Jenny was 33 when she met James. She had been on her own for about six months when they started seeing each other and she had enjoyed the single life. They’d met through someone at work and at first would just meet for a coffee. She remembers how he made her laugh, although looking back he talked about himself a lot.
He would tell her sad stories too, about things that happened “to” him, never because of him. He talked about his poor relationship with his emotionally distant mother and how his last girlfriend had betrayed him. She remembers thinking that he just needed someone to love him the “right way”. She felt she was the person who could do that.
Within weeks he’d asked her to move in, she remembers now thinking it was probably too soon but at the time she felt so in love and so happy – he was so handsome and attentive, and he said he wanted to be with her all the time. She remembers how, in the early days, he would stop her in the middle of the High Street, and kiss her passionately and how he didn’t care who was watching. It took her breath away.
Then things seemed a little different. He would get upset when she suggested she go out with a friend. She’d make excuses to her friends with a smile, reassuring them everything was fine but that she needed to make her new relationship a priority.
If she did go out, and missed a text message from him, she’d get another one from him suggesting she didn’t love him anymore. She would reassure him, telling herself that he was still hurting from his last relationship and if she loved him the “right way” he would realise soon that she wouldn’t leave him. So she stopped going out.
She was cooking a meal one day when she accidentally spilled some rice on the floor in his kitchen. She remembers now the look on his face; it sent chills down her spine. He looked so angry but didn’t say anything; he walked away from her and ignored her for an hour. She promised him she would clean it up and spent the evening attending to his every need as a way of making it up to him. She would say to herself “it’s only rice” but she knew he was mad, and she’d seen him angry before.
She remembers a time when they were out in the car and another driver shouted at James, because he nearly caused an accident at an exit. James chased the car down through the city forcing the other driver to pull over, pulling the driver from the car and pushing him up against it; James only stopped when he saw children crying in the back. He was sorry about that. He was sorry every time he got angry.
Jenny had to spend time in hospital with a mysterious illness and when she got home she logged on to Facebook; she hadn’t meant to see James’ account but he was still logged in. She saw messages he’d sent to another woman whilst she was in hospital; he’d been telling the woman the same sad stories he’d once told her. She asked him about it and he said it was her fault for “leaving” him by being in hospital – that’s when the pushing started. He hurt her and, of course, it didn’t stop there. She ended up in hospital again, only this time there was no mystery about why.
Jenny is okay now. She planned her escape eventually, with the help of people around her, but those first few weeks and months were hard. He would cry and beg her to stay. He would tell her he would kill himself. She thought about going back. And then he found someone else and now she is glad she doesn’t hear from him at all.
The effects of domestic abuse can take their toll, especially on mental health. After the split, Jenny’s self-esteem and confidence were low, and it took a long time for her to trust anyone again; she asked for help from a professional and took time to heal with friends and family. James had somehow managed to make her feel unloveable, even though she knows now she can love and be loved. She still lives with the emotional and physical scars – she still has the occasional nightmare – but her life is so much calmer now, and she is happy again.
Domestic Abuse affects men, women and children. It’s not just partner against partner, parents can be abusive towards children of any age and vice versa. It’s not exclusive to heterosexual relationships, and it’s not always violent. Domestic abuse can be emotional, financial, psychological, sexual and physical.
Three women a week take their own lives to escape domestic abuse and 750,000 children in the UK witness domestic abuse every year. But help is available.
If you know someone affected, you can contact local sources of support and national organisations like Refuge for more information. If you live in Milton Keynes you can visit MK:Act here and for help in Bedfordshire click here.
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This article was created as part of Mental Health Awareness week. Please read the important information at the bottom of this page before leaving a comment or question. Thank you. The names and certain elements featured in this article have been changed for confidentiality reasons.
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