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21 In Mentalhealth/ Personal

My Domestic Abuse Story

 
This is not something I ever thought I’d discuss publicly as it’s hurtful. And it’s not something people often talk about, but I feel like I need to because I’ve kept it hidden for long enough. I feel compelled to talk about it now purely to help others because I know that it can be beneficial to hear that people are going through something similar to what you are, and know that there’s an escape. I was in an abusive relationship. It’s something that makes people feel isolated and afraid to talk about it, and I’ve always felt afraid to talk about it openly, with people who are outside of my main circle of friends. It’s incredibly difficult to talk about being abused at the hands of someone you cared about. For ages, I’ve been afraid of what people will say. Will people think I’m weak? Will they find it funny? Will anyone even believe me?

I was in a relationship with an individual, and in the beginning, it was great. The relationship was better than you could ever imagine. I was made to feel powerful, beautiful. I felt like I was on top of the world, and that person was all I ever needed in my life. I’d definitely seen aggressive and even psychotic behaviour from him, things that frightened me but I won’t go into great detail about them, but it was never towards me, only others. I didn’t think he’d ever behave like that towards me. This person that I was with, forced me to push people out of my life but did so in a way that was so incredibly subtle, that I truly believed he did it in my best interest. I pushed my family away, particularly my mum, and pushed my friends away. It wasn’t directly aggressive instruction. It wasn’t “cut this person out of your life” or “delete this person from Facebook”. It was done slowly, manipulatively and very cautiously. He would convince me after having arguments with family members that I didn’t need them in my life. He basically, slowly but surely, made it so that he was my only outlet for, well, anything.
 

The individual that I was in a relationship with was extremely jealous. If I had a male friend, I must have been cheating on him with them, and it must have been for the whole course of our relationship. Everything was made to be about him and his need to ‘feel safe’. I lost some of my closest friends and didn’t have as close relationships with my family members because I was completely made to believe that I only needed him and that everyone else was a threat to our relationship in some way. Everybody else in my life who didn’t agree with our relationship had to be cut out of my life, and that’s what I did, because for some reason I just wanted to please him, and a small part of me was hoping that all of this could be resolved and we could go back to how great the relationship was when it first started.

 

Me and this individual began to argue frequently around the time that I started applying for universities. We’d argued a lot previously due to him not having a job or being in education. He and I had been friends since we were about eleven years old and since we’d left school, he’d done nothing at all but stay at home and play video games. He didn’t go to college, despite promising me he would go and retake his GCSEs, and he never put any effort into finding a job. He often asked me to fill in job applications for him, and because I was a fool I agreed and I spent hours every night writing cover letters and filling out online applications for him. Whenever he did get a response, he failed to show up to interviews due to no other reason aside from laziness. During the time I was applying for university, I was, of course, attending a lot of open days, and writing my UCAS statement, and this should have been a time that was exciting for me, but he made every effort to make it completely the opposite. He often started arguments about the fact I was choosing universities that were very far away because he assumed I was trying to leave him and start a new life that didn’t involve him anymore, which wasn’t the case. I’m not the sort of person and never have been the sort of person, who wants to go to a local university and be really close to home. I know that suits a lot of people’s preferences, but I personally don’t see the point of me going to university unless I’m going to try something really new and go somewhere that’s far away where I don’t know many people, and start fresh. There was also the argument that had he have taken my advice in finding a job, it wouldn’t have mattered which university I went to because he would have been able to come with me, but I guess that’s another story. I’d started applying for university around December 2014, and it was from this time to April 2015 that our relationship becomes completely toxic and malicious. Due to us arguing so often (we argued every single day about the idea of University and unemployment), our relationship had of course not been as great as it was when we first got together. I had become quite disinterested in doing anything at all with him. We stopped going out together, we stopped going on dates, and I didn’t really have much interest in him visiting me as often, and I often rejected sleeping with him, because I knew everything was going to turn into an argument that I couldn’t win so I saw no reason to invest my time with him until we’d had a break from one another. This is where the aggressive behaviour began, it was mainly to do with sex. The incidents at first were so carefully planned out and manipulative that I barely recognised what was actually happening to me. When I rejected sex, he’d get extremely upset. After only two days of not having sex, he cried over it. There have been more than ten occasions where he has broken down into tears and wept over me not feeling like having sex. He would cry and get so upset with me that I would eventually have sex with him in order to stop him from crying or being upset with me. At the time, this didn’t feel like anything dangerous, but looking back on it, that definitely should have been the first red flag.

He could never take no for an answer. I constantly had to come up with a full speech of an excuse for why I didn’t want to have sex. I could never just say “No, I don’t feel like it” and that would be the end of it. My rejection would be met with constant nagging and pleading until I either gave in or came up with a good enough excuse for why I didn’t want to participate (My excuses were rarely ‘good enough’). I would usually pretend I was on my period (which after a short time, stopped being a good excuse) or I would pretend I was in pain and couldn’t physically participate, which was usually a good enough excuse but not always. After a while of me being in this state of being turned off by him due to all the arguing, he started behaving aggressively all the time. He would kick things over or even just randomly scream and cry when nothing had happened, and tell me that it was all down to sexual frustration. When we lay in bed, without him even proposing we have sex or initiating anything, he would start removing my clothes and doing things to me without discussion. On one occasion, I think he thought I was asleep. On many, many occasions, he started having sex with me despite me saying no. “No” was just never good enough for him. In the middle of me explaining that I didn’t feel like it, he would pull me onto the bed or start kissing me and start removing clothing. He just wasn’t listening to me. He didn’t care that I didn’t want to do it. Sexual assault and rape had become a frequent factor of our relationship, happening at least every week. But nothing ever felt incredibly aggressive. By this I mean I was never, at this point, injured during assaults. I was just entered without my permission, which is just as mentally and emotionally damaging as any physical injury. When someone you care about hurts you, there’re so many emotions that go through you. It’s indescribable. The first time it happened to me, I felt sadness, shame, embarrassment, and mostly shock. You wonder if it was your fault, and there’s just a crazy mix of feelings that run through you.

 

After a while, I decided that I absolutely had to get out of this relationship. I was being hurt very badly, both emotionally and sexually and I needed to be away from him. I broke up with him over text, telling him that I was unhappy and wanted to be on my own. I didn’t discuss any of the incidents with him because I knew he would convince me that it was my fault for rejecting him, like he always did. I instead told him that I was unhappy and I wanted to be on my own. I used the excuse that I was going to university and that due to him being unemployed and unable to afford train tickets, we wouldn’t work out. That wasn’t the truth. The truth was that I simply wanted my life back. The night I broke up with him, I told him to stay away but he turned up at my house uninvited and begged me to stay with him. I spoke with him outside my house for around an hour but wouldn’t let him inside, and told him clearly that I didn’t want to be in a relationship anymore. He left.

 

When I woke up the next morning, I’d had several missed calls from him throughout the night and text messages saying he couldn’t sleep because he was scared. I had also received a huge message of around a page and a half saying that he didn’t feel like living anymore and that he wanted to kill himself. I won’t go into the full details of the text, but it looked to me very much like a suicide note. He’d said he wanted to end his life, and told me he’d self-harmed. I rang his phone repeatedly and had no answer. Completely convinced that he may have done it, I walked down to his house, let myself in and ran up to his bedroom. He was sat playing video games and ignoring his phone. He looked at me and smiled like nothing had happened. I completely felt like this was my fault, so I decided to get back with him so that he wouldn’t feel suicidal anymore. A lot of people will ridicule me or just question me on why I went back, but when you’re so tightly wrapped around someone’s finger, you do everything they can for them despite how badly they’re treating you because that’s exactly how a manipulative relationship works. I certainly shouldn’t have got back with him on this occasion because I showed him that suicide worked as a manipulative tool, but I of course was not thinking about that at the time.

 

When I took him back, the real damage was psychological. Everything in my life suffered when I took this person back. I cut out everything in my life and my whole life revolved around him and what he wanted. I allowed myself to be in a relationship where I was controlled, where I was manipulated, where I was made to do things and act in ways that I never would on my own, before the relationship. I had allowed somebody to emotionally, physically and sexually abuse me for over a year of my life, and it’s really embarrassing to say that, but it’s the truth. Our relationship had become a whole lot worse after restarting our relationship. He was much more controlling, much more aggressive, and the pressuring and constant assault was much more frequent. He was helping himself to me on every occasion that he could, and we argued even more than before. During the beginning of April, everything became clear to me that I was in a relationship with a dangerous and malicious person. Whenever I suggested going on a break or ending our relationship, he threatened his own life to get me to stay. This happened really regularly, and despite really wanting to leave him and find somebody else, I stayed with him out of fear that he would kill himself. It was absolutely terrifying. I felt like it was my responsibility to stay with him in order to keep him alive.

 

I grew close to someone I worked with, and we kissed a few times while I was still in a relationship, and he’d visited me at my house and just sat with me while I was feeling upset and trapped in my relationship. This meant that I’d cheated, and despite everything that had been done to me, I still felt bad about it when I really shouldn’t have. I never actually told him I’d done it until we were breaking up. When you go through something like this, you’re always in denial. I didn’t feel like I was in a position to talk about it confidently and I kept telling myself that it wasn’t happening. I wished it wasn’t happening so I just told myself it wasn’t. But the last time he attacked me, it was impossible to ignore. The rapes stopped being cases of him continuing after I’d said no, in ways that were disguised as playful, to him beginning intercourse without it even being discussed at all. On the very last time, I’d said no to sex because I had work soon and we argued about the idea of having children a little later (he really wanted kids and I didn’t). He pulled me down to the bed mid argument and raped me while not even looking at me. I could barely breathe and was completely silent, thinking back on it now I think I was having a panic attack. He spent the whole time staring down at what he was doing. The whole time, I stared towards a sticker on my wardrobe that’s shaped like a bird cage, which is an image that constantly repeats in my flashbacks, as I think about the pain I was in while looking at it. Afterward, he thanked me for “doing it even though I didn’t want to” which absolutely terrified me, because he’d completely acknowledged that it was a rape. I couldn’t justify his actions anymore. He knew. I was in a complete state of shock, and simply put on my uniform and walked to work. I told a co-worker what had happened when I got there (and later told my managers too), and they did everything they could to help me.

 

I eventually decided to leave him, for good this time. Although this individual, through a lot of careful, planned out manipulation did everything he could to keep a method of communication with me and contacted me to tell me they’d changed. If anyone says “I’ve changed, take me back” don’t fucking go back. This time, I didn’t go back to him. But it took a lot for me to finally end communication with him and cut him out of my life for good. I left this person and started to see someone else, the same person I had cheated on him with and the same person I’m still in a relationship with now. He caught wind of this and absolutely freaked out at me, which was incredibly difficult for me because I still felt a little under his control. But I was finally at a point to say no. I had control over myself again, rather than him controlling me, and I felt in a strong enough position to keep myself away from him.

 

Then it comes to the biggest part of all of this, and that is the end of the relationship, the most painful and frustrating part of it. The reason it’s the most frustrating point is because it wasn’t until then that I started to realise everything. It took until the relationship was over for me to realise what had actually happened to me. Having to finalise everything was incredibly difficult. What hurt most was that I had to deal with everything and change everything, and the perpetrator was dealing with nothing. It was easy for him. I was met with a lot of discomforts, things to do with people questioning the validity of my claim, and being generally unsupportive, or even aggressive at times, towards my situation. People would say things like “It’s a bit of a grey area…”  towards whether or not I’d consented, and demand to know the full details of the situation before they chose to believe me or help me. Consent should never be a grey area. It’s only a grey area because people make it that way by questioning the validity of what’s happened to victims of rape. It should be black and white. If I say no, then I say no.

 

He tried everything he could to get back with me by contacting me constantly. When I blocked his accounts, he made new ones just to get back in touch with me or contacted me through other people. He came into my work several times, either starting arguments or just to stand outside my department and let me know he was there. He was eventually removed and banned from the store.

 

One night, I forgot my money for a taxi home after work and I’d gone to a colleague’s house to lend money from him and get a taxi home. When I finally got home and turned my phone on, I had over 40 missed calls from him and several messages asking who the man I’d gone home with was and he’d even named the street he lived on. He’d waited for me to finish work and followed me to his house. He’d even contacted my friends and family members vigorously to try and get back in contact with me.

 

After around a month of us being broken up, I decided to report him to the police. For a long time, what I thought would be an advancement in the situation made everything feel worse. I walked to a police station near my workplace with the intention of making the report there, but there was no one inside so I made the report over the phone outside the station (via the phone they have on the wall outside). I then made another statement to a police officer who visited my house that night. The next day, I had to go to what I think is called an “eyewitness protection centre” with two detectives, where I was asked to give a statement in a room set up like a fake living room while on camera, which would later be presented in court if the case resulted in that. I was pummelled with narrowed, pointed questions that dissected my personal life, love life, past life, family life, inane questions accumulating trivial details that felt like they were trying to find an excuse for a boy who didn’t take the to get my consent. I felt assaulted with questions that were difficult to answer, that felt attacking, to see if my facts lined up, to see if I was crazy. It felt like they were waiting to see where I slipped up.

 

It took around two days for statements to be finished and they arrested my ex-boyfriend for rape. One rape. They could only take the last into consideration, since every other time he’d technically got a “yes” from me vocally (even though talking someone into sex after intially saying no is supposed to be a crime). I’d hoped that they’d also consider stalking, domestic abuse, emotional abuse, and blackmail as charges, but that didn’t appear to happen. I was recommended to talk about it as little as possible, and certainly not on social media. I felt like I was walking on eggshells about how much I could discuss my own situation. Around one week later, I left work to go home and meet with two police officers who came to take my phone and iPad away to be sent to a lab and have deleted conversations between him and I retrieved. I knew that there was solid proof in the messages. I had messages from him admitting what he had done and apologising to me for it. My mum even had an admittance message from him about pressuring me into sex, which was ignored.

 

I waited around a year and one month for any sort of update to happen with the case. I’d made the report in May 2015, and they contacted me every nine weeks but only to tell me that nothing had happened. They returned my phone and iPad in December 2015, and in June 2016, they finally came to see me at my boyfriend’s house to tell me they were no longer continuing with the case due to a lack of evidence. I was extremely upset and surprised that there was no evidence. They explained to me that they hadn’t actually managed to retrieve a single Facebook message from my phone. I looked at the phone, and they’d retrieved songs I’d deleted, thousands of images and text messages, but not one single message from Facebook messenger. Up until our relationship had almost ended, my ex-boyfriend didn’t actually have a phone so 90% of our messages were on Facebook. I think it goes without saying that I was absolutely devastated. They also couldn’t offer me any sort of restraining order (despite the level of aggression he’d displayed, and the fact that he lives only a few streets away from my boyfriend’s house where I live out of term time).

 

It felt like they were in his favour. They brought up the fact that I’d cheated on him and that text messages suggested that may have been the reasoning for our break up. I had cheated, but surely that doesn’t matter and has nothing to do with the case? Surely kissing someone else doesn’t justify being penetrated when I hadn’t wanted it. I understand that they couldn’t charge him without sufficient evidence, but it hurt me greatly that they took over a year to come to a terrible conclusion, and couldn’t offer me anything else aside from counselling from a charity that I’ve tried before and are absolutely terrible. All they have done now is show him that this is what he can get away with. And I truly believe that he will do this to somebody else.

 

The pain, physically and mentally, that I’ve suffered from the whole situation has been excruciating. I’m now battling PTSD and have been for around a year, and I have huge issues with anxiety. I’ve made myself incredibly ill by not eating or sleeping for a whole week in the past, and on more than one occasion. I’ve dealt with depression on more than one occasion, too. It’s affected my sex life greatly as it took me a lot of time to feel comfortable with someone again, and there’s certain things I can’t do now because it reminds me of having to do it when I didn’t want to before. I’ve also put on a whole lot of weight because I’m an “eat your feelings” kind of person. I’ve become a mentally ill, physically ill, have considered suicide many times and I’ve become an overweight and struggling person because of something somebody else decided to do to me for their own sexual gratification.

What I will say to you is not one thing I’ve done has ever helped me, except for talking about it. Talking to therapists, talking to friends, and talking to family members. What’s also helped, is hearing other people talk about their stories. Hearing other people talk about what’s happened to them has validated everything I’ve felt for the last… almost two years. I wish I could say that everyone had supported me, but there were certain family members who made matters feel even worse, and I certainly haven’t felt supported by the police. I don’t like to discourage people from coming forward about situations like this, but I do sort of wish I hadn’t reported it now. I was met with people who didn’t believe me, people who believed me but stopped caring after a few days, and people who needed to know more details (details that are very difficult to share) before they could consider being at my side. Despite this, the majority of people who know what happened to me, particularly my family members and friends, have been receptive and have loved me and said they’re here for me. If someone hurts you, tell someone. Tell a family member, tell a friend. Because if you bottle it up, it will do damage to you that will last for years. I kept this a secret for quite a while, but I know people who have kept it to themselves for years and years. There’s help out there and there’re people that care and love you. You don’t need to be with someone who uses you and manipulates you to do whatever you want.

I don’t want to end this on a sad note. I’m now doing quite well. I’ve been in a healthy and loving relationship for over a year now with a man that I adore, and I’m close with my family and friends again. Since leaving my ex-boyfriend, I’ve kick-started a career, completed my first year of university and been awarded a scholarship. There are things I have now to be incredibly happy about!

 

If you’re being abused…

 

Tell somebody. There is help. People do care. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or http://www.thehotline.org.

PS. I plan on creating some sort of project and/or documentary involving consent and people’s thoughts on it. If that’s something you feel like you have something to say about or get involved with, no matter who you are, contact me at beth.ash_97@hotmail.co.uk



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21 Comments

  • Reply
    diana darden
    June 7, 2016 at 4:48 pm

    brave you..so happy your life is better….

    • Reply
      Beth
      March 2, 2017 at 1:54 pm

      thank you diana xx

  • Reply
    James Brookes
    June 7, 2016 at 5:38 pm

    Well done for breaking the cycle and speaking, I hope more people can be as courageous and brave as you

  • Reply
    Bethany Ashley
    June 7, 2016 at 5:39 pm

    Thank you so much

  • Reply
    Bethany Ashley
    June 7, 2016 at 5:40 pm

    Thank you, I hope so too x

  • Reply
    Lauren Loves
    June 7, 2016 at 9:25 pm

    Well done for doing all you did. Your story sounded so frighteningly exactly like mine (including meeting someone wonderful giving me the strength to escape) except I endured 6 years and never went to the police despite the stalking. We're tough cookies and we can get through the trauma. Xxxxxx

  • Reply
    Hometown Betty
    June 7, 2016 at 9:34 pm

    Sorry for your experience and glad to hear you are a survivor and strong for sharing your story. I hope your documentary project can help others find healing and support.

  • Reply
    Bethany Ashley
    June 7, 2016 at 9:44 pm

    Thank you so much, I hope so too x

  • Reply
    Bethany Ashley
    June 7, 2016 at 9:45 pm

    Thank you for commenting and I'm so sorry for what you have gone through. If you ever need somebody to speak to who understands, I'm always an email away xxxxxx

  • Reply
    Charlene G
    June 7, 2016 at 10:03 pm

    I'm so sorry that you went through such a horrible and terrifying experience. I think that you are so brave to share your story with the world. I hope that others can find help and healing through your story.

  • Reply
    Bethany Ashley
    June 7, 2016 at 10:48 pm

    Thank you, I hope so too xxx

  • Reply
    Naturally Made With Love
    June 7, 2016 at 11:27 pm

    It's so surreal reading your story in someone else's words. I'm happily married now, (as I type this my husband is outside mounting a swing for our son) but the anxiety still lingers. Thank you for speaking up. Hopefully you've given someone courage to change their situation.

  • Reply
    Bethany Ashley
    June 7, 2016 at 11:43 pm

    It's surreal how many people have told me that my story is so similar to their own. I'm sorry this happened to you and I'm glad you're happily married and away from danger now. Thank you for commenting, I hope I have too xxx

  • Reply
    rantinggran yvette
    June 8, 2016 at 7:38 am

    Well done to you for writing this, my daughter didn't speak to me for a year because of the 'prince' eventually she came to her senses and after him dragging the baby off her and running away with him she finally saw sense, it all ended in court but her confidence was shot, she couldn't even make eye contact with the jury, she made a terrible witness while he was charming and engaged the jury perfectly while spouting his obvious lies, the jury must have been a special kind of stupid to believe it, but they did and he walked free and even though the judge (who had more evidence than was presented to the jury)put a very strict restraining order, it took another 3 arrests before things settled, and i think they have only settled now as she moved and he doesn't know where she lives. I was so angry and needed to vent, so wrote a post, obvs couldn't be factual so made it more sarcastic http://rantinggran.com/on-a-more-serious-note/advice-wanna-abusive-scumbags/ stay strong hun xx

  • Reply
    Bethany Ashley
    June 8, 2016 at 7:58 am

    Thank you for your comment Yvette. It's reassuring to know that I'm not alone but also so saddening to see how many people have contacted me to say they've been through something similar, or someone they love has. I'm glad it's over now and that your daughter is away from danger now. I'll read your post shortly, thank you xxx

  • Reply
    Leah Downing
    June 8, 2016 at 9:35 am

    You have some courage Beth to post this, you are such a good writer and no one deserves to be in that situation!! You are strong, independent woman that deserves everything! Well done! ❤️

  • Reply
    Bethany Ashley
    June 8, 2016 at 11:07 am

    Thank you Leah, that really does mean a lot xxx

  • Reply
    Melody Wilson
    June 10, 2016 at 8:31 am

    This is beyond awesome. In sharing your story you have begun to take back your power. You are and will continue to be victorious. I am so proud of you and proud to call you my sister in the struggle. Don't EVER let anyone stop you. Because of the society we live in you will experience revictimization; taunts and disrespectful comments or people who simply don't believe you. Don't EVER become discouraged. What you survived and all of those you will help is bigger than their ignorance. Love you mama and congratulations on your journey. <3

  • Reply
    Bethany Ashley
    June 10, 2016 at 9:22 am

    Thank you so much Melody, this comment made my whole day! <3 <3 <3

  • Reply
    Sophie Whelan
    July 31, 2016 at 2:10 am

    This brought me to tears. You are such a brave woman and you should be so proud of yourself. Xxxx

  • Reply
    Bethany Ashley
    August 5, 2016 at 2:07 pm

    Thank you so much – it really does mean a lot! x

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