My truth continued

When I posted about my domestic abuse story I was sent so many messages of support and sadly messages from many who had been in a similar situation. It was a bit mind blowing just how many woman were also survivors just like me. I posted and to be honest I didn’t revisit that post until I started speaking to the amazing Danni from Godiva.

On reading my post back I realised in my haze of writing it I didn’t really finish the story. I didn’t really explain to people how I moved on. The more practical aspects and how hard it was but despite being hard it was possible and so worth it.

Being a victim of abuse makes you lose a part of yourself and at the time it feels like you’ve lost all sense of identity bit I promise you it comes back. Probably fiercer than ever. I used to think I could never break free from my abuser. I thought he’d kill me first and to be honest it got to the point I only stood up to him as I felt so low him killing me seemed like the better option.

That changed. I don’t know where it came from but I rose up. I decided enough was enough and I was no longer protecting him. My late Nan was happily married and still always advised me to have a ‘running away fund’. It turned out to be the best advice I’d ever received. Money can be used to control us and he was always the main earner. Looking back he tried to buy me and buy his way out of a shitty situation. Nothing says I’m sorry I smashed your face in like some flowers right?

I took my Nan’s advice thankfully and when I did leave I had exactly £200 stashed away. it fed me and my unborn baby and bought me some very cheap essentials as I’d left with nothing. I adore my husband and we’re a team but even now I have my own money. It’s so important for me to have that. We share money but I have my own account and I know if I needed to leave I could. I know some people may think that’s extremely cynical but I promise if you’d been through what I had you’d feel exactly the same. Please know too that if you’re reading this and you feel trapped that you aren’t. Even if you walk away with the clothes on your back and nothing else I promise there is always a way. ALWAYS. shelter, gingerbread, woman’s aid, Godiva, family, friends and so many more. They all have your back on this. I’m not special or a one off. Anyone can leave. It’s not easy but you deserve freedom.

As soon as I left I knew I wasn’t going back. Admittedly I had the odd wobble but my heart knew it was Lewis and I from now on. What surprised me more than anything was the amount of people who told me I should have given it another chance for the sake of Lewis. I’ll never really understand that but I knew the right thing for my son was me. Just me. Call it mothers instinct, call it selfishness. I didn’t care. Lewis saw his biological dad in the beginning sporadically but for safety reasons now has no contact at all.

The fear you have when you leave turns to anger. There is no timeline but it does. When it did I realised the strength I had. People tell me I’m strong for my past. We all have that strength but for some it’s just in temporary hiding. Once the chipping away from an abuser goes your inner strength comes back and it’s almost frightening. Womans aid helped reminded me how strong I was. I cannot sing the praises of women’s aid enough. I wasn’t even sure I fitted their ‘criteria’ for support but I soon learned there is no such thing. It’s not black and white at all but the more I got told about abuser traits the more clearly I could see. The woman who work for women’s aid don’t judge. They’ve seen it all and they will hold your hand and point you in all the right directions. Woman’s aid saved my life.

I worked so I didn’t realise I could get any financial support. My dream nursery sat untouched at my old house while I slept on my aunt’s floor. I didn’t care. I felt free. Babies don’t thank you for overpriced nurseries but they will thank you in the long run for giving them a safe environment to grow in.

I made an appointment with the council right away on the off chance they could help. Within about 3 weeks I had a flat. A very modest flat with blood up the curtains. I could tell people were horrified when they seen it. I loved it! For me it symbolised freedom, a fresh start and a decent chance for my son. My family and friends painted it for me and within a week it was a modest flat I was extremely proud of. I loved that bloody flat. I have so many fond memories. It’s where I took my baby home. I sometimes drive past it just to remember.

One massive mistake I made in hindsight was putting my ex’s name on Lewis’ birth certificate. At the time it seemed like the right thing to do but sadly it meant a messy legal battle. It was never about seeing his son and my heart hurts as I type that. It was control. As soon as he realised he’d lost me forever it was game over for seeing my precious boy. I think that’s what hurts the most. It’s his loss, it really is. I would go through all the shit again for that beautiful boy. He was most definitely worth it. One massive piece of advice I’m so glad I took was getting a lawyer. I was surprised I qualified for legal aid and from the word go everything was documented by a lawyer. At the time it seemed slightly dramatic but it’s still saving me now. I sleep better knowing everything has been properly recorded.

The anger leaves eventually too. Again it follows it’s own timeline but when it does it’s the nicest feeling. I’ve had counselling which helped with that massively but I’ve made peace with the situation. I don’t hate him. I feel almost indifferent. I realise my past is part of me but it doesn’t define me. I’ve moved on and I’m extremely grateful I have a very stable life now. I have the sort of marriage where we bicker about who takes the bins out and that’s all I’ve ever really wanted. I’m happy. In an abusive relationship there may be happy times but you’re never really happy. You’re living on eggshells. It’s not worth it. Everyone deserves happiness.

You deserve a life built on your own choices. The chances are if you’ve been in an abusive relationship you’ll have lost a lot of friends. That can be the hardest part as often you’ve cut people off or they’ve got frustrated and backed off. Remember they haven’t given up on you it’s just really hard to watch someone you love slowly fade away. I isolated myself in many ways but all of my friend were so understanding once I left. Never once did I hear ‘I told you so’. That meant so much.

The running theme in this post is support and I hope that conveys. The support is there and I’d recommend you take as much as you can get. There is real strength in being able to ask for help. Even if you’re a fellow survivor and you just need to talk about what happened then please do. It’s important to use your voice. You just never know how your story could help someone else. I’ve posted some links below of support I found helpful. Don’t ever doubt yourself. You just need to find your inner strength but you’ve totally got this!

Yvonne @champagneandsnottynoses x

P.S please check Danni out @godiva. She’s set up all up on her own to help other woman out and she’s bloody amazing! I’ve linked the donate link at the bottom too. You’ve no idea how much you could impact someone’s life.

https://www.womensaid.org.uk/about-us/contact/

https://www.gingerbread.org.uk

http://www.nationaldomesticviolencehelpline.org.uk

https://www.refuge.org.uk

https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/family/gender-violence/domestic-violence-and-abuse

https://www.shelter.org.uk

to donate to Danni’s fantastic cause:

https://www.paypal.me/godivawomen

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My teenage self

Getting older suits me. I’ve grown into myself and I’m much more content with what I have and where I’ve been. I’m not perfect at all and I’m constantly growing as a person.

My teenage self was reckless and unsure of herself. It almost makes me sad looking back but it was all part of my journey. That’s right guys. I used the word journey and I’m not even sorry.

Here are the things I wish I could tell my younger self. Not that I’d have listened:

1) It doesn’t matter how many people you’ve slept with. once you hit 30 you won’t even remember what you had for breakfast let alone how many willies you’ve seen. After a while they merge into one.

2) You are a Queen and you deserve respect. Have sex if you want to but not to feel wanted. Sadly that’s not how it works.

3) You’re not fat but even if you are it doesn’t matter. There are far worse things you can be than fat. Love yourself hard. Which leads us nicely on to our next point.

4) Don’t be a dick. Being mean about someone else doesn’t make you thinner/more popular/smarter. Be nice. You’ll feel better in yourself for it.

5) Don’t focus on what you want to be when you grow up. There’s plenty of time. You might be 40 and still not know and that’s really ok.

6) Travel more. Skegness doesn’t count.

7) Sleep more. Stock up for when you have kids. Seriously, you have no idea how much you’ll need it.

8) Buy your own drinks. If you want to be an independent woman you gotta pay your own way.

9) Keep your circle small. Embrace your quirks and spend time with people who love you for them. Quality not quantity.

10) Money isn’t everything but happiness most definitely is.

11) Be careful what you put in your body. You only get one.

12) Treat others with the respect they deserve. Respect is a two way street. Don’t take anyone for granted.

13) You can’t change people. Keep your side of the street clean and let others deal with theirs.

14) Study more but don’t kill yourself with it. It might seem incredibly stressful at the time but you get one shot. Try harder. It will be worth it. There will be plenty more parties to go to.

15) Take the picture regardless. You’ll look back and give yourself a big laugh one day.

16) Sometimes bad things happen to good people. It’s about how you deal with these obstacles that’s really important.

16) You’ll be fine.

Can you think of anymore to add? I’m sure we could go on for days.

Yvonne x

@champagneandsnottynoses

My truth

I’ve started this at least 30 times over the last two years and it might be another 2 before I finish it but here goes….

If you’ve ever wondered about my Son’s biological Father then I hope this answers any questions. I feel exceptionally vulnerable writing this but I feel like it’s time to explain.

I worked in a bar in my early 20s. I was as sassy as they came and thought I knew it all. A new chef came in one day and I took a shine to him. On further investigation he was just out of rehab for an alcohol problem. Naively at that point I had no idea the seriousness of this. Who was I to judge? It didn’t put me off and I want to punch myself in the face for saying this but I think it might have spurred me on.I was a fixer you see. Most of the problems in my life were caused by me being a fixer but I learned this the hard way.

T was quiet and placid so the polar opposite of me. He was never charismatic or charming but there was a vulnerability I saw and wanted to help. I was warned off by many and this made me more determined to make it work. I’ve always been a stubborn shite.This isn’t a character assisanation but T was someone you’d describe as non-descript. He didn’t have much about him really but he was kind to me at a time when I needed it more than I knew.

I finished uni and moved in with him almost right away. I was flat sharing at the time but spent less and less time at my own place. I remember telling my Nan I was giving up my flat and her saying she’d pay my rent just to have it empty. Just in case. I should have known then but, as always paid no attention.

I must mention an incident that happened early on as it sticks with me. I was a size 16, maybe 18. I never cared really. T had gathered information on a gastric band for me and showed me it one day. I was angry and hurt. He later apologised but that’s when it started I think. The chipping away of my confidence. Control. I should have packed my bags then but I didn’t.

We had a fairly good relationship. The lack of alcohol was never an issue. I was as supportive as a 22 year old knew how to be. T had a good job and I worked my arse off in 2 jobs so we were financially secure. We did nice things, but looking back there was no real love. We both had rocky upbringings and it was the safety I liked, I think. We didn’t argue and stupidly decided to try for a baby after about a year. After the shaky start we had as kids, it seemed somehow we could but it right by giving a baby a good chance. I now realise how ridiculous this sounds.

We wanted to do it right. We went to the doctor to discuss me coming off the pill. As I’d be on for so long they said it could take up to a year. 2 weeks later I was pregnant. I was over the moon but sadly that’s when the wheels started to come off. The day of my positive tests (all 19) T called to say he was in hospital. Apparently he was so excited he’d cut into his hand at work. I was angry he’d almost stolen my thunder and been so careless. Looking back I’m convinced this was deliberate. I now look back and question everything. You’re about to find out why.

In the early days when we stayed up all night talking, he confided in me that his first love was killed in a car accident. He cried and the story was so horrific I did too. I know now that this was a complete lie.

Anyway the cutting of the hand was the very start. Things escalated very quickly. He started working late and starting early then eventually just disappearing. For days. I didn’t tell anyone except one friend for fear of the “I told you so” chat and also I didn’t really want to admit to myself the reality.

I thought he was nervous and scared. I was too. I was also suffering with hyperemesis gravidium so was in and out of hospital – alone mostly. I just plodded along like the determined little shite I am. Throwing up at the side of the road on the way to work every day with zero support or sympathy.

One day T had been out all night. I was 6 months pregnant. He came in and seemed odd. I asked if he’d been drinking and he said no. He didn’t smell of alcohol but something wasn’t right. I went through his pockets and found diazepam (or valium) and confronted him. T wasn’t a shouter but he was angry. I knew so little about addiction or drugs but I knew the tablets weren’t his. I asked where he’d got them and he told me a local dealer. I was horrified. I shouted, and to this day I still partly blame myself for what happened next. That’s how abusers make you feel though. I now know that.

Heavily pregnant and ready to leave for work he came in the bathroom when I was wiping my tears. My tears of knowing I was 23, pregnant and very much alone. My tears of knowing my naivity had really done it now and I was about to bring a baby into a complete shambles of a relationship. T was like a mad man. He punched me in the face so hard I fell right to the ground. I remember shouting ‘my baby’ and Ill never forget the evil in his voice as he shouted ‘fuck your baby” as he repeatedly kicked me in the stomach.

After what seemed like forever he just took himself to bed. I left quickly. Terrified he’d come after me. I was covered in blood but in a complete state of shock I left for work. My neighbour saw me. I didn’t know her but she grabbed me in her house without even thinking. I told her what had happened and she cleaned me up and hugged me. She told me I had to call the police. I knew I did too but I had to get to work. Or I thought it did. I was a store manager and didn’t want the shop to not open. Again I think the shock just didn’t allow me to realise what had just happened. I went to work, opened the store and calmly called the police. I was in a complete trance. I didn’t want to be that person. People like me weren’t battered woman. I was strong. Not anymore.

Did you know most domestic abuse starts during pregnancy? When a woman is at her most vulnerable. Neither did I.

I left work. I made my excuses and headed straight to hospital to get checked. All I could think about was my baby. I really want to tell you how supportive the hospital were but sadly that just wasn’t the case. I was made to feel small and I was judged. I was treated like a victim. It must be so frustrating for them to see woman in that situation time after time but I really do feel there are better ways to speak to people. I’m hoping I was an isolated incident and other people have had better experiences than I did. They also didn’t scan me as they assured me the baby was ok. I was terrified so booked an emergency private scan. I’m so grateful I was in a position to do that as I couldn’t imagine going through my pregnancy not knowing for sure.

The police came next. I’ve got a knot in my stomach writing this as never in a million years do I want to put anyone off reporting abuse. It really needs reporting. The reason so many people get away with this shit is because it’s not reported enough but the police…weren’t that helpful. I was made to feel like just another stupid battered woman. I was made to feel like I’d go back for more and give them more work. Again I was judged. Also I wasn’t aware that all domestic were reported to the social work where kids are involved. It makes perfect sense but it just hadn’t crossed my mind. The way I was told this made me feel under fire as a parent. like I was about to be investigated. I’ve never been so terrified in all my life.

I didn’t charge T. The police made it clear it was my word against his and it seemed like more hassle at a time I didn’t need it. A decision I’ll always regret now but it felt right at the time. I wasn’t protecting him – or at least I thought I wasn’t. I was leaving him and I did. 6 months pregnant and sleeping on my aunt’s floor. It wasn’t how I’d envisaged my third trimester but here I was.

I left him with everything and just didn’t go back. I’d gone from financially secure to virtually penniless in the space of a few weeks. I’ll never forget my best friend when I told her. She was the only person who didn’t judge me. She didn’t give me the look of pity I was so used to but instead she helped me sort the practicalities. She bought me a bed the day I told her. In all the shit going on that’s the one act of kindness that sticks out. Always look for the helpers.

Her Mum gave me advice on getting a place to stay and I’m so fortunate that within about 5 weeks I had a flat from the council. It was hardly the dream and had blood splattered up the walls when I moved in but with help from my family it quickly became home.

I’ll never forget having to tell my grandparents. At that point my Grandad was ill and I didn’t want to make things worse so I kept them in the dark until I was settled. Deep down I think I was ashamed and stupidly protecting T too but I couldn’t bring myself to cause them distress at such a hard time. My Nan never judged me. Not once. Calmly I told her I left him and why. She told me it was going to be ok and she was right. She was always bloody right!

I didn’t hear much from T after that but I do know he quickly went downhill. He had been drinking and I found out he was heavily addicted to diazepam and a pretty impressive collection of prescription drugs too. How could I not have noticed that you’re probably wondering but I was throwing up 30 times a day, working a really stressful job and coming to terms with the fact I had a baby on the way. That’s how!

He wasn’t apologetic. He didn’t actually seem to think he’d done anything that wrong. He played a great victim.

Something else I have to mention was something I’d never even heard of until I’d met T. I was sick to the stomach when I found out and it still makes me shudder now. T was a smoker and often left cans of gas lying around. I didn’t smoke but knew they were forfilling lighters. Or so I thought. From the beginning I found them all over the house. It didn’t sit right with me but I wasn’t sure why. One day I found a bin bag with at least 50 empty butane cans in. I knew then, I think but chose to take his word that nothing way wrong. After he beat me he then mocked me with the fact I was so stupid for believing him. He was addicted to inhaling gas. I still can’t believe people do that. It seems like such alien, grim behaviour but then that’s addiction.

Addiction is selfish and it doesn’t care. Once you’ve witnessed true addiction your eyes are opened. As much as I hate T for everything I genuinely wouldn’t wish addiction on anyone. It rips through life and reality like a hurricane. It doesn’t give a fuck.

After I moved we spoke more and more. About the relationship he’d have with the baby. I refused to be the person who kept a child from his father. I so wanted to do the right thing but I genuinely didn’t know what that was. T confided in me one day. He said he’d got his act together and he had panicked as we’d got pregnant so quickly. He reminded me we had a good thing and asked if I’d consider putting the baby up for adoption so we could continue with the way things were. I said no obviously but still couldn’t help feel slightly sorry for him. I know that probably sounds insane but the pressure was just too much. I blamed myself for agreeing to a baby and felt robbed. This wasn’t what I’d signed up for. I was now alone but very much ready to do this. I wasn’t going to let that baby down.

T swore he’d sorted himself out. Everyone believed him. I almost did too but once you’ve been hurt like that you’ll never really trust someone. I could never have made it work with him. Wondering. I agreed to let him be part of the babies life.

I had a visit from the social workers to discuss the situation. Unlike the police and the hospital they were great. Their priority is always the children and that’s 100% how it should be. They come under fire a lot but they had my back. They were obviously glad I’d broken away and happy to support me in any way they could. My parenting abilities never came under scrutiny. They put me on to the woman’s aid who were also amazing! I can’t stress that enough. The police and the hospital are on the front line but woman’s aid and social workers have all of the real experience and tools to help. I really wish that was publicised more.

Anyway I digress. In the last 2 months of my pregnancy, social workers called me about 5 times to make me aware of failed suicide attempts by T. They had a duty to keep me in the loop and once again my life was taken over by fear. It’s round about then thatthe threats started. T lived 5 minutes from me and in 2 months my tyres were slashed and windscreen smashed time after time. He followed me and watched me coming home. He made it clear if I didn’t take him back my life would be hell. The police rolled their eyes at every call I made. Just another domestic you see! Even if you’re spilt up it’s still a domestic and then there were no stalking laws in Scotland.

I remember my aunt telling me once the baby was born my sense of loss at my relationship with T would diminish. She couldn’t have been more right. This little bundle was mine and I didn’t care about anyone else. That baby saved my life. I threw myself into motherhood. I did baby massage and reflexology in between constant abuse and threats from T. I just cracked on with it. To this day I don’t know how I did it.

One day I was about to have some well deserved time off and go out with my friends. I got a picture message of T slicing his arm. My friends we’re supportive as the night was cancelled while we waited to give a police statement. He loved the control. He didn’t want to die. He wanted to make my life hell.

On one of his many failed suicide attempts I got a call to say they weren’t sure if he’d make it through the night. Religious I am not but I swear that night I prayed so hard he wouldn’t. The months of hell I’d endured I felt like him dying was my only way to happiness with my son. He made it though the night. The hell continued.

Eventually I begged social work to stop telling me what was going on. They were satisfied I’d left him and did. That angered him too. He needed my attention. My Son was never his priority it was always me. I sort of wish it was because he loved me but really I know it’s because he hated himself so much be just wanted to make me miserable too.

For legal reasons and to protect an innocent party I can’t explain how, but on one day after many a death threat I found out T had spent 7 years in prison. I won’t go into it but think about the sort of thing you get 7 years for. He didn’t steal a bar of soap put it that way. That day I found out a lot about him I was never supposed to know. It was only then I realised the seriousness. I had to get this man out my life.

I changed my number and got some very quick legal advice. I had no idea what I was doing but I knew this hell needed to end. Within 2 days I had an interdict with power of arrest. This is the Scottish version of a restraining order but due to the closeness of our flats meant he didn’t have to stay away from me. He wasn’t allowed to cause me fear. I felt safe at last. Naively. He stood and watched my every move. The fact he couldn’t contact me made him angry. When I reported him I was told that being near me wasn’t a crime. I just had to accept that and stop wasting police time.

There were too many incidents after that to mention as I realise this is already far longer than I wanted it to be. T struck up a friendship with my upstairs neighbour. How convenient? He could now watch me all day long from the comfort of my building. Thank you Scottish law for that technicality!

This went on and on. As soon as he realised we were over our Son never came into it. Other than to tell me I was a bad mother for keeping him away from his Dad. I only spoke to him via lawyers and advised he could see the baby in a safe place provided he was clean and sober. This never really materialised apart from a handful of empty promises.

After a night out, baby was at my Dads and I came home about 2am. Guess who was in my stair? He followed me in the house and I told him to leave. He was drunk and calling me a bad mother for leaving our Son. I was drunk and obviously feeling brave cos I tried to push him out my front door. I didn’t have the strength and he pinned me against the wall by the neck. He said he would kill me and at that point I knew he was serious. I genuinely thought that was it for me. All I could think about was my child. He left eventually.Leaving me in a heap with strangle marks all over my neck. I knew I had to get out the house.

I ran to a taxi office and called my brother. I didn’t know what else to do. I put a scarf on a told my brother we’d had a falling out. He still wasn’t aware of the situation as I was stupidly protecting T. I knew my brother would go nuts and I didn’t want a backlash so I thought it better to just sit quiet. Years later my brother told me at that point he’d already guessed what was going on.

Domestic abuse is the single most confusing thing I’ve ever encountered. I went from wanting him dead to feeling terrible as he was the father of my son. I hated what he had done but also mourned the person I thought I knew and loved. That was the hardest part.

I didn’t go back to my house after that. I was sure he’d kill me. I went to live with my Dad and took steps to find somewhere else to live. I was so low at that point I didn’t even realise. I had no quality of life. I was frightened to go out and embarrassed of the mess I was in. Through it all I still blamed myself for allowing this to happen. I didn’t event realise how much this man had broken me until now when I just wrote this paragraph.

One day I got a call from my Nan to say that T had text her to say he was going to kill her. He said he was going to set fire to her house. My Nan knew half a story at that point so didn’t take it too seriously but after much persuasion called the police. My Grandad as so ill at that point and I was ashamed by the drama I brought at the worst time. The police explained how difficult it would be to charge T and advised my Nan it could end up being a stressful process for her. I sobbed and begged for her to charge him but understood her decision not to. That was that. Once again there were zero consequences for him and yet again I was living in fear.

I continued to live at my Dads trying to maintain a normal life for my Son. One day I went to check my house as it was empty. Baby and I were in the house for a matter of minutes and I was so scared he’d come and hurt us. I went to leave and my carpet was on fire. He’d put lit paper thought my letterbox in a attempt to set fire to my house. I quickly got it out, left and called the police. They got him on his way back from mine. He denied it of course.

It took weeks to investigate but I was sure that justice would prevail. It didn’t. They couldnt even charge him. Not enough evidence. It would be funny if it wasn’t so fucking tragic. In the few weeks it took for the investigation I moved house. Far enough away that he couldn’t find us. I lived in hiding for a while and had nightmares for about 5 years. I went on medication for anxiety as I suffered panic attacks. It took me years of counselling to rebuild my life but I did. My boy is 8 now and is aware he has ‘another’ Dad but that’s all he knows. My husband raised him from 3 and is not just his Dad but a wonderful father.

I’ve never told my husband everything but he knows bits and has pieced things together. I don’t like to talk about it, so feel that by writing this, it’s out there. Violence scares me and I can’t deal with men shouting. My husband understands and luckily is the kindest, gentlest man I could have asked for.

So there it is. That isn’t even it all, but I’m aware this is now longer than my dissertation was so thank you for reading this.

One final note. I have noticed how many people who have been victims of domestic abuse and don’t like to talk about it. I, more than anyone, can understand why, but sadly this means there is a massive lack of awareness. The stigma is very much still there and until more of us speak up it will remain. We need to work at removing the shame and victim blaming surrounding the issue.

I was extremely fortunate with the amount of support I had and not everyone does but there is ALWAYS a way out. Even if it seems impossible at the time. Abusers don’t change and it’s never your fault. You are worth so much more.

Yvonne (@champagneandsnottynoses)

https://www.womensaid.org.uk

http://www.nationaldomesticviolencehelpline.org.uk

https://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Addiction/Pages/addictionhome.aspx