Friday 8th December, 2023
Many people cannot understand why women don’t just leave when men become abusive. This is a complicated question to answer, there are so many reasons why it is difficult to leave an abuser. Often by the time we get to this point we have been so severely psychologically abused that many of us feel we simply cannot cope alone, we have lost all self esteem and sense of self, we many have no support network as abusers often isolate us from our family and friends and the abuse is likely to have led to us being depressed or suffering other mental health conditions. On top of that, we probably share a home with our abuser, a home full of everything we own, imagine walking out of your home with only the clothes on your back, never to return for your family photographs and heirlooms or all the items you may have amassed through years of hard work and savings. Finally, threats are incredibly common and incredibly credible, 2 women every week are murdered by their partner or ex partner, and the most dangerous point for a woman in an abusive relationship is when she leaves. Often leaving a relationship does not stop the abuse, on the contrary, it ups the ante.
Debbie’s story highlights how difficult it is to leave an abusive relationship. Thankfully Debbie did escape and is now rebuilding her life, her relationships and her self.
Debbie was 33 and a single parent to two boys when she reconnected with her childhood sweetheart. Although she was nervous about dating he was a perfect gentleman and it all seemed like a fairytale. It wasn’t until he moved in with Debbie in 2010 that she found out he had addiction issues and that he was abusive, and despite temporarily breaking up, his persistent phone calls, texts, promises to change and begging persuaded Debbie to get back together with him and in 2015 they were married. The honeymoon phase did not last for long though:
I wasn’t a wife, I was his taxi, his maid, his carer, the one he insulted and verbally abused on a daily basis, I was suffering verbal, emotional, and financial abuse.Debbie
By this time Debbie’s husband had used manipulation tactics to almost completely isolate her from friends and family, she felt alone, trapped, and terrified because she tells me:
My husband had often threatened to do my family in if i didn’t comply.
When Debbies youngest son turned 18, moved out and stopped talking to her she hit rock bottom and ended up being admitted to an adult mental health facility.
Debbie had tried to flee on several occasions but this had proven dangerous, on one occasion for example he stood on the doorstep with cans of gas threatening to blow them both up if she tried to leave. Debbie’s Facebook and email accounts were hacked so it was difficult for her to contact friends, her husband would pretend to be her on messenger if friends contacted her.
Debbie had to slowly, carefully and meticulously plan her escape, contacting housing and trying to find another place to live, and starting to slowly get together the paperwork she would need, storing personal possessions at a friends house, but whilst this planning was taking place she found herself having to flee suddenly.
“On the 24th of May 2017 he was really going at me verbally, I fled to my room, he came in the room with a bottle of whiskey in his hand, I knew him standing over me could lead to me getting hurt, I was petrified of how he was being, I tried telling him to get out my room, he snatched my tablet out of my hand, (I had been playing a game on it) and he walked off with it, taunting me, he had took it and hid it from me.
Thankfully my handbag was in my room, I kept my purse, car keys, hand bag etc in my room.
I remember we ended up back in my room where he was becoming more aggressive, at one point I thought he was going to get physical, I had him stood at the end of my bed and as he lurched forward, I pushed him and he lost his footing and fell back onto the bed. He went to jump up with anger in his eyes. To try and protect myself I grabbed the bedroom door to try and hold it shut, I just wanted to try to stop him getting to me.
He ended up pulling the handle off the door, and as the door opened I backed up as he rushed towards me, he chest barged me and sent me flying into the wall where I banged my head.
As he went down the stairs I ran into my room and slung my trainers on, I grabbed my bag with purse, keys and phone in, I raced down the stairs, had to pass him in the kitchen, where he was drinking, shouting “go on run away” etc.
I ran to my car parked out back, managed to drive off this time, whereas previously he had managed to catch me and damage my car, he had previously kicked the hell out of my gear stick breaking it, rendering me unable to drive away.
Thankfully I’d got it fixed and as I drove off I didn’t know where to go.
I parked up and called the police, they told me they were on their way, told me to go back home and wait for them, there was no way i was going back to the house to wait, i parked up just out on the main road and flashed the police car before it turned into my cul de sac.
I told the police exactly what had happened, they told me to stay put while they went to the house.
Eventually an officer came back to me and said they were taking him in the cells for the night, told me officers were waiting in my home for me, so once they drove him away, i drove back to my house.
I felt nervous to deal with male officers, but these two were kind.
They had said they could see this had been going on and I had been trying to get out, they gave me the number of Women’s Aid and waited while I called.”
“However, as I had a dog and also medical conditions, they couldn’t put me up in their women’s refuge for my health and safety, they asked if I could go to a friend. Luckily a school friend told me I could go to hers, she was working a nightshift so couldn’t help me get there, but would leave a key out for me. I rang my oldest son and asked for his help to get my stuff out, he was finishing his workshift.”
“I filled my car with my stuff. I took no furniture, i took only items that were mine personally. My oldest son turned up near midnight and put the remaining stuff in his vehicle, we stored stuff in his garage and the rest I took to my friends. There was some stuff I had to leave behind because I left in such a hurry.”
“I’d suffered far more than anyone knew, had gone to hell and back and lost who I was.
When you are at rock bottom, the only way back is you finding the strength to find yourself again.”
“So I fled the abuse a week before my 2nd wedding anniversary.
Once out and with the support of my friend, I tried to rebuild my life.
I ended up homeless, the council put me in a temporary safe place once I rehomed the dog, having to rehome my dog was heartbreaking.
I had to block my husband’s phone number as he was leaving me loads of voicemails, his mother even gave me vile abuse via voicemail, she went from being so sorry her son was a bully and sorry I fled my home, to calling me all bad names.
It took about 3 months to be rehomed.
But starting life again with nothing just sent me into a bad depression, self harming etc. It took me a few years to pick myself back up and I think over a year to stop harming myself.”
“Even in 2023 I still suffer with flashbacks and nightmares, it’s taken about 8 months to finally get a date to see the team for an assessment for ptsd, where I’m hopeful they can help with therapy.”