This Survivor Story Has Verbal, Sexual, and Physical Abuse Triggers
When I look back it’s easy to see that my relationship was abusive from the start and followed a text-book pattern. Initially my ex was fun, complimentary, encouraging, understanding - all the things you would want in a partner. I told him things I wouldn’t tell anyone else; I felt like he was really trustworthy and had my back.
That really good phase lasted about nine months, but I realize now that it was a made up fantasy and the person he presented to hook me in doesn’t exist. The compliments turned into insults; “you’re so good at your job” turned into “you’re so condescending, you’re such a know it all”. Really personal information I had told him became things to twist and throw back at me as evidence I was messed up and dysfunctional.
There were insults about my appearance, my interests, family and friends, but these would change so I never knew how I was supposed to be and whatever I tried was wrong. I started to realise it had become an abusive relationship and my close friends were worried about me.
By then though, I was so stuck, I kept thinking that if I changed how I was, ‘supported’ him better (code for doing everything he wanted and not questioning it) kept going through this tricky phase etc that things would go back to the way they were at the beginning. I know everyone says that - I think it’s because they’re so good at convincing you their behaviour is all your fault.
Struggling to Cope
Over time the relationship became so abusive and destructive I was drinking and using drugs to try and deal with how I felt. I withdrew from friends and family, gave up my job and was emotionally unavailable to my children as I was so pre-occupied with trying to please him I’d lost all sense of myself. I felt like a shell with nothing inside, like I would be sitting on the sofa with people around me talking and there was nothing left of me there, who I was didn’t exist anymore.
The abuse was mainly verbal and psychological but there were peaks of physical and sexual violence that kept me in fear of him all the time and I thought a few times that he was going to kill me.
The things that ‘upset’ him were never predictable but he was obsessed about what people thought of him and would get angry if he felt I made him look stupid. In reality though it would be ridiculous, like helping his friend look for a lost lighter “for too long” (a couple of minutes) as somehow this meant I had more loyalty to his friend than to him, or wishing his friend a happy birthday before he had, as apparently that meant I was trying to show him up.
Living in Fear
If we had a few good days, I’d be waiting for it to change as I knew it wouldn’t last. The constant fear made me anxious all the time, having panic attacks and crying at everything. I was too scared to tell anyone how bad it was so I just kept everything bottled up.
When I was pregnant he tried to kill me. I wanted to keep the baby and he didn’t, but this time I wanted to stand my ground and not to do what he wanted, so I told him I wouldn’t have a termination. He physically attacked me and said he was going to kill me, I looked at his face as he was strangling me and I thought there was no way I would get out alive.
I still remember everything he said to me, that he would kill me before the police got there, that he would smash a bottle into my neck and he would cut the baby out. I remember realizing I wouldn’t be able to escape as he had me trapped and was fast and much stronger than me. I can still feel the fear and how I was thinking I was going to be killed and someone would have to tell my children.
Calling the Police
Somehow I managed to talk him round, telling him I would do as he asked and have a termination. He stopped attacking me eventually but then he raped me. When he fell asleep I got out the house and went to a friend’s who said I should call the police.
The police I’ve met through all of this were really nice and supportive, but they don’t realize how hard it is when someone you’ve loved or who you have children with is abusive. It really messes with your head and is not as simple as dealing with any other crime.
Even after that incident he managed to get me back in his life, once the attention of the police went away and he was on bail, he got in touch and told me how sorry he was and how much he loved me and put huge amounts of pressure on me. Really I think it was that he wanted me to drop the charges and make sure he didn’t get convicted and knew he had to get me back on side.
After this he threatened suicide every day and screamed in my face all the time that I had betrayed him by calling the police. I felt completely trapped. He said I had to make things right as it was my fault he was facing prison. I covered up for him in court and in the end he was found not guilty. I thought everything would be better after that but he didn’t change.
Sometimes I would sit in my car crying hysterically thinking “please someone save me”. My pregnancy was horrific, I never got to feel excited or look forward to the baby, every single day was about him. The birth was horrible as I spent all the time worrying about how he would react to the staff giving me so much attention. Things continued like this for months and I guess I just realized it would never change and even now he had a child, he still wanted everything to revolve around him. I started to plan to get away and spent less and less time with him. I was really, really frightened though, I thought constantly about what he would do and how he might come and kill me.
I phoned the RISE, a local charity that supports people affected by domestic violence, and got advice from them about how to end the relationship and what to do afterwards. Although I was scared I knew I couldn’t live like this anymore and ended the relationship.
Since then I’ve been more involved with RISE and have got a lot of strength and confidence from meeting women in the same situation. It’s shocking to hear how many relationships followed exactly the same pattern.
Shame and Self-Blame
I used to feel so ashamed about being in an abusive relationship, I couldn’t believe it had happened to me and felt so stupid. What I realise now through working with RISE is that perpetrators are so skilled at breaking you down and making you think you’re crazy, worthless and that it’s your fault. I know I did nothing to deserve what he did to me and I’m a good person.
I had therapy through RISE that focussed on trauma and it really did change my life, I wouldn’t have been able to afford it privately but the RISE sessions were subsidised. I’m really grateful to everyone at RISE for their support, they’ve made me feel really welcome.
Since being involved with RISE and Survivors Network, I feel able to be open with people about my experiences as I think the culture of shame and secrecy needs to stop. RISE is so vital to be able to support, advise and hold people in crisis and when they’re rebuilding their lives. I’ve attended different events with RISE and I’ve met other survivors who have amazed me with their unconditional support.
I’m slowly getting better but I know it’s going to take time, I have good weeks and bad weeks and suffer from severe anxiety and depression. I’ve lost friends and family members since all this, people who got angry at me because I couldn’t leave, not understanding what life was like for me and how it wasn’t that simple at all. Now I have a small circle of amazing friends who I can be honest with about how I’m feeling. Maybe I’ll always be scared of him but he no longer has control over me, bit by bit I’m feeling like me again and feel positive about the future.
Story originally posted on https://www.riseuk.org.uk/about-domestic-abuse/survivor-stories/lauras-story-1