It’s early January 2013. A horrible time of year for most; the grey days stretching on, waiting for payday. I hadn’t been ‘home’ for a week – and now I was walking down the same narrow street as always, except this time, there were shards of what used to be my favourite Batman mug under my feet. Although I cannot remember the exact date, this was the single hardest day of my life.
A week before, I had absent-mindedly checked Twitter whilst at work. On my timeline, there were the latest tweets from my long-term partner, who had a little more time on his hands at work that day. His timeline had become increasingly passive-aggressive and I knew it was directed at me.
In the early days, he was always nice to me. Kind, considerate. We started seeing one another and eventually, we moved in together – I was 21, he was 25. Around this time, he got into trouble with the police and lost his job. He always maintained he didn’t do it – I believed him.
Unemployed, he began drinking more in the evenings, finishing twelve-packs of beer easily. He didn’t want to start looking for a job. He was depressed. It was all too much. Of course, I felt awful for him. I carried on working, paying the rent and bills.
Time went by, he had his day in court – he didn’t want me there. He was convicted of a non-violent crime and received a suspended sentence and electronic tag, which also meant he had a curfew. No leaving the house after 8pm. So he’d sit and drink all night.
He made a lot of ‘jokes’ during this time, which were more thinly veiled threats. ‘If you ever got fat, I’d leave you.’ He’d constantly comment on women’s appearance, there are clothes I wouldn’t have dared wear due to his judgement.
When his electronic tag was finally removed, he managed to get a job. Things definitely got worse – any little thing would set him off. He’d go silent, or explode in a rage, often throwing things and then leave the room, lying down on the bed and just staring at the ceiling. The air was constantly tense, walking on eggshells. I’d get home from work and not be sure what mood he’d be in.
When I started making friends at my new job, he’d wait for me after work and hover outside until I was finished – ensuring I wouldn’t go for a drink with my colleagues and make sure they knew who he was. I’d have to ‘warn’ him of upcoming nights out weeks in advance or he’d go silent on me again or make passive aggressive comments after searching my colleague’s Facebook profiles. When we finally did have our monthly night out, I’d find him standing in the road waiting for me to get home.
The day I read his tweets was the day I finally knew it was time. He’d been going through my phone when I was in bed. His behaviour changed almost overnight, he became suffocating ‘nice’ but so unlike him, even when we’d first started dating. He realised he was losing his grip on me.
I spoke to my manager and said I needed to run home whilst he was at work and grab some stuff. Realising the importance of the situation, she asked if I wanted to take a close colleague with me in an hour when we had cover or go right now. Adrenaline pumping through me, I was scared I’d chicken out, so I went right then, knowing he was at work.
When I got to the flat, I filled a bag with everything I didn’t want to lose – some clothes, medication, my favourite book and my childhood teddy bear. Everything else I wrote off in the back of my mind. I closed the door behind me and practically ran back
I sent him a text saying I’d seen his tweets and that we should spend some time apart. Of course, he continued messaging me throughout the day, but I knew his form well enough by now and ignored him. He kept pressuring me to meet up, to talk – I wasn’t ready. A week or so later, I agreed. Against my better judgement – I went to the flat.
He’d thrown some of my things from the balcony, including the Batman mug. He tried to convince me to stay, but I was resolute. At this time, I still didn’t recognise any of the signs of abuse, even though some of his behaviour had escalated to a point where I knew it wasn’t normal.
I left that day with more of my belongings but it could have gone so much worse. If I had identified the red flags in our relationship I may have realised sooner, but I just didn’t know. Emotionally coercive and manipulative behaviour – gas-lighting – wasn’t mentioned when domestic abuse came up.
It took me a long time to process what had happened, even now, I have nightmares and flashbacks. But – 2013 was the happiest year of my life. Without the threat of a flared temper, the constant tension and walking on eggshells, I was free. I was also very lucky – I had an amazing support network of colleagues who became friends and then family, plus my own family. I didn’t go back to him, but there was definitely a time in those following muddled weeks where I considered it. Without support, a backslide would have been all too easy.
Domestic abuse doesn’t have to involve violence, nor does it happen to a specific group or personality. I have always been strong willed, known my own mind, yet it happened to me without anyone knowing. Victims are adept at hiding it because it is their norm. Because they don’t see the red flags, their abuser has manipulated them so slowly that it doesn’t seem strange. This is why we don’t just leave. There is no simple solution in any situation, no matter how obvious it may seem to the outsider.
Six years on, I am happier and more successful with my freedom. My time with him was certainly damaging – not all wounds heal – however it also wasn’t defining. It certainly made me more resilient, more understanding and more patient. I’m good at being alone because I was for a very long time. This is the first time I have ever written this story down – and this isn’t the entirety. However, I do promise there is always life beyond now. There is life beyond what is and what seems impossible. It’s not easy nor is it clean. As certain as the sun rising tomorrow, life will go on. How, is up to you.
If you are experiencing domestic abuse, please remember that you are not alone.
Vodafone UK are committed to supporting employees experiencing domestic violence and abuse. Last year, we launched our Domestic Violence and Abuse Policy which provides information, support and guidance regarding domestic abuse.
If you are in an emergency, please call 999 for urgent support. You can also contact following services to access support and advice:
· The National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247
· ManKind on 01823 334 244 for men
· Galop on 0800 999 5428 for specialist LGBT+ support
· The Vodafone Employee Assistance programme on 0800 243 458
· Download the Bright Sky app