You’d never pick him out as an abuser, he was small built and never got into fights and everyone who met him thought he was a sweet guy. When I was thrown out of home and had to live with him he very suddenly started to get rough. It was minor stuff like shoving me, being all up in my face, not serious stuff but looking back it started then. When I was pregnant he suddenly became very violent: what had been pulling my hair got to be him kicking me in the stomach.
The day after I’d had the abortion was the first time he raped me. One morning he “accidentally” shoved me in the stomach so hard he pushed me out of bed and I screamed in agony. In the space of a short few weeks this was my life and I was dead inside. It really was that fast, the violence came like flicking a switch and I was instantly shattered by the horrific abuse.
A few people tried to get me to leave but by the time they were doing that I was already deeply traumatised by months of verbal, physical and sexual abuse. Then because I didn’t leave people said I must like it, that I must be making it up, that by not leaving I was choosing the abuse and I deserved it. I was so low and vulnerable that I believed what they said. I used to scream and scream for help and nobody would come, people would hear but ignore it. This makes me cry now writing it. People heard but they thought I wasn’t worth saving because it was my fault for staying.
After a few months I was a shell. I was getting so drunk I couldn’t walk every day of my sad life. On a good day I’d just pass out drunk at home, on a bad I’d get a beating. Fortunately most of it I’ve blanked out but what I remember has left deep wounds. When he beat on me it would be hours, shoving me against walls, twisting my fingers and banging my head against things … then he’d get aroused. I’d be sobbing and screaming hysterically, my poor face bright red and swollen from tears and I’d have to carry out degrading and painful sex acts. If I refused he’d rape me. This was my life.
During the years that we were together he’d worked himself into believing that I was responsible for everything that went wrong in our lives. If he made a mistake at work it would be my fault for distracting him, it was my fault he couldn’t get it up because I was so ugly and so on. This was fortunate because he met someone else and decided that because I was so awful and he was such a victim it was fine for him to chuck me and move her in. I gradually rebuilt my shattered life and slowly realised that what had happened to me was domestic violence.
I’ve got over the worst of the problems but what still cuts me up is other people’s anti-victim prejudice, people saying that we deserve it for not leaving. When I told a friend I spent literally hours explaining why victim blaming is wrong yet a few months later she said she had “no sympathy” for victims because we’re “nobheads” and bring the abuse on ourselves. I gave her numerous chances to apologise but she refused despite knowing how deeply she’d hurt me. What surprised me is that she found being diagnosed with herpes so upsetting she suffered sexual dysfunction and had to go to counselling yet thinks that being traumatised by DV makes you an idiot – but I guess bigotry isn’t logical. Even after she moved to work in telematics she ignored my attempt to resolve things so eventually I had to cut her out.
Last time I spoke to my ex he was still martyring himself and making me out as the bad guy. He absolutely believes it, passionately believes that he was the victim and that I made a big deal out of nothing. I value every day that I’m alive even though I have permanent problems with my speech, memory, nightmares, flashbacks, hearing, sex, intimacy and physical scars because I know I’m lucky to have broken the cycle. If you’re reading this and you’re going through it I just want to say sweetie, you can escape this and whatever anyone says this isn’t something that you cause or deserve. I’m not a victim, I’m a survivor and you can make that change too.