For a long time I have kept a terrible dark secret. One I did not dare to share with any of my family or friends. After five long years I feel finally able to put hand to keyboard and reveal what I have kept locked away inside me.
I was only seventeen years old when I met someone whom I thought was the love of my life. He was the first guy to tell me he loved me.
He made my heart go flitter flutter when he walked into the room. There was nothing I would not do for him.
We took our relationship to the next level when I was eighteen and moved in together. Shortly after moving in with one another he started going through my things, looking in my handbag, checking my phone and generally intruding on my own personal space.
When I would complain about this he would be very quick to anger, which effectively shut me down from complaining when he would do it again.
He didn’t want family or friends dropping around to visit, or allowing me to go and visit them. He started controlling just about every aspect of my life. My finances, my leisure time, and would even meet me at lunch time at work to ensure I didn’t spend this time with my work colleagues.
I tried to explain to him that I didn’t want him controlling me like this, and when I did he began hitting me. At first I thought that he was just under a lot of stress at work, and made excuses for his behaviour.
As nobody in my family has ever had anything to do with domestic violence I felt very ashamed and never told anyone what was happening to me.
The frequency of his attacks grew until I was often sporting a black eye or fat lip at work. When questioned as to what had happened to me I would lie and say that I was clumsy, fell over in the shower or something like that. I felt truly ashamed that the man I thought I loved was doing this to me.
Over time my friends dropped off, they no longer phoned because he was always first to the phone and would often tell them I was too busy to come to the phone.
My family did not like him and made no secret of the fact. They stopped inviting us to family functions.
I tried to end the relationship, but he started making threats that included hurting a cat that we had bought together. I believed he would carry out his threats. So I stayed.
After nearly four years together I was now a shell of my former self. I stopped caring about my appearance because if I tried to look nice it only made him angry. I stopped talking to my family and friends altogether. I did not recognise myself any more.
Finally one day he hurt me so badly that I required hospitalisation. It was here that I was able to talk openly for the first time with a counsellor about the violence I had been subjected to for the past four years.
She was very sympathetic and non judgmental. She explained to me that I was displaying classic symptoms of a Domestic violence victim and that there was help available for me.
I left the hospital and went directly into a woman’s shelter. I stayed there for several weeks. They even helped me to get my cat and have him safely put into an animal shelter until I was able to take him.
My ex tried unsuccessfully to get me back for a few months and then gave up.
I have regained my friendships with some of my friends and my family never stopped loving me and are back in my life again.
I now realise that I should never have felt the shame that I did. It was his shame and not mine.
I know that more needs to be said and done about this terrible epidemic that is Domestic Violence.