Domestic Violence Part 3 – The Aftermath

This post is a continuation of my posts about my experiences with domestic abuse. It follows on from;

Domestic Violence Part 1 – How It All Began
Domestic Violence Part 2 – Where It Led

Warning: This post will contain triggers regarding domestic abuse and upsetting images as I talk about my own experiences. 



It’s taken me a long time to write this. In many ways I found what came after the relationship to be the hardest thing to deal with. I’ve spoken about how it all started and how those early steps eventually led to abuse of a financial, physical, sexual and psychological nature. My last post finished with me having finally realised something wasn’t quite right with our relationship and that I no longer loved the man. I had asked him to move out.

The evening after I asked him to leave I came home with a couple of ‘mates’ in tow expecting him to have either left or for their to be a confrontation. Luckily for me he had gone, sadly he had only taken two changes of clothes, his house keys and some of his plastic men he war-gamed with. Still, I was a strange mix of euphoric and terrified. I was overwhelmed with hope that he would try to be friends and that we could all move on peacefully with our lives.

Two days later I saw him and it became painfully clear he didn’t really believe we’d broken up. He thought I just needed a few days space before he would come back and things would be as before. I saw things very differently. That night he came into my flat (as he wouldn’t give the keys back) and started grabbing his stuff whilst shouting at me and the friend whom was still staying there. He rampaged through my belongings until he found a vibrator (which was given to me as a ‘Yay! You dumped the fucker!’ gift, then he really exploded and started threatening me with pretty much everything because it was clearly ‘evidence’ I was having an affair. Eventually he stormed out and I locked the door. For the first time I called the police.

Over the next fortnight he would keep refusing to collect his things from the flat and he would use it as reason to get back in whenever he felt like terrorising me. In one horrific incident he caught me walking to my flat alone, poured petrol on me and whilst I cried on the floor he walked around me flicking a lighter telling me how even if someone called 999 I’d be burned to death before they made it to save me. All he had to do was drop the lighter. Of course I fell into flashbacks of when I was previously burned (something he knew all about) and shut down completely. He must have decided to leave. I was on auto-pilot, being dissociated can be like sleepwalking, and walked back into the flat, put all my clothes into the washing machine and then went and sat in the shower with some fairy liquid whilst I washed my hair and body. I fell asleep and woke up later with no real memory of why I had taken a shower with washing up liquid. I blamed it on feeling ill and just got on with my life.

Reflecting back over it I can see my PTSD at work. I can see how my brain reacted to ‘protect’ me from the horror of what he was doing. I was so sure he was going to kill me. So very sure. Sometimes I wish I could turn back time so I could have called the police and let them see me covered in petrol, terrified and broken. It was clear he didn’t want me back. He was just acting like a spoilt child; if he couldn’t have me then no one could.

Eventually the day came where I needed to close our joint bank account. It was the last thing to be done. I met him and we went to the bank together. He was red and sweating, eyes like saucers the whole way through. He kept snapping so the lady in the bank hurried through his stuff and then, when he was done he stormed out. I burst into tears in fear and the staff kindly came over to check I was ok. They told me they all hated serving him and were scared of him. Eventually I left to meet a friend who said they would walk me home. Just as we left I heard someone screaming “WHORE!” as loudly as they could. I knew the voice. It was him. He strode through a busy high street screaming every insult he could think of at me whilst I froze, like a rabbit in the headlights. He towered over me (I’m 6’1″ but I slouch at the best of times, while he was 6’4″). He asked me if I’d had sex since we broke up (three weeks ago). I was so scared I simply replied “Yes”. I’d been well-trained never to argue with him and to always answer. I thought he couldn’t get angrier. I was wrong. He just screamed in my face at the top of his voice whilst I cowered, head in my hands, braced for a punch. Some people on the street told him to leave me alone and he stormed off. My friend took me back home, but just as we got close we saw him run up and head in the front door. My friend helped me find somewhere to hide (behind a wall) whilst he kept an eye out so I could dial 999. After a while he left the building and started running around the back trying (and succeeding) to smash my windows. When the police arrived I was a mess and he had vanished off into the local housing estate. They took my statement and went out to arrest him. Locals pointed them to where he was hiding; sadly it was a drug dealers house so they chucked him out and he spent a night in the cells. As it was his first offence he was cautioned and released. One of the things I remember most clearly about that event was being sat down by a kind policeman after he had been charged. He tried to give me a leaflet about domestic abuse. Initially I told him I didn’t need it, my ex hadn’t been abusive, he’d just had some temper issues. The police officer just popped the leaflet on my table and soon after left. Later my eyes flicked over it and soon I was crying. I was only just starting to realise that to realise that my relationship hadn’t been as perfect as I thought it was.

The front cover of the police leaflet that finally helped me realise I had been abused.

Over the next 6 months I was bombarded by death threats. He kept calling the police and telling them to arrest me. Eventually they got so pissed of with him they threatened to arrest him. He would stand outside my work and watch me all day flicking his lighter. Just before my shift would finish he’d vanish and leave me terrified that he was waiting to ambush me. Sometimes he would, sometimes he wouldn’t. He told the drug dealers that it was my fault the police had come to their flat (even though he was the one who ran that way) and they started a campaign of hate too. I worked with the police to help build a harassment case against him. They were called out a few more times when his temper would stop him being able to control his urges and he’d just have to hit me with a brick or walk into a restaurant grab my hair and start yelling.

Thinking back, while his abuse was horrendous to deal with, so was the way others behaved when they saw it. I was sitting having dinner with friends the night of the restaurant incident. All I did was cry and beg him to stop when he started, yet I was told by the restaurant manager that I had to leave as well as him. To be fair. At the time I blamed myself for sitting near the window. Now I see how messed up that was. He saw me in a restaurant, where I was a paying customer, and then decided to come in and abuse me and then I was chucked out. Out onto the street where he was. The manager should have called the police, but no, he decided I was equally to blame simply for being a person trying to live their life. Later he would hit me over the head with a brick whilst threatening to kill me in front of loads of witnesses. When the police were called two of the witnesses called me a bitch (even though I wasn’t the one who called the police) and said I “deserved it” for “being out and having fun somewhere he might see me”. I was “a whore, fucking with his emotions”. Others told them to sod off but it stayed with me. I really started to believe I was bringing it on myself.

Eventually a case was made and he was charged. It took eight months to get it heard, during which time he stayed away from me. His friends were an issue until the police explained to him he could be in trouble for ‘acting through agents’. My mental health deteriorated as I was plagued by nightmares, and waking nightmares I’d eventually learn to call flashbacks. I was scared to go outside and scared to stay inside. I was losing things, hearing things, my friends were telling me they’d seen him hanging around near my new ‘secret’ home.

The court case was a horrid. I was too scared to see him so I gave evidence via video link. During my testimony he was repeatedly told by the magistrates to sit down, to stop shouting, to stop laughing and so on. I was so scared I spent most of it shaking, crying my eyes out. I quickly discovered that the case only covered the harassment after the date of his caution for criminal damage. When the court would ask “Why were you so scared when he threatened you with ‘x’?” I wasn’t allowed to say “Because he used to do ‘x’ to me whilst we were together”. I wasn’t allowed to tell the court he’d been abusing me for 5 years before the harassment. Of course him shouting at me in the park didn’t seem that scary when taken away from the context of being part of an ongoing campaign of torture and abuse. He lied under oath, twice during my time in court, but was never picked up on it. Eventually a verdict was reached. Not Guilty. He was warned and told not to come near me again or he would be given jail time, but they had decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. The solicitor told me they thought I was ‘too emotional’ when giving my evidence which made me a ‘unreliable witness’.

Of course, he told everyone the case had been thrown out, I was a liar and he wasn’t guilty. My life became hellish. I broke down. A week later I discovered some people I had believed to be my only friends had been ‘Gaslighting‘ me for ages because they felt sorry for him. I hadn’t been loosing my stuff, they’d been hiding it. Then they began to blackmail me asking for money or telling me they’d tell him where I was and how to get me. I lost all my ability to cope. I hid in my bedroom either crying or catatonic, trying to commit suicide. I was put under the local crisis team and after a few months I decided to move to a new city to get a fresh start. I had a new partner at that point, who was sweet but like my previous partner, had an aversion to financially supporting himself. After living together for a few months in our new home city I broke up with him. I felt that there were too many similarities between his increasingly poor behaviour and his refusal to sort out benefits whilst he was out of work as well as his refusal to do any housework and his increasingly passive-aggressive manner when his damaging behaviour was challenged.

I continued to get death threats every 6 months or so from my doom ex but eventually things started to get better. I started to live my life for the first time since I was 17, I had sex and went clubbing without terror, I cooked food I enjoyed. I fell in love with the man I would later marry. I got diagnosed with PTSD and got some help which is still ongoing to this day.

I guess that’s my story with regards to domestic abuse pretty much told. I should try to sum up what I learned. Often people assume being tortured by someone I loved and believed loved me would be the worst part. It wasn’t. Not being believed by people. Being blamed for having brought it on myself. People telling me that if “he says A and you say C then the truth will be somewhere in the middle” did more damage than I can say. I was minimising my trauma as my way of coping, he was lying and suggesting that it never happened at all. The truth wasn’t somewhere in the middle, it was unimaginably dark and horrid. People were all so keen to give him the benefit of the doubt that they wouldn’t question his obvious lies.

I discovered the Just World Fallacy;

The just-world hypothesis (also called the just-world theory, just-world fallacy, just-world effect, or just-world phenomenon) refers to the tendency for people to want to believe that the world is fundamentally just. As a result, when they witness an otherwise inexplicable injustice they rationalize it by searching for things that the victim might have done to deserve it. This deflects their anxiety and lets them continue to believe the world is a just place, but often at the expense of blaming victims for things that were not, objectively, their fault. [Source: Wikipedia]

I learned that people don’t like to think that someone they rate as a person might have a ‘dark’ side. They often see people as good or bad, and react with hostility and doubt to people who challenge it. They didn’t want to think he could do horrid things to someone. Years later I still have people looking me up on facebook and saying “You know you said he did ‘x’ to you? Well he’s been doing it to [insert name here]” or “I’ve now seen what he’s like when he looses his temper, how did you survive?”, yet at the time they refused to even entertain the idea.

It shocked me how easily people would believe I was an evil, lying, manipulative, cruel, abusive bitch and he was a naive, charming, sensitive fool. Even when they’d watch him rage at me, completely out of control, they’d still try to find away of making me just as culpable, if not more so. I remember losing one of my jobs because he’d stand outside each day and then occasionally wander in and start shouting and threatening me. It was my fault he did that, even though I never engaged him or did anything more than carry on with my job by way of provoking him. It was still my fault.

I spent a long time blaming myself before I realised that a lot of the stuff that had happened really wasn’t my fault and that the blame lay elsewhere. I did a lot of reading about psychology, social psychology, sociology, feminism and other such things before coming to the conclusion that people’s perceptions of my gender had coloured their views. They thought women were hysterical by nature, which made ignoring my emotional distress easier. They believed women often lie about rape/abuse which made my story less valid. They believed women were over sexed ‘sluts’ (often at the same time as believing they were pure and needed a chivalrous hero to protect them from the world) which is why I couldn’t have been raped and why I must have asked for some of my treatment. Of course other things coloured their views, but most things were warped by gender. That’s why I identify as a feminist these days. I believe earnestly that regardless of gender or sex people should be treated equally.

In short, I discovered the world is not fair, sometimes bad things happen to people who did nothing to deserve it. I discovered most people are not comfortable with that simple truth and will go out of their way to try to re-frame the issues. Crucially I discovered that institutionalised sexist* stereotypes effect the re-framing of the issue and help create a culture where domestic abuse regardless of gender too often goes un-noticed, un-challenged and un-believed.

I believe if we want to make it easier for those suffering domestic abuse to get the help they need we need to work on raising awareness around the issues. No one deserves it. Whatever gender they are, however they present. The abuser makes the choice, albeit often unconsciously, to abuse and they are the people who need challenging and helping. Teenagers and adults need to be taught about the intricacies of unhealthy relationships so they can spot them before things get worse. I like to think that if I had regularly seen examples of how behaviour like my ex’s was abusive and dangerous, even in the early days,  it might have helped me realise how I was being warped and broken before it was too late. but If I hadn’t been raised not to complain, not to make a fuss, to believe women were ‘naturally better at housework’ I might not have been so easy for him to manipulate. This list isn’t by any means exhaustive and in 5 years I may well have changed my mind about certain parts of it, but so far these are some of the key areas I’d like to see addressed.

Thank you for reading this series.

* as well as racist, homophobic, transphobic, ageist, disablist etc…

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  1. Thank you so much for writing all of this. It's really important that survivors of abuse speak up, so that other people can understand what is going on around them. The more educated we are as a society, the more chance we have to improve.

    xx

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  2. I know I replied (sort of) on Twitter, but I wanted to publicly comment here and say that at the time I had no idea how bad things were, and I am so cross that my other half's evidence wasn't used against the male in question. I remember being furious at the time on your behalf, even knowing the little of what you felt able to share then. Speaking out in public like this is important; it might help someone else realise they need to leave, or get help. Thank you for surviving and flourishing.

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  3. Thank you both.

    @spinonehalf – I totally agree, I don't think things can improve until people understand abuse. Too many think that abusive partners first step when they get in a relationship is to break a jaw (see comments like “If my boyfriend punched me I'd dump him there & then”). Actually, it's far more likely that they'll start with psychological abuse and manipulation and move on to the 'riskier' things later – once the victim's spirit is good and broken. Education is the only way to show potential abusers & victims what is and isn't healthy behaviour.

    @girlwithtrowel – No one knew how bad it was, not even me. I'm almost ashamed to say I had become a very good liar with regards to the 'healthiness & happiness' of my relationship. At the time it made me feel better, though it came at a heavy price. I keep telling myself, if this story can make just one more person start to question abusive behaviour then it'll have been worth it.

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  4. I also want to thank you for writing this, unfortunately stereotypes about women also mean that it's easier for women to abuse men. My boyfriend was subject to psychological and physical abuse from his mother for years and counselors often disbelieved him and told him that he shouldn't defend himself and enforced the idea that he was actually the root cause of his mother's behaviour and that he was overreacting. Unfortunately even when victims recognise certain behaviours as abuse it doesn't always result in the correct help being received or convictions, as proved in your case. Our policing system often seems to be fairly backward in these cases, I'm glad you've been able to rid yourself of this person and seriously well done for having the courage to write this.

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