The below is a post I wrote for my dear friend @cateleven who kindly hosted it as a guest post on her own blog: One Dames Thoughts
I am truly grateful to her for allowing me that space as it was the first piece I wrote.
When I was 16 I met a boy.
I had a traumatic childhood full of separations, losses, abuse & pain.
I had difficult relationships with my family. My step father had died a few months earlier & I was lost, out of control & vulnerable.
I was in trouble at school, with the police, drinking heavily and generally very angry.
This boy made me feel loved.
And wanted, special, cared for. It was like I’d finally found someone to care for me. A teenage romance but it was everything to me.
It didn’t take long for the abuse to start.
It began with subtle suggestions about the way I dressed.
Then my personality, I needed to calm my attitude down abit. Maybe it was the friends I had, better to not see them probably.
Within a few months I only wore what he liked & spoke only to people he approved of (and I mean LITERALLY only spoke to those people – I had a list). I became quieter, more withdrawn, more jumpy.
I was so frightened of him that I actively avoided people who I knew he didn’t want me associating with. I lost all my friends and was completely isolated. He made me leave my job to work in a factory across the road from him, he told me he would kill me if I left him and I believed him.
And then the physical abuse started. We were walking through the city centre one night after seeing a band and I made a comment about the lead singer that he didn’t like. He hit me so hard I fell on the pavement. I was shaking but didn’t know what to do, I couldn’t run anywhere. He took me home and the next day turned up at work telling me how sorry he was and he would never do it again.
Of course I believed him and of course that wasn’t true.
The next twelve months were horrific. I had so many injuries I struggled to hide them. And the more he did it, the less I resisted. He knew I wouldn’t tell anyone so he got brave. He beat me up in the street, he dragged me out of a pub by my hair in front of people who all looked the other way, he repeatedly punched me in the head and on my ears til they were black.
I was repeatedly raped. Not just in the house, but in the street – wherever he chose.
He made me leave home and go and live with him and his family. His father was equally violent towards his mother and she once told me, “the trouble with you is you keep opening your mouth. Keep it shut and it won’t happen’
I knew this wasn’t right but felt helpless and powerless to do anything and I felt it WAS my fault. He told me often enough.
Eventually he went too far. He beat me up outside my mums house and tried to strangle me. I passed out and when I came round I realised someone had dragged him off me and called the police. I was taken inside my mums house and, bleeding, battered and terrified, was then told by the police officer that they were considering prosecuting me for breach of the peace. Their reasoning was that there had been other (many, many other) incidents of violence and abuse and I had done nothing about it.
They didn’t do anything in the end, but they also didn’t arrest him either, this was the days when this kind of thing was simply, ‘a domestic.’
I found the courage from somewhere to end it. But he stalked me. He slept on the end of my road, I had to sleep downstairs on the settee with the front door barricaded with planks of wood. He caught the same buses as me, waited outside my work morning and evening, if I went anywhere, he was there.
I stopped going out, became withdrawn, anxious, fearful of everything. It took years for me to carve out a life away from him.
He terrified and haunted me for years. Up until about four years ago believe it or not.
New Year’s Eve 2009. I was out with friends in my local and in he walked. One of my friends (male) said, ‘please don’t let him spoil your night’ and in that moment something clicked.
No I fucking wouldn’t. I was suddenly angrier than I had ever been in my life. He had made my life hell for over 25 years and it was going to stop. Now.
I waited til he went outside for a smoke and I followed him. I stood next to him and simply said, ‘if you ever come near me again, I will fucking kill you. Do you understand me?’
He looked at me. And nodded. He could see I was serious.
I felt as though I had just set myself free. It was over. He was nobody, a bully who chose vulnerable women to control.
And you know what? I didn’t forgive him and I haven’t forgotten. It’s part of who I am. I’m still angry but it’s easier to manage now.
But his legacy is still around; anxiety, hyper vigilance, fear of being in a relationship, needing to placate, fear of raised voices, fear of disagreements, anxiety about alcohol, always searching for sub texts, always looking for potential flashpoints, fear of asserting myself in relationships, watchfulness & always needing permission to do something alone or with friends.
Unfortunately it wasn’t the only abusive relationship I had either.
I now have a partner who doesn’t try to control me or physically abuse me. Someone who cares and listens and understands.
So I win.
Thank you for reading and thank you to Cat for allowing me the space to write. This is the first time I’ve told this story and there is a lot missing as you can imagine.
I am grateful to the women who have given me my voice back & created a space where I can tell my story.