Anonymous, 22, Essex
as told to Yasmine Blackman
Sitting down in our comfy, chintz chairs, I could tell that this was indeed about to be a four cups of tea affair (Something not to be taken lightly.) I’d heard my company’s story briefly before our meeting in the tea parlour and had needed a pre-cup of camomile to calm my own nerves; no wonder the poor dear looked nervous sharing her story! As we sipped companionably, the teacup conversation began…
Pulling on my long gypsy skirt and a flattering v neck top I felt a flutter of excitement, tinged with nerves. I was going to a mate’s flat party down the road, and I was hoping to meet lots of new friends. Having just started college I was still adapting to the student lifestyle and the mounds of work. I’d barely had time to go out and catch up with my pals because I’d been so focused on settling in to a routine. Applying a final coat of lip-gloss I looked in the mirror and smiled. Tonight will be fun, I thought.
At the party there were a few familiar faces, but lots more that I didn’t recognise. I’d suffered with anxiety for a while, and, feeling a bit overwhelmed I decided to step outside for a bit. Gulping in the fresh air, I felt my nerves calm down. “You alright love?” I opened my eyes to see a tall lad I didn’t recognise hovering nearby. His face was dotted with piercings and he wore a band T-shirt. I didn’t know many alternative guys, and he caught my attention. “I’m fine.” I smiled. His name was Mike* and he spent the rest of the evening chatting with me outside the flat. I loved his quirky sense of humour and the way he’d taken the time to see if I was okay. By the end of the night I found myself hoping that I’d bump in to him again.
I visited the flat for a few more social gatherings after that, and Mike* was always there. We’d chat for hours and he’d flirt with me. I loved his attention but, when he tried to kiss me one night I turned my head away. I’d recently come out of a bad relationship and although I liked Mike* a lot I wasn’t sure if I could head down that path again. When I got home I scolded myself though; Mike* wasn’t like any of my exes. He was different. He cared about me. The next time I bumped in to Mike* at one of these gatherings, I’d made my mind up. Mike* and I shared a passionate kiss. I couldn’t stop grinning.
After that, Mike* and I began texting a lot, and hanging out together whenever I had a day off from college. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to date Mike* but I knew I enjoyed his company. We fell in to a relationship anyway, and it became very full on very quickly, but we were both happy. We’d spend time together playing computer games at his flat or going for romantic walks in the woods. He had a good sense of humour and I felt like we were on the same wave length. Life was bliss, and we were in a happy romantic bubble.
One day however, I went round to Mikes* flat and he was in a quiet sullen mood. It wasn’t like Mike* to be so quiet and moody, he was always laughing. I asked him what was wrong but he didn’t reply. I could tell he’d been drinking, and noticing an empty packet of painkillers I guessed he’d mixed himself up a deadly cocktail. Confused, I pushed the matter, refusing to take Mikes* silence for an answer. He relented and blurted out. “I don’t know if I want to be with you anymore.” I felt like someone had punched me in the chest, the air from my lungs sucked out completely. It was such a shock, we had such a good relationship together. Over the course of the night I tried to talk things through with Mike*. One moment he was telling me that he didn’t think he could love anyone after his ex, and the next he was saying he wanted to give things a go; he changed his mind every five minutes.
The next morning Mike* decided he did want to be with me, he did love me, and blamed it all on the alcohol. I felt emotionally exhausted but at least my man still wanted me. After that though I couldn’t shake the niggling doubts from my mind.
From then on I felt on edge, wondering if my man was going to snap out of the blue again. To make matters worse, whenever we visited our friends flat he would flirt with other girls in front of me, draping himself all over them. It made me feel sick to my stomach. He’d catch my eye to see if I was getting upset and then smirk in front of all of our friends “What are you getting jealous for? You’re too clingy.” I’d feel mortified, sometimes I even questioned whether I was the jealous girlfriend he called me.
Things with Mike* only seemed to get worse. He started telling me what I should be wearing. “Your clothes look like something an old woman would wear.” He’d sneer. “You need to dress your age.” He wanted me to dress like the alternative goth models he liked so much. I liked the fashion too, but I didn’t feel entirely comfortable wearing it, and I hated the way Mike* was dictating to me. I loved him though, and although I wasn’t always happy with him, I thought he knew what was best for me – he did know all about my rocky past after all.
Then one day Mike* decided he needed space, and he didn’t want me coming up to our mutual friends flat anymore. I felt worried, but I agreed not to go to avoid any more arguments. Lately all we seemed to do was argue – I just wanted to get back on track and be the happy couple that I knew we could be. One afternoon I got a text from a friend of mine- she was a regular visitor to the flat as well. Your boyfriend has been cheating on you –with me. It read. I couldn’t believe my eyes. No! How could he? I was devastated. I confronted Mike* who denied everything. “How can you not trust me?” he raged, seeming genuinely angry. “Why would you believe her over me?” I didn’t know what to believe, but I loved Mike* and asides from one text I had no evidence. Perhaps this girl is just trying to split us up? I thought. So, I gave him another chance.
By now my insecurities were worse than ever, and Mike* would forever moan about them – yet he was cause of them, fueling them by being so hot and cold with me. I never knew where I stood with him, yet I stayed because I loved him. Mike* decided that if we moved in together it might help ease my worries, but, at 17 I didn’t feel ready. I dropped out of college because Mike* didn’t like me doing something with my life whilst he was jobless. Slowly but surely he became everything I had.
One day out of the blue, Mike* turned up on my doorstep with all of my stuff in a black sack. “It’s over.” He sneered. I had no clue what I had done, and he wouldn’t talk to me about it either – but I felt a rush of anxiety and panic sweep over me once more.
After that Mike* started seeing the girl who he had been accused of cheating on me with. I was so heartbroken to see my man with another girl so soon after our relationship had ended. Mike* started being nice to me again, said that he had an open relationship and that he still wanted to see me. I didn’t want to be a bit on the side, but, hoping I’d gain Mikes* love back that’s what I became. He’d pressure me to hang out with him and his girlfriend all of the time. It broke my heart to see them together, looking so in love. I still loved Mike* with all of my heart though, and I felt like he was testing me, wanting to see how I’d react.
When they broke up a few weeks later, and Mike* asked me to move in with him once more, I was over the moon. Except, now he had more power over me than ever. He told me what I was allowed to spend my money on, what I was allowed to eat and wear; he made me feel dependent on him. And whenever we had a row he would call me an “insecure bitch.” During one particularly bad row he covered my mouth so I couldn’t say anything. When I thrashed about he grabbed my throat and pinned me to the sofa. He squeezed my throat tightly, and, worried he wouldn’t let go, I let myself go limp. I was so shocked. Mike* had never laid his hands on me before, normally he would punch the walls instead. When he eventually let go of me, I had a panic attack; felt like I couldn’t breathe.
I still stayed with Mike* though, although the abuse continued, I loved him, felt like I needed him – I didn’t know what to do without him, he was all I had. And besides, he always made me feel like I was the one who’d done something wrong.
Then we got in to yet another blazing row. Mike* kept screaming at me to leave, but I wanted to stay and talk things through with him. He started to throw my things out of the door. I was stubborn though, I’d worked hard at our relationship and I wasn’t about to just walk away. Then Mike* grabbed my hair and started dragging me out of the flat. The pain was awful, and I struggled against him, but he was a lot stronger than me. When we reached the doorway he yanked me up by hair and repeatedly smashed my head against the door frame. The pain seared through me. This is it I thought; he was going to kill me. My body went in to shock, I flopped to the floor, weak with pain. That’s when Mike* stopped. He left me with a small bald patch in my hair. I couldn’t believe what he was capable of.
A day later I packed up my stuff, shoving all of my clothes in to plastic bags, and I called my dad to come and collect me. I knew that I couldn’t be with Mike* anymore, and that if I stayed he would end up killing me.
At the time I didn’t realise I was in an abusive relationship, it’s so easy to turn a blind eye and think that maybe you’ve done something wrong. Now I know that Mike* was just a nasty piece of work and I’m so thankful to be out of that relationship. I’m back at college again, and have a good group of friends. I know that when I date again I won’t go for another wrong un’ – I’ll go for Mr Right.
Have you experienced anything like this? It is domestic abuse and you should speak out. Call 24-hour National Domestic Violence Freephone helpline on 0808 2000 247 for confidential help and advice.