It recently occurred to me that I’m no longer afraid to speak out about certain things. So this will be me finally speaking my truth.
For the purposes of this blog post, I will refer to my ex as ‘C’.
The truth is that there are many reasons why I’ve acted certain ways at certain times, but I feel I should have been strong enough at those times to know who I was, and to stand by my own thoughts and morals, and not be persuaded to adopt someone else’s thinking.
There’s a lot that happens with relationships that people don’t see, that is true for everyone. It’s truer still for people in any kind of abusive relationship. There is an effort made in public to seem like a perfect couple – 1. From the abuser, so that they don’t raise suspicion, and so that when the victim tries to tell people something’s wrong, they can’t for a second believe that the abuser could ever be anything other than the lovely person they appear to be. And 2. From the victim so that they don’t suffer any consequences behind closed doors.
There’s a lot that can go wrong in a relationship, and it’s never only one person’s fault, this is true for everyone. In my circumstance, I feel a large fault is with me for not realising soon enough that C was abusive, for sticking up for him when he was being abusive and for not been brave enough to leave. But I do also understand that in the situation I was in, I merely did the best I could and learnt to submit and survive.
I feel that to give any of this context a few examples must be given. Growing up, my Dad was volatile – he was angry and controlling, and I was terrified of him. He manipulated situations to make me feel worthless, from when I was just a young child, so I grew up with a belief that I wasn’t good enough and that I always needed to impress him or do as he said to avoid punishment, not knowing that his demands were unreasonable and cruel. He frequently abandoned me when I really needed support most. He had a routine of giving me bad news or getting angry with me in public when I was relying on him to get me home, so I had to act the way he was expecting me to at least until I was safe.
When I met C at 17, I was probably at the lowest point of my life thus far. I’d known him a few years already, as friends, so he knew a lot about my Dad and about my bullies through school etc. Early on, when I said I didn’t want to be in a relationship, he got angry with me, usually when I was with him alone and he’d driven us somewhere, so I defaulted to acting how he wanted to keep him happy until I was safe at home. He also developed a routine of threatening to hurt or kill himself if I didn’t see him. I thought he needed help, I didn’t think he was manipulating the situation. He sexually assaulted me, because I couldn’t overpower him, and I was afraid because he’d taken me out in the car and then stopped somewhere dark and far from my house. He raped me on a separate occasion because I’d allowed him to stay over after more suicidal threats, and because again I couldn’t overpower him, physically or with words. ‘No’ and ‘stop’ lost all meaning and so I just gave up.
By this point his anger had me beat and I was already slipping into a habit of doing what C wanted so that I didn’t suffer. But looking back I was suffering all along, so I don’t know why I did the things I did. Having since had PTSD therapy to help overcome my relationship with C, I learnt that the brain reacts to the actions he was making in a certain way. In a traumatic situation such as sexual or mental abuse, your brain has a fight or flight response. I couldn’t fight him in a lot of these situations: I wasn’t strong enough. ‘Flight’ also wasn’t an option many times because he had taken me somewhere that I couldn’t get home from. The final choice in these scenarios is to submit. And when we submit to something traumatic, we don’t really stick around in ‘the now’ to experience or process it fully, which is why we then suffer PTSD, because something will trigger one of those partially formed memories and we will go back to that moment to try and process it, but we often are left with just a feeling, like the one we felt at the time.
So unfortunately, I spent most of my 6 years with C submitting – slowly losing any sense of self-worth, sanity, happiness…anything, until I was just a numb shell. There were moments where I felt better, and I’d maybe reach out to people in these moments, something which I would later realise was a huge mistake when C came home and read my messages and got angry with me for speaking to someone other than him. I would then promise not to do it again. Or I would think about going back into education, or look for a part time job, or learning to drive, something to get me out of the house and start building a future for myself – something which I would again regret, when C would close down the idea completely, saying it would be a waste of my time, or that he didn’t want me being around other people – guys – who would talk to me, if I had a job, or that I didn’t need a car of my own because where would I need to go without him? I’d maybe wear a nice outfit or do my hair and makeup nice, but then he would make me change because I looked too ‘slutty’, and he didn’t want people looking.
I eventually ended up not leaving the house, not speaking to anyone, barely seeing my family (because C didn’t like who I was when I was with them), not making any effort with how I looked, and basically just existing to please him. Whenever C had crazy ideas about how our future would look, I would go along with it – we’ll move to America, we’ll move to Sweden, we’ll start a business, we’ll start a different business etc., and I also did lots of research to see how doable any one idea was and try my best to make it seem like it could work. Sure, I’d have loved to visit these places, and running your own business is great. But, me leaving the country forever with C, so he had complete control of everything and total ownership of me…no. Running a business, so I’d be with him 24/7 (a reason he wanted to pursue it, so we’d have no need to be apart). These weren’t my dreams, they were just things I was trying to make happen to keep him happy. Happy C meant less shouting, less sexual abuse, less punishments – whether it was him storming off in the car and leaving me at home, or somewhere we’d been, or him playing games and not talking to me at all.
It came to a head when his behaviour worsened and his family started to notice and pull him up on it, and check that I was okay. It became unbearable. All of this whilst there was a wedding planned that I felt tied to, a house we were buying that I thought would make him happy enough to stop abusing me. But when other people were starting to notice his cruelty, I started to get braver and realise just how wrong the situation I was in was. This is where I made my biggest mistake, but it’s one I will never regret, because it’s what led to me being able to leave C once and for all. With his family checking in on me so much, I was able to get to know his brother for the first time in 5 years. C had always put a stop to any interaction I had had with him in the past, unhappy that I had things in common with him. But getting to know him and realising that a person can just be nice to you…with no expectations and no games, was a real eye opener for me. And with me being trapped in the house (we lived with him at the time) he was the only other person my age I had any contact with and had had any contact with for years. So, it was nice to just chill and talk about films, cars and music. Which led to flirting and a kiss or two etc., (no sex, I struggled with intimacy because of the sexual abuse from C). He introduced me to his friends, and we went to car meets together and it was amazing to feel a little bit free and for those moments, a little bit happy.
So, one day, after months of starting to feel more confident, braver and feeling not so worthless, an argument with C just tipped me over the edge and I said I had to have some time away from him to rethink everything. He gave me a few hours before turning up to beg me to stay, reverting to talking about suicide if we ever weren’t together. He asked me if there was someone else, and I can’t lie so I nodded. I didn’t want to ruin his entire family, so I didn’t say who. But he later logged into my PC and hacked into my phone and found our conversations, so that was, effectively, that. He did beg me to stay still, but I had to take this chance to escape, so I said no. He got angry, locked me out of our house, blackmailed my parents for money, stole my forum and kept most of my possessions. End of story. I don’t blame him for his reaction there, he assumed I’d been sleeping with his brother for months, even though that wasn’t quite the case – It’s obviously still not right what I did, but like I said…no regrets.
All this to say that, behind the scenes, behind every mood swing that you’ve seen from me, behind every change of plans, every out of the blue decision…was me struggling to exist with C. I’m sorry in general for anyone I’ve ever upset through that period of my life. I was so isolated, and any semblance of a friendship was quickly torn down by C so I know I will have hurt people’s feelings along the way.
I’m not looking for sympathy, I just, as always, would like to think that sharing my story might help someone else. Anyone who has suffered anything like this who is afraid to talk about it, I hope you get to a point in your life where you’re no longer scared, the way that I finally have. C can’t hurt me anymore. And even if he tried, I’m so happy with my life the way it is now, that I don’t think he’d be able to do much.
Since I left him in mid-2015, I’ve been able to chase all my dreams and start making my goals happen. I’ve remembered that I’m optimistic, hopeful, a hard worker, ambitious and capable of happiness – and worthy of happiness and love. I’ve become a moderately successful automotive photographer, with companies sending me to cover shows. I’ve earned a level 3 diploma in art and design and am now studying for my degree. I’ve built and run many websites completely on my own. I’ve learned to drive, and I own a car. I have a loving boyfriend, who fully supports me and allows me my freedom. We have plans to buy a house together early next year. I have met so many people and made so many friends. I’ve travelled Europe, gone to Sweden twice and had many other small, UK holidays and trips. I’m genuinely living my best life, and I still have so many hopes and goals, that I know I can achieve, because I’m working my ass off for it all! Last year was my best year, that I’ve ever had, and I know this one will be even better.