Living with the Monster

My ex-boyfriend is in prison. This makes me happy. My only regret is I didn’t put him there.

They say you never forget your first love. This is certainly true for me. I was 17, C was almost double my age and recently estranged from his wife. We were co-workers who embarked on an intense and impulsive relationship which resulted in us moving in together within a month. He was everything I was looking for in a mate: strong, funny, intelligent and mature. Everything guys my age weren’t. He showered me with compliments, wrote me notes to tell me how much he loved me and a quick glance in my direction would give me butterflies. All very Mills and Boon. I soon discovered this was all a front.

Our relationship caused major upset with my parents who couldn’t understand why I had to move out and “shack up with a married man”. Of course it wasn’t that simple – he was separated from his wife and free to pursue a new relationship. I was almost 18 and had always been wise beyond my years so this resistance drove a wedge that C was all too willing to exploit. I didn’t find out until a lot later that he was using my phone to send abusive messages to my family while I was asleep and destroyed letters my Mum sent me begging me to see sense. The relationship with my family was so strained that I didn’t see them that Christmas or on my 18th birthday, of course C didn’t mind this and told me that it was “us against the world”.

C started to take over every aspect of my life without me realising it. He went clothes shopping to “treat me” which I thought was incredibly sweet. I didn’t realise this meant he could dictate what I wore. Both of our salaries were paid into his bank account so he held the purse strings, I had to ask him for money every week because I didn’t have my own bank card. If he didn’t like one of my friends he would talk me out of seeing them or persuade me to not go either by saying he wasn’t well or whisking me out for a surprise meal. After months of rejection texts friends stopped inviting me out altogether. Spending every night with one person left me feeling suffocated. C and I had stopped working together by this point and when I was invited out by my new work colleagues for drinks I said yes without discussing it with him. I knew we had no plans and I was an adult, why did I need to ask for permission? I found out immediately that was a big mistake.

I sent a text to say I was going out for a couple of drinks and barely a minute later my phone was ringing. I was met with screaming, “who are you out with you dirty whore?” C had left work at lunchtime and had clearly been to the pub. He was drunk and livid. I told him to stop being stupid and hung up. He rang another 20 times, leaving abusive messages on my voicemail. Eventually I turned the phone off and returned to my night out which was probably childish, but no more than he was acting. I went home three hours after we’d spoken to find out I couldn’t get in our flat. So I rang the bell. Nothing. I rapped the letterbox repeatedly. Nothing. I started kicking the door until he eventually opened up. When I saw his face, the rage twisting it into a shape I didn’t recognise I knew immediately that he wanted to hurt me. He screamed at me that I wasn’t welcome, threw a carrier bag of belongings at me and shoved me so hard I fell backwards down a set of steps, banging my head against the cold hard wall. I picked myself up in a stunned daze and walked out into the road, no idea where I was going to go. I sat in a bus stop a few minutes from the flat, even though the buses had stopped running. I sat shaking and crying and tried to make sense of what had just happened. That was the first time I met the Monster.

An hour passed and I tried to work out if I had enough money to get a taxi to my parents’ house when I heard footsteps and saw C walking towards me. He was crying with big heaving sobs and got down on his knees in front of me and begged for forgiveness. I was dumbstruck. In 18 months together we had barely argued, I never expected anything like this to happen so had no idea what to do. Still dazed from my fall, cold and tired I decided to go back to the flat and sleep on it. In the morning C was so apologetic it was difficult to believe this was the same violent creature from the night before. I told him I needed some time to forgive and trust him and he promised me that he would never, ever do anything like this again. But sadly abusers really are excellent liars.

The next time C hurt me we had an argument after he saw an innocent message on my phone from an unknown number. He squeezed his hands around my throat until I told him it was from my brother’s girlfriend and I hadn’t had a chance to save the contact details yet. I made the decision there and then to leave. I packed a small suitcase and went to my parents’ house where I begged for them to let me back in. They reluctantly let me stay, our relationship never having fully recovered from me leaving in the first place. I never told them about the violence, partly because I felt it would prove all of the doubter’s right. And I had a sneaking suspicion if my dad found out someone had hurt me he would go looking for revenge and get himself into trouble which was the last thing I wanted.

A week after I moved home C turned up in the early hours of the morning and when I wouldn’t answer the phone to him he threw a brick at my window to get my attention. He managed to grab the attention of the whole house with that move. I went to speak to him and he told me he’d been put on medication for his mood swings and was willing to see a counsellor about his anger issues. He told me that his ex-wife had cheated on him and that had caused so much of his paranoia. He spoke about how angry and lost he felt after the loss of his father and his vulnerability and honesty reminded me of the man I fell in love with. In the weeks that followed he called the house constantly trying to make peace and bombarded me with flowers. My parents told me they were tired of my “drama” and wanted a quiet life so told me moving out would be for the best. They practically packed my bag for me. I didn’t want to leave but wasn’t welcome to stay so moved back in with C. We moved to a new house for a fresh start (if only).

I spent the whole time in the new house walking on eggshells. I took verbal abuse on a daily basis about my looks, my weight, my intelligence and my clothes. He made sure he was never physically violent towards me (that was his promise) but the constant jibes were soul destroying. I started binge eating chocolate in secret for some comfort and tried to match C’s heavy drinking during the week. Anything to numb the pain I was living with. Why didn’t I leave? I thought about it. I called the local council and women’s shelter. The internet was in its infancy and the information I had access to was limited. I was told quite starkly that as I wasn’t pregnant I wasn’t a priority and advised to call the police if there were any threats made against my life. I went to bed every evening wishing I wouldn’t wake up.

When I made it clear I wouldn’t be having sex with someone who didn’t have a civil word to say to me I was banished to the spare room (a windowless empty space) and as I lay on the scratchy carpet night after night I wondered what I had done to deserve this. I tried to make myself as unattractive as possible so C would be repulsed by me and stopped bathing so he wouldn’t be tempted to touch me. I had no close friends to confide in but mentioned I was having problems to my brother’s girlfriend in the hopes she could try and talk my parents into having me back.

C had to go away for a couple of nights with work and I took the opportunity to spend some time with my family. They seemed worried about me and my scruffy appearance, so much so that they took me out and bought me some new clothes and toiletries so I could freshen up. We went out as a family that night and I laughed for the first time in months and almost believed I was a happy go lucky 20 year old. I made the decision there and then that I was leaving for good. If my parents wouldn’t have me I would look for a flat share and get as far away as possible. I was determined to cut my ties as soon as C got home.

What I didn’t realise is that’s C’s trip had been cut short and he was waiting for me. He was sitting in the dark when I got home, if I had realised he was in the house I wouldn’t have entered. The Monster was well and truly back. What happened next was a bit of a blur, there are only two of us who know everything that happened and I blocked out the worst parts. At various points I was kicked down a flight of stairs, had chunks of my hair ripped out, was thrown against a wall breaking a mirror in the process. When it was over I was lifted up by my shoulders and chucked out the front door onto the stone path. I was told my belongings were in the bin and the door was slammed shut. If he hadn’t closed the door then I believe he would have killed me. During the ordeal he threatened to kill my family and I, told me in graphic detail what he would do to all of them.

I immediately vomited on the front lawn and stumbled to find a taxi to take me to the hospital. I was lucky that there was no permanent physical damage but lots of cuts, bumps and bruises that would fade over time. I didn’t imagine that 13 years later I would still have flashbacks from that day. I was deliberately evasive when questioned at the hospital, the threats made against the lives of my loved ones replaying in my head. I phoned my parents and asked them if I could come home, that the relationship was over for good and I was never going back. They sensed the fear in my voice and agreed to let me stay. I got a call the next morning from C’s only friend explaining that C had moved out of our house that morning and left the area completely. He left no details of where he was going and no number he could be reached on. I went round to the house with my dad and retrieved my belongings from the wheelie bin outside.

I have a lot of regrets about that time, that’s for sure. I should have reported what was happening to the police, should have told my family what was going on or confided in a friend. I could have died – it’s as simple as that. Shortly after C left the area he got into a fight and stabbed someone. He was later imprisoned for attempted murder. When the case came to court I discovered that he had a string of previous offences and two ex-partners had restraining orders out against him. The Monster was the real C and the good guy was just a disguise.

The experience has left its mark. Trust is something that is very difficult to earn from me, I am naturally suspicious of people who are “too nice” and find it difficult to be in a relationship for any length of time without believing that one day they will turn into a different person. And I cannot stand people touching my hair. When a stranger touches my scalp it feels like pins and needles and I shudder. It’s taken a lot to write this down but having discussed this at length with my counsellor I have decided it’s time to say goodbye to the Monster for good.

If you or anyone you know is a victim of abuse PLEASE SEEK HELP. The internet is full of useful resources, a few are listed below:

http://www.womensaid.org.uk/

https://www.victimsupport.org.uk/help-victims/ive-been-affected/domestic-abuse

http://www.nationaldomesticviolencehelpline.org.uk/

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