The slow drip – How I became controlled

It has been more than three years now since I found myself free and floundering. Those early days, weeks and even months were filled with fear, confusion and grief. My world had not only suddenly collapsed, but I was slowly becoming aware of the reality of my marriage. 

There are still times where I find myself wondering how I didn’t know, whether I have exaggerated events or if I deserved it for being a bad person. But then the flashbacks come, and I know it wasn’t me. I guess nineteen years of conditioning will take some time to undo.

Looking back, I can’t place exactly when the control started. There are a few moments, snippets, that may form parts of the initial foundations, though I can’t place them clearly on a timeline. Many of these seem trivial in isolation, or maybe they are normal things that I am confusing as the starting point, but they all helped to form the multiple layers of confusion and fear that over time dismantled my awareness.

The fragmented memories mean my recollection, and this post, are disjointed, therefore I apologise to anyone that tries to read or follow this post. I guess it is more about me trying to confront, process, log and release the many individual events that haunt and control me even now.

In the early weeks of our relationship, he would phone me all the time, and if my friend was with me he would get really annoyed if I spoke to her or if he could hear her say anything. He began to make negative comments about her, and saying he wouldn’t talk to me if she was around. It started as little jokes, but over time, as his confidence grew, they became cruel. I now know an early test was when he made me choose between him and her. This would have been one of his first major victories.

I had a pair of shorts I loved, but the second summer were together he told me I was too fat to wear them anymore. He bought me a beautiful white summer dress, he insisted on buying it for me after I had tried it on and showed him, but then he never allowed me to wear it out because it was “too see through”. I bought a Christmas t shirt, but he hated me wearing it as he said the slogan was intended to make men look at my breasts. I bought a pair of white trainers which I only wore once because he said they were too white and were blinding people. Clothes slowly got longer in length, higher neck lines, baggy and plain as he didn’t like anything with writing or patterns.

He told me I should be independent, and go out with friends. But whenever I did, he would keep texting or calling me, then when I came home he would accuse me of being a bad mum for not doing dinner or bedtime for my son. I remember a work do I had to go on, and one of my colleagues told me to run for the hills when she overheard him. I defended him, said he was just thinking of the children (my son and step son).

Any time I had been out with friends, he would search through my bag and purse in front of me to see how much money I had spent. He would then quiz me about how drunk I had appeared so he could work out how many drinks had been bought for me. One time I had been given a phone number by a guy I’d met. I stupidly put it in my bag, but forgot to get rid of it before going home. I had to lie and say it was for my friend, but she couldn’t take it home because her boyfriend would search her bag (I knew it was a rubbish lie and so did he).

After we got engaged, we went for a meal with our parents so everyone could meet. On the drive home he pulled up in the countryside and told me I needed to “thank” him for the engagement ring and for paying for my parents to eat.

That seemed to start a pattern. Any time my parents would phone me, he would start trying to make me perform oral sex, so I wouldn’t be able to speak to them, or concentrate on the conversation.  I would have to try to hide away from him, or not let him know my phone had rung. The moment the calls ended he would walk off. My parents had emigrated, and over time their phone calls became less frequent.  He told me it was because they didn’t care.

Similarly, whenever we had family over for a meal (usually his family), he would corner me in the kitchen, with everyone in the next room waiting for us to bring in the food, and try to force me to perform oral sex. He would become angry when I refused, he would call me names. I would then have to make polite conversations during dinner, all the while knowing what would face me once our guests had gone home and our boys were in bed.

I had a rental tv (back in the good old radio rentals days). I loved my tv, and when we took out a bank loan (in my name) he said I could either buy my tv to keep it, or pay off one of his bills. I chose to buy my tv. It turned out this was the wrong choice, he told me I had failed his “test”. This was the first time I was aware that he was testing me, but every time I always seemed to fail, no matter how hard I tried to please him and get it right. I used to ask him not to use me as a toy for his psychology studies, he found that very funny and told me I was paranoid.

He had always wanted to study criminal psychology, he was fascinated by serial killers. We often talked about him returning to study, but he said if he worked with or studied offenders he feared he would end up following a very dark path. He used to tell me that every man should have at least one chance to kill, that they needed to experience it.

After our son was born, I wanted to go back to work, just to earn a little bit of money so I didn’t need to rely on him, or always ask him for money. He didn’t want me to work, he resisted it, and I had to fight for permission. I got a part time job over the weekends so my kids always had one of us at home with them. After about a year, my manager left, and I was faced with either going full time, or losing my job, I had to go full time, though it meant no longer only working weekends. When he changed jobs I had to get a better paid job to make up the drop in money coming in. He wanted me to pay my salary into his bank account. I wouldn’t do it. Money caused us lots of conflicts.

Eventually he stopped working as he claimed to have had an accident at work (a pattern I hadn’t realised he had done in his previous relationship) . He wanted me to stop working, but work was my freedom. I was the only one bringing a wage into the house, and I was finally in a job I loved with great promotion prospects. But after I returned home one day to be told he had beaten my son in a fit of rage (caused by his pain, he said), despite him being very apologetic, I had no choice but to give up my career, my children were far more important, my family needed me home to keep us safe and together.

Having lost my only access to money, I was no longer able to make my loan repayments, or credit card bills. We owed nearly £30,000 in total, and it was all in my name. I was forced into bankruptcy. He told me it was my fault, I couldn’t be trusted with money. From that point on, I had to ask for money, explain what it was for, and provide receipts for any spending. He accused me of trying to hide money in an escape fund, so he also made me write down the login details for my bank.

I had to pay him “in kind” for anything I wanted. He made me sign agreements or contracts. I wanted a pet, so he made me sign an agreement to perform specific sex acts on demand in order to pay for them, despite being heavily pregnant at the time. We got two cats, and our older sons were so excited. But because I didn’t keep my side of the contract, he had the cats rehomed to punish me after we’d had them for six months. All of my current pets also had to be paid for, but I had learned not to default on his payment terms.

Any time I started to question what was going on, he would accuse me of being melodramatic or living in a soap opera. He convinced me I was crazy. I believed him. He was the real victim, and I was the abuser.

If this was how it had been all the time I would never have stayed. There were some happy times. Weekends away to celebrate anniversaries, messages left on the bathroom mirror for when I had a shower, having our own secret language where we would discuss Christmas presents in front of the kids without using full words so they had no idea what we were talking about. I often felt like we were one person, friends commented that they wish they could find what we had. I truly loved him, I just wanted to make him happy, and for him to love me.

It was a fine balance between happy, normal life, and confusion and crazy making. This was how he slowly suffocated my spirit. If I ever dared to be angry about something, he would be even angrier about something  else. I couldn’t understand why I felt confused, scared, alone, or why I always apologised for everything.

As I said out the outset, I can’t put my finger on the exact moment or action that stopped me from feeling like I had any value. The moment where I lost who I was. The moment where his control over me was complete. It was so gradual, so carefully done, I didn’t see it happening. I just wish on one occasion when I’d sought medical help, that someone had asked me the question about what was really happening. Why was I not coping? Why was I so convinced I was crazy? Why did I not have a support network around me?

Sometimes I feel like a fraud. Other times I fear that I am so broken I will never feel like a whole person again. One thing I know is that I have coped or endured through so much already, it gives me hope for a possible happier future to come. For now I cling to the pleasure freedom gives me.


My Experience of Suicide – Mental Health Awareness Week

Mental health is not something I used to talk about. I come from a long line of women that have relied on antidepressants at various points in there life. But I always thought that if I just kept getting up, getting on, I could fake my way through it.

Just over a year ago I was put on antidepressants by my gp (for the fourth or fifth time). Only difference was, this time I wanted to try them. I had been through several weeks of emotional pumelling by my ex, all part of his plan to tip me over the edge.

For years he had told me I was ‘mental’, that I needed ‘help’, normally after I had tried to speak to him about the fact he was raping me, or was making me feel shut out of my family, or after he had made me paranoid after watching him flirting with another woman (or man on occasions). If I ever dared have an opinion, or try to make a decision he would immediately undermine me, tell me I was unhinged.

He would make jokes to my children ‘Watch out kids, mum says she’s going to tighten up a screw’, ‘watch out kids, mum wants to drive’, ‘Watch out kids, mum’s had an idea’.

When he finally had me on the ropes, he told me my family would be better off if I was dead. He knew I had tried taking an overdose when I was a teen. I never thought I would ever be back there. But suddenly I couldn’t see any way out. I was consumed by so much pain the only way I could see it stop was if I could die, and anyway, maybe he was right, maybe my family would be better off if I was dead.

So as my youngest child celebrated their birthday with friends, I was in hospital after taking another overdose.

A few weeks later, I disappeared from home. My older child, friends and police searched for me as I sat contemplating which car/bus/lorry/train to jump in front of. I was very lucky that a stranger reached out to me. That brief moment of kindness, the hug from a stranger, a beautiful soul that took the time to tell the sad girl sitting on the bridge that life would get better, it saved my life that day.

There were a couple more attempts over the summer. But then things calmed down.

Until Christmas.

Two days before Christmas I sat giggling, drinking alcohol, and swallowing pill after pill. Somehow I blacked out before I could take enough, I was gutted to wake up the next morning.

I sat and wrote letters to each member of my family, and my friends. I needed to say goodbye.

Then on Christmas day, I was completely alone, I had a few text messages, but the loneliness was still overwhelming. No one had known that I had tried again, I had failed again. So I called Samaritans, they said they would stay on the phone as I took enough morphine tablets to do it properly this time. My older child came home and heard me, so the police were called. I had failed again.

I don’t want to die, it’s just that sometimes the pain of trying to live outweighs the pain of dying.

I urge you, please try to reach out if you are ever feeling overwhelmed. You don’t have to be suicidal, just in need of being heard. In the UK or ROI call the Samaritans on 116 123, they are there to listen, not judge. They will try to help you find your way through.

And if you ever get the chance to be someone’s Guardian Angel, to reach out, you may just save their life, and they will remember you for the rest of their life.

Apology To The Girl I Lost

In my late teens and early twenties, I was someone I really liked. I was strong, confident, independent and determined. I worked in travel, I was always on the road, in a different town, and often country, every night. I worked hard, and partied harder. Nothing phased me, I had the world in my grasp and I was dragging it by its balls.

By the age of 21, I had my first child, and although it meant the end of my career in travel, I was still completely independent and had big goals for my future. I was all my child needed, and they were all I needed. We were all set to go off exploring the world, but then I met my husband and everything changed.

After years of being controlled, put down, and raped, I no longer recognise myself. In fact, just yesterday morning I stormed out of my bathroom after yelling at my reflection that I cannot bare to look at her face. I am not that girl anymore, I don’t know where she has gone, but I know I miss her. Instead of being strong or confident I now jump at shadows. Instead of being independent and determined I now just feel proud if I manage to haul myself out of bed, and that just feels pretty pathetic in comparison.

I often close myself in at home. I talk to people online, but there is a distance that way. I know it isn’t healthy, but it makes me feel safer right now. The trouble is, when I see family and friends, they greet me with a hug, and same with goodbyes. For most people that would be lovely, normal even. For me, it is uncomfortable and I fear it so much that I shut myself away even more. The thought of physical contact makes my skin crawl and my stomach lurch.

Even my dreams are no refuge. If I am not reliving distressing events from my marriage, I am dreaming about horrible things happening, that people are holding me down so I can’t move or escape, or that my son suddenly appears but I can’t speak to him.

Recently I had a lovely dream, I dreamt I met an actor I had a huge crush on, and he was protecting me. In my dream he was just holding me, and I felt so warm and safe, something I haven’t felt in years. I woke up feeling happy, it was such a relief. Later that day a photo of this actor appeared on my Twitter feed (new film out). I suddenly found myself shaking uncontrollably, crying and absolutely terrified. Now I can’t even look at him.

I already can’t listen to music and now films and tv are becoming a problem.

A few weeks ago, whilst a work, a male colleague made a harmless, flirtatious comment, but it left me so scared. I used to love the attention I got when I was younger, but that girl is not here any more. I don’t like the one that is in her place. She is weak, an imposter, afraid of almost everything, including her own decisions.

I hope one day I can find a glimmer of the girl I lost. I miss her and I’m so sorry I allowed her spirit to be dismantled and destroyed.

Survivor Culture – Stars Shine Brightest in the Dark

A few months ago I joined Twitter. I needed a space where I could say how I was feeling, I needed freedom to talk about things without causing upset to my family. I didn’t realise back then how much I needed to speak to people that understood, that didn’t need me to explain why I felt certain things, why I seemed ok one minute then a complete mess the next. I was frustrated, and the thoughts and feelings trapped inside me were suffocating me from the inside.

During my time on twitter, I have had the pleasure of meeting and speaking to some amazing, inspiring, caring and supportive people. The stories I have heard have been horrific. The levels of abuse, shocking. Domestic abuse, sexual abuse, child sexual abuse and exploitation, rape, the list goes on. I have learned so much about how I am feeling, things I hadn’t been able to verbalise or understand have become so much clearer, and I have realised that it is okay not to be okay.

But with all those I have met, one thing stands out. No matter what they have been through, no matter what they are going through now, no matter what they know they are about to face, every one of them has the most incredible capacity for kindness. I have witnessed courage and strength, love and thoughtfulness, support and patience, and all without any judgement, without any belittling.

I am in awe of all the wonderful people who, despite their experiences, are the strongest, most inspirational people I have met. They are beacons of light in a void of darkness, they are helping to light a way, giving hope that we will one day be free from the darkness. As I say in the title, stars shine brightest in the dark, and the voices speaking out, the voices helping others through their dark times, and the voices that have been silenced but still fighting to survive through each moment, every single one of them is a bright and beautiful star, and I am grateful to get to see them all sparkling.

To all those I have met so far (and will meet in the future), I am filled with sadness over everything you have been through, and I wish you nothing but happiness in your future. I will never be able to explain how much your presence has helped me, and I know there are many more out there who are unable to speak that feel your support too.

Keep shining bright.

Victim Blaming: It’s so much easier than the truth

There seems to be something inherent in society that makes it easier to believe lies, than to believe the truth. It is easier to believe a woman is hysterical, mental, jealous, unhinged or any other negative suggestion that diminishes her character than it is to believe a man is capable of abuse, sexual violence or rape.

My parents visited me recently. We were watching tv when a man who had been accused of sexual assault came on. They sat and spoke of how sad it was that this poor man’s life had been almost ruined by false allegations. Now, don’t get me wrong, falsely accusing someone of sexual assault is abhorrent, it ruins even more lives and makes it far harder for victims to speak up and, more importantly, to be believed. But I found myself getting very angry.

I don’t know anything about this particular case, but I asked my parents if the allegations had been proven to be false or just unproven? They didn’t know the answer. I asked them where the sympathy was for victims? I asked them how many times do they think an innocent person is accused falsely compared to how many times a victim is disbelieved or failed?

Then today, during a chat with a friend, she also spoke about watching programs about men that had been convicted of rape based on false allegations and how fascinating it was, and how shocking that women behave this way.

I have also been told that my husband ‘doesn’t seem the type’, and that I should keep these ‘deeply personal details to myself as it is inappropriate to share them’.

To stand up and say what has happened to you is such a huge step. To strip yourself down and reveal your shame to a stranger is humiliating, and whilst it isn’t really your shame, it feels like it is, you wear it like a scar you don’t want anyone to see.

I had thought reporting my rapes to the police would make things easier, that it would be a first step towards recovery. Sadly, I was wrong. I have been left feeling disbelieved, like it doesn’t matter.

I fear the additional power it gives my abuser. I fear people believing I falsely accused my husband for any one of the numerous negative reasons women are instantly suspected or accused of, rather than the cold hard fact it is the truth. I was raped by the man I trusted to protect and love me. I was raped by a man the world thinks ‘isn’t the type’. And this is exactly what makes these types of people so dangerous, to everyone, because you don’t see it coming.

The only way to tackle rape is to prosecute. The law needs to change to reflect the nature of the crime, and make more prosecutions possible.

I say it again:

Sex without consent is rape. But rape without punishment is consent.

My Story


It is almost a year since my marriage ended, and whilst over the last twelve months I have only spoken to police, my GP, my mum and my closest friend about the truth of what was happening, I now feel like I need to open up and share my experiences. There are so many women out there that are being abused, and many are like I was, unaware or in denial.

I met my husband twenty years ago. He was tall, dark, a bit shy and very handsome. When we started to date he showered me with romantic gestures and unlimited attention. I felt like a princess, like the luckiest girl in the world. I felt like I needed to pinch myself to make sure he was real, that this was real. After three months he told me he was falling in love with me, it was like I had died and gone to heaven, this gorgeous, loving man loved me.

We moved in together after just six months. We were a ready-made family as both of us had a child from a previous relationship. I was no longer a single mum, I was a family. We would always be doing something at the weekends as a family, going to the park with picnics, theme parks days, cinema, it was a great time. By Christmas, we were engaged, this man that I loved more deeply than I had ever imagined possible had asked me to marry him, we had only been together nine months. Everything was perfect, or so I thought.

I had a great life. I was back at work and building new friendships. When my new boss took us all out for an afternoon (and evening) of drinking wine, a friend I worked with warned me to be careful, she said he was controlling me, she had heard him talking to me on the phone, telling me I should have been home by now, I had kids and he had cooked my dinner that was going to waste. I laughed it off, after all she didn’t know the kind, adoring man I knew.

Suddenly, out of the blue one Sunday morning a few months later, my gorgeous fiancé woke up in a very odd mood. He refused to speak to me, he was cold and distant. I had never seen him this way before. I lay in bed worrying about what had upset him, whilst he went off and had a bath. The next think I knew he come back into the bedroom armed with bin bags and began emptying my clothes and belongings into the bags. I was crying and begging him to explain what had happened, what I had done wrong. He refused to speak still, then went off to do the same to my then two-year-old sons possessions.

After he had loaded all of my things and my son into his car, he drove to my parents’ house where he threw all of my possessions out onto the lawn and drove away. I was devastated.

After a few months we started to speak again. I had got my own place, but I missed him. I loved him. I loved our little family. Eventually, we started to see each other again and six months after breaking up we were back together and found a house to move into and start again.

He was back to the man I had met, romantic, loving, funny, and before long we were engaged again, planning our wedding which we booked for June. This was put on hold after we discovered I was pregnant and the baby was due around the same time as our wedding date.

I was terrified at the thought of having another child, I felt so much guilt that my first child didn’t have a conventional family and I didn’t want to do the same to another child, but my fiancé was thrilled. But he would never talk about what had happened that Sunday morning.

For the next seven months he treated me like I was the crown jewels. Nothing was enough. I only had to mention that I liked something and there it was, he took great care of me. Plus I was banned from housework, I had to be very careful I didn’t do anything to risk the baby. I was unbelievably happy, and even more in love, what’s more I felt loved too.

Our little ready-made family welcomed a beautiful little addition that bonded us all together, it was bliss. We got married a few months after in a private ceremony, just us, our three children and two witnesses (my husbands friends).

We both worked hard and were enjoying a good life, but I started to see the signs of temper in my husband. It began with road rage, and my mild mannered, shy, placid husband would suddenly turn into a frightening beast. He put it down to being tired, I just tried to calm him down and stop him getting out of the car to confront people.

He had told me that he had been accused of stabbing his first child’s mother, but that it had all been an accident. And after all, she was a bit of a whore who did drugs. All my husband had tired to do was protect his child. Looking back I see how blinded I was by his charm and good looks.

Three years into our marriage, my husband had an accident that left him in constant pain and made his temper more frequent. I had a job I loved, and we needed the money, so our children took up some of the strain of housework and looking after their father.

But one day, when I returned from work, my husband told me that he had to show me something. He called my older child down and ordered him to show me their bottom. My husband had beaten my child until their backside and the backs of their legs were a blend of deep purples and black. He told me he would leave, he wasn’t safe with our children.

Looking back I should have made him leave there and then and never let him near my children again. But I loved our family, I didn’t want our children to lose everything they had. And I loved him, I believed him when he said he was sorry. So I gave up work to look after him (and make sure he never touched my children again). He went for CBT and began taking anti depressants.

Several years passed. People looked at us as the perfect couple. We laughed together, we were always chatting away. The public face of our relationship was great. Behind closed doors, he was starting to change again. He became obsessed with sex, and for a period of more than five years I was subjected to repeated assault whenever he felt the ‘urge’. But the sex he wanted often didn’t include me as his wife or lover, I was reduced to an object for his own satisfaction.

Any time I said no, he would tell me ‘no means yes’. He would call me frigid. Accuse me of having sex with other people. He would pull my hair, buckle my fingers and wrists back, force me to my knees. He would pinch my nose to force me to open my mouth. He threatened to put morphine in my drink so I couldn’t stop him.

He hurt me, not just physically, but emotionally, the bruises on the outside were hidden under my clothes, but they were nothing compared to the scars inside.

We argued, I was never allowed an opinion, and the more I tried to be heard the more he belittled me, the more he would tell me I was delusional, that I needed help, that I was mental. When I tried to tell him he was forcing me to do things I didn’t like he was furious with me, I had to apologise to him for even suggesting it. He told me he was autistic, that he didn’t know what was right and what was wrong. He made me feel sorry for him, that he was the real victim. He convinced me believe I had to protect him.

Then last year, he told me my family would be better off if I was dead, before he ran off, taking my youngest child with him. He went to the school, to our mutual friends, to anyone that would listen, and told them all I was unstable, that he had been forced to flee for his own safety.

The man who raped me countless times was the one that was not safe.

The man who controlled me, never let me have a choice in anything, didn’t let me have money, he was the one that wasn’t safe.

The man that beat my child in a fit of anger, the man with a long history of violence, he was the one that wasn’t safe.

On the day my youngest child was enjoying their 17th birthday party with friends, I was in hospital after taking some of the morphine tablets he had threatened to drug me with. I look back now, and if I am honest, I regret not taking enough to actually do the job.

Over the past year, I have struggled to come to terms with what happened to me. I had tried to pretend it was love not rape.

The police initially decided there was not enough evidence to proceed. I am hoping the review they are currently doing comes to a different decision, but I am not holding my breath. Rapists seem to get away with it. I often wonder why rape is a crime, it seems pointless when there are so many victims yet so few prosecutions, and even fewer convictions.

I know that I am completely broken.

I know that I will never really heal.

I know that I do not trust anyone.

But I also know that I want a future, I want a life, I want to be free.

I am fearful that my ex will seek revenge in the future. He will wait, ten years, fifteen years, but I know it will come.

I also fear for the safety of those in his life, his next victims, they still see the charming, handsome, slightly shy man I once saw, they have not seen the monster lurking inside.

Not yet.