‘I NEEDED TO GET AWAY OR I WAS GO­ING TO DIE’

The real life story of one woman’s 15-year or­deal

Essentials - - Contents -

WHEN YOU’RE A TEENAGER YOU JUST THINK ABOUT THE HERE AND NOW;

YOU DON’T THINK ABOUT THE FU­TURE OR WHETHER YOU’RE DAT­ING THE KIND OF PER­SON YOU WANT TO SPEND YOUR LIFE WITH. I met Jack* when I was 14. Even from the be­gin­ning, he was very con­trol­ling. He would make an is­sue if I wanted to see my friends and would al­ways call to check where I was. I was so young, I wasn’t men­tally equipped to deal with the ma­nip­u­la­tion and by the time I turned 16, the re­la­tion­ship had be­come more se­ri­ous.

Early signs

My par­ents didn’t like Jack, but I was stub­born and wanted to rebel. He had his own flat, so I’d go round to see him there; he rarely came to my house. The first sign of Jack’s vi­o­lent streak was when he smashed a mir­ror with a ham­mer dur­ing an ar­gu­ment. I’d never seen any­one be­have like that be­fore, so I was re­ally

fright­ened, but I stayed and even­tu­ally he calmed down and apol­o­gised. I didn’t tell my par­ents what had hap­pened.

After­wards, I did think about leav­ing him a few times, but he would get on his hands and knees, cry­ing. I’d al­ways feel sorry for him and be­lieved he’d change. Then at 19, I got preg­nant and Jack wasn’t sup­port­ive at all – in fact, he be­came nasty, say­ing he’d make sure the baby was taken away. Even af­ter our son ar­rived, he was so ir­re­spon­si­ble; he couldn’t keep a job, never had money to help out with the baby and although he said he’d find some­where for us to live, that never hap­pened ei­ther. Even­tu­ally, I moved out of my par­ents’ house into a mother and baby unit, then got my own coun­cil flat.

An­gry out­bursts

For a while after­wards, things got bet­ter, but it wasn’t long be­fore he turned vi­o­lent to­wards me again. He would push me into fur­ni­ture, try to stran­gle me, kick me and slam my head into the wall. He’d tell me I was stupid and use words I didn’t un­der­stand on pur­pose just to mock me. I wouldn’t let him move in with me, which be­came one of the big­gest is­sues of our re­la­tion­ship. So he would come round to visit the baby and stay over some nights, but I’d of­ten tell him to leave.

It was when I was preg­nant with my daugh­ter at 23 that things got re­ally bad. He would get an­gry and choke me, pin me up against the wall un­til I had red-raw stran­gu­la­tion marks around my neck. I would wear polo-necks to hide the ev­i­dence and just change the sub­ject if my mum asked ques­tions.

Af­ter each out­burst, Jack was al­ways so apologetic and would wear me down emo­tion­ally to the point where it was just eas­ier to take him back. If I tried not to speak to him, he would sneak into my house, or sleep out­side in his car to catch me when I did the school run. He'd call again and again and leave mes­sages. The times when I did feel brave, he would re­vert to try­ing to stran­gle me to con­trol me.

My best friend en­cour­aged me to go to the po­lice, but I was scared they’d take my chil­dren away. I loved my kids so much and I wanted to do bet­ter – I felt like I was fail­ing them as a mother. They were the only joy in my life and the one thing that kept me go­ing. I started tak­ing evening classes and even­tu­ally I man­aged to get a di­ploma in child­care and was able to get a job.

An­other chance

A while af­ter I had my daugh­ter, I got preg­nant again, but lost the baby af­ter Jack was ag­gres­sive to­wards me. Af­ter that, I stood my ground about not tak­ing him back and told him he needed to get help. He did do ev­ery­thing un­der the sun to show he had changed. We’d meet up and just talk and he’d be re­ally at­ten­tive – even my friends no­ticed a dif­fer­ence. Even­tu­ally, I agreed to give him an­other chance and for a year, ev­ery­thing was fine. I fi­nally thought I was get­ting my hap­pily ever af­ter. But things turned again when I got preg­nant with my youngest son in 2013.

I was five months preg­nant and busy try­ing to get the kids’ break­fast ready when Jack came down­stairs and started shout­ing at me. He sent the chil­dren up­stairs and jumped on my back, put his arm round my throat and choked me. He took me to my knees and I couldn’t breathe for the long­est time. I felt all my re­ac­tions and pulse slow­ing down, and gen­uinely thought he was go­ing to kill me. It fi­nally clicked; I needed to get away or I was go­ing to die.

Jack had called the school and told them the kids weren’t com­ing in; but hours later I man­aged to con­vince him I needed to go out and get some­thing for them to eat. I was ter­ri­fied to leave the kids with him, but as soon as I got out of the house, I called a friend, who took me straight to the po­lice sta­tion. I made a state­ment and Jack was ar­rested that day.

He told the po­lice a dif­fer­ent story about what had ac­tu­ally hap­pened and was re­leased on bail un­til his court date three months later. When it came around, I was eight months preg­nant and had to give ev­i­dence. It was ter­ri­fy­ing, but I was al­lowed to do it be­hind a screen so Jack and I couldn’t see each other. I held it to­gether, but as soon as I got out­side, I broke down in tears.

The judge found Jack guilty and he had to at­tend a do­mes­tic abuse pro­gramme and was given a 12-month sus­pended sen­tence. There was also a re­strain­ing order to pre­vent him see­ing the kids or me in­def­i­nitely. He has bro­ken the re­strain­ing order once when he turned up at our door with a note say­ing he wanted to see the kids. He was taken to court and had to pay a fine and if he turns up again, he could face five years in jail – it’s re­as­sur­ing that the law is on my side.

If Jack wanted to see the kids le­gally, he’d have to go through the courts, but they don’t want to see him any­way. Af­ter he was ar­rested, my son told me there’d been times when Jack had beaten him, too. And they also wit­nessed his vi­o­lence to­wards me.

Start­ing over

Af­ter the sen­tenc­ing, I asked the coun­cil to help me move, so we could start again some­where new. Since then, the kids and I have all flour­ished. They’re do­ing great in school and I have a job as a carer. I have also met a won­der­ful man called Mark, who is great with the chil­dren and I to­tally trust him. We were mar­ried last year in a beau­ti­ful ser­vice.

I now vol­un­teer with Refuge to help other women go­ing through sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tions. Although I didn’t use the char­ity my­self un­til af­ter I got away from Jack, it helped me learn that what I had been through wasn’t my fault and to stop blam­ing my­self. I used to feel so guilty for let­ting my kids down and not pro­tect­ing them; but now I wake up feel­ing at peace be­cause I feel like the mum they should have al­ways had. We’ve fi­nally found our happy end­ing.

IF YOU’RE EX­PE­RI­ENC­ING DO­MES­TIC VI­O­LENCE, YOU’RE NOT ALONE. REFUGE CAN SUP­PORT YOU. VISIT REFUGE.ORG.UK

‘He would wear me down emo­tion­ally to the point that it was just eas­ier to take him back’ ‘When I was five months preg­nant, he jumped on my back, put his arm around my throat and choked me’

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