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Annie’s Story

A story from a woman, Annie (not her real name), who on the outside was independent, strong, and successful, but behind closed doors her life was in tatters.

"This doesn't happen to people like me..."

It’s been three years since we split. When it finally happened, it came suddenly.

I couldn’t cope with what was going on any longer. At the time my daughter had been saying for a year, please leave him, I can’t cope with my dad anymore, please let’s go and get our own house.​

I always made excuses for him. Looking back, I never should have got married. I went through Fort Alice and when we did the Freedom Programme we did an exercise, “When was the first time he … lifted a finger at you, swore at you?” Mine was when we were dating. He was my second boyfriend and he had a large capacity for drink. All his antics and bad behaviour, swearing, hitting, I used to blame on the drink. I used to cry and cry but I thought all men behaved like this, it was just part of life. I didn’t have the experience of anyone to talk to. ​

I was with him for 21 years, married for 18 of them. He got up one morning and punched me in the face because I hadn’t made him his breakfast. He did it in front of the children, it wasn’t the first time and I knew it wouldn’t be the last. I remember putting my hands over my face and saying “you can’t do that to me. You’ve just hit me in the face.” He put his fist under my chin and said, “you fucking bitch, there’s plenty more where that came from.” Then, almost like a switch he turned, calmly sat down and took out his computer like nothing had happened.

I was left in floods of tears, trying to get two kids ready for school. Unbeknown to me, my daughter had phoned the police. It was the first time the police had been involved. We had a nice life, nice house, big house, nice part of town, the children went to private school and we ran our own business, so I hid it. Everything was very much behind closed doors with a lot at stake. I did not want to be identified as one of those types of families. Not that there is a type.

It took so much courage, and I commend my daughter because if she hadn’t have phoned the police, I would probably have just continued as we had for the past 21 years. Recently there had been a lot of abuse aimed towards her too. Lots of emotional abuse, name calling “you fucking bitch, you’re a stupid cunt, you’re a whore, a trollop, you’re fucking thick, stupid, your fucking mother doesn’t know anything, she’s so dumb don’t listen to her.” All towards a young girl, from the man who is supposed to protect her. My daughter tried to defend herself, she tried explaining her mistakes but he would cut her down with nasty words. I am ashamed to say he gave her a nosebleed, and a black eye, which she reported to the police when she rang them that final day, but because it was a year before and we hadn’t any medical proof and hadn’t told the police before, it was dropped. If you are wondering why I hadn’t rang them before myself, all I can say is, I was extremely frightened I would lose the children.​

My little boy would sit on the stairs, refusing to get ready for school, telling me I couldn’t fucking tell him what to do. That was the role model he had. I would say you can’t swear at me and he would say, why not? Dad does. ​

It’s amazing how you forget things, and memories, when it’shappening to you. I boxed it up in a part of my brain, and thought I’m not doing any of that. Then, when I looked back through my diaries, I realised the abuse was every day. I ran all the business and looked after the staff, then just a few months before the split, he said I had to work from home with him. I wasn’t allowed to do anything or go out. I would go to do a family shop and he would ring me and say, I know where you are. I would say I’m at Asda, and he would say yes, I know, I can see you. He had put a tracker on the phone.​

He was extremely abusive to me in front of the children. He would throw plates of dinner at the side of my head or above it, so that when it shattered, food would go all over me and I would have to get down and pick it all up as it was dangerous. He would say your fucking mother is answering me back, the stupid cunt. Once he smacked my daughter round the face with a plate and kicked my son between the legs. Then he would get up one morning and say, I’m sick of all this arguing let’s go for a spa day. I was so confused. All day he would lecture me about my behaviour, what a terrible wife and mother I was, how I did everything wrong, how bad at everything and useless I was. The next minute he would be telling me how brilliant at this and that I was. He would torture me with mental manipulation and I never knew where I was. It was a feeling of walking on egg shells all the time.

When my parents came to visit, he would be the cook and washer upper. He would say things like, she can’t do this or that, she can’t cook, I will have to make you a meal. The last time my mum came to visit I made Spaghetti Bolognese. He always wanted extra chilli, so I would take some out and do it separately for him. On this occasion, he accused me of putting rat poison in it, saying it tasted different. I said he was being ridiculous, I always divide the sauce and do it differently for you. That night he went in the bathroom and stuck his fingers down his throat, made a right loud palaver, saying I had made him sick, I was useless and couldn’t cook. My mum was gobsmacked. My dad was always polite to his face, but I’m sure he knew. Just before he died he said to me “I don’t know what bed you’ve made and why you think you have to lie in it, but let me just tell you, you don’t.” I wish he was here now so I could tell him that I got away. ​

The last 7 years together he stopped drinking and I thought it was going to be over. I thought it was the drink that was to blame. For a couple of years, he was fantastic. We had hit rock bottom financially, so he set up his own business and we started to make money. I thought everything would be good again but the badness returned and I realised there was no drink to blame it on. ​

I didn’t know where the anger was coming from and I became a shadow of my former self, I used to be happy and joyous. I was always independent but then he said I couldn’t have a job and had to work for him because I had these skills, and talents that were so important, and the business couldn’t survive without me and of course if the business collapsed it would be my fault. I believed him and when we split, he ran the business down until it collapsed. It was all my fault because I had dared to leave him. ​

The first 6 months after that last night, he was on bail, eventually they charged him with common assault. He was given a restraining order, which he broke on several occasions. I always felt like I was looking over my shoulder, but 10 months later he moved abroad to Germany. He came back for a week here and there and saw the children, who didn’t really want to see him. ​

The first 15 months I signed on sick, six months was stress and then I had three operations, plus counselling and the Freedom Programme. Both the children had art therapy and counselling. I imagined Fort Alice to be a block of flats where battered women went. I had no idea how many people they support in their own homes and those still in abusive relationships, they can’t get out of. But it was only funded for 6 months and they had long waiting lists. They need more money and more counsellors for children. In the Freedom programme, they talk about different abusers, he was king of the castle and the manipulator, it really gave me an insight into abusers. ​

The most difficult part for me was how silly I felt. I am well educated and strongminded, I never thought someone like me would allow anyone to treat me like this. I always thought I would be the type of person who would be out the door. Now when I read stories of abuse, and people commenting saying, she should have left him ages ago, I side with the woman because I know how it feels in that situation. ​

“I need to try harder, be a better wife, he’s the father of my children we can make it work”.​

Maybe that strength made me not want to fail.​

The children went to a local authority school, the pastoral care was great. The children felt angry and utterly rejected because he moved away. He came back for the court hearings, but disappeared straight after. ​

Where do I see myself after the divorce?​

Free! The financial costs are hanging over me, touching nearly £20k. There is no legal aid, only for some parts of domestic violence and he is fighting me tooth and nail. He is taking me to trial costing £8000 each. I don’t understand why he would do this to us and his children, but it’s about manipulation, control, scoring points, how sad. I think he’s a narcissist, I heard of gas lighting which is psychological abuse where they distort everything you are saying and your realities. You think, did I say that, did I do that? That was the point I was at. I read about gas lighting in a book on the subject. I opened the first page and it was him, I read it all day. ​

I stayed out of misguided loyalty, because I had a belief that things would improve, it was the drink, then the stress of running our own business. I think it was my daughter that changed it all. She said mum it doesn’t have to be like this. Why are you letting him talk to you like this, treat you like this? I sat crying and I began to question myself.​

Just before the split he left us for 3 months, saying we were all fucking annoying and he wanted room to think. He had gone abroad and insisted we went to visit for two weeks. It was constant abuse, smacking, punching and that’s when he hit my daughter round the face with a plate. We had to get back for school, and I had to get down on my knees and beg for our passports so we could leave. I remember stepping on that plane and thinking thank God I don’t have to see him. ​

Whilst abroad he would ring me 60 or 70 times a day asking what I was doing, who was I with. I remember I had a friend for dinner and after the 18th text, she looked at me and said I don’t know what’s going on but that is not normal.

His family have never spoken to me since the day he was arrested, they don’t send the children cards anymore, so very sad. It’s the loss of those moments Christmas and birthdays. They never wanted to listen to what happened, I am a liar, the dragon, a witch, because their son was perfect. ​

I have been on my own 3 years, I can’t be bothered with men, I don’t trust or need them. Most dating is online and its full of weirdos and I can’t jump from one relationship to another, that’s not for me. ​

The one support I had, throughout his beatings and abuse, and everything I have been through after we split up, has been my faith in God, my children and five good friends who were there for me. One friend turned up, when she found out, with one month worth of shopping. She knew I had no money.​

My daughter is a teenager now and she’s now in the realm of boyfriends. She worries they will turn abusive, so it’s really knocked her confidence, but there is no education in school. ​

As soon as I get my divorce finalised, we are going to have a party. Not to celebrate the end of the marriage, because you grieve the end of a marriage, it’s a sad time, but this will be a celebration of the next part of my life and journey. It doesn’t include him anymore. ​

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