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One woman’s story of domestic abuse

Just leave! Easy right? You are in an abusive relationship, you just leave, particularly if you have children. I used to think that too and I have said those exact words. Then it happened to me and I understood why you can’t always just leave.

When I met my ex-husband, I was a vibrant 25-year-old professional woman. Full of confidence and enthusiasm for life. I loved my job, my friends and family. I thought I had met the love of my life.

Just being a man?

It started slowly, the odd negative comment here and there. Latterly it would escalate to a constant stream of emotional abuse that slowly but steadily chipped away at my self-confidence until I was nothing like the woman I had been. By the time I left (2 children and 12 years later), I was depressed, constantly anxious, unable to work and told by my husband that I was mad, that I couldn’t cope and if I left, he would make sure everyone knew I was an unfit mother. I did talk to my friends about my “difficult” husband but everyone else also seemed to have stories about unhelpful partners. He was just being a man, right?

So when he finally became physically abusive, I was almost glad. Now I could legitimately leave him. But I didn’t. I tried; I really did. I told everyone I was leaving, started looking for a house to move the children and me into. But he manipulated me back. Because you see he was (still is) a very clever man. By this stage, he had me emotionally controlled. I had no belief in myself. He ensured I wasn’t working and therefore financially I was entirely dependent on him. How could I look after the kids? It was them that made me stay, despite the fact that they had witnessed the abuse.

Same narcissist, different town

We made a fresh start and moved to a new area. Turned out same narcissist, different town. The abuse escalated. I won’t outline the many episodes but during one memorable one he told the children he would kill me and had me pinned down with a mallet to my head. The kids ran outside screaming, banging on the window for him to stop and the little one vomited in distress. Finally, I contacted the police and a solicitor and we left. Thankfully, by now I was working two days per week and was in a better financial position than before and had the support of my amazing family who had slowly watched their daughter disappear in front of them. What followed in terms of police and courts is for a different time. Police were fantastic, Sheriff was appalling. Despite a guilty plea, the Sheriff allowed him an absolute discharge as he was such an upstanding member of the community and how this would otherwise negatively impact on his career. There was a local public backlash but it didn’t change the judgement and now my husband had had his behaviour confirmed as being acceptable.

Back to the girl I once was

So where am I now? 5 years after leaving I am getting back to the girl I once was. I’m back working in the profession I love. I enjoy my work and have lovely colleagues and friends. I am in a new relationship with a fantastic man. My two kids are amazing and make me proud every day.

Sadly, my ex continues to try to control me in any way he can, through manipulating access to the children or avoiding maintenance payments. I still have a physical reaction when I receive an email from him, but I am getting better at dealing with it. I worry about the effect he has on the children when they see him. He is emotionally abusive towards them, and they are terrified of upsetting him. I worry about the effects on them of what they saw and continue to experience.

Speaking to a support worker has made me feel safer in my home

I thought domestic abuse happened to other people but I realise now that abuse can happen to anyone

I feel more in control and hopeful because of BWA support

I know I am not alone

Having a safety plan in place has reduced my stress

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