I was 19 when I met my ex-partner. It was almost like I'd waited forever to meet someone as genuine and funny as him. We started to spend a lot of time together. I would travel for hours to see him and we were inseparable for the most part. Things seemed pretty normal, I didn't really question things at the time but now I look back and know that the behaviour he portrayed was not normal, nor healthy.
He would lock me in the house “to keep me safe”, as he would say. He used to hide my bank card so I couldn't buy train tickets to get back home, but it wasn’t malicious he just “wanted to spend more time with me”.
I spent a lot of time staying over for a few days at a time then travelling back, but he always convinced me to stay longer. This meant I was missing out on days at work and I was forever making excuses for not turning in. He would cause havoc if I left, so I took the easy option and stayed to delay the battle of leaving.
The first time I ever questioned his behaviour was when I woke to him on top of me, holding me down; there were sexual things happening without me consenting to it as I was asleep. This made me sick to my stomach. It wasn’t normal, nor was it okay. Then I started to piece the puzzle together and I realised how controlling he was. He locked me in the house which isn’t normal behaviour. I hated how long it had taken me to figure out that his behaviour wasn't normal but now I had seen him for what he was, I wasn't going to take it anymore.
I ended the relationship. I was 8 weeks pregnant when I left him. This baby had been conceived under such distressing circumstances, however I was not going to let that destroy my happiness at becoming a mother. I carried my baby girl for 9 months. I stayed strong when he tried to make me crumble. He made me feel vulnerable.
I was terrified living at home, I felt like despite him not living close by he had eyes on me all the time. I would receive text messages from him stating where I was. I had no idea how he knew but it became so distressing that I didn't want to leave the house anymore. When my daughter was born I really hoped that he would step up, stop the toxic behaviour and focus on being a father after all, that's what she deserved. He couldn't be that person, he hurt my daughter and I knew I had to cut contact. How could anyone hurt a baby? A brand new baby!
He told me not to call the police, that they wouldn't believe me anyway and he that had every right to be at my house and see his daughter. He talked me into never going to the police because they would always believe him. I stopped contact with him but it didn't end there.
His family got involved, he upped his threats and controlling behaviour. He would take pictures outside my house and he talked my parents into letting him come into the house. It was a very scary time.
When my daughter turned one I had got to the point where I realised that this situation was so damaging to my mental health that I needed to get away. I didn't feel safe at home, I couldn't leave the house without having anxiety attacks. I picked up the phone to TDAS. I felt silly at first. I felt like my situation wasn't worthy of calling these helplines, but they were so incredibly helpful. I explained my situation, I went through a routine questionnaire and, much to my surprise, my situation scored as ‘high risk’. TDAS truly wanted to help me and they wanted to get me and my daughter to a safe place. It all happened very quickly, there was a space in the refuge.
I had heard of women going to refuges but I still didn't feel my case was worthy of complaining about really. This was because he had controlled my mind to believe that I was in the wrong all the time and his behaviour was nothing to bother about. It took time for me to accept that it wasn't my fault. I didn't aggravate him and I didn't deserve the mental, physical, sexual or financial abuse he had put me through.
I couldn't have got to where I am today without TDAS. When I walked into the refuge I didn't know who I was; I didn't have control of my own mind, it had been run by my ex-partner for so long. My daughter and I were finally safe, we could leave the refuge and do normal things. We went to play areas and parks. We did shopping and did all the things you should be able to do with your child. TDAS gave me my life back!
Whilst at the refuge I had a designated worker who was practically on-call if ever I needed any help or advice; it was such a comfort and I cannot thank TDAS enough for making me and my daughter find freedom after such a horrible experience. TDAS helped me rebuild my life, starting with my confidence. They supported me, making me know my own worth and strengthening my mind for any future relationships. They helped me in ways I will never be able to understand because they truly did change my life. I am now 25, I have two beautiful children and a fiance, he couldn't be further from my ex-partner. There are issues from the past that arise on a rare occasions but he is the greatest support and I am living a life I could only have dreamt of all those years ago.
If you are experiencing controlling behaviour, please do not sit and resign yourself to it. It's not normal behaviour and often it can be the starting point for things going downhill. If you have any worries about being in an unhealthy relationship please contact TDAS they can help you, the support they offer is second to none.
Again, thank you TDAS. I owe my life to you, you gave me a future!
Thanks so much for sharing your story Lisa!
Lisa credits the support she received in the TDAS refuge as being pivotal in her life, please support our current new refuge appeal