Hello. Forgive my absence (I keep saying this) but hopefully you’ll understand, if you will just allow me to share something with you. I’ve thought long and hard about whether to post about this, and if I did, what I’d include. There is shame involved, my shame, though I keep telling myself it’s unnecessary. But anyway, here I go:
Women’s Aid say:
Coercive control is an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim. … Coercive control creates invisible chains and a sense of fear that pervades all elements of a victim’s life.
Why am I discussing domestic abuse?
Because 19th April, 2019, I made the break from exactly this. Well, I didn’t make the first step, my husband did. But I kept the momentum of separation going despite being ‘trained’ to do as I was told during my fourteen year relationship with my husband.
But you always sounded so loved up, I hear you say. All those holiday pictures. All those smiles on photographs.
Yes. It’s incredible what we can convince ourselves of when the alternative it too difficult to acknowledge, even when family and friends, or those I was allowed to see, tried to make me see beyond my reflection–beyond the woman I’d become to prevent arguments/conflict. A woman who fits with my husbands idea of correct, and who does not question, quarrel, bate. My reflection was always a smiling face.
First step: His
My husband requested, without discussion with me because I never had a say, to be part of the annual five week around the world trip commissioned by Tui (he flies for Tui) for some very wealthy folk. He got the trip and went away beaming. At first, I was happy for him. Jealous of all the wonderful things he’d see and experience, but happy. He was normal, to begin with, while away. Meaning he called several times or messaged several times a day. Checking in on what I’d done, who with, when, and what my plans were for the following day. Then there was a staff party in a hotel room. Fancy dress – something he’d never entertain for me. After that, he hardly kept in touch at all and was awkward when he did. On his return, on my birthday, after five weeks away, he was cold, evasive. Odd.
Long story short, I confronted him the following day. Not my normal go-to reaction, but I had to know. When I asked if he’d met someone else he smiled (yes, smiled) and said yes. Of course, as goes with our type of relationship, it was my fault that he’d been forced to go with someone else. That he was too scared to tell me he’d fallen out of love with me because, ‘you know how you get’ and ‘you might have killed yourself and everyone would’ve blamed me’. He said he pitied me but that wasn’t enough reason to be with me any longer.
It felt like my heart had been bound as tight as a Chinese girl’s foot a hundred years ago and it was now being unwrapped. What followed was acute agony, as the life I’d believed in, the identity I’d constructed, came crashing down. I cried in bouts of pain – loud, silent, loud – and I spluttered disgustingly.
He told me to ‘stop overreacting’. To ‘calm down’. My family came. He huffed. He left, slamming the doors behind him.
My sister suggested to Him that I go to Mom’s house in Spain for a week to get my head around things so that we could talk through the next move on my return. He paid for my ticket (because I never had any money of my own) and I went.
Mom reminding me of quite a few things from my first few years with Him. She’d heard him screaming down the phone at me, calling me a slut/slag, suggesting Mom was my pimp and that’s why I wanted to go to Spain. It couldn’t be so innocent as wanting to see my mom.
I’d forgotten. Then I began to remember.
My sister was incredible, sending me links and information about what I’d been through/was going through/would have to go through. I’ve learned a lot about coercion.
You see, when I met him back in 2005, I was going through an emotional breakdown post losing three loved one’s over two years, and having survived multiple skull fractures in a car accident. I’d lost my job, so had to sell my flat. I was in a dire state. I was prime for the plucking for someone like Him. I was pliable, easily manipulated, desperate to be loved and feel safe. I sound pathetic and I hate it but it is the truth.
I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder around a year after meeting Him.
Second step: Mine
Weeks later he told me he regretted leaving me but by then I’d gotten my head around it. He had also sold the house (without telling me, while I was in Spain) so thinhs had gone too far. For me. He wanted us to try again. Demanded I understood that he’d had a hard time and what happened was not his fault.
I realised it then, as he sobbed in front of me, that I’d left him, on the inside, in my head and heart where it counts. As terrifying as it was to be thrown back into the world alone, having to make decisions for myself again, I wanted it. I’d rather drown trying than stay afloat with him.
This foot was free. He couldn’t put those binds back on.
Because I said that I couldn’t go back, or try again, he grew nastier and nastier. He tried tears, self pity, blame (me, of course) even admitted to being bad himself once. Then took it back.
The police have been involved as His temper has gotten the better of him several times. He lies with a straight face. He’s charming and of course, he doesn’t have a mental health problem, which has always been his go-to excuse for my protestations.
In the UK, the CPS recognised this as abuse in 2015, when it became a crime prosecuted with up to 5 years in prison and a fine. Domestic abuse isn’t just being battered black and blue. It isn’t only rape. It’s more far reaching than that.
The CPS outline a long list of behaviours which fall into this crime such as:
- Limiting access to family, friends and finances (check)
- Monitoring their time (check)
- Monitoring a person via online communication tools or using spyware (check: he had all my passwords/recently hacked my Messenger account).
- Taking control over aspects of their everyday life, such as where they can go, who they can see, what to wear, (check)
- Depriving them access to support services, such as specialist support or medical services (check – I haven’t seen a dentist for years)
- Repeatedly putting them down such as telling them they are worthless (check)
- Financial abuse including control of finances, such as only allowing a person a punitive allowance (check – didn’t even get an allowance).
I could go on, but you get the idea.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t prove any of this, although it’s clear about the finances when you see my accounts. Still, I needed actual evidence, so I recorded him during one of his 20 min rants… calling me all sorts, threatening to leave me destitute, telling me everyone hates me, saying he intended to leave the country (he has a job starting in Doha for Qatar Airways in September) before the courts got to him for divorce settlement – no extradition there, he said, grinning. Said he won’t sell the house and as I have no money, I won’t be able to pay all the bills so will have to move out. That as I won’t have money and have disabilities which make walking two large dogs impossible, I won’t be able to keep them. That he’s taking Bobby with him even if I found a way to keep them and that I’ll never see him again.
Upsetting to hear, but at least I had evidence!
That’s until he somehow noticed that I was recording him on my phone and launched at me, fought me for it and ran into the garden with it. I locked the door, locked him out, terrified and sore, and I called the police… again. He couldn’t open my phone anymore (I’d changed my password and used my thumb print) so I watched as he smashed it against the pavement before flinging it out from the bottom of the garden.
He then copied me, grinning, and called the police, saying, get this… that I’d threatened him with a knife.
Seriously! Was that why I’d locked him out of the house?
I didn’t, by the way. Not my thing–violence. I was shaking and crying and a snotty mess while he was calm as you like as one policeman spoke to him and another spoke to me. They didn’t charge either of us, just ‘made a note on the system’. The usual. Considering this is a crime, West Mids Police are slow on the uptake regarding prosecution. They didn’t go to look for my phone either, until He had been gone for around twenty minutes and of course, he knew where he’d put it. The police said they’d go look for it when they left me, by which time it would have been too late. I never heard from them.
His family don’t believe me even though they know he has a temper and ‘likes things his own way’. Understandable.
Mine do, always knew I think. My friends also noticed the signs, especially as I stopped seeing them. I used to be out all the time. Now I have social anxiety.
As for the police, they keep going on about needing evidence, about it is ‘his word against yours’. Why didn’t they go look for the evidence then? I endangered myself to collect it.
So we’re going through a divorce, but who needs to delve so deeply into my crap, right?
The point of all this is that I’ve been ill for a long time, and I’ve been away from this blog for a long time. More than that, I realise I’ve been away in a much more fundamental way, because I’ve been cocooned, held back, systematically denied the world beyond his very small stronghold.
I’m still trying to shed his invisible chains, sewn as they have been so meticulously through my brain, making me second guess every choice and decision, and it’s like I’m truly looking beyond my reflection, at me, for the first time in too, too long.
If you recognise these behaviour in your relationship, reach out to resources linked here. Reach out to me, if you think I can help. Whatever you do, don’t kid yourself that his/her behaviour is your fault. You deserve better. X
0808 2000 247 Freephone 24hr National Domestic Violence Helpline