel safe when I was constantly checking my phone and worrying about whether or not he will call when I can’t answer – because if so he will go ballistic, he checked my phone, my car, my bag, even my clothes and underwear for signs that I was playing away. Every single day we went through this ritual, and if he found nothing he wanted to know where I’d hidden it. He would follow me to work most days. It was absolutely exhausting.
The only slightly positive thing that came from D was that he persuaded me to tell my parents exactly why I left S, because they were increasingly feeling sorry for him, and I suspected my mum was speaking with him behind my back and believing what he was saying. So I did it, I told my mum first, her initial response? “I knew when you cut your head open that time that he had done it” I nearly passed out with shock, I wanted to shout “why didn’t you DO something then??” but I couldn’t couldn’t work out why, if you truly believed your daughter was being abused in this way, why would you not storm into her room and demand answers?
In a way I regretted telling her instantly, but at least the contact with S stopped. Sadly to this day she will still ask me “Why do these women stay?”. I realised soon after that D had persuaded me to take this huge step, not for my own good, but because he wanted to be ‘seen’ as my knight in shining armour, and wanted S totally out of the picture.
So I had got myself in a mess! I found out I was pregnant, and sadly (or a cruel blessing in disguise? You decide!) I had an ectopic on the same day, D questioned the paternity straight away, Who? Who? Who? Who was this baby’s dad? He asked me over and over convincing himself it was someone else’s, even someone from work but I worked in a women’s refuge, with women, ok so a policeman then? Or social worker? One of the women’s perpetrator’s that I was meeting in secret! Despite all this he insisted on staying with me every single minute he was allowed in the hospital, not because he cared but so he could keep an eye on me. Once he knew I was safely tucked into the hospital bed, hooked up to wires he took my keys to search through my car, to find and to prove what? Who knows!
Every male doctor I saw he accused me of fancying, or even worse sleeping with – in my hospital bed whilst being monitored for something that could kill me – not to mention, I had just lost a baby and it was still inside me.
The nurses commented often on how sweet it was that D was so dedicated to me, but he was suffocating me. If i went to the toilet I had to leave him my phone, or he came in too just in case I was secretly meeting someone else, after I had the heartbreaking and extremely painful operation (on my daughter’s birthday of all days) to remove my fallopian tube and the tiny baby trapped inside it he accused me of having a quick shag with the surgeon, or at least a quick fondle in recovery. His sick imagination really had no bounds!
The next day strapped up to a drip and unable to walk alone, he insisted on escorting me to the toilet (much to the nurse’s amazement at this man sent to me from heaven) as I was feeling really faint the nurse helped me onto a wheelchair, when in the cubicle he locked the door and he forced himself into my mouth, if I loved him and wanted to prove it, I would do this, and if I can do it to the surgeon I can do it to him.
That night, satisfied I was unable to move, walk, drive away (or more than likely that I couldn’t actually have sex with anyone) he left my bedside, he declared he was going to go clothes shopping and buy a new outfit, he needed a night on the town and deserved one after ‘looking after’ me for so long. I was just glad of the peace.
That night sitting alone in my chair I was staring out of the window and a nurse came with some paperwork, and leaflets. I needed to decide what should be done with the remains of my baby and whether I wanted a memorial service for him/her. I was so numb I couldn’t even cry.
I left hospital a broken woman 5 days later, and went back into my parents house feeling so depressed I could honestly have ended it all there and then if I had the energy.
My Aunt offered me a lifeline and my daughter and I booked a flight to stay with her in Germany for a week, I’m sure I shouldn’t have been flying but I needed to get away. I told him I was going by text, I pretended I didn’t know when I was coming back and imagined him working himself into a total frenzy unable to control this situation, and I will childishly admit to feeling really smug about it! As we boarded the flight I looked down at my phone and I had a text from him, it simply said “CYA!”.
I was free! They say ignorance is bliss, but it’s never as blissful as coming out fighting on ‘the other side’.
That longed for switch finally went off in my fragile head and now I really did concentrate on my road to recovery. I did it as a single woman and a single mum. I did see a counsellor, and I joined an online forum where I could talk, talk and talk some more. To get it all out helps, to write it down (like this) is pure therapy.
Through my work in the refuge I became strong, I used my experiences to help others, I didn’t judge, or ask why, I listened, I imagined what I would have wanted all those times I felt alone. Most importantly I made special, amazing friends in that place, people I would never have met if we hadn’t gone through the most horrific, lonely experience of our lives, people I love so much that it is the only one thing I thank D and S for.
Domestic violence hasn’t totally left me, I feel angry at times, I feel guilty for my daughter and pray every day she won’t become a one in four statistic like me, I feel frustration at the people who just ‘don’t get it’, or refuse to understand, I hate that I have to bite my tongue when the people that do know refer to what happened as, “you know, what he did” in a whisper nodding pathetically at me as though to say “it’s really too embarrassing to talk about”. I regret the wasted time more than anything, the hours, days and weeks I could have been travelling, having fun, building a different career but I can’t allow it to take over my life. It’s done, it was horrible and I can’t change it.
Where am I now? Well in 2005 I met someone who became my best friend, we have now been married for a year and we have our two beautiful children, my daughter has occasionally seen S over the years, it depends on the status of his love life! He is now married with a son and can’t quite cope with juggling his time between a wife and two children that live apart – bless him . Fortunately it means he is no more than an annoying rare ‘presence’, she is now a very wise and clued up 12 year old and knows him better than he knows himself, she is happy with him being a distant part of our lives and she realises how quite frankly rubbish he is at being a parent. Her dad, father and constant source of loving male influence is my husband and we are now part of a proper family.
She has admitted to me she remembers ‘some stuff’, and we talk openly about her feelings for S, she once told me she had a memory of hiding behind my legs in our kitchen when he was shouting and I will never forgive myself for thinking she would be too young to remember – children are like sponges soaking up memories and atmospheres.
She once wrote to him without my knowledge telling him she remembers, asking him why he did it and he replied that I was lying and had fed her stories to turn her against him (*sigh*), his reply was just another let down for her and I discovered a support group for children who had experienced domestic violence, she considered going for a while and then said “Nah, I dont think I will go he is just an idiot so why should I go because of him”(!!) The offer will always be there for her though.
I drive my husband mad by ‘asking’ if I am ‘allowed’ to do stuff, I constantly apologise for my wobbly baby belly, and the fact I may not be as attractive I could, or by suggesting he will be happier elsewhere…but he knows why I do this and he kind of just accepts it!
We dont have much but it’s a happy, calm home… I can’t and won’t ever ask for more than that.
I won’t deny that writing is my real outlet, a real therapy for me… I am also not ashamed anymore to admit to what I have been through and I feel sad this subject is so often taboo, or makes people so uncomfortable. I haven’t just written this for personal reasons, If just one person reads this and thinks differently about a certain ‘type of woman’, if one person reads this speaks out because they believe they know someone suffering in this way, or if one person reads this and realises they don’t deserve this pain It was worth bringing it all to the surface and writing this.
I was chatting to a friend today about writing this piece and she mentioned her ‘experience’ of being in an emotionally abusive relationship, claiming that it was never ‘as bad’ as mine..we concluded that there is no scale of 1-10 of how ‘bad’ or ‘not so bad’ domestic violence is… It is all bad, it is all undeserving and anyone, anyone suffering from this deserves the respect to not be judged, the help to get free and the support to get through the afterwards.
There is a lot of support out there, lots of help and organisations that will give fantastic advice. I never knew but if I had would I have called them? Probably not. This means these men, S and D have never been punished for any crimes they committed against me, I cannot torture myself with feeling that if I had stopped them it could have saved another girl from becoming a victim. As selfish as I sound I was barely strong enough emotionally to save myself let alone any others, I just hope their future partners are stronger than me.
Thank you for reading this, I would be happy and honoured to stay in touch with anyone that has been touched by DV, or has any questions. And finally, thank you to Sarah for allowing me this opportunity to write, I am currently hell bent on writing a book and this has given me a real kick up the backside to get on with it!