The true story of my time as a domestic violence victim
I wrote this based on a period of my life I would in many ways rather forget. I was a real victim of domestic violence and abuse (both physical and psychological) and whilst I finally did find the inner strength to escape the emotional scars are still obvious in my resulting personality. I hope that anyone in a similar situation will read my story and realise that it is possible to get out and still go on to have a happy life free from fear.
In the Beginning
This is a story I have always intended to get around to writing but never quite did until now. I was a victim of domestic abuse, domestic violence (whatever way you want to describe it). I am not a person you would meet and think, "she looks like a professional victim" (far from it). I come across as strong, extrovert, self confident etc, yet throughout my life I have been in at least three relationships where my partner struck me, and in one particular case this went on for three years before I gained enough strength to finally end the relationship for good. Somehow I managed to get myself into a domestic abuse cycle though, and whenever I thought I had put this type of unhealthy relationship into my past I would seem to end up with a partner who at some point would also strike me.
My first experience of domestic violence happened in about 1989. I had moved to the UK mainland in December of 1988 having had my heart broken in Guernsey by a man who is best described as "my first true love". I needed to get away from all the reminders (plus the flack I was receiving) and a have a fresh start.
How it Started
Not long after moving to the UK I began working in a large department store in Tonbridge, Kent. During my lunchtimes I would pop over to the bar next door for a soft drink and a chat with the locals. It was on one of these visits I met the Landlord and Landlady's son who was called Steve Sandley. His parents were away at the time so it wasn't until much later I found out they were determined he should marry an ex-girlfriend of his because she had his four year old little boy.
Steve began chatting to me this lunchtime and told me about how he was a driving instructor and had his own one man driving school called 'Domino Driving School'. Being still quite easily impressed at the young age of 18 I thought this was quite an achievement. Steve offered to show me his car and take me out at some point, and again, feeling a renewed sense of hope and possibilities I agreed.
Well we really did seem to hit it off and before I knew it I was actually falling for him. This had the effect of a giant band aid on my broken heart, in fact I was pleased to say I was rapidly forgetting all about my former love back in Guernsey. Weeks had passed and by now Steve had explained that he did have an ex-girlfriend who had tricked him by getting herself pregnant in order to get him to marry her (which he had refused to). He told me he did visit the young lad but felt no real paternal instincts towards him. According to Steve his parents were constantly pushing him to marry this girl but he didn't have any intention of doing so although because of the strength of their feelings on the subject it was best him and I kept our relationship quiet. I suppose I should have seen the danger signs when I realised that he was 29 years old and still living at home with his parents (a total Mummy's boy).
The first time I realised there was a serious problem was when we had been dating about two months. A simple Chinese take away turned into one of the most shocking evenings I had ever experienced in my short life.
The events unfolded as follows:
We decided to get a Chinese Take Away and enjoy it together in my tiny bedsit sitting on my single bed as we usually did on the evenings when we didn't go out.
Upon returning home with the food we knew that we needed knives and forks to eat it with, but unfortunately a couple who I had recently fallen out with were in the small communal kitchen and I had no great desire to encounter them with the row so fresh in my mind. I asked Steve if he would mind going to the kitchen instead to get the knives and forks (a simple enough request you might think!). Not to Steve, who after telling me not to be so stupid and trying to force me to go myself, finally went downstairs and got the cutlery before returning to my room where he flew into a rage over the whole thing, flung the Chinese food all over my bedroom, pinned me to the bed and stabbed me in the front of my chin with one of the eating forks, resulting in my bleeding everywhere (especially as one of the fork prongs went straight through to my gum as well, I still have the scar to this day).
To say I was in shock would be an understatement. At this point in my life I had never experienced domestic abuse (maybe some mental abuse at the hands of my ex back in Guernsey, but nothing physical from a supposed partner or spouse). I sat on the end of my bed numb, too numb to even cry, whilst he tried to apologise and said he was going to break the relationship off with me right now and leave because he was so horrified by what he had done. This reverse psychology worked only too easily on me I am sorry to say, and I immediately asked him not to go and told him I forgave him. I had grown to need him by now and wasn't ready to have my heart broken all over again.
Weeks went by without any further incidents apart from his ex-girlfriend leaving a note on his car when it was parked outside my place demanding an explanation for why he was there. Apparently he explained to her he had met me and we were an item, (or so he told me anyway).
It wasn't to be long before domestic assault number two happened though. This time we were on our way out for the evening when in conversation I told him a snippet of information about my relationships in Guernsey. Suddenly he was veering around the next roundabout and heading back towards home, all the time telling me what a "sl*t, slag" etc I was. He was refusing to stop the car so that we could talk about it, so a bit of an idiotic thing to do I know, but when we were within sight of my home I hit the brakes using the dual controls (remember this was a driving school car). He went spare, started screaming at me for being so "F****ng stupid", pulled down the next side road and shook me around like a rag doll, plus hitting me as best he could in the confines of a car. Again he ended up apologising, and again I forgave him although I knew I shouldn't have.
Within another couple of months things got worse again as we went on holiday to Spain, and it was here I experienced his inclination to real temper tantrums over such silly things as me accidentally standing on the back of his flip flop shoe when we were in the village, or my walking into the supermarket by the beach in my bikini. His jealousy was also beginning to surface, and by now I couldn't even mention any of the males who also lived in same bedsits as I did without being accused of sleeping with them. In spite of this Steve and I got engaged whilst on this holiday, buying a cheap gold ring in Andorra (as it was tax free so we would get a nicer ring for our money).
Upon our return to the UK his parents had put two and two together and guessed we were seeing each other. They immediately went crazy and barred me from the pub accompanied by many "F" words being slung at me in the process. Steve refused to tell them we were engaged in order to calm the situation down (or so he said), but months went by and he still hadn't told them about our engagement.
By now I would say I was completely under his control, and although I would verbally defend myself it usually escalated to violence from him against me, and I was too scared to hit back in case he then got more mad and hit me harder.
Most days he came to visit me he was hours late arriving and I began to suspect he was seeing his ex again. I soon found out where she lived by checking out the electorate role in the local library, and sure enough his car was there many times after he had told me he was going home for the night. When I confronted him about this he claimed he was babysitting the little boy, but that explanation fell apart when I started finding her car was there too. Of course he kept denying it, and I always had just that tiny inkling of doubt as to whether my suspicions were correct so didn't want to lose him and find out later I was wrong.
To say I was becoming screwed up in the head by the mental abuse aspect of this would be an understatement. By now I was driving my car around in the dead of night (sometimes in friend's cars and in disguise) trying to establish if he was at home, at her house, or neither. He was trying tricks such as hiding his car in her garage, and I was one step ahead and was parking in side roads by her house and seeing him drive by the end of the road on the way out of her estate. I had even gone so far as to hide in bushes to see if he kissed her goodbye when he left her place. Meanwhile he was still denying any affair and was still getting incredibly jealous of any contact I had with males. I almost got used to being called a "Whore, a tart, a slapper" etc by him, and even his male friends were amazed by what I put up with, (and told me so). Actually when I confided in his two best friends that he was violent towards me they weren't surprised at all and said they had seen him throw some major tantrums just over a hand of cards at a poker game.
I would say by now about 15 months had gone by, and in this time he had ripped out numerous handfuls of my hair (leaving me with bald patches which thankfully grew back), he had bitten me on the bridge of my nose, tried to strangle me (to enough of a degree I had fingerprint bruises all around my neck), and had head butted me before threatening to go and get one of his licensed rifles and kill me (this was because I turned up at the pub when he was two hours late arriving at my place so I had gone to find him. All this happened in the actual car park of the pub itself). On another occasion he had kicked me in the ribs leaving me with bruised ribs for weeks and weeks afterwards and many many other incidents similar.
I had even gone to the Doctors over the strangulation incident in case any damage had been done, and they gave me painkillers and told me I should call the Police, but like the true fool that I was I came out with the pathetic line, "But I love him", at the same time as I was standing in the consulting room in front the lady Doctor and her trainee in floods of tears with bruises all around my neck, bites marks on my nose and a huge bruise on my forehead. Even I despise my weakness looking back as if it were now I would be off down to the Police Station like a shot (having first hit back as hard as I could) especially as him and I didn't even live together so I wasn't financially dependent on him in any way.
To add insult to further injury I found out three weeks beforehand from his best friend that Steve had arranged to marry his ex-girlfriend (the mother of his child) in a local Church. I went crazy myself then, and confronted him about it. He tried to deny it was true but I didn't believe him. I rang around every church within a five mile radius asking if they were due to be marrying a Steve Sandley.
Eventually I found the Church and spoke to the Priest asking him if they still had that part of the service where they ask 'if anyone has any objections to speak now or forever hold their peace'. He told me that no, they didn't say that, but was there a reason I was asking and did I know of a reason why they shouldn't marry? I then told the Priest that this man was still seeing me, was still sleeping with me and was engaged to me. Not surprisingly he asked if I could prove this as for all he knew I could just be a bitter ex-girlfriend. I told him I could and then asked him to leave it with me for a day or two.
Now no matter how much of an idiot I was being in other respects I was still pretty resourceful and managed to borrow a phone bug. I wired it into the phone socket and next time Steve and I spoke on the phone I recorded the conversation. Unfortunately it didn't quite go according to plan as it was on one of those nights where he claimed he needed to break off the relationship with me, (although this kind of night was rare). Fortunately he had said enough to prove there obviously was, and had been something going on between us, so I called the Priest back, who then told Joanne (the ex-girlfriend/wife to be).
Next thing I know she was on my doorstep, armed with friend and the little boy in tow. It was all pretty civilised, but when she heard the tape she was not impressed and simply said she thought it was all rather pathetic. I told her about his domestic violence, but she simply claimed he had never hit her in 5 years (mind you, she was a large woman so I doubt he would have dared to hit her, whereas I was only about 48 kilos in weight at this time in my life). She also seemed to doubt it was true because she asked why would I want to stay with him if he hit me (good question, and one not easy to answer until you have been in this kind of a violent relationship yourself).
How it Continued
Well, to cut a long story short, both her and Steve talked the Priest into going ahead with the ceremony and they did get married in the Church (apparently she had friends guarding the outside of the church to make sure I didn't turn up and wreak havoc). What was mad was the night before the wedding Steve was at my bedsit in floods and floods of tears, saying how he didn't want to marry her, how he wanted to be with me etc. I even offered to run away with him that night, but he was too much of a coward to do this and kept going on about the relatives that had travelled from abroad to be at the wedding etc.
To confirm what an absolutely pathetic, weak and feeble person I was back then, I let Steve talk me into carrying on our relationship after the wedding. In fact he was in my bed the day after the wedding itself. Needless to say he could no longer ever stay nights and had to hide his car when he came round, but he still managed to see me daily, and most of these days we had sexual intercourse (not least of which because I made sure we did in order to avoid him going home and wanting to do it with her).
You might think that now he was married the domestic violence would stop as he knew he had no right to accuse me of anything when he was going home to a wife.... not true, the domestic abuse escalated, and now it was virtually every time I saw him. Usually it happened in the car, as by now he was getting too wary to risk coming to my bedsit because he was married and she knew where I lived. Instead we would meet out in the countryside in quiet little pubs, have a drink and then park up somewhere!
He would inevitably go into a jealous frenzy over something (on one occasion it was because I went up to the bar to make a fuss of a 70+ year old gentleman's pet dog), other occasions included if he caught me smiling politely back at a person who made eye contact briefly with me in the pub (this is just good manners) and on one occasion he got so angry in a bar that he clutched hold of the back of my hair in the pub itself (apparently the barman mouthed to him "What are you doing to that girl?"). Steve told me we were leaving because of this, promised he wouldn't lay a finger on me outside, then as soon as we left he threw me all over the car park.
Meanwhile his Driving School business had failed, and now he had returned to coach driving for a company called Ebdon's Coaches based in Sidcup in Kent. This company specialised in day trips for pensioners going to the coast and places such as Eastbourne, Margate, Hastings, Bexhill etc. Frequently I would go on these trips too as it gave me a whole day out with him. However, these too frequently ended up in violence, and a time I remember well was when we had a row as he was driving the empty coach along the coast and for whatever the reason he started screaming at me to "come here". When I did, even as he was driving he was yanking out handfuls of my hair.
Another time we had to take a Japanese rugby team to Cardiff in Wales for a match. This involved an overnight stay in a hotel where he again got violent and threw me out the hotel room into the corridor when I was totally naked (having been in bed). I kicked the semi-shut hotel room door back open again and jumped on the bed and whacked him back for the first time in our relationship, he just laughed at me, but did let me stay in the room!
In addition to this he was getting really nasty if I spoke to or joked with his fellow coach drivers (who were a great bunch of chaps, most of whom were married themselves).
By now Joanne had caught Steve with me in the car park outside her house at least twice, yet she too still stayed with him.
Steve was promising to leave her and move in with me, and we had even viewed a couple of places (one of which I ultimately moved into on the basis he had said he would move in too). When it came to the actual 'moving in with me' days though he would always have an excuse not to go through with it, e.g. Dominic (his son) was ill, he couldn't get hold of enough boxes to move his stuff, he was short of cash that day etc.
Steve's own mother had punched me in the face one night when I had got so frustrated by his excuses I had gone to the pub after closing time to speak to him in person as he wasn't answering his phone. I even told his Dad that Steve was hitting me and he said words to the effect of "I don't give a f*ck". I did call the Police on Steve's mum but they said it was a civil matter as the assault happened on their land, but they offered to put me in touch with "Victim Support" instead which I refused point blank. I got my Mum to phone Steve's parents from Guernsey to try to reason with them, but Mum got no-where either and experienced a volley of abuse from Steve's mother and a marginally more rational, but not helpful conversation from his Father.
The weeks went on and Steve kept assuring me he would be moving in with me on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday etc, but it just wasn't happening and the violence was continuing. My family and friends were so frustrated by me that they were barely talking to me, and if they did I was all but barred from mentioning his name. I had lost count of the final ultimatums I had given him and then let them go until the next time, but somewhere inside I must have been reaching a turning point.
I did break off the relationship for a month or so (and actually had another brief relationship in this time that didn't work out). Steve phoned me back up out of the blue begging to see me again, I weakened and went back to him. The day I left my "brief relationship" that guy too slapped me around the face (domestic violence cycle begins again).
How it Ended
Steve behaved for a couple of weeks but then the domestic violence began again. Another series of ultimatums from me, and then one final one that I actually meant this time. How did this turn around happen? Well I met what turned out to be my future Husband Dave who was already in a marriage on its way to an end, (the wife was having an affair with their eldest Son's best friend, not realising Dave already knew about it).
Dave took me out a couple of times for lunches and drinks, and treated me so well (opening car doors for me etc) that I realised what a relationship should be like, and this gave me strength. Dave was also appalled at how Steve had been treating me, and offered to "sort him out" for me. I wish I had taken him up on the offer now (in fact my cousins had also offered to take Steve "down the garden for a chat", but this was another offer I had mistakenly turned down). At this point I wasn't in love with Dave, I was just grateful for his kindness, and it did boost my self esteem.
Then one night Steve was meant to be away on a coach trip working, and I agreed to meet up with Dave for a drink. Nothing happened, we just enjoyed a few hours together, kissed goodnight and I drove home. When I got there Steve was parked outside the house and accused me of having an affair. I denied it (because this much was true, and let's not forget, Steve was married and doing exactly that himself). I did lie to protect myself from physical harm, and told him I had been out with a female co-worker of mine called Janet and said I hadn't told him because I knew he would have said we were "out on the pull". He didn't believe me, and whilst I was sitting in his front passenger seat he forced his hand up between my legs and his fingers inside me to check if I had semen in there. There was none of course, but what I can only politely describe as "natural secretions" he accused of being semen and wouldn't hear any different. I felt like I had virtually been raped and was disgusted at his behaviour, now he really was on dangerous ground.
The next ultimatum about moving in with me I gave to Steve I meant, only he obviously didn't think so. When unsurprisingly he failed to turn up on the day he was meant to move in I refused to answer his calls. He began calling me at work and eventually I was forced to take the call. By now he was pleading with me to allow him to move in and even offered to move in that very night (claiming he would collect the house keys from me at work, and would be there when I got home). I refused and told him it was too late now. He then tried to impress me by saying how he must love me or he wouldn't be standing in a phone-box in the pouring rain trying to get me to allow him to move in. I was still not impressed and stuck with my decision, fighting my inclination to feel sorry for him (a bad habit I had somehow got into whenever he turned on the tears).
For the next few days he kept on phoning me at home, but by now I was never going to even consider going back to that domestic abuse nightmare, so in the end I told him if he didn't stop calling I would phone not only the Police, but also his wife Joanne. That did the trick, and the calls stopped and I got on with my life.
What I did find out quite by chance several years later was that a woman I worked with had ended up on a blind date with Steve after he advertised in a local newspaper in the lonely hearts column.
Apparently he was going through a divorce! As soon as she worked out who he was based on a conversation I had previously had with her about my domestic violence experiences (she too had been a domestic abuse victim in her past) she told him she had heard all about him from me, and then she walked out of the pub and left him there frantically wondering what exactly I had told her about him (he did try to ask her before she left, but she wouldn't answer him). I just hope it was true about the divorce as maybe Joanne finally found out what a nasty piece of work he really was (especially as she was a nurse herself, so probably saw loads of cases of domestic violence).
The next day he turned up at our work, but when my work colleague came running out to the staff room to tell me she had seen him loitering in the car park I went outside to confront him and warn him off, but he had vanished. I never heard any more of Steve after that.
Ironically Dave and I didn't get together properly for several years afterwards as he wanted to sort out his divorce first. During that time I had one or two other less serious relationships, but when I did get together with Dave I fell in love with him properly. Sadly after 7 years of being together (3 of which we were married for) he died from Colon Cancer (Bowel Cancer) two weeks after being diagnosed. I lost the real love of my life that day, but he had saved me from a violent relationship and I will never forget that.
After Dave died I somehow fell back into that domestic violence cycle when I met up with the original first love of mine back in Guernsey, but that is another story.
Luckily for me ultimately I did meet my current Husband, who has never been violent to me, clearly loves me to pieces, and I love him too, (warts and all).
What doesn't kill you does make you stronger and I know I would not fall into a domestic violence cycle again.
Report domestic violence and don't make the mistake of allowing yourself to become a domestic violence victim as I did.
Remember mental abuse is only a short step away from physical domestic abuse, so look out for the danger signs and get out fast.
Look at domestic violence images and ask yourself if you want to be the next one to end up living like that!
And if you are already in an abusive relationship, remember it only gets worse, you could end up dead, so make sure you are a domestic abuse survivor by leaving now (this applies to both women and men who are victims of abuse).
Choose your relationships carefully, it is actually better to be alone than to live a life of domestic abuse, covered in bruises and never knowing when the next punch is coming.
Definitions of Domestic Abuse/Violence
The Definitions of Abuse Include:
Pressure tactics - sulking, threatening to keep money away from you, disconnecting the telephone line, taking the car away, threatening to commit suicide, taking the children away from you, reporting you to welfare agencies on how you are bringing up the children, lying to your friends and family about you, telling you that you have no choice in any decisions being made.
Disrespect - Constantly putting you down in front of people, not listening to you when you talk, interrupting when you are on the phone, stealing money from your wallet.
Breaking Trust - Lying and withholding information from you.
Isolation - Spying on phonecalls, blocking phonecalls, stating where you can go and where you can't, preventing you from seeing your friends and relatives.
Harassment - Following where you go, spying, checking up on you, opening your mail, checking phone register, embarrassing you in public.
Definition of Domestic Violence:
Threats - Being verbally aggressive by shouting at you, threatening you with a gun or a knife, destroying your personal belongings, breaking things, punching walls, using children as a threat to you by threatening them.
Sexual violence - Making you perform sex acts, forcing sex on you, any degrading treatment done sexually.
Physical violence - punching, slapping, hitting, biting, pinching, kicking, pulling hair out, pushing, shoving, burning, strangling.
Denial - Denying it ever took place, blaming you for this behaviour towards you, begging for forgiveness, saying it will never happen again.
A Woman's Prayer by Rebekah Hixon
Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray for my life I yearn to keep
He just beat me black and blue; He holds me down and bites me too.
It happens too much; when will it end
He’s much too strong; I can’t defend.
If I deserve this, what did I do?
He has my heart; I’m always true.
I never argue; the fights I dread
His fists hurt me; He wants me dead.
I sit in silence; dripping blood down my face
With tears in my eyes; I await his embrace.
He’s always sorry; won’t happen again
His touch now softer; this is the end.
His snores means it’s over; at least for the night
Tomorrow is a new day; yet another fight.
With fear in my soul and pain in my heart
Is this what they mean by “til death do us part”?
I don’t want to die; I can’t live this way
I want it to end…to just go away.
I ache all over, from my head to my feet
If I move I will wake him, I don’t want to be beat.
Now I lay me down to sleep, I must be strong- I will not weep.
My strength must help me live through the night
I pray for courage with all my might.
Lord please help me walk away; Please let me live another day
He’ll eventually kill me, this I know
But I love him Lord, please help me let go.
My prayers go unanswered; I begin to weep
My heart beats get softer; I slowly die in my sleep.
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