How my story began
He is the father of my child – and the love of my life. He is also my abuser.
We met as friends. He helped me as I struggled to get over an abusive previous relationship. Looking back, I know that he saw my vulnerability, and exploited this.
He was supportive, loving, fun to be around – and handsome, with big, innocent eyes and a wide open face. I was free with him in ways I wasn’t with my ex. He never disapproved or criticised. He encouraged me to spend time doing things that I enjoyed.
Our relationship developed, until he told me he loved me and wanted to get married. He swore he had never felt this way about anyone before. I was special. I was his princess. He promised to protect me and we would build a life together.
I fell for it – hook, line and sinker. I thought I needed a strong partner. I thought I needed him to protect me. I never imagined that one day, I would need to protect myself – from him.
My story 2: on jealousy, cannabis, and a new baby
So, I’ve told you how the relationship began – with a seemingly perfect guy and a very happy me. But then, as in all relationships with abusive people – things got a lot darker. Ouch! Writing this part of my story is going to hurt.
I got a great new job and moved to another city. Of course, he came with me and I was delighted. It was a new adventure. He found a job pretty quickly, and for the first few months we had a wonderful time getting to know our new home, hanging out and discovering new things together.
The green-eyed monster emerges
There was just one fly in the ointment. I began to see a jealous streak emerge. He confronted a guy in the street because I’d commented (to my man) that I liked the hat he was wearing. He seriously got in the poor guy’s face – and of course he had no idea what he’d done to deserve getting nearly flattened by a stranger. I pulled the boyfriend away, and we left while he chuntered on about this guy making a move on me! O-kay…
Then, there was the time he and his friend had a fight in a petrol station – again, because he imagined that a couple of men were eyeing me up as I tried to choose between Diet or full-fat Coca-Cola. Not good.
Oh, I thought. He must really love me to be so passionately jealous. (Big red flag was hitting me on the head but I didn’t see it, guys!). Find out how that panned out in my post on morbid jealousy.
Fast forward a few months. My mother and auntie came to visit for the weekend, to do their Christmas shopping. He stuck to us like glue. Didn’t seem to mind being the only bloke out with the women. Looking back, I realise he was staking his claim and making sure there was no chance for us to talk without him.
A whole new world
Fast forward to us moving from our smart city pad to a home in an idyllic but remote village (being isolated from friends and family is another monstrous big red flag!). He bought a business nearby and it kept him pretty busy. Then, he had a brainwave: why don’t we have a baby?! Okay, I said – I’d been broody for ages and I loved him, we were settled, making decent money and ready for a family. A great husband, he’d be a great dad.
I got the positive pregnancy result within weeks. Joy! Excitement! I was in a bubble, walking on air. Unfortunately, so was he. I discovered he was smoking cannabis. He promised to stop, and – of course – I believed him. Nothing was going to spoil my mum-to-be euphoria.
He interrogated me for hours on end about my alleged cheating. By then, my tummy was so big I barely had the energy to get off the sofa and go to work – much less pursue extra-curricular activities. I told him so – repeatedly. He made me swear on the bible, Qur’an, and on the memory of my dead grandparents. He didn’t believe me.
He started disappearing at odd times. He’d say he was going to the corner shop and not come home again for three hours (when I called, he was always just five minutes away). He told lies upon lies until I just got so confused and exhausted I stopped asking.
He threatened to kick the baby out of me because I wanted to go to the shops one weekend. He put it down to stress with the business. You see, he worked nearly every day, but suddenly no longer had money. He ‘borrowed’ cash from me (I never got it back) to fix all the little things that had started going wrong with his business. I paid all the household bills, and pretty-much everything else. I started to worry how I’d ever save enough for me to afford to go on maternity leave as planned.
Paranoia took hold. He was being followed (he didn’t know who or why). He made me buy a security camera for the house, convinced people would try to break in. How a camera would stop this was a mystery to me – as was the fact he had it trained on the living room, where I sat. His life was at risk if he left the house. He sold his business and refused to go out alone – except for the mysterious trips to the corner shop, or to see a friend that couldn’t just come to the house (yeah, he thought I was THAT gullible).
Seven months pregnant, when loading his clothes into the washing machine, I discovered a baggie of white crystals in his jeans pocket. When I asked him to explain, he insisted it was good, old-fashioned sherbet – sold, strangely enough, in little plastic bags. I told him I didn’t believe him – of course! His response was to grab me in a headlock and force a few grains onto my tongue. I knew I was lying when I said, ‘Yes, okay, it’s sherbet’.
Baby arrives, and he signs out
Our beautiful baby arrived. At the hospital while we waited for my c-section, he worried that the baby wasn’t his. The doctor looked suspicious – why did he not look like his photo ID? He later told me that he had to come to the operating room with me as otherwise he couldn’t be sure it was even our baby (so, I’d swallowed a cushion, had I?). I brushed it off – once he stopped cannabis, this craziness would stop.
Guess what? It didn’t. Within days of getting home, he hit me. A slap around the head mid-rant as I sat holding our baby.
He helped out with night-feeds for a couple of weeks. Then, it was up to me – as was everything else. Housework, shopping, looking after colicky baby and him. I thought I was going to die of exhaustion – I was sitting up until two in the morning with a screaming baby while he slept, played on his playstation, or smoked cannabis in the back garden.
I begged him to change – to stop the cannabis, seek psychological help for his paranoia, be the dad that he promised he would be. He agreed.
Fantastic, I thought in my sleep-deprived state. Things are going to get better. This was all just a blip. He just needed to kick the evil herb. How wrong I was – on all counts.
My story 3: gambling on a red-herring
I shared with you how our lovey-dovey relationship took a nosedive into abuse – as he chose the time of my pregnancy to develop a cannabis habit.
For me, it was like being hit by an avalanche. From a single chilly snowflake had grown a tsunami of suffocating snow. The thing is, I still had no idea that I was buried in it.
I was sure that once he quit the drug, normal hearts-and-flowers service would be resumed. Unfortunately for me, the cannabis (and whatever else he was using) was a traffic light of a red-herring!
You see, I now know that abusers use drugs or alcohol as an excuse to abuse us. Often, they deliberately get tanked up before starting the abuse. Sometimes, they are not even as out of it as they claim to be. It’s a great ‘excuse’ for the abuser.
While I focused on him getting off weed, the abuse was a secondary issue – when it was in fact, the only issue all along. I got the cause and effect the wrong way around.
Living with a zombie
The lowest point saw him stoned for four days straight – just a zombie demanding drinks and food. Left to look after the new baby alone, I was so desperate for sleep I’d do just about anything to get some shut-eye. He knew this. He would threaten to wake the baby if I didn’t have sex with him.
We always went to my parents for Christmas, and I was desperately focused on this safe haven. As we lived so far away, we’d go for a few days – maybe a week. And, in that time I’d have help with the baby and relief from the intensity.
He knew how much the trip meant to me. It was a useful weapon that he wielded ruthlessly – if I didn’t toe the line he would threaten that the baby and I wouldn’t see my family at the festive season. Or, I could go but I must leave the baby with him – he was sure my family hated him and so they wouldn’t want to see his baby, would they? Of course, I would have died before I’d leave the little one with him. So, I did what I was told.
Another move, and I try to leave
We did get home for Christmas (thank God) and never went back. He decided that to escape the people he feared were after him, we would relocate again. Of course, this meant I would have to leave my well-paid job – but, he was confident that this was the best decision for us (my feelings didn’t come into it, this was me yet again sacrificing so he would return to the loving guy I remembered). After all, he had moved for me – why shouldn’t I do the same for him? Seemingly in defiance of all previous experience, he would provide for me and the baby.
We were right back in the same place we began, but nothing was the same. He carried right on with his drugs, but this time denying what he was doing and insisting I was crazy to suspect him. One day, I found a packet of hash hidden under our bed. With the concrete proof clutched in my hand, I threw him out. He demanded cash, and as a parting salvo kissed me and told me he would kill my parents and kidnap our baby.
I endured months of emotional blackmail as he tried to ‘win me back’. Hearts and flowers it was not: suicide threats, crisis after crisis, continual phonecalls, knocks at the door in the small hours of the morning. He loved me, he insisted. He was falling apart without me, he said. He had changed, he promised. He demonstrated this by turning up drunk as a skunk, stabbing himself in the hand, threatening me with half a brick, jumping in front of my car – to name just a few. He convinced himself I had someone else, and assured me that he would find him and kill him.
I bounce back to him
Ground down, exhausted, terrified of the consequences of breaking it off, after several months I gave in and took him back – after he ‘proved’ he had quit cannabis with a negative drug test. I wasn’t comfortable, but as I had focussed on his drug-use as the problem I reasoned that all would be well if he stayed off the weed.
Just weeks later, he turned up stoned. I walked out with baby and he let me go. Well, that was easy, I thought. I was relieved. Then he hit me with an avalanche of more erratic, crazy-making behavior and promises. Only I could help make him a better man. I caved again. My family and friends despaired.
The abuse worsens
He never forgave me for leaving him, and his need for control escalated. The rages became more frequent and more unpredictable than ever before. He slapped me, shoved me, threatened to knock out my teeth, screamed at me – whether the baby was there or not didn’t matter. I kept quiet. I stopped asking him awkward questions that would provoke more lies and yelling. It was all my fault, anyway. Why didn’t I trust him? Why didn’t I believe him? Why didn’t I love him, like he loved me?
Then – penniless again – he confessed that he’d been gambling. No, it wasn’t a habit. Yes, he understood it was a mug’s game. Of course, he knew that a good father didn’t act so irresponsibly, and he would never do it again. The next week, he lost more than £2,000. The rent money was gone. So was the cash for groceries, bills, and the new things we planned to buy the baby. The saddest thing? I wasn’t surprised.
The third time I left my abusive partner, I was determined to make it my last. So was he.
In the last installment of My Story, I shared how my abuser moved us back home for a ‘fresh start’, but carried on smoking cannabis and added a gambling problem to boot! Of course, the abuse didn’t stop either: with two unsuccessful attempts to leave already under my belt, it got worse.
The need for control spirals
He became increasingly insecure and controlling, fuelled by delusional jealousy. I wasn’t allowed to speak to his friends, even when they were in our home. I was to avoid eye contact with men on the street. I wasn’t to answer the door. He had me change my mobile phone number, and warned me to keep it a secret. Unfortunately for me, one day he used my telephone to call a friend. That unsuspecting friend rang him back on the same number from which he received the call.
My partner (almost literally) exploded. After telling the confused caller that he would kill him, he hit me in the face. Then he asked me why I received the call, though he didn’t bother to listen. He smashed my phone. He screamed at me for 50 minutes, telling me that I was a whore. Then, mercifully, he stormed out. Two days later, he ‘remembered’ that he had made the initial call. He didn’t apologise.
The straw that cracked the eggshells
I knew that things weren’t getting better, no matter how hard I tried to tip-toe around him. It wasn’t all bad, but even in the lulls I was on edge, waiting for the next crack in the eggshell. I struggled to sleep when my partner was home. I was happiest when he was out, because I knew our child could then enjoy calm and quiet. I tried to imagine Baby’s future. That all-important stable, happy home seemed utterly out of reach.
Still, I have no idea why I chose that particular day to leave. Nothing out of the ordinary had happened. We had actually had a rare pleasant time as a family, just the evening before. But that morning, he blanked our child, who was crying for attention from daddy. Perhaps that was the final straw. Or maybe I knew that I couldn’t stick around just waiting for things to get even worse.
One thing of which I was sure, was that I had to get out without him getting a sniff of my plans. I was feeling the fear, and leaving anyway.
I waited until he went off to work. Into my car, I packed the essentials – organised some weeks ago. Then Baby and I were off. It was only later, once we were safely installed at my parent’s house, that I texted my now-ex to tell him that I wasn’t coming back, ever. I’d just stomped all over his carefully laid eggshells.
What’s more, I’d triggered his switch-up to determined predator mode. That’s when things got REALLY scary.
My story 5: Aftermath – Hoovering, harassment and fear
Already, I’ve shared how the man I thought was the love of my life dropped his Prince Charming mask during my pregnancy. A drug and gambling habit emerged, and so too did terrifying jealousy which drove obsessive and paranoia-driven abusive behaviour toward me.
As the temperature ratcheted up, I reached my boiling point and fled our home, and him. I went to my parents. Whilst this meant I would have support with the baby, from people who understood, it meant my ex knew exactly where to find me as he embarked on a monumental hoovering campaign. He carried out emotional blackmail using suicide threats, called incessantly, turned up on the doorstep at all times of the day and night.
Fear and shadows
I was afraid to leave the house – if I had to go out, I’d run to my car and lock the doors as soon as I was safely inside. I was afraid to stay home, feeling like a sitting duck trapped in a goldfish bowl. At night, the shadows that crawled the walls shaped my nightmares and I slept with my silenced phone in hand, in case I needed to call emergency services.
He told me he would kidnap my child and murder my parents. He promised to kill any new man that entered my life – and me too, of course. Or, if he didn’t kill me, he’d take me out of the country with him. It was at this point that I realised I must protect my child and family members by involving the police.
The police issued an official warning to stop harassing me, which he ignored. He was arrested, cautioned and released. Within hours he had broken the terms of his caution. He was arrested again, and bailed pending prosecution. He entered a plea of ‘Not guilty’ to harassment.
The same night, I saw him crouched in a bush outside the property, watching and waiting. When he saw me at the window, he unfolded and beckoned me outside. My legs turned to jelly, but I did nothing and told no-one. I was still grappling with the trauma-bond and numbed to the point of inertia.
Sleep-walking days and wide-awake nights
Then the phonecalls resumed and I knew this would never end. My heart aching, I gave yet another statement to the police. They struggled to find him to enact an arrest warrant. I felt I was sleep-walking through life, the only colour and joy came from my baby boy – without knowing it, he reminded me daily that we both had the right to live free of the fear and chaos of domestic violence.
The police installed a range of security measures at my home. I sat with my closest relatives and agreed an emergency word, one which – if I ever used it in a telephone conversation – would mean I was being held against my will.
Weeks later, the police reported that they had arrested my ex. He was remanded in prison for a fortnight, appearing at court via video-link, where he continued to maintain his innocence. He was once more released on bail. Within days, he had picked up right where he left off. The merry-go-round of endless police reports and anxiety as they tried to track him down each time left me dizzy.
The day of the trial arrived. Sick with nerves, I attended to give my evidence. He didn’t even turn up to court, and so was found guilty in his absence. Once more, the police tried to track him down. It took weeks. When they eventually found him, they held him until his court appearance. Sentencing was postponed until assessments were completed. He disappeared again. Weeks later, he was arrested once more. Somehow, he walked out before the court session concluded. Another warrant was issued for his arrest.
The end of justice
Months went by and I heard nothing. A small part of me, the part encased in a cocoon, began to unfurl. I started to believe he had left the country. The knot in my stomach eased, and I could imagine a future where this madness was not my life. Then, a letter from the justice system. He had been arrested and brought to trial. I had my restraining order. I was given no other information. As far as the police and legal system was concerned, their job was done and the matter was at an end. I read the letter repeatedly, knowing that for me, it would never be over. Since that time, my ex has not contacted me. He has been sighted just once, by a friend.
The beginning of a stronger me
I expect I will always be watchful. I will always pay attention to the shadows. I will never leave a door or window unlocked. I will always tense at certain things and some songs will trigger unwanted flashbacks. I will, probably always, miss the memory of the man I loved. I will regret, for myself, my son and even for the man that inflicted so much pain, the broken promise of a happy, united family.
But I will also value the things I learned about myself. I am confident in my resilience and my compassion, and empowered by self-acceptance and self-reliance. I am free. I am healing. I am building a good life for my son. For me, this is just the beginning because I am, at last, getting back to me – and I wish the same for all of you.
© Avalanche of the Soul, 2013-14