I grew up in a loving home with a happy childhood. I’d never witnessed domestic abuse or understood how damaging it was.
I first met Tony* when I was in my 20s. He was senior to me in the office, good looking and gave me lots of attention.
We started dating and I was really happy. But soon I started to see a more controlling and manipulative side to him. Tony didn’t like me wearing certain clothes or seeing my friends. He’d ask me to spend time alone with him rather than go out. He always said that he knew the best for me. I split up with him 3 times because of his controlling nature. But he begged until I went back. I loved him and believed him when he said he’d change. Even my mum thought he was lovely, he had everyone fooled.
"To outsiders we were picture perfect, but behind closed doors life was very different. I felt trapped."
After we got married he seemed to change. He became emotionally and psychologically abusive, threatening and belittling me. After I had my son Marcus*, he raped me for the first time. I blamed myself. To outsiders we were picture perfect, but behind closed doors life was very different. I felt trapped.
Tony constantly accused me of having affairs, would shout and scream in my face in front of the children and would play mind games, making me feel guilty. 8 years into our marriage he started being physically abusive and the domestic violence started.
I would defend him to my family. I would plead with the children to keep quiet and be good, even though they were beautifully behaved. I felt constantly condemned and my self-esteem was really low.
As the children got older Tony started being abusive towards them too. He would shout and beat them with belts and shoes. He would punish them when I wasn’t in the house so I couldn’t intervene. Whenever we were alone I would give Marcus and Faith hugs and kisses and tell them that we all made daddy cross and we had to try our best to make him happy. I didn’t see a way out.
"I was worried about the violence the children had seen and how it might affect them. "
After living with Tony for 12 years I finally snapped. We were in the kitchen and he trapped me against a unit. I threw down the food I was preparing and slapped him in the face. Before I knew it, he had thrown me to the floor. The children were in the living room and heard my screams, luckily they didn’t see what he’d done to me.
That night, after Tony had left for work I called the police. I was afraid of giving a statement but I wanted someone to know what was going on. Eventually, the children and I were taken to a safe house. I had gone from a beautiful house to a small cramped space with no hot water and toilet paper but we were in a state of bliss. We felt safe for the first time in years and were relieved to be free.
I was worried about the violence the children had seen and how it might affect them. Both children were sullen, and weren’t very good at articulating their feelings. They were very obedient and didn’t really behave like children at all. They played quietly and were very subdued.
"The NSPCC’s work with my children gave them the light back behind their eyes."
They both took part in the NSPCC’s domestic abuse programme (DART) at our local centre. The practitioners gave them tools to cope with their anger, like bashing a pillowcase. In one session Marcus had been asked to make a doll’s house and talk about the different things he’d seen in each room. He came home very upset and angry. He just wanted to lash out so I gave him a Yellow Pages and he wrote swear words and awful things about Tony and ripped them up and threw them away. I felt he’d finally let go of his anger.
The NSPCC’s work with my children gave them the light back behind their eyes. It felt like they’d released whatever they’d been holding on to. We were all finally happy and free to live.
If there are any parents reading this who are going through something like us, I’d say please don’t be scared and please talk to someone. Domestic abuse can happen to anyone and it’s not your fault so stop blaming yourself.
My children are my stars and I know that they will never harm anyone, but without the NSPCC’s help, they might not have been that way.