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Did that just really happen?

As part of Domestic Abuse Awareness Week we are sharing real stories from real people…..

”Did that just really happen?

I’m a do-er, a positive person, always trying to see the best in others. A victim of emotional abuse? How could I possibly have let myself become that person? People have always told me I’m so confident, always happy but that’s because I’ve always been a pro at ‘putting on a face’.

One minute I could be physically shaking, feeling sick, in total fear of what barrage of verbal abuse was about to come my way all because I might have said something wrong, voiced a different opinion, and a second later I’d be smiling, laughing, acting as though life was okay.

Why? I couldn’t let other people see what a wreck I was. I felt friends were bored of hearing about it. The children couldn’t see us arguing yet again. I just took it, shut up, and prayed that tomorrow would be the day he would change, the day he’d realise how much we all loved him, the day he’d be kind, no more shouting, swearing and hurting the children.

For years I had an image of what my life would be like if I left. I had a perfect picture painted. My beautiful children and me. No arguing, no stress, the children not being subjected to the constant war. I could be me.

After fifteen years, I found the strength to leave my husband for the final time. Our relationship was toxic. It was time for me to show my boys that a woman could not be treated that way. It was not ok to be so totally and utterly defeated by someone who is supposed to love and care for you. It was the hardest thing I have ever done, but I had the image of my perfect picture, my little bubble for the children and me.

I was naïve, the effects of emotional abuse for us were far reaching and long lasting. It wasn’t long before I realised my bubble was anything but. Out of all the children, my eldest son was affected the most. He adored his dad, but always seemed to bear the brunt of his dads’ anger. He became a scape goat, ironically because he was quite like his dad, he was punished for it. He has a quick temper, is stubborn and defiant.

When I left, it didn’t take long until he started to take on the role of the father figure. He stepped into the empty boots and tried to fill them. He became violent towards me, he would destroy the house, the car, hit me, swear at me, use phrases he had heard his dad use. He became obsessive and controlling over me. I felt I was in another abusive relationship, being blamed for everything that went wrong. I still find it crazy how this happens without you consciously realising.

Things got worse before they started to get better. Police were involved, suspension from school, supervised contact, self-harming, suicidal thoughts, depression. All things my beautiful baby boy went through because I stayed with his dad, because I thought I could change him, and that staying would be better for the children.

The school intervened, he was given a counsellor, then social care became involved, and quite quickly became uninvolved. They suggested I had far too much support from family members for them to get involved. They suggested I go to a parenting group. They then suggested if I couldn’t cope with him, could I cope with any of my children? I was left battling it on my own. First Light were amazing and gave me lots of help and advice.

Finally, after months of almost daily phone calls, with me logging every single incident involving my son, CAMHS got involved, and have been a god send.

Even now the steps to the perfect picture are small (I am aware no picture is perfect). Some days the rage I have running through me takes my breath away. We are slowly picking up the pieces of an emotionally abused family. There will always be scars, some visible, some buried too deep to see, but over time I believe they will lessen.

I found the courage, and that in turn has helped me realise that I am strong, stronger than I thought possible. I have literally built my children a home, for them, for us, to build our future and make new memories. I have found real love, love that I didn’t realise even existed, someone who genuinely wakes up every day with the sole intention of making me happy, someone who wants to show my children how a woman should be treated.

I am still super critical of my-self, and I still keep my wall up, and maybe that is something that will always be there, but with the help of the most amazing family, and beautiful friends, we are on the up, because there’s only one other way to go, and I refuse to go there again.”

Helpline for domestic abuse and sexual violence in Cornwall 0300 777 4 777