‘I was alone working the bar. It was quiet until 15 men strolled in. One was on crutches. Now I wish I hadn’t been so kind.’

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“It was an exciting time, I had just turned 18 and started my first real job. It was meant to only be temporary but it was going to be fun while it lasted… at least, that’s what I thought.

I remember it being a Sunday evening, it was only around 9 p.m. and I was alone working the bar. It was quiet in the pub until a group of around 15 men strolled in. Each of them loud and confident, strutting around like they owned the place.

One was on crutches, it was his birthday and he had a bright pink cast on his leg. I felt bad for him at the time, for having to catch up with everyone while he was hobbling along. Now I wish I hadn’t been so kind.

They stayed for hours, spent hundreds of pounds on alcohol and food and filled the pub with laughter. The one on the crutches, the one I’ll call L, was very nice to me. I suspect now he sensed my shyness and lack of confidence. Whenever anyone swore while ordering or made a sexual remark, he told them off and apologized.

Every weekend after that, he came in, sometimes with the big group but usually just with one or two people. Sometimes he came in with his two children. Eventually the cast came off and he returned to his work as a doorman.

Our doorman.

No wonder he strutted around like he owned the place. He had spent years manning the premises. It was nice when he returned to work on those Friday and Saturday nights, it was like I spent the week waiting to catch a quick ‘hello’ from him come Friday. Those hellos quickly turned into him becoming somewhat of an elder brother to me (there is 11 years between us) where he would always make sure I was ok during the long hours we were working.

Most weekends we didn’t finish until around 4 a.m. The door staff could always leave around half past 3 as that’s when the bar staff would start to tidy up. He never went far though, and by the time I was done with my job he reappeared and offered to take me home. He knew my eldest sister so I always felt that extra bit safe with him. For weeks this happened and it was never anything more than a friendship. On those journeys home we would talk about anything and everything. I think that’s the time where I showed him my vulnerable side. He had one as well, but he had to be very drunk to show me that.

As the weeks went on, people at work noticed us a lot more. This 6ft, 280-pound hard man who had the soft spot for the 105-pound bar maid. No one said anything while he was around though, I don’t think they dared.

Time went on quickly and his relationship ended. Everyone was quick to speculate it was because of me but 5 years on and I still don’t believe that. Things were happening behind closed doors for him, people just didn’t know it.

I was 19 now, and one Saturday night around 2.30 a.m. I woke up to a phone call. It was L and he was hammered. He was telling me he needed to talk, he needed a friend. He explained that he had been to my work and I hadn’t been there, that he was worried for me.

After the phone call, he arrived at my house. Until this night he had never actually been down my street – I made sure he only ever dropped me off at the top of the road.

He came in, stripped bare of his confidence and he wept. His heart had broken for his relationship, for not seeing his children every day.

It was my turn to be the strong one.

That was the first time we slept together.

That was my first mistake.

After this we didn’t speak for a week, until work the following weekend. I was both nervous and excited to see him.

There was something different about how he acted towards me that night though, he was casual like he was with everyone else that worked there. He didn’t have that excitement to see me like he usually did.
Looking back now I was silly to do what I did but back then I was foolish, I craved him to want me. I was sure I could fill that void for him.

That night, after not speaking to me at all, he texted me from the parking lot telling me he was waiting there to take me home.

We slept together again.

This happened for weeks, each time him becoming more and more distant.

Eventually he left the company he worked for as a doorman and started his own, I felt so proud of him.
It gave him this sense of freedom though, financially and unfortunately this made him smug and cocky.

He hardly worked anymore, just managed.

This left the weekends he didn’t have his children free to go out and drink the night away. This is where our real problems started, if I wasn’t at work then I would be woken up early hours by him hammering on the door or calling me every 5 minutes until I answered.

If I told him I didn’t want to see him or not to bother coming I would be called all the names under the sun, I was told he wouldn’t leave as he continued to bang on my front door. Because I have a child at home who I never wanted to risk waking up, and neighbors that I didn’t want to upset, I would cave and let him in. He would instantly switch into a caring and kind man, he would tell me everything he knew I wanted to hear.

He was always gone by the time the sun came up.

I was starting to feel used, I knew I wouldn’t ever be what he wanted but I was still adamant that I was what he needed.

At this stage in my life (20 years old) I was very depressed, I had crippling anxiety and I know now he used that to his advantage.

While I was doing the school run on a morning he would drive past in one of his cars (I never knew which one he would be in so I never knew what one to look out for) and then he would text me to let me know how disgusting I looked that day, he would insist I went home to ‘sort myself out’ before leaving the house again. This got so bad that even at work, he would take my hair out of its bun in his drunken state and tell me in front of his friends how much of a mess I looked.

Eventually I didn’t leave the house unless my hair was either curled or straightened. My makeup would always be done and I would even take some out with me incase I needed to touch up.

I made sure I worked every weekend so that my son wasn’t home for when he decided to hammer on the door. I hated him at this point, but it didn’t seem like there was anything I could do. I was scared of him, everyone was.

Unfortunately, he started to take over my life.

Whenever I went out with my friends (not even locally, we would travel, etc.) he would magically turn up with a group of his own friends. I would always chalk it up to being a coincidence, but in my gut I knew the truth. He wouldn’t always approach me, sometimes he just stuck around long enough to remind me that he was there, watching.

Other times he would act like a gent, he would buy drinks and throw money at a situation to make himself seem flashy, to hide my hurt and trick others into thinking he was something he wasn’t.

When he wasn’t around, people would ask me why I put up with it, why I didn’t just tell him where to go. But it wasn’t that simple.

Sometimes I felt brave, and I would tell him no to sex. It would mean nothing to him though. He would even laugh sometimes. He always got what he wanted.

It turns my stomach even thinking back to those times, it kills me I let him treat me this way.

‘If you don’t agree to it you know I will still have you anyway.’

He even used the ‘R’ word, a word I cannot bring myself to type.
He found it amusing.

I felt numb.

This carried on right until after I turned 21. I had met my current partner- we were the best of friends and he knew my situation. He was always strong for me and making sure I was safe whenever he could, but that didn’t stop it fully.

Eventually, I was worn down. I was useless and helpless, and I was now far from the quirky young fool I was when he met me. He didn’t have any use for me now. And thankfully he moved on.

He still comes into my work place, makes remarks about my appearance and puts me down in front of whoever he can. It doesn’t bother me like it used to, now I feel nothing but hate towards him.

I now know this to be coercive abuse, something I didn’t know a thing about until recently. It’s so important this is spoken about more because it happens so much more than anyone could realize.”

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by a woman who wishes to remain anonymous. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.

Read more from courageous women leaving abusive relationships: 

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