Voices need to be heard

 These accounts are anonymous (names have been changed) and have been published to further peoples understanding of the sinister world of domestic abuse. If you wish for your story to help others understand, and victims feel they are not alone, please email your experiences to claire@themisproject.co.uk

Statement – Female age 38

 

I met Nick through friends. I was a little reluctant to get involved with him as he had a bit of a name for himself. However, he seemed different with me so I gave him a chance. Nick was very intense at first and I was very much caught up in the whirlwind of it. He was very keen for us to marry and soon moved in with my children and I, as well as having his own child regularly. At first things were okay but after about a year of us being together, things changed.
He would go out drinking heavily and began to stay out all night. When he did this I would be worried sick and found this most upsetting. He seemed to do it more if I had a big day at work the following day or if he hadn’t got his own way about something. He could be very unpredictable and would often lash out at strangers and entice fights. He called me a couple of times when he was drunk and in skirmishes that I had to sort out. He even smashed up a taxi office once while trying to get a cab. I found this frightening and a friend and I was trying to stop him. The police were looking for him but he got away. He always apologised and blamed alcohol. 
Nick gradually became more and more secretive yet questioned me over my every movement. I sometimes felt as if I was being punished for something I hadn’t done so worked harder to try and please him by being the perfect wife or having everything done for him. He was convinced that other men were trying it on with me and would often accuse me of being off with other men. Once at his birthday meal, someone took a picture of his best friend and I. Out of earshot of others he grabbed my arm, glared at me  and whispered ‘You alright there are we?’ This became common, ‘the look’. He knew this unsettled me and it would put me on edge. I was constantly feeling like I had been punished for something I hadn’t done. It gave a sense of fear and anxiety in my stomach when he did it. Eventually anytime we were out I was constantly aware of my own behaviour and was paranoid on who I was speaking to or even how I long I spent in toilets. I had to persistently justify where I was. This resulted in me gradually manipulate my actions in order to prevent one of his accusations.  It wasn’t unusual for him to make derogatory comments about women and their behaviour. 
The first time he became violent was after he had stayed out all night. When he arrived home I was most upset and he couldn’t give me a plausible explanation of where he was. I asked him to leave and began to pack his bags. As I did this he got hold of me and threw me down on the bed. Each time I got up he threw me back down. I remember saying to him that no matter how many times he knocked me down that I would always get up. He threw me down at such force I smashed the side of my face against the furniture. He was then grabbing me roughly and sexually and called me a dirty whore. He was then ranting about how all women were slags. He then left and I was left with a bruised face and bruises on my arms and legs. The bruise on my face lasted about a week and I had to use heavy make up to hide it. I felt so ashamed that I told no one apart from his mother and a colleague at work because I was embarrassed about going in with a bruised face. I was very upset and hoped that this violence would be a one-off.  Nick was very apologetic afterwards and said he was just frustrated that we didn’t have our own house and things would change when we did.
My family knew something was wrong, so did many of my friends. I dropped down two dress sizes and my alcohol consumption shot up. As well as this I used to ask a female friend to give me diazepam which I kept in a safe place for when I needed it. Gradually my life was becoming controlled by his moods and his behaviour. The low point came when I found out I was pregnant.  My periods had been quite erratic for a while and when I told him he insisted I had a termination. I knew I couldn’t go ahead with the pregnancy as I didn’t feel I could cope with him as well as another child. I couldn’t go alone as I needed taking care of after but he kept telling me he wasn’t going with me and to take someone else. In the end he took me and was complaining persistently that he had to take a day off work. While we were in the waiting room he was ignoring me and playing on his phone. I had tears rolling down my cheeks and his response was ‘I don’t know why you are crying as no one else in here is.’ When I went through to have the procedure done, the nurses were reluctant to do it as I was so distressed. He acted like he didn’t care. I couldn’t call anyone for support as I would have to admit how nasty he had been to me and for some strange reason I always had the instinct to protect him. 
At times he could be a loving partner but there was always an undercurrent of aggression which left me walking on eggshells. It was almost as if he had me on invisible strings. I felt like I was tiptoeing on an unexploded mine. He would often behave I a subtle way to make me feel uncomfortable. He would often fabricate situations to accuse me of being with other men. Ie: mysterious calls/text accusing me of being with other men, disbelieving where I was despite my efforts to prove where I was. I would then get emotionally punished. This would be either his silence or his favourite one was to exclude me from any activities with his child who he knew I loved dearly.
Nick would rarely attend functions/events surrounding my family, friends and work and would make excuses as to why he couldn’t attend as well as making it difficult for me to attend. Nick knew how committed I was to the marriage and our relationship. Many of our friends were witness to this but would not have none the full extent of his behaviour or the fact that it was only the tip of the iceberg. One time I got lost when a group of us were leaving a wedding reception. I didn’t know the area and was quite distressed. When he did find me I knew I would be punished. I was in the hotel bathroom crying and trying to explain to my friend that I would be punished. She tried to reassure me but she didn’t understand. I was right. After my friends left I was subjected to a tirade of verbal aggression which included death threats made to myself and my children. 
Eventually he made my children feel very uncomfortable and I was searching for everything in my power to try and solve it. I suggested family counselling but he refused. He became obsessional with my sons behaviour and would almost watch his every move. One night when he came home from work, my son and I were sat in the lounge laughing at a TV show. When Nick saw us both in the lounge, he sulked in another room, refused to eat his dinner I cooked, then disappeared over night the following evening. 
Financially he would exercise full control. He manipulated circumstances resulting in me having no access to the accounts. He would often freeze my card if things didn’t go his way. I asked to see statements as I couldn’t understand why I had no money but he always had an excuse. Often behaving aggressively, like when I refused to take out cards and a phone in his name. I gave in eventually and am still paying those debts now. When we separated and I finally gained access to the bank account it materialised he had been filtering my money out of the account and into his. In total he took over £26,000 from me. 
The final few weeks of our relationship was horrendous. He launched a tirade against my son over his pet . He insisted the family pet lived in my son’s room and would often use the pet as emotional leverage. My son, as teenagers do, was reluctant to clear up some mess the pet had made. Nick then grabbed hold of my son and I asked Nick to just go downstairs and cool off. He refused. I calmly said to him that it was best if he just went to cool off somewhere so I could prevent any escalation and deal with my son. When he still refused I said I would call my family to help as this was getting out of hand. He then grabbed a sledge hammer and ran downstairs and out the door. He was then swinging the mallet round yelling he would ‘Kill any cu*t that came near his house.’ The police was called. Nick was sent on his way to cool off and the police told me that this behaviour wasn’t normal and he was unstable. I didn’t want any charges pressed as I didn’t want to make things worse. 
The following day when he came home, he was in the kitchen making a sandwich. As I stood in the kitchen he began waving the knife around, unprovoked. He was ranting how he was going to stab myself and my children. The police were called again and came over to speak to him. His mother was on the phone trying to tell me he didn’t mean it. I was now beginning to feel permanently numb and at a loss of what I could do to restore some kind of peace. It was now out of control and I could see no way out. 
The last straw came when I had been out with friends for end of term drinks.  He knew where I was, I even invited him along. My phone died and I panicked. I borrowed a friends phone to email him so he knew where I was. When I got home, I was subjected yet again to a tirade of verbal abuse. I ignored it. The following morning I knew I was in trouble and felt sick about his arrival home. When he did come home he accused me again of being off with other men and calling me names like whore and slag. I had had enough so I went to slap him round the face. This was a big mistake. I was thrown around my upstairs and thrown into the wardrobe where I banged my head hard. He began to smash things up. I was then pinned to the floor face down hard. I was curled up in a ball trying to protect myself and I really thought at some point I would die. I managed to get downstairs and tried to call my friend for help but he got hold of my phone and smashed it. He then pinned me to the floor and tried to rip off my clothes. He was telling me I was a slag and that he would throw me outside naked so everyone could see what a slag I was. He then started to say sexually vile things to me and grabbing me in intimate places. He grabbed the skin on the inside of my thigh and twisted it. 
He then seemed to switch, as if he realised he was doing wrong and I went to get in the car to get away. He insisted on driving me but was then driving round and round alternating from telling me he loved me to telling me to get out at the side of the road.  I got to my friend’s house and my eyesight faltered. I was almost blind in one eye and I began to feel sick. She drove me to hospital and I was vomiting. I was vomiting so badly that I was given anti sickness drugs. I had to have a CT scan on my head as they thought I had a bleed on the brain. My friend called up Nick to tell him where I was. He refused to come up as he said it was a trap and he would be arrested. He eventually showed up. When I was having a brain scan he began to threaten my friend in keeping silent. The doctors kept asking me how I done it and I stayed silent. For some reason I still wanted to protect Nick. My arms and legs were a mass of bruises. The doctors told me they suspected Nick had done it. They also said that if there was any bleed on my brain they would have him arrested. 
I was kept in hospital for observation. Nick sat with me and kept saying that things will change and no-one needs to know what happened and we can both work through this. The next day I knew I had to leave. My family now knew something was wrong and my lies to cover things up were not working. While Nick was downstairs with his child I sneaked out the back door. 
I have never looked back. Getting out of this is the best thing I have ever done. 


 

Female 32

 

I met Shane when I was 16 and thought he was the best thing to walk the earth. We were both in college and ended up socialising in the same group. Wasn't long before he asked me to meet him after college and we ended up in a relationship straight away. He had a very over-confident personality and soon started to isolate me from my friends. It wasn't long before I fell out with my mother and left home to live with him.

He used to do things like cause an argument so he wouldn't have to attend family gatherings or parties with friends. I can't really remember the first time he hit me. I remember the physical side of things started with him grabbing me round the throat during arguments. That was his 'thing'. It was control and physicality without actually 'striking' me with his hand or foot. I can't remember a first occasion as such but I know it soon escalated. We never used to go out to pubs together because he'd be way worse in drink.

The first time I ever had a proper beating from him I can definitely remember though. We'd decided to have a night out and were in a club where he'd gone off to talk to other women while I was at the bar or in the loo or something. He came back to me and made some story up and head butted me. The bouncers saw it and asked if I was ok but of course I said it was fine. That night I ran away from him and remember sitting on the pavement trying to get my shoes off as fast as I could so I could run before he caught up with me. When he came round the corner I was still sat on the ground and he kicked me in the eye. I think he must have panicked because he took off. I went to find a phone box (it was 1997 don't forget...) where two women were stood and were so shocked when they saw me they stopped a policeman. They explained that I had a lump over my eye like an egg and the policeman asked me if he could help, although I remember feeling that he didn't really want to get involved. I ended up calling Shanes father who picked me up and took me back to the flat I shared with him.

 I avoided everyone, skipped college and basically stayed indoors until my eye had gone down... Until one day my father turned up on the doorstep and that was when I saw him cry for the first time. He knew it was all wrong but I wouldn't leave. Shane, the coward stayed in the bedroom whilst my Dad was at the door. I won't outline every individual attack, because any woman who's been in this situation will know that one is very much like the next, and quite often our responses and reactions are the same. I have deep scars on my arm and leg to remind me of my time with him but I don't have any psychological or emotional scars because I will never, ever let that man have that power over me.

I can't really recall the turning point when I left, but I know that the fact that my family and friends all knew was instrumental. The fact that it wasn't hidden anymore made it harder for me to stay with someone like that. I think some if not all of the men who operate within relationships like this depend on the secrecy and shame of their partners. Once their secret is out they know that good people will be trying to oust them and it's harder for them to keep control. My relationship with him only lasted a year but it went from 1 to 100 miles an hour in no time. He had a dysfunctional upbringing and lost his mother very young and I do think these experiences are a factor in the way people turn out, but they also know the difference between right and wrong and nobody has got the right to treat another human being that way, that's not love, that's control and power and it's not something anybody has to settle for.

 

MALE 48

 

It can be impossible to believe that, on the surface an attractive and harmless female can be hiding something so well, so this is my story.

In a six plus year relationship things started well. However, when we first started living together I had early warning signs.  Within the early months of living together, she was looking into my phone and computer and drinking most nights. I had nothing to hide and couldn’t understand what she was doing. The relationship was turbulent with the inevitable difficulties of putting two sets of children together. We had a separation period for a while. However, on our second attempt to live together she left her children behind which I couldn’t quite understand as I had always been a full on hands on dad putting my children first. Later on the difference between me putting my children first and her putting hers second did become hugely significant.

A standout event was where she had one of my children in her car when she made a costly mistake and blamed my child for her driving, which a grudge was held against my child for years.

When things started to deteriorate the second time, the first sign was her return to anti-depressants and drinking. Her behaviour left me feeling like I was treading on eggshells all the time. Learning my phone password access secretively and reading through it when I was not in the room started again. Also when I was trying to discuss things with her in an adult way, chasing me round the house to make sure she would get the last word was commonplace.

There was a consistent problem of jealousy towards long standing friends of either sex, including making friends feel uncomfortable when just popping in for a cup of tea.
She had few friends of any longevity whereas I had many. More latterly she started to alienate my children to the extent that they didn't want to come over, something I struggled to realise at the time. My children coming to stay/visit became more and more of an issue. Gradually relations with my eldest child were pushed and pushed until a verbal exchange between them occurred after drinking. I stopped contact with some of my friends. 

Despite my efforts to keep peace, she would often manipulate situations to cause upset. On example of this manipulation was when a weeks holiday was booked and the family pet was booked in to kennels. A change of arrangement was made to have one of my children stay in the family home to pet sit instead and save £150 in kennel fees. This change of arrangement was met by outrage and anger. The next day I was assaulted violently without any provocation. Like a fool I ran rather than asking her to leave, I left, thinking we could work this out. I gave up my home to protect her and her vulnerable son. I tried to find a way to make it work and kept the relationship going, but there was an unbreakable pattern where she went from loving me one day to flipping the next.

Subsequent events included the flagrant misuse of my possessions, the spiteful abandoning of the family pet I had had for seven years in the full knowledge I could not home him. She just gave him away. She knew this would cause me great upset. It was almost as it she gained enjoyment out of it. 

Further events included threats of violence from people I had never met, then an ongoing period of spiteful mischief making by calling the police and trying to not only cut but bring me to my knees. This included lies to the police and subsequent perjury. I have been struggling to come to terms with what happened as I cannot believe someone I loved and cared for, could be capable of things I could not have imagined.