I was 17 when we met and he was ten years older. He told me he was infertile but I became pregnant when I was 18. I started missing huge chunks of school. He admitted he wanted me to get pregnant so I wouldn’t go to university. He said he wanted to keep me with him because he loved me so much. I thought a child needed two parents.
After I had my baby, I became very isolated from my family. He told me they were the worst in the world and he said my friends were sluts and whores. He said I was perfect and doing everything right. He controlled everything. The sexual and emotional abuse was awful but there was no one to tell me that this wasn’t normal. All I wanted was a happy home for my children. I tried to build a home but he kept knocking it down.
This was one of the dresses he made me wear on nights when he wanted me to be the perfect woman. He liked me to be female and feminine. I made a nice dinner, I had to speak softly and the children had to be quiet because “Daddy’s home”. I put a fake smile on my face and went along with it to keep the peace. Behind closed doors he told me not to scream too loud or the neighbours might hear.
I hate getting bunches of flowers. When I was with him, flowers meant that there had been an explosion of some sort and I was threatening to leave. He would also buy me pets. He gave me 10 animals in 10 years. We moved house a lot too for a “fresh start”. I tried a million times to make it work.
Doing my sums
I was always planning for our big escape. I have pages and pages of sums like this. He stole money from my purse and I had to tell him exactly what I spent any money on. He also took debt out in my name and made me sign things. I was cut off from my family and friends and thought we couldn’t cope on our own. He controlled everything.
We did get engaged but the rings we bought represented me being trapped forever. I had hoped when I got married there would be love and respect. He promised me the world. I felt I’d made my bed and had to lie in it even though I was terrified for my life and living in fear. He was manipulative and controlling to the point that I didn’t know who I was. I was just a robot and the future looked horrible. Our second baby was meant to fix things.
Why didn’t I leave?
I didn’t identify with being a victim in the beginning. I thought there was some sort of fault in me that I allowed these things to happen. He said I wasn’t mentally stable so they would give the children to him. I believed him. He also said he would kill himself if I left. My daughters adored him. We had a BMW and a sports car. To the outside world, our family looked perfect. He said I could walk out the door but the girls would have to stay with him. I was so exhausted, terrified and traumatised.
Getting a break
I had to account for every mile I drove in the car so the girls and I started to cycle. It was our escape. I have great memories of our days out on the bikes. We would go out early in the morning and stay out until late at night when he came home. For that time, we were just a normal, nice family down at the park and I was like the other mummies. I started to ring the Women’s Aid helpline.
He became increasingly volatile to the point that I would run and lock the girls and I in a bedroom before he could reach us. He would try to break the door down and said he would call the police and say I was endangering the children. I didn’t think anyone would believe me. I really thought he was going to kill me but I had nowhere else to go. I rang my Dad and told him I couldn’t take any more.
A family of three
I left him two years ago and have had great support. This is our new family and the way we are meant to be. It’s ok to just have one parent. There are no brown shoes now. When I was lying on the floor, terrified and curled up, I could just see his brown shoes. Domestic abuse will always be a part of my story but we can now go anywhere and do anything. We were victims when we were with him but now we’re survivors.