I never imagined
One woman’s story of domestic abuse
I never imagined I would be where I am right now. If someone had said that I would be the victim of domestic abuse, I would have asked if they had the right person.
And yet: my husband made me feel scared, ashamed, numb, invalid, worthless, unlovable, isolated, and alone. I thought that if I kept trying and kept loving him more, the red flags would turn to roses. It was never enough, and now I know it will never be enough. The abuse I suffered was psychological, emotional, and financial. My husband was controlling, jealous, manipulative, and lastly became threatening. He used my ignorance of what was normal in British society against me, and since I had no recourse to public funds that enabled his manipulation and control further.
Hard for me to say I was abused
It’s really hard for me to say that I was abused – but I know now that everything abnormal that I experienced was a normal cycle for abuse. It wasn’t until I contacted Border Women’s Aid that I understood more about coercive control and gained a deeper understanding of just how damaging psychological abuse can be. He would charm the crowd, but behind doors he'd curse their presence. He was a perfect actor, and had an off-and-on switch that he blamed me for triggering.
He checked everything
Initially I excused his actions as one-offs, made excuses to justify his behaviour. I would say that he was just tired and stressed with supporting our household on one income. I tried to find a job to help more on income to reduce financial concerns. Even though I was already isolated, had no friends and was just trying to find employment, he began to feel jealous, and phoned to check where I was almost hourly.
Further control began when I wanted to start a family; he "won the discussion" by withholding sex. He used insulting and demeaning language against me about my weight but taunted me if I worked out, or wanted to join a gym. If I'd buy attractive clothes or wear makeup for him he'd ask who was I dressing up for, and it was off-putting.
He’d try to frighten me
He would usually drive but complain about driving or traffic. He would deliberately try to frighten me about making errors if I drove. When he was driving I felt afraid and trapped in the car because he was very unpredictable, and would get road rage or suddenly begin arguments in it where I couldn’t escape.
My husband believed that housework was my job since I was the one home all day asleep, while he was away doing "real work". He expected me to use hardly any heating, and to dress in multiple layers of clothes while inside. He would check everything, the electricity usage, even my car mileage.
All of this left me sad, confused, angry, embarrassed and further isolated. We had separate bank accounts but my earnings, which were less than half his, still went to household expenses, food, fuel etc. His salary was his. I only managed to save about £150, which is what I had when I left him.
My best friend shared similar experiences, though her husband was physically abusive and had affairs. We knew we deserved and wanted better for ourselves, but we both felt we could out-love our partners’ faults and support them through thick and thin. Our vows were supposed to last forever: how dare we be tired of their treatment towards us?
At least I don’t hit you
Good times were there, but they rarely lasted long. He'd say, well, at least I don't hit you. After a bad night police officers arrived and asked me, “Do you realise that what you have said of these experiences is domestic violence?” Even after being confronted head on with their statement, I still defended his actions and excused the behaviour as something else. But my eyes were opened, someone else had seen what I was ashamed to admit to myself. When it happened, he promised change, he went to counseling, he made an effort. Then it went back to "my normal". It didn't last, it never lasted.
I became more and more afraid of his actions, and began preparing overnight bags and putting away personal items for a worst-case scenario. I called Border Women’s Aid after an aggressive altercation. When lockdown occurred I was not only trapped in my thoughts of what to do, I was trapped in my home. So I couldn’t begin doing what I had accepted needed to be done.
Walking on eggshells
The added stress of furlough, of lockdown, the uncertainty of everything made the tension and stress unbearable. He told me that I made him do it – it was always my fault, and I knew where the door was if I disliked his rules. I only became more certain I couldn't keep on living like this, always walking on eggshells.
Finally, I did it, I walked out of the door. I still struggle some days with anger and denial, but I’m learning to be independent and trust myself more. I'm slowly rebuilding the confidence that was questioned and destroyed and becoming who I am and was meant to be.
I applied for a job that I wouldn't have been allowed to even aim for and got it. I was recognised as “employee of the month” my first month in the job. I have supportive co-workers and managers, and refuge staff who encourage me. I've enrolled in university.
Most importantly, I’m getting the life that I deserved. It wasn't easy leaving, but it was harder staying.