"My family gave me two options, choose them or him..."
I met him on Christmas Eve 2008, he was out with my best friend’s dad on his Christmas works party. I noticed him looking at me and we got talking. We exchanged numbers and the next morning I woke up with a smile remembering the previous night. When I went around to my best friend’s house her dad warned me he was a bad drinker and told me to be careful.
I had never been in a proper relationship before, I was 19 and Mark was 33. This was all new to me. We began dating and had so much in common. It felt like we had known each other all our lives. I had been through a lot growing up and was happy to be part of something.
Two weeks later, I started to have strong feelings towards him. I tried to keep it to myself but one night while watching a film he said, ‘I love you’. My heart stopped. Nobody had ever said that to me before. Quickly I said it back, but deep down I felt embarrassed because we had only been together two week.
The more we talked the more we learnt about each other. He had joined the army age 16 and had a son who he no longer saw. His girlfriend of twelve years had run off with his best friend. I was heartbroken for him. Trusting him I told him about being abused as a child and aged eighteen I had been date raped. I had only ever told one person before him. Giving me a cuddle, he told me he would protect me now, making me feel loved and wanted, so I thought…
Months later we were inseparable, madly in love and although a heavy drinker he was never an angry drinker. Then we went on a break away for a week and all we did was argue but being 19, young and naive I didn’t want to lose him. We agreed to put the holiday behind us and make a fresh start.
A year later I wanted my own place and he was having difficulty with his landlord, who had threatened to evict him. It made sense to move in together, we loved each other and wanted to be together. I worked full time and although he was on benefits we shared all our money. I would go work and he would run the household bills, cook and clean.
After the first month things changed, it wasn’t great anymore. One morning I left some money in an envelope with a note for him to pay the bills, and council tax, with a little extra for him to get whatever he needed. I went off to work. That night I came home and the flat was untidy, he was passed out on the couch and had been drinking all day. I left him asleep, cleaned up and made tea. When he woke up he apologised saying he wasn’t feeling well. It kept happening every few days, then days turned into months. Feeling used we began to argue, but it always ended up with me feeling sorry for him. 2-3 years down the line, things had grown progressively worse. I couldn’t understand why I loved him so much and began suffering from depression.
One night when he went to the pub, I noticed a piece of paper stuffed down the couch, it was a letter from the Magistrates Courts about unpaid council tax. Bailiffs were going to attend. I felt sick, I was crying and panicking thinking I would go to jail. All the bills were in my name, he had persuaded me he couldn’t have things in his name because of his ex-partner. When he came home he just laughed. I was in shock that he was finding this funny. He said, just calm down and don’t answer the door when the bailiffs come. I was so worried I rang them to arrange to pay £10.00 per month, explaining there had been a problem.
He had changed so much, he was big headed and cocky and eventually I lost most of my friends, but he kept saying that I didn’t need them in my life. It got that bad I had to speak to my best friend in secret. If I was on the phone, he would shout things like, what does that fat cow want? My family didn’t speak to me because they didn’t agree with our relationship. So, when I lost my grandma I felt I was alone and he was the only one there for me, he was my rock.
Then I developed epilepsy. I started having blackouts and was unfairly dismissed from my job. I was awarded £4000 compensation and we paid a few bills off. He decided to take me Blackpool for the weekend to cheer me up and take my mind off things. It was perfect, we were back on track and so in love.
We stayed for two weeks, buying new clothes and really let our hair down. But deep down I was dreading going home, I knew once the money had gone we would go back to living like strangers.
Once home, he began spending my money in the pub without even asking me. He would turn his phone off, even though my seizures were not controlled and he was being paid as my carer. Every penny went on beer and that’s when the abuse really started then, hitting, name calling and spitting at me. He would come home drunk waking me at 4am demanding I make him something to eat. One night I said no, he grabbed my hair, slamming my head into the pillow and calling me a lazy fat bitch. Heartbroken and scared I went to make him some food. The next day he woke up in a mood, slamming things around and saying I’m no good to anybody and he only got with me because he felt sorry for me.
I walked out and went to see my mum. My family gave me two options, choose them or him. I did the most unforgivable thing and chose Mark. I was so angry that my own family would make me choose. On my own, his words stung. Nobody loved or wanted me. He continued to stay up all night and all I wanted was the old us back. Gradually I realised things would never change, but still I tried to help him. His drinking got worse, drinking 15 to 20 cans of beer a day. When he ran out of money he would smash the flat up and sell everything we owned. I had to sell my jewellery just for food, but he took that too and we lived off toast.
Without money, he couldn’t drink and he would take it out on me. Pinning me down, spitting in my face, demoralising me, saying he slept downstairs because he didn’t want to be near me. I was now staying out of his way in the bedroom, watching TV, whilst he played darts downstairs talking to himself. If I went to make a cup of tea, he would drag me by my hair back to the bedroom locking me in. I had to text him to go the toilet or for food and drink, he kept me as a prisoner. If I was in the bath he would throw freezing cold water over me, even though he knew the shock could send me into a seizure.
Then one night he raped me. Afterwards, I got in the bath to wash all the badness away. I saw the bruises, old and new, that covered my body. I just didn’t want to be their anymore, I had no one and nowhere to go. I didn’t even have any money, since developing epilepsy he had taken over the money completely. Paying the bills because I had memory loss sometimes. He would use my insecurities and all the things I had confided in him, as weapons against me. He knew I couldn’t have children and would say I wasn’t a real woman all the time. He knew I had self-harmed as a teenager and he would taunt me, giving me scissors, telling me I was worthless, do it, you psychopath.
I couldn’t take the anger and hurt any more and one day I cut myself again. At first he was shocked, but then he told me if I left him he would kill me and my family and then rape my nieces.
Frightened and in despair, I slipped deeper into depression, taking stronger painkillers to numb the pain and my mind. I was scared to leave the house, my room or answer the phone.
Then one day I took an overdose, wishing I could be at peace. Next thing I was in hospital and they had pumped my stomach. Mark called me a stupid bitch. He insisted I had to go home and made me sign a release form. On the way home I asked to ring my mum, he said it was our business and no one else’s. That one night he was nice to me, bringing me a drink and food.
Within days he was abusing me again. One night he came home drunk, waking me and demanding me to make something to eat. This time when I refused and he began hitting me, I fought back. He twisted my hand right around. I was in agony and took some painkillers but by early morning I couldn’t move my fingers. I left and ended up at my parents, lying to them saying I had fallen. My dad took me to hospital. It was broken in five places and might need pinning. When I went home he said I was lying because it wasn’t in plaster, making me take the bandage off. When I went back to the hospital the pain was horrendous and they asked lots of questions, I panicked and lied. They explained the little finger bone had been pulled out of its socket and twisted all the way round.
After I was discharged, I stayed at my mum’s house for 2 weeks but Mark wasn’t happy, ringing and texting me to go home. Still I covered up for him.
He begged forgiveness and said he loved me so much. Eventually giving in I went home. He said he would change and even cried. I went to the bedroom and he had cut all my clothes up. I had no strength left to argue.
It took two months for my cast to come off and I was still trapped. I no longer loved him, we were strangers, sleeping separately and he was addicted to porn. But he still controlled who I spoke to. Then in December 2014 I suspected he was with another woman, we argued and he again he beat me. Speaking to people I found out he had been cheating on me and that was my final push to leave.
Everything happened so quickly. I decided to leave and move in with my cousin into a new house. The landlord said we could move in straight away but with no money I needed my parents help getting the deposit, they helped knowing I was leaving him.
I don’t know where my strength and confidence came from but that night I told him I was leaving him. He began pushing me, but I told him I wasn’t afraid anymore, he couldn’t hurt me anymore or stop me. I packed everything. Finally, I felt hopeful, scared, but hopeful. When he saw the boxes, he started throwing them but I just repacked. The next morning he went to work, threatening to stab me when he returned. Terrified but determined, I left. I felt good but I also felt guilty leaving him alone. I even bought him bread and milk and settled all the bills and cleaned the flat before leaving. At last I was free.
Life was hard starting fresh on my own after 6 years, but he had taken a massive part of my life and it felt more like 40. I was sad and grieved for the good times but happy I was free. I received threatening messages and death threats, but slowly he realised I wasn’t scared of him anymore. It was hard living near him and although he didn’t have my address I saw him walk past my house a number of times looking into different windows. He never found out were I lived.
Writing this I question why I didn’t see all the signs before he began abusing me, but the changes were gradual, they didn’t happen all at once and I became lost in it.
I really am a Survivor.
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