“I met Andrew* when I was 16. Our relationship was good at first - we had a laugh and enjoyed each other’s company. I fell pregnant quite quickly. I wasn’t sure to be honest if I felt it was a good or bad thing.
“The physical abuse started when I was 5 months pregnant. I went home one day and he’d been out with his mates and had taken some drugs. When he came back we started arguing and he ended up punching me, giving me a black eye. He kicked me out of the flat. When I went back in the morning he was full of apologies, and said it wouldn’t happen again.
“During my pregnancy he would pick on me and call me ugly and fat. He hated walking anywhere with me in public, saying that I was an embarrassment. He kept kicking me out of the flat. He has even beaten me up in pubs when his mates were there. I told them not to do anything as I knew it would be twice as bad when I got home.
“The abuse went on for 4 long years. It was both emotional and physical. He would regularly punch, kick and strangle me. I had black eyes every week – I have made up so many excuses and lied to my family saying that I was ok.
"I knew it was wrong from the first punch when I was 16. But I was very young and scared, and worried about coping on my own."
“I went on to have 2 further children. As the kids started to get older he would play with them but would lose his patience easily. Our relationship was very volatile and he would often throw me out or I would leave.
“His behaviour made me feel worthless as a mother. I always looked after the kids, and I would not be alive today if it wasn’t for them. I knew it was wrong from the first punch when I was 16. But I was very young and scared, and worried about coping on my own. I also thought he would change like he kept promising. I now know that I would have coped on my own and that his behaviour was totally unacceptable.
“He was very controlling. I tried to get out of the relationship many times and even had an injunction against him, which he ignored. He would always worm his way back in.
“One of the worst attacks of violence happened over the Christmas holidays. I woke up in a pool of blood at 3am and had to call an ambulance. The ambulance crew informed the police. As the police had been called to so many incidents and as I was on the domestic abuse register with them they contacted social services. This was the final straw and I realised, and was told, that I was at risk of losing my children. After this incident, we split up.
"I didn't realise what went through my youngest child's mind and how he felt. I thought he'd forgotten, but he hadn't."
“Several months after, I met Shaun* through a friend. He was good with the kids and he’d spoil them. We didn’t really have anything in common, but I felt very low and lonely after the split from Andrew. Our relationship was quite casual at first. I then found out, 9 months down the line that he had a family and lived with them.
“When I found this out I ended the relationship. He said he would leave his partner, but didn’t. We started seeing each other again and the abuse lasted over 3 years. He would attack me, punching, kicking and strangling me.
“He would keep the kids away from me, which affected my relationship and bonding with them. He would also encourage them to fight amongst themselves.
"The turning point to me leaving him was once when my son walked in, and hit Shaun to try and protect me."
“The turning point to me leaving him was once when my son walked in, and hit Shaun to try and protect me. Shaun raised a clenched fist to strike my son and I saw red, I went berserk and started hitting him. He actually left the house after that, and I never saw him again.
“My kids have seen every beating, punch and kick. Shaun wouldn’t allow me to cuddle the boys or interact with them. This has had a big effect on all of us. I now suffer from epilepsy as a result of so many blows to my head. My children’s behaviour has been affected, they have lashed out at me, physically fought between themselves and been disruptive at school.
“The DART programme has opened my eyes because I didn’t realise what went through my youngest child’s mind and how he felt. I thought he’d forgotten, but he hadn’t. I even blamed myself for staying in those relationships. Now, most of the time things are a lot calmer.”