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A Survivor's Story - We Believe You - SALT & CARAMEL
This interview with a domestic abuse and rape survivor shows the importance of the Mumsnet We Believe You campaign. Read the posts of other bloggers and rape survivors on our blog hop, follow the discussion on Talk and join in the chat on Twitter, using #WeBelieveYou (Trigger Warning) How did you meet your ex? What attracted you to him? I met him on a night out. His friend approached me on his behalf and forced an introduction. I wasn’t at all physically attracted to him but he had a gentle voice and a kind of vulnerability about him. I remember thinking that he seemed gormless ;-). He told me he would take me out but I said no, I wasn’t interested in dating. He turned up at the club again the following two weeks running and I was flattered. When on the third week he once again told me he would take me out I agreed, but only as friends, I wasn’t interested in anything else, I still wasn’t attracted to him. I do distinctly remember thinking that he seemed harmless and that he wouldn’t hurt me. He came across as so gentle and kind but I have no idea what attracted me or how I ended up getting sucked in. Was there anything that, looking back, you now recognise as a “red flag”? Did any of your family or friends spot anything and warn you about him? Looking back now the first red flag came before we had even had our first date. I had given him my telephone number so he could call me to arrange our first night out. Two weeks later he rang just as I was getting ready to go out. He didn’t want to take me out as he was going out with his friend but he wanted me to meet him at the end of the night. I told him I was going out with a group of friends so wouldn’t be able to do that. His tone changed and it was obvious he wasn’t very happy but I didn’t really think much of it. I didn’t hear from him for about four weeks after that when he rang to ask me if I wanted to go out for a drink. I agreed and he picked me up. He arrived 15 minutes late. He sat in his car and waited for me to go out, he made no apology for being late and after saying “Hi” he drove in absolute silence. He drove to his house and told me he was dropping the car off and we were walking to the local pub. Once in the pub he told me he wasn’t happy that I hadn’t been available to meet him at the end of the night, that he expected his girlfriend to want to see him. I laughed thinking he was joking but no, he was deadly serious, as far as he was concerned by agreeing to go out with him I was now his girlfriend and so his possession. He wasn’t interested in meeting my friends, he told me never to ask him to attend my work parties or nights out because he wouldn’t be going. He put on such a good act in front of those friends and colleagues that he did meet that they didn’t spot anything but strangely few of them liked him, they thought he was ‘odd’. I have no family other than my children and I didn’t allow him to meet them for quite some time so I had no one to warn or advise me or see the things that I was missing. He also decided on the days we would see each other and he rang me on the days in between. I realised later the phone calls were his way of checking up on me. I also later discovered that he would drive past my house to make sure I was home. He could tell whether I was home or out by the lighting as I would leave certain lamps on if I went out. He got to know my behaviour pattern by quietly stalking me. I experienced all of the red flags in the blog apart from the apologising. In the 11 years I knew him he never once apologised to me, not once. What was the first incident, when you realised that something really was not right? Was it physical or emotional? The first real incident, the one that had me thinking that something was badly wrong came when I was 7 weeks pregnant with our daughter. I used to work late on a Wednesday and he would cook tea for me at his house. I arrived to find him looking agitated and upset. Something was obviously wrong but when I asked if he was ok he snapped at me that he was fine. I was worried as I hadn’t seen him like this before so I asked him what the matter was. He turned on me, shouting loudly right in my face, his nose almost touching mine, his face contorted in anger, shoulders back, chest out, towering over me, he spat at me that the only thing that was wrong with him was me. He pushed me away from him with his forearm across my chest and he left the house. I was left crying and wondering what the hell I had done wrong. I was panicking because I was newly pregnant and I felt trapped, I didn’t know what to do. I was scared and confused. It did go through my mind that I should leave but I was already a divorced, single mum to three older children and I was (stupidly) worried about what people would think of me. I waited three hours for him to come home. He walked in the house, got undressed and got into bed without speaking a single word to me. I tried talking to him but he totally blanked me so I left and went home to my own house. He ignored me for a couple of days and then rang me as though nothing had ever happened. I was just so relieved that everything was back to normal. I didn’t try discussing what had happened because I was scared, I had seen a side to him I didn’t like and I didn’t want to risk seeing it again. A couple of weeks later he said “Your face was a picture the other night, when I shouted at you. You were really scared of me weren’t you?” He had a sick grin on his face, he was proud of the fact that he had frightened me. He showed no remorse or shame whatsoever. The shouting in my face became a regular thing, he seemed to like to see me frightened and in tears and wouldn’t stop until that happened. He had been up and down with his moods prior to that, speaking, not speaking but that was the first time I felt scared, worried and out of my depth. That was the beginning of me walking on eggshells. Was there an escalation of violence? Oh yes. It started with pushing. He thought pushing was ok as he wasn’t hitting me. The pushing got harder, he wouldn’t be happy until he had pushed me to the floor. He would use his forearm and all of his force across my chest/neck. He didn’t believe me that it hurt because he was ‘only pushing’ me. That progressed into deliberately pushing me into door handles, my head into door frames, shaped end of the banister. I would be covered in bruises but in his eyes it was ok because he hadn’t hit me and he hadn’t given me the bruises. When we shared a bed he would order me to sleep on the sofa if he was unhappy with me. I once refused and was elbowed so hard in the back until I actually fell out of bed. After that I simply slept on the sofa when his mood was bad. There was also the tickling. He would start tickling me, pretending he was having fun but it wasn’t fun, it was painful, he would deliberately hurt me and protesting would then give him licence to shout and rage at me. I felt I was being set up for abuse. The very last time he attacked me was February 4th 2007. He had his hands around my neck and was squeezing hard. His face was emotionless and his eyes were cold. I honestly thought I was going to die, he was killing me. He had me pressed against the wall and I was trapped. With all of my strength I drew back my hand and I punched him in the side of the head. He was shocked so let go but came at me again so I kicked him. He looked stunned but he didn’t stop so neither did I. Each time he came towards me I kicked him. I screamed at him never to touch me again, never to lay a finger on me or shout in my face ever again. (He never simply shouted, he never shouted from a distance, he would have to have his nose pressing against mine, spitting in my face, his chest pinned against me). He went crazy! He was ranting and raving, stomping around the house shouting and swearing. He left the house and I followed him outside. He pushed me up against the wall and threatened me, shouting and swearing in my face. Our neighbour was stood outside and watched on in disgust. He got in his car and drove off, stopping at the end of the drive to open his car door and hurl more vile abuse at me. I just stood in silence watching him. A few minutes later he came back. I was shaking like a leaf, petrified, feeling sick. This had all happened in front of my children. I was so scared of what was going to happen, it was his house and he wanted me out (every few weeks he would want me out of his house, for no reason, he would switch into this other person). He came back in the house, went upstairs and started packing a bag. I panicked, I was scared and I asked him not to do this, to please not go. As he left the house I told him I loved him. He didn’t speak one single word to me throughout, he just drove off. As I closed the door behind him I turned to see my son looking at me, shaking his head in disgust because I had just told the monster who had done all that that I loved him. I felt totally ashamed of myself and embarrassed. I felt I had failed my children. Telling his I loved him was a survival thing, I had no idea what he was going to do, I had enraged him and to feel safe I had to get him back onside. I felt ashamed and disgusted with myself for hitting him, I felt I had lowered myself to his level and that I was now as bad as him, even though at the time I felt I had no choice. He came back 3 days later like a meek little lamb. Of course everything was my fault, he was the victim. I told him I had been in touch with Women’s Aid and the police and that I had been given a code to quote so if ever he hit me again he would be arrested. It was a lie, a survival tac tic but it worked, he didn’t touch me again, he found other ways to hurt me. By this time I had my own room. On a number of occasions I woke from sleep to find him having sex with me. Regardless of how much I protested he would carry on, saying nothing,...