‘I came home around 2 a.m. Something wasn’t right. In a matter of minutes, my carpet was on fire.’: Brave woman recounts how she escaped domestic abuse

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“Looking back it doesn’t seem like me. It doesn’t sound like me. I didn’t act… like me. It doesn’t sound real when I say it aloud. I remember telling a friend and being met with, ‘But you are so strong. You just don’t seem like the type.’ And I get it. Before I met him, I was full of life, charisma. I was the life and soul of the party. I’m a natural people person – it’s just who I am.

I worked in a bar in my early 20s. I was as sassy as they came and thought I knew it all. A new chef came in one day and I took a shine to him. On further investigation, I found out he was just out of rehab for an alcohol problem. Naively at that point, I had no idea the seriousness of this. I thought, ‘Who am I to judge?’

Courtesy of Yvonne Somerville

He was shy, quiet, and a little awkward, but he was kind to me at a time when I needed it more than I knew. Sadly, I had no idea how much those issues I so badly wanted to help with would come back to smack me in the face. Literally.

We had a ‘normal’ life. We worked hard. He was never really home but he handed over enough cash to make me feel like it was okay. In hindsight, that’s where it started. Control. He held the purse strings and thus dictated what I could and couldn’t do.

I was a size 16, maybe 18. I never cared really. He gathered information on a gastric band for me and showed me it one day. I was angry and hurt. He later apologized about it, but that’s when it started I think. I didn’t say anything, but when I reflect on these times, I can see that he was slowly chipping away at my confidence.

Courtesy of Yvonne Somerville

He would blame everything on his poor upbringing. If I got upset that he hadn’t come home, he’d say, ‘You don’t get it do you? Why would you? You were born with a silver spoon.’ Implying I had an easy start in life always made it my fault for not understanding his reasons for treating me badly. He’d then flip it and often tell me, ‘No one else would want you. You’re too much of a car crash.’ He constantly tried to convince me I was ‘mad’ and ‘crazy’. Classic gaslighting, but I was too young and naive to see it. It was always my fault.

The conversations were always directed at why I insisted on making his life more difficult. My opinions made him feel stupid. I was a ‘nasty b****’ for daring to speak up. If someone tells you this enough times, you’ll believe it. I promise you. I fully believed it and tried my best not to rock the boat. So, as long as I was quiet, kept the house clean, and didn’t ask why he was home late, we were good.

Then, I got pregnant and things hit the fan. We had planned the baby but I quickly realized he had doubts. Pretty much the moment he knew I was pregnant, I knew he wasn’t going to be here long term. He started working late and starting early, then eventually just disappearing. For days. He had been drinking and I found out he was heavily addicted to diazepam and a pretty impressive collection of prescription drugs too. I didn’t tell anyone except one friend for fear of the ‘I told you so’ chat. I didn’t really want to admit to myself the reality, so I held my mouth shut.

The late nights got worse and he started not coming home a couple of times a week. There was never an explanation other than, ‘Have you any idea how hard you are to live with?’ My fault. Eventually, I stopped asking where he was. One night, he didn’t come home and I was rudely awakened in the morning. Something wasn’t right. He came in the room and said, ‘And what?’

He was asking for some conflict and stupidly I said, ‘You can’t keep doing this you know.’ I calmly walked into the bathroom and a few seconds later he flew through the door. He punched me, sent me flying, and kicked me while I was down. I was 7 month pregnant. I screamed, ‘My baby!’ I’ll never forget the evil in his voice as he shouted, ‘F*** your baby!’ as he repeatedly kicked me in the stomach.

After what seemed like forever, he just took himself to bed. I left quickly, terrified he’d come after me. I was covered in blood, but in a complete state of shock I left for work. My neighbor saw me. I didn’t know her but she grabbed me and pulled me into her house without even thinking. I told her what had happened and she cleaned me up and hugged me. She told me I had to call the police. I knew I did too but I had to get to work. So, I opened the store and calmly called the police. I was in a complete trance.

I didn’t want to be that person. People like me weren’t battered woman. I was strong. Not anymore… I made my excuses and headed straight to the hospital to get checked. All I could think about was my baby. I really want to tell you how supportive the hospital was, but sadly that just wasn’t the case. I was made to feel small and I was judged. I was treated like a victim. I was terrified, so I booked an emergency private scan. They assured me the baby was okay. I left him with everything and just didn’t go back.

Deep down, I knew for my baby there was no real choice. I’d gone from financially secure to virtually penniless in the span of a few weeks. Six months pregnant and sleeping on my aunt’s floor. It wasn’t how I’d envisioned my third trimester, but here I was. I was lucky, so very lucky, and so many are not so lucky. Physically I was okay – If a little bashed up – but mentally? I no longer knew who I was. He took a part of me that day.

Part of my spirit thought I could never be restored. I have never felt like that in my life and, sadly, I was ashamed of myself as I felt somehow I’d welcomed this behavior. I’ve always been such a strong woman with a fitting spirit but after that day raised male voices take me back to that place. Any conflict makes me feel so vulnerable.

I’ll never forget my best friend when I told her. She was the only person who didn’t judge me. She didn’t give me the look of pity I was so used to but instead she helped me sort the practicalities. She made sure I knew she loved me and would support me regardless of any bad situation. She offered me a roof and financial support at a time when I had nothing. Her kindness always blows me away.

In the last two months of my pregnancy, social workers called me about 5 times to make me aware of his failed suicide attempts. They had a duty to keep me in the loop and once again my life was taken over by fear. It’s about then that the threats started.

He lived 5 minutes from me and in two months my tires were slashed and my window screen was smashed, time after time. He followed me and watched me coming home. He made it clear if I didn’t take him back, my life would be hell. The police rolled their eyes at every call I made. Just another domestic!

I remember my aunt telling me that once the baby was born, my sense of loss at my relationship with him would diminish. She couldn’t have been more right. This little bundle was mine and I didn’t care about anyone else. That baby saved my life. I threw myself into motherhood. I did baby massage and reflexology in between constant abuse and threats from him. I fully believe my son saved my life. If it hadn’t been for him, I’d have no idea where I’d be now.

Courtesy of Yvonne Somerville

After a night out, baby was at my dad’s and I came home about 2am. Guess who was in my staircase? He followed me in the house and I told him to leave. He was drunk and calling me a bad mother for leaving our son. I was drunk and obviously feeling brave because I tried to push him out my front door. I didn’t have the strength and he pinned me against the wall by the neck. He said, ‘I am going to kill you’ At that point, I knew he was serious. I genuinely thought that was it for me. All I could think about was my child.

He left eventually. Leaving me in a heap with strangle marks all over my neck. I knew I had to get out of the house.

Domestic abuse is the single most confusing thing I’ve ever encountered. I went from wanting him dead to feeling terrible as he was the father of my son. I hated what he had done but also mourned the person I thought I knew and loved. That was the hardest part. I didn’t go back to my house after that. I was sure he’d kill me. I went to live with my dad and took steps to find somewhere else to live. I was so low, but I didn’t even realize it. I had no quality of life. I was frightened to go out and embarrassed of the mess I was in.

One day, my baby and I were in the house for a matter of minutes. I was already so scared he’d come and hurt us. When I went to leave the house, my carpet was on fire. He’d put lit paper thought my letterbox in an attempt to set fire to my house. I quickly got it out, left, and called the police. They got him on his way back from mine. He denied it of course.

It took weeks to investigate but I was sure that justice would prevail. It didn’t. I moved houses. Far enough away that he couldn’t find us. I lived in hiding for a while and had nightmares for about 5 years. I went on medication for anxiety as I suffered severe panic attacks. It took me years of counseling to rebuild my life, but I did.

My boy is 8 now and is aware he has ‘another’ dad but that’s all he knows. Luckily, antidepressants work for me and I responded well. My mental health is paramount and if that’s what it takes I’m good. As my confidence grew, I rebuilt my life. It wasn’t a quick process but it was entirely worth it. I was happy and once I was the rest fell into place.

Courtesy of Yvonne Somerville

No one saved me but I learned to save myself and I’m not afraid to say how proud I am of that. I’m in no way fixed. I have confidence wobbles and bad days (doesn’t everyone?). If I see myself slipping, I’ll happily go to the doctor and explain.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to look after your mental health. I fully believe everyone should try counseling. The therapeutic benefit of someone just listening and saying, ‘You’ve been through an awful lot but you’re still here’ is amazing. I needed to be listened to and for someone to understand the extent of the trauma I was carrying. It’s not for everyone but it saved me from a life of emptiness. And for that I’m entirely grateful.”

Courtesy of Yvonne Somerville

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Yvonne Somerville. You can follow her journey on Instagram and Facebook. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

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