(Name witheld to preserve the author's anonymity.)
I was 20 when I married a man I thought could do no wrong, and loved me as I loved him. How wrong could I have been? Why did I marry so young, some may ask? My mother left my father when I was just 16, for domestic violence. I came home from school one day, to find a note, saying my mother had gone to the dentist. My mother took my two younger brothers with her, and my younger sister, and went into a refuge for battered women. My father was as shocked as we all were, but deep down, he knew the reasons why she’d left.
Growing up, and looking back, as children we didn’t show our mother any respect, as we weren’t taught to. My father treated my mother like an un-paid servant, expecting the house to be immaculate, food to be served on time, and the children to be seen and not heard! My father constantly patronised my mother, ridiculing her when he didn’t agree with her or her opinions. My mother suffered physical violence, although I never saw my father hit or physically abuse her. It certainly does explain the high-necked jumpers to hide the bruises on her neck though. As children, and I’m one of 7, we grew up fearing my father, who had a terrible temper. He would bite his knuckle in temper, which sent us running, so we feared him, instead of loving him. I realise now, what he must have been like as a husband, although its taken years come to that realisation. My father bought the shopping, not allowing my mother control, saying she wasted money. He chose her clothes, and when we needed new clothes, he always chose. We weren’t allowed to mix with certain people, which was snobbery at its worst. We also lived a strict Catholic lifestyle in all forms, going to church every Sunday, and praying as a family during the week.
How then did my upbringing have an impact on my married life? Well, as statistics go, it’s said we marry the man similar to our father. Little did I realise I was heading down the same path as my mother, as I was adamantly determined to be different.
From the start of my marriage, I noticed a change in my husband, although subtle to begin with. He would leave me for on my own for many hours, to socialise with his friends, only returning to eat, then disappearing again. He started to comment on how I dressed, and how I wore my hair and make-up. He would wake me up in the early hours of the morning, knowing I had work the next day, to make love. I’d relent, knowing once the ‘act’ was over, he’d play his music, but I’d be able to sleep. He wasn’t working, so I was the main breadwinner, but he didn’t see any harm in this. The physical violence started later in our marriage, although if I’m honest, the pushing and shoving, I just dismissed as his volatile temper.
My husband was emotionally violent, and very jealous. He constantly accused me of wanting to have sexual relationships with his friends. He even accused one of his friends, to his face of wanting to have a sexual relationship with me. He questioned his friend, as to whether or not we had we already had intercourse. His friend, and indeed me, were openly shocked, and very embarrassed. We didn’t see his friend from that day onwards, which made me guilty, in my husband’s eyes. If I looked at men in the street, I was accused of wanting sexual relationships with them. Worse still, if a man looked at me he’d say to them ‘umm she’s nice eh? You want her?’ I felt cheapened by these ordeals, and no amount of pleading would change his paranoid, jealous behaviour.
I fell pregnant, almost two years into our marriage, and it was planned, although a shock for my husband. Knowing that I’d have to stop working angered my husband, which is when the ‘real’ violence started. I clearly remember one occasion. I started bleeding early into the pregnancy, and was told to take three weeks of work, and to rest, having had three threatened miscarriages. I was taking a bath, and the housework needed doing, which was my domain, as the wife. My husband came into the bathroom, accusing me of laziness, and demanded I get out of the bath and clean. I tried to explain that I had to rest. He exploded, throwing a tennis ball at me, and saying he would drown me in the bath, if I didn’t get out. I tried to explain that I needed to rest, and couldn’t he help with the housework, which angered him further. He started throwing objects around, narrowly missing me, until I relented and got out of the bath.
Trying to not blame myself for my husbands behaviour, which is common, I’ve come to learn, became a daily occurrence. I’d return from work, and I’d have to start cooking and cleaning. Whilst at work, I again started bleeding, and was rushed to hospital. My husband met me at the hospital, sitting a distance away from me with a friend, which was highly embarrassing. I was given the all clear, and again told to rest, and signed off work for a further week. My ex-husband became intolerable whilst I was off work, again! He’d moan at me to get up in the morning, to make his breakfast, and clean. I knew that I couldn’t carry on with his mood swings and temper, and I knew his behaviour would worsen. I made an appointment, secretly to visit a mother and baby hostel, run by a charity. I explained to the manager, my situation, thinking she would refuse to take me on, and I was relieved when she offered me a room to stay in until I had the baby. I was told I could move in straight away, and would be helped in finding permanent accommodation.
I rang my younger sister for moral support, and she agreed to come as soon as my husband went out. I rang a taxi, to collect my belongings, on a day my husband was out with friends. Packing my belonging was very scary, as I knew my husband could return at any time, and try to stop me leaving. As we were loading the final bags into the taxi, my husband did return, leaving me no option, but to leave without the rest of my belongings. My husband shouted at the taxi, demanding to know where I was going as we drove away. I was shaking and sweating, and trying to remain calm, as was my sister. Arriving at the hostel was such a relief. I un-packed, and my sister was allowed to stay for the night. Relieved, I prepared to return to work the next day. Upon arriving at work, I was called into the manager’s office, where personnel, my manager and my deputy manager were sat around a table. I was told that my husband was claiming un-employment benefit in my maiden name! I was then told that because I was on probation, they would have to dismiss me. So, not only was I separated, pregnant, and living in a hostel, I was now un-employed. My sister rang me that night saying my husband had been continually telephoning to ascertain my whereabouts, which she didn’t divulge.
I set about preparing for the birth of my baby, as best I could, using my meagre funds. My husband tried everything in his power to apologise for his behaviour, trying to make me feel guilty for bring up a child as a ‘single parent’. I’d read about single parents in the media, and more often that not, they were portrayed negatively. Determined to build a life for my baby, and myself, my pregnancy progressed smoothly, and was enjoyable. The baby was two weeks late, when I went into labour. Upon my waters breaking, I panicked, not wanting to give birth alone! My ex-husband met me secretly at the hospital, as he wasn’t allowed in the hostel. Our baby son was born, after a very quick 2-hour labour, weighing 8lbs 6ozs. Immediately after his birth, as I showered, my husband starting moaning at me, not to leave our son, that anyone could harm him. Paranoia was a huge part of my husband’s personality. Exhausted after giving birth, I was made to feel guilty for showering afterwards! I stayed in hospital for two days, feeling frightened, of the prospect of being a single parent, but joyous, as I had a beautiful healthy baby boy. I returned to the hostel, for a further six months, and my husband continually tried to persuade me to return to him, and give our marriage another chance.
I moved into a new flat with my son, and stupidly, after a few months, I decided that single parenthood was difficult, and my son had a right to live with both his parents. My husband was of course delighted, and moved into our flat. At first, my husband was everything I could have wished for, but his behaviour soon changed. My husband started going away for weekends, to stay with friends. He was jealous at the attention I lavished on our son, saying he was left out.
My husband was convicted of benefit fraud, whilst our son was a small baby, and he was unable to work, so we were both on benefits at home. My husband’s temper was worsening. He would be become angry, for no apparent reason. On one occasion that he had gone out; I went to the library, to look up domestic violence literature. I read up on domestic violence, realising that all of my husband’s behaviour fitted exactly into the label of domestic violence. I decided to get advice. I returned home, and telephoned a friend, whose opinion I trusted. My husband returned home, during the telephone call. Without even asking who was on the phone, he started shouting at me, to get off the telephone, and threatening violence. My friend telephoned me about 15 minutes later, and said she’d rang a taxi, and I should get it to her place. I told my husband I was going to my friends, and left, picking up the pushchair to carry it down the stairs. My husband grabbed my handbag, and as I tried to steady myself, he emptied all the money in my purse, saying I didn’t need money, which he said was his.
At my friend's, I told her the situation of my marriage. My friend said I had to think about leaving the marriage, as his behaviour would only worsen, and I had my son to consider. My friend was a single parent, and was a wonderful role model. We telephoned a solicitor, who said she’d post some information to me, at my friend’s address. About 3-4 days later, my friend telephoned, but my husband wouldn’t let me speak with my friend on the phone, lying that I was in the bath, and that he’d get me to ring her back. I left our baby at home with my husband and went to the pay phone to ring my friend. I ignored my husband’s comments, that I was neglecting our son. My friend told me of the letter, when I telephoned her, and I decided to apply for an injunction, and file for divorce. I told her I’d be in touch in a few days, so we could fill out forms, and could telephone the solicitor together. Upon returning approximately 10 minutes later, my husband had locked me out of the flat. He finally opened the door 20 minutes later, and our son was in the front room. My ex-husband started shouting, that our son had awoken, and how could I have left him crying? I tried to get our son, and put him to bed, but my husband refused to let my near him, throwing me away from him, into the living room wall. I tried continually to get our son, and put him to bed, but my husband kept throwing me at the wall. He consistently refused to let me near our son. In pain, angry, helpless, and utterly exhausted, I went to bed. My husband came to bed about 10 minutes later, putting our son into his cot.
At my friends a few days later, I telephoned the solicitor, and made an appointment to see her. The next day, my solicitor filled out forms, for legal aid, and we applied for an ouster injunction, and started filing for a divorce. My solicitor advised that an ouster injunction would get my husband out of the flat, through a court order. She also advised that I move into a ‘safe’ house until the injunction came through. I telephoned the mother and baby charity, explained the situation, and was told that a room was available. I could move into it immediately, and stay until the injunction was granted. Feeling more frightened than ever, I returned home, hoping my husband wasn’t at home. Luckily he was out, but as I was packing, he returned, and started shouting at me, asking where I was going? I had to confess that I was leaving him, so he started kicking my legs and criticising me. I totally ignored him, and continued packing. As I picked up my bag, my husband spat in my face, calling me a prostitute. My husband said no man would ever want me, I was ugly, and he that he wished he’d never married me. As I picked up our son, and prepared to leave, my husband assaulted me. Asking my husband how he could use violence against me, whilst I held our son, gave me a shocking answer. ‘Oh, don’t worry, when our son is old enough, I’ll teach him to beat you too’, was my husbands reply. As I left, I knew I had made the right decision.
Both my son and I stayed in the mother and baby hostel for the next three weeks. At the court hearing I agreed to all his demands, just wanting him out of the flat. My husband had to leave the flat, which incidentally was in my sole name, by 12 midday the following Saturday. I waited until 2pm, the following Saturday, and returned to my flat. I changed the locks immediately, even before I had un-packed my bags. The flat was virtually empty. My husband had taken cutlery, crockery, rugs, towels, the television etc. I was just relieved that he’d left, but fearful in case he came back. Constant telephone calls from my husband were a daily occurrence, with him ringing anything up to 10 times a day. I stopped answering the phone, knowing he’d only shout abuse at me. The court dates, for our divorce and an injunction with the power of arrest attached, finally arrived. I brought our son, and two of my friends came to support me. Whilst everything was finalised in the court, my friends looked after our son. The injunction, with the power of arrest attached, was granted, meaning my husband would go into prison, if he came within a few miles of my flat. My husband was now on the way to being an ex-husband, and my divorce would come through within 6-8 weeks.
I returned to the flat, relieved that I was rid of my husband, and started applying for college courses. I knew I needed further qualifications to be able to provide for our son, and eventually wanted to go to university. Unfortunately, college wasn’t an option, as their nursery on campus, only held 18 places for over 1000 students. Feeling angered with the government, for not providing adequate childcare for single parents, and parents as a whole, I wrote to a local news television station. I appeared on a news programme, saying how unfair the government was for making it so difficult for single parents to return to education. A retired lecturer saw the news programme, and wrote to the station offering to teach me A levels for free. The television station contacted me, saying she had written, and when I contacted her, and checked out her references, agreed to her teaching me. She refused to charge me, saying she was retired, and needed to keep her brain active! I thanked her, and started preparing for two A Levels, which she said she would teach me two days a week, in the evenings from 7pm-9pm, at my flat. My teacher was a dream come true, as it gave me a sense of worth to be studying, and I knew I would be suitably prepared for university. My teacher said she’d help me with application process for university.
One night, after my teacher had left, I heard a knock at the door. Thinking it was my teacher; I opened the door without thinking. My husband came into my flat, pleading with me to let him stay. He said a friend was using his room with his girlfriend, and would I mind if he stayed the night. I refused, but he stayed anyway, saying he was already in, so he might as well stay. Feeling uncomfortable in his presence, I said I was going to bed, and left him some blankets so he could sleep on the sofa, which he amazingly agreed to.
Going to bed, I checked on our son, who was asleep in his bedroom, and I went to bed. At about 2am the next morning, my husband, who refused to stop, raped me and knowing I would wake our son, I couldn’t scream. I kept saying stop to my husband, but he refused. Afterwards, my husband went into the living room, and went to sleep. I felt so scared, and knew I just wanted the morning to come, so I could telephone the police. The next morning, my husband refused to leave the flat, until midday. As soon as he left, I telephoned the police, who found my husband wandering up and down the road outside the flat. He was arrested, and put into prison, for breaking the injunction and raping me.
I dropped the charges against my husband, as I was threatened by one of his friends, which my husband denied any knowledge of. The council emergency moved my son and me into a new flat, about 5 miles away.
I started a new life, finishing my A Levels, and going on to university. Too many further incidents with my husband occurred, to mention, including my husband again committing fraud against us. Both my son and I went into hiding in my 3rd year at university, for six months. I moved nearer to my immediate family, and settled into a working life, finishing my degree through distance learning in the evenings.
I still live with the fear of domestic violence, as a government agency wrote to my husband, with my home address, and personal details. My husband is a bully, who thrives on control. United Nations conducted a worldwide survey into domestic violence. It is estimated in Britain that nearly 1 million families live with domestic violence. Domestic Violence is the hidden danger of marriage and relationships, and a serious form of control, in the weak-minded, insecure people of the world.
Let us not kid ourselves that we have conquered the problem. How many years have charities and well meaning celebrities, been fund-raising, and yet the problem still exists? How can we cleanse our society of such hatred and anger? Domestic Violence can happen in any culture, and has no class distinction. Domestic Violence will continue on its merry go round, taking more passengers along the way. We have to be the ones to stop the vicious circle. Write to your local MP, lobby the government to change the law, and provide more support for the survivors of domestic violence.
TO ALL READERS- PLEASE - if you have suffered or are suffering domestic violence, seek help and a safe refuge. Tormentors like this will never change, no matter how sorry they may seem afterwards. No matter what they may say, this is not your fault. You may end up losing your life and so may your children.
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