When I was 18 I fell in love with a guy significantly older than me. He was devastatingly good looking. Wherever we went women would stare with wild abandoned after him. That old adage, women wanted to be with him, men wanted to be him was entirely true. He owned a room. He was confident, mysterious, the whole bad boy persona. He had a complete disregard for the law, his friends were his lackies that would lay down for him. He feared nothing. Everything was handed to him. He was invincible, untouchable. I both feared and revered him. I watched as criminal charges never stuck to him, alibis were always formed, other people took the rap, he was as I say, untouchable.
His greatest weakness was Jack Daniels. He woke and that was his first taste. At night that was his last taste. As time went on, my role became to put him in the recovery position to ensure he didn’t choke on his own vomit. Of course, the women that lusted over him didn’t see the drug habit, the paranoia. Eating raw meat in the night, the anger and growling like a wild animal, that still haunts me today – I have never heard a man make a noise like that since. I don’t know if it was him, the combination of drugs and alcohol, but that primitive growl is something I can never forget. The threats, convinced I had been seeing other people (I was totally devoted to him). The gradual isolation from my own friends, from my own job. Locking me in the bedroom one weekend and taking my clothes as a punishment and a reminder that I was his property. That I should rely on him for bathroom breaks and food and water. That I only needed him. The things he would force on me because I was ‘HIS’ and thus he was entitled to do as he wished when he wished. If I cried he would get angry, if I tried to object he would be angry. He knew about my history, he would say, I’m not a bad person, you will give me this or you will kiss me like a boyfriend because that’s what I am. You love me, so you will do this, etc. Sometimes I would be in pain. Sometimes I would feel so terribly unclean. He caught me once in the shower (I was not under any circumstances allowed to lock the bathroom door) showering using bathroom cleaner, he was absolutely livid. I paid for that. On a business trip I took him and we stayed in a hotel, I was showering, he turned the lights off, whipped me with a spun towel until I bled and then shut me in a dark bathroom (I’ve always been afraid of the dark). Now when I stay in hotels, I have never been able to shut the bathroom door, and if someone is with me I have to beg them to be careful not to turn out the light by accident.
This relationship lasted nearly a year. I was young and naïve. I thought it would get better. It didn’t, it got worse. One day his brother in law stopped and said, ‘If you don’t leave him now, you will leave in a body bag, is that what you want?’ I was shocked as hell. No one had ever spoken out against him before. It rocked me to the very core, but the fact was, it was true. He was getting worse. Police were turning up regularly and he was dodging some serious charges. His drugs and alcohol use was out of control. My friends had all but given up on me. I have no one.
The final straw came one day, he took a knife and threatened to stab me. I ran. I and kept running. He left voicemails to say he would find me. He didn’t.
That was a long time ago. Why mention it now? Because I just saw a programme with domestic violence on the television and it triggered me. Because I’m an advocate for Women’s Refuge. Because it never really goes away. Because people have no idea how easy it is to get into that situation. I’m a strong, independent, assertive woman. You wouldn’t think it would have been possible for me to fall for someone like that. But I did. Gradually he wore me down. What previously I never in a million years would have taken, I started to see as normal.
It still hurts to think of it today. I am still afraid of things because of that experience. But I am also a little bit more sensitive and understanding to women whom are in that situation today. So many people can say, just get out, just leave. But when your confidence is torn to shreds, when you’re told that you’ll always be found no matter where you go, and when you are told to believe that is all you’re worth over and over. You start to believe it.
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