Domestic abuse effects us all. Here are people from all walks of life sharing their experiences...
"Alcohol can fuel domestic abuse but also the sadistic characteristic of pinpointing the vulnerable"
WENDY, Artist and ACTIVIST
I would just like to state that my childhood was spent with violence through the backdrop of World War 2 and then the inflicted damage by my father towards my mother! On reflection alcohol can fuel domestic abuse but also the sadistic characteristic of pinpointing the vulnerable.
"I was lucky enough to have family strong enough to .... teach me how to forgive"
AIGANA, MODEL, ARTIST AND FASHION DESIGNER
My father beat me unconscious but I have never hated him for that. I have never seen him again after what happened. I was lucky to have family strong enough to take me from him, protect me and teach me how to forgive. I pray for him every single day, so he can get strength to understand what he has done and repent. Now I am a mother myself, and my daughters have never met their grandfather.
"I never thought I could be a victim of anything like this as I ignorantly pictured women in abusive relationships to be quiet and timid"
SOPHIE, mother and crystal healer
My name is Sophie Niechcial, and as a survivor of Domestic abuse I feel compelled to share my story, in the hope that by me speaking out I may perhaps help even just one other woman out there struggling with a similar situation. I remember how isolated I felt whilst I was trapped in my abusive situation, as if I was the only one and nobody understood, I definitely think hearing from someone who had been there themselves would have helped me knowing I wasn't alone. Especially as the type of abuse I was mainly suffering (sexual), I had not really heard of women going through this with an intimate partner, I didn't think something like this could occur with a boyfriend/ ex partner, which kept me silent for longer as I felt like it would be brushed off since he was someone I had been intimate with before. Let me start from the beginning.
Firstly, I would like to say that I went through sexual abuse and rape as a child/ teenager, which I am not entirely comfortable at this stage in my healing going into all the ins and outs of, however I feel this is important to mention as perhaps this added to my vulnerability. Julian was aware of my past history, he was also the one who comforted me when I cried, held me and told me it would be alright. Yet, knowing what I'd already been through, he was about to put me through the nightmare all over again.
I had first met Julian as a 17 year old, we had a casual fling (probably lasting a few weeks or month or so), though lost contact when I moved out the area for a while. Fast forward to the age of 21, I was a newly single Mum to my beautiful 4 4month old baby girl. Relationships were the last thing on my mind, as I was still hurt after my Daughter's dad left me when I announced my pregnancy. Anyway, by chance one day I bumped into Julian around my local area. We got chatting, he seemed to have matured since I knew him previously, and he was extremely charming and sweet.
From there, we kept in contact and started seeing each other. I didn't expect it to become anything serious, I thought it was just going to be casual between us again. Though Julian seemed to be taking an interest and genuinely seemed to care about me, or so I thought. I let my guard down with him over time, and soon we became an item. Julian was everything I wanted in a boyfriend, he was funny, sweet, always there for me and wanted to spend all his time with me- I saw this as a positive at first, now I know this is a red flag in a relationship. He always wanted to know what I was doing and who I was with. Sometimes, it got a bit too intense and a bit much, especially when he started checking up on me; Going through my phone, turning up unannounced when I was out with my friends, bombarding me with calls whenever I met up with anyone apart from me. I thought it was just because he cares about me. He was good with my Daughter and helped out with shopping, we would go for walks in the park with my dogs. People used to comment on what a lovely couple we were and I felt like we were a family. He became my best friend. I soon discovered Julian had a temper, as I saw him lose it with other people- never did I think that would happen with me though.
Eventually, Julian's jealousy started getting too much and I discovered he had actually been being unfaithful to me. As well as the cheating, I soon realised he had a gambling habit which was spiralling out of control. So, I decided to call things off with him. He came over to my flat and I tried to end things with him, I still wanted to remain friends but I told him I couldn't be with him any more. Julian cried, which shocked me, but his tears soon turned to anger and he told me I couldn't leave him. I stuck to my word though and told him I meant it. And that was the first time Julian attacked me. I fought him as much as I could but he ended up raping me. The first thing he said when he got off me was "Look what you made me do, it's not nice knowing someone doesn't want you anymore." I was so scared and in so much shock. After that, I was too scared to end things with him. I tried to save our relationship and he agreed he would give me time after what had happened. I thought may be we could work things out. Julian promised me nothing like that would ever happen again. Though that turned out to be a lie. Julian began hitting me and the rapes became a regular occurrence. I was confused. I'd heard of women being beaten by their partners, but not raped. In my mind, I knew I couldn't tell anyone. I felt embarrassed of another failed relationship, embarrassed about what he was doing to me, scared that nobody would believe me- scared of what he would do if I told anyone. He made so many threats, that he would get me gang raped, harm my family, harm my pets etc. I thought I could just ignore the problem and it would go away... I was in denial about what was happening. However, things didn't get better, the violence worsened over time. Julian would also slap me, grab me by the throat, hit me, he kicked me in the face one time, and even spat in my face. One occasion he pushed me through a glass door. When he started hitting me in front of my Daughter, I knew I had to get out the relationship. He was physically, sexually, financially and spiritually abusing me. I couldn't take it anymore. He had bullied his way into moving in with me, though I managed to trick him into moving his stuff out one day and called things off with him once and for all. I thought things would end there, but they didn't. Julian began to stalk me, following me everywhere, and sitting in his car parked outside my house. He broke into my house on occasions, getting in through the window and forcing his way in through the front door. I tried to hide what was going on as I didn't want to face it, but soon my friends, family and even neighbours were growing suspicious. Eventually, after admitting to a couple of friends what was going on, they told my parents behind my back, who then went to the police to report it all. At first, I refused to cooperate with the investigation, though I realised I couldn't carry on the way I was. Julian was arrested and remanded in custody until the case went to trial. The court case was horrendous, it was one of the most humiliating and traumatic experiences of my life. The defence barrister was so brutal when he cross examined me. At the end of the week long trial, I felt suicidal. Thankfully though, due to so much evidence (texts sent from him to me, threatening to rape me, then texts apologising after and so on), he was found guilty of 6 rapes and 1 count of sexual assault all against me. In July 2014, He was sentenced to 13 years in prison. Getting justice was an incredible feeling of relief and victory, although this was just the beginning of my road to recovery. Over time, Julian had chipped away at me and broke any confidence I had- he would call me ugly and tell me I was only good for emptying his sack in, and say the most horrible stuff to me. I began comfort eating and piled on lots of weight in a short space of time and drinking more alcohol than I should, as ways of coping. I had also self harmed in the past and was left with awful scars all over my arms. Gradually, with the help of counselling and therapy, having a good support network of friends and connecting with other domestic violence survivors, seeking help from charities such as Solace and Rape Crisis, I began to regain back control over my life. I lost 6 stones of the weight I'd gained in under a year, spending time in the gym working out and getting myself back to good health. I covered my arms with tattoos to help disguise my scars, although they will always be there underneath the ink. I also went from being totally silent and in denial about the abuse, to speaking out about what Julian had done to me at charity events, workshops and to the media; him being named and shamed in the press gave me a sense of satisfaction, and it felt empowering being able to tell my story, as abuse thrives in darkness and isolation. Bringing it all out into the light and in the open was a weight off my shoulders.
Everybody has their own, unique road to healing and recovery, and some of whats worked for me may not be for others and vice versa. Also, everybody has their own time frame for recovery, so I would say for anybody who has been or is still going through Domestic abuse to please be patient with yourselves. For me, I am coming to accept that I will never fully be healed, however I have worked and am continuing to work towards healing as much as I possibly can, so I can have a good quality of life and happiness. I never thought I could be a victim of anything like this, as I ignorantly pictured women in abusive relationships to be quiet and timid, whereas I can be quite loud and out there at times. If this can affect me, it can happen to anyone of any background at any point in their life.
"I'm not a victim, nor will I be defined by how others want me to be"
Helen, Chair of Solace Women’s Aid
I was emotionally and physically abused by my father throughout my childhood. He was a controlling, charming and aggressive man and I suffered more than other family members because I was bright, determined, sociable and motivated. I was told I was ugly and stupid and I believed it. I’m not a victim nor will I be defined by how others want me to be. I’m a successful professional, feminist, hugely in love with my husband and the proud and adoring mother of two sons, a step-daughter and a step-son. I’ve been on a long journey from being a self harming, under-confident and scared youngster who believed that the abuse was her fault. I’m proud of the progress that I’ve made with the love and support of friends and family. And I’m proud of being able to support others through my role as Chair of Solace Woman’s Aid and, with the other Trustees and the Executive team, supporting our staff and volunteers in the incredible service they provide.
"Never would I believe I could end up with an abuser. But it happened"
LILLY, ACTOR AND WRITER
Being a child of domestic violence, living through the police knocking at the door every week, almost ending up in care and witnessing my mum being beaten by men she loved, who she thought loved her; never would I believe I could end up with an abuser. But it happened. I was your typical "I'm too strong for that" but I ended up with a man who mentally tortured me. A man I don't want to say much about because he would just love the fact I'm still talking about him. Instead I want to say, it gets better. It's difficult to forgive and heal and move on, but you will.
“he was so handsome, and seemed so down to earth. His smile was to die for”
MARLENE, MOTHER AND MODEL
My ex was in one of my favourite rock bands. I meet him the first time when I was at a concert in London with them. I stood in line for a photograph, and when I got to him I thought he was so handsome, and seemed so down to earth. His smile was to die for. I left and didn’t think much of it. I put the pictures on Instagram and tagged the bands name. And suddenly he liked the photo, and asked to follow me. My heart missed some beats, I got so happy. Like a stupid little fan girl(lol). Long story short we got friends on Facebook and started talking a little but not much. Two years passed and we had not talked at all this time. Then I moved to a city close to him for work. I was only supposed to stay there for a year, and then move back home again. His band was having a concert in this city one day, and my friends (who also really liked the band) really wanted to go see them. She came all the way from my hometown visiting, and we went to the concert. It was a great night and we had so much fun. After the concert she wanted to get the autograph from the band members, so we waited in line for a while. When we got to him, ha gave me a hug and I asked if he recognised me. He said yes and that he had seen me from the stage. After this me and my friend went to a bar to have some beers. He then messaged me on Facebook saying I really was the most prettiest girl he had ever seen, and he asked if I wanted to meet him. Even if I knew he probably just wanted one thing, I still went to meet him at his hotel room. I spent the night there and it was just fantastic. And stupid as I was I believed him when he said he never had done this before. Thinking of it now it just makes me laugh thinking how stupid you can get over a little crush.
Long story as short as I can get it: We started seeing each other a little bit. He came to me for some days, and it was so great. We had so much in common, and he really made me feel like the only girl in the world. But he moved really fast, and I remember feeling that this was not right at all. And I could see on the bands Instagram that he had been on vacation with his ex only 10 days before he met me. I asked him about it and he told it was over long time ago with them but she just used him for a free vacation and then broke up with him when they got home. I told him that I would not be any rebound, but he was so convincing in the things he said. I feel that I can`t explain good enough how such an good manipulator he is. After just a month he put up pictures of us on his Instagram and Facebook, telling how I was his soulmate and everything he had ever looked for etc etc. He put up many pictures after this with me. One day he went through my phone, finding old conversations I had with other guys. This made him so mad. he asked why I still had them. And I really had not thought about them at all, they were old conversations, and I had just meet this guy. Who thinks about deleting everything the minute you meet someone? He went through every conversation I ever had had, also my girlfriends messages. Knowing every secret they had ever told me. I felt like this was such a big red flag and I got so mad. I told him thats this would never work. He started to cry and apologising. I don`t remember much of it now, but I did ended up apologising as well, and deleting every convo on my Facebook. After only two months he wanted to put us in an relationship on Facebook. I was not really ready for it, but he pushed it so much. Saying how he didn’t understand why we could not just do it when it was so obviously that we were meant for each other. I gave in pretty fast. After this it all just went down hill. He started to go through everything I had, my computer, my hard drive, my phone regularly etc. And of course he found old vacation pictures of my ex before him, and other pictures that he did not like. He convinced me that it was not normal to have this pictures. Like if you meet someone new you deleted everything from your past. And so I did. But he still kept brining it up, saying how wrong of a person I was. That he knew how I was, and that he would help me become a better person. Im not sure how he actually got me to believe it, but he did. He convinced me that I was not normal. If I ever reacted to something he did, he would bring up everything he meant I had done wrong in the past. Even if I reacted to things he did in our relationship, he would bring up things I had done before I ever meet him. I could never argue with him, because he was so good talking for himself. And it was always about him, how terrible life he had growing up, how sorry it was in him. Thinking about it now I realised he always needed to be the centre of attention. No matter where we were he would do stupid thinks just to get attention. Other people and me at that time just thought of it as fun, and that he was fun to be with. He is also an alcoholic, but he told me he had been sober for 6 years. I never had any reasons to believe he still drank until one day. I was visiting him, and he was going with a friend on a concert and I had to stay home. He didn't come home until the next day and was so drunk. I was in shock,I had been calling him all night wondering where he was. He was so mean when he got home, he called me a lot of bad names. He then went in the shower and fell asleep after. I had nowhere to go, since I was in another country and far away from home. When he woke up he was very sorry. He told me that he would never do this again, but he had started to drink because I was so difficult. (I had been sad because he didn’t wanted me to come with them to the concert)By this time I was so mixed up in everything he had said to me over the last 6 months so I totally ended up apologising for making him drink. He also said that the pictures he had seen of me and my ex, was always in his head and ruining him. After this he started to drink more and more, but I just didn't know then. When the summer came I was going to move to my hometown again because of my job. I got a job in his country, but had to wait to start in it. I also have a son with my ex before him, that I needed to be onboard about moving. I have a son with a man from Morocco, and my narc ex always gave me a hard time about it. He would say that it made him sick thinking about that I had had sex with a muslim. I confronted him about being racist, but he got so angry and I never dared to say it again. He never hit me or anything, but he did threaten with it. Not directly but he told me that he had broken the jaw of a another girl he was with when he was younger, and that he was afraid I would make him so mad again like she had. One time he also called me a whore in front of my son, and he just kept saying bad stuff about me to my son. I begged him to stop but he didn't so I started to push him really hard until he got to the front door. I don't remember everything other than thinking that I needed to make him stop saying this things in front of my son. I got him out of the door, but he refused to let go of the handle. And suddenly I spit on him. I was really shocked, and he got shocked as well because he let go of the handle and I could lock the door. I was really ashamed for doing this, and he really knew how to use it. The rest of our relationship he would mention it, and say how abusive I was. This only happened that one time, but he made it seem like it was something I did on a daily basis. Just making his point of what kind of bad person I was.
He said that he wanted to take me away from my life, because it was not good for me. That I needed to move to him, to get a better life and become a better person. After moving back home I got some distance, and started to see better that something was not right. But it still was not easy to not let him get to me. He needed to have all my password to all social media accounts I had. He was monitoring everything. I never asked for his, because I dint really wanted to have an relationship like this. He really hated not living closer to me, and had to have control of everything. If i was going out with friends I had to FaceTime him many times. And I always had to tell him what time I was going home. If I came home any later then I had said I would, he would be so mad and accuse me of cheating. After a few times with this I stopped doing things. I just could not handle any more of this, and it was best to just stay at home. He was out a lot, and if he didn’t answer me when I called it would be okay. Cause he had never given me any reasons not to trust him (as he said), and I had because of the pictures and convos I had on my computer and Facebook. I forgot to mention that I also had to delete all the manly friends I had on Facebook and instgram earlier. He went through everyone on every account and I had to tell about them and how I knew them. If it was someone I really didn't know well he would say I was a whore for being friends with a guy I really didn't know. But he himself had thousands of girls on Facebook and Instagram, but he just said they where fans and therefor he needed to have them there. I was visiting him once a month for a while. He could never come to me because of AA meetings he had to be on, he also started to take something called antabus which would make him sick if drank again. But what I didn't know then was that he just switched to taking pills. One time when I was visiting him, they were having a concert and he took me with him. Before the concert we were at some friends of his, and we had a great time. He was then drinking without me seeing it, and also took some pills.
After the concert I understood that he was completely drunk. he was so mean to me in front of his friends, and literally just left me. I didn't even knew how to get home. A friend of him was nice to follow me home. He was somewhere else that night, and now I know it was with some girl. Even if i didn't know for sure then, I had a feeling and I ordered myself a hotel room and left his home. I was so sure that this time I would get away. It was still a few days until I had a flight home, so I had to stay at the hotel until then. When he was sober he called me and wanted to come to me. He was so sorry and cried a lot. Saying he had a problem and needed help. that if he lost me he would kill himself. I went home things just started to be even more strange. He would suddenly call and say it was over, blocked me everywhere a few days, and then unblocking me and calling me to tell me he loved me and wanted us to be together. I forgave him every time, and I visited him and everything was ok when I was there. He suddenly wanted to move to me and we made plans. Then the last time he suddenly just broke up with me, I felt that I could not do this anymore. I told him that this time I would block him, and I did. It was so hard and i really tried to stay strong. But then he e-mailed me this long mail saying god bye to me and that no matter what happened to him now I had to know that he loved me more than anything. I got so afraid that he would kill himself that I called him. He answered and was so drunk. he talked so fast I couldn't even understand half of what he said, but he said that he was so sorry for everything, and that he knew that if he told me everything he would loose me for sure. He told me that he had been cheating a lot through the whole relationship. I couldn't handle listening to everything so I hung up. After a few weeks not talking, he called me and I answered. He said he was getting help, and that he would be better for me. But he also said that this would never have happened if I had just deleted everything from my past before I met him. That seeing me with my ex had ruined him. That I had to understand that for him it was like I had been cheating on him. That he knew how I felt now, because it was the same feeling he had. By this time I had already started my healing process. So I was very distant, but still it was hard to not let him in again. I feel stupid now that I actually let him make me believe that him cheating on me was the same as to me not deleting old photos. Slowly I started to let him more and more back in. He also quit the band, saying all he wanted was to concentrate on being sober so he could move to me and we could start our life together again. He started this rehab with daily meetings and we talked everyday and EVERYDAY he told me that he loved me, and that I was the only one for him. I started to relax more and thought all was good. Then suddenly one day he called me saying he didn't love me anymore. I was totally shocked, and didn't understand where it came from. He then just hung up and blocked me everywhere. After 4 days someone sent me a screenshot of his Instagram. He had put up a picture of him and a new girl, saying exactly the same about her that he had about me. I was totally numb, and didn't understand anything. I needed to know what was happening, but I had no way to find out. I don't know If I have mention it but I did start googling his behaviour when we where still together, and I came across all his articles about narcissistic personality disorder. I felt that a lot of it was describing him exactly as he was. But of course I was not sure. But him braking up with me this way, made me feel like I needed to know. Was I just bad for him , and this new girl actually what he needed to change? A friend of me showed me his Instagram. It was a lot of pictures of them together. And he even put up a pictures saying something about soulmates, and a text under about her and how perfect she was. If everyone only knew that he had sent me the same picture just a month before. I started to laugh a little. And crying. Then I saw that he had started to follow some of the girls he cheated on me with. Now why do that if this new girl was the love of his life? I started laughing some more, and I thought that no he has not change at all. So I decided to never look again. This would go to hell as well. I did think about reaching out to the new girl, but after reading articles about it I choose not to. It is now almost a years since the last call from him. It has been an strange journey, and it has been so hard sometimes. I still have difficult trusting people and I don't see myself being in any relationship yet. It has been hard because the love that he made me feel, was so strong. And you don't just forget about it that easily. I do know he never loved me, and that he probably is not capable of love. But my love for him was so real, and it is hard to realise that you have been fooled. He also owed me a lot of money, I had been paying his bills many times. I did hire a lawyer for getting them back, and my lawyer said I had a strong case. But this things take time, and it was time that I was not willing to give him. I didn't want to have anything more to do with him. It was keeping me away from getting on with my life, so after some soul-searching I found out I didn't want the money back. Even if I had won the case, he didn't have any job or anything. I also fund out that he got a child with his new girl. I decided to take this as a lesson instead. A lesson about me as a person. I loved him, and I did what I could to help him because of that. Even if I lost a lot of money, at least I know that I'm not a bad person. Any person that treats someone like he did, must have it really bad with themselves. I can go on with my life feeling good, but he will always know that he is not good. Times does heal everything and no contact is the most important thing. I do hope that he has changed, but I also know deep inside he has not. I have just started to feel joy again, and I am getting my confident back. I know the things he said was not true, and that he probably was projecting his own bad behaviour on me. And I know that this new girl saved med. I would never have gotten away if he had not found an replacement. I would never have been happy with him, and I would have lost myself even more then I did. I was lucky because I moved far away from him, and got a chance to see how wrong everything was. I talked with his best friend a lot and he did tell me to get away many times. But it is hard to see what everyone else sees when you are in a relationship like this. His best friend told it very well. " You know sometimes I get this cold chill down my spine about him, but at the same time he does have a strange way of making me feel so good about myself" Of course he did, he really knew how to make people feel good if he needed them to.
I have grown so much after this, and I will never be the same person again. It was a hard lesson to get, but it is also good to know that I will never let anyone walk all over me like that again. So in a way he was right, he did make me a better person. He made me a stronger person, a more confident person, a person that knows exactly what she wants and don’t want, a happy person!