No, I didn’t pick him

No, I didn’t pick him, I fell in love with him.  I fell in love with his charm, the same way as everyone else around him did.  When I first met him, he didn’t immediately hit be, it wasn’t like that at all.

He picked me, to wear down physically and psychologically.

I was strong, independent, bubbly and career minded, he was unemployed, an alcoholic who thought the world was against him but revolved around him at the same time.  He thought the world owed him something, he thought I owed him something, my life.

After suffering three years of physical and psychological abuse, being strangled, being spat at, being knocked out, being kicked around the floor, being manipulated, controlled, brainwashed, being sacked, prevented from learning to drive, accused of having affairs, ridiculed, humiliated, bombarded with calls and texts, suffering a miscarriage, a premature baby, being dragged through the family court, harassed.  I am no longer the vulnerable victim that he moulded me into.

When I found the courage and strength to leave, whenever I saw him in the street and he gave me his sob story and false tears, instead of feeling sorry for him, I laughed at him, held my head high and walked away from him, making him feel useless.

After leaving him, I was a single mum in a new area, but I held my head up high and got on with it, I didn’t feel sorry for myself or tell people sob stories, the way he did.  I didn’t need to lie to people about being anything, my actions were 100 times stronger than his false lies.  I was the one who got on with my life, became the best mum I could be, I went to college, bettered myself, became an advocate for others, a role model for my daughter, my life was changing but what about him and his?  Still drinking, still the perpetrator, still the one who thought the world owed him something but he was the one person that my life didn’t belong to.

Ten years on I am still standing strong.  I have my freedom and life back.  My daughter is healthy and happy.  Don’t ever judge me, you don’t know me, you have no right to judge me.  I didn’t pick him.  I fell in love with a perpetrator.  He picked me to abuse me.  I didn’t pick to be a victim.

Domestic Abuse and pregnant victims

I really believed that the abuse would stop when I was pregnant.  Of course it would, I was pregnant with his child, he wanted to be a good father so he wouldn’t hurt me any more, right.

I can’t remember my ex perpetrator physically hurting me during my pregnancy but the verbal threats and psychological abuse was still part of our relationship.

I had a urinary tract infection because I didn’t look after my health the way I should have, I was still the servant, the cook, the cleaner, the one who had to stay up and awake because he didn’t want to sleep, just talk.  I was still the one who was physically and mentally drained.

Tegan Rose Billingham was born 2 weeks early because I had pre-eclampsia.

Pre-eclampsia is caused by high blood pressure and a large amount of protein in the blood.  The disorder usually occurs in the third trimester of pregnancy and gets worse over time.  In severe disease there may be red blood cell breakdown, a low blood platelet countdown, impaired liver function, kidney dysfunction, swelling, shortness of breath due to swelling on the lungs, visual disturbances.  Pre-eclampsia increases the risk of poor outcomes for both the mother and the baby.  If left untreated, it may result in seizures at which point it is known as eclampsia.

I couldn’t get my feet into any shoes, my hands and feet had swollen to an incredible size.  My blood pressure was dangerously high and I was in a bad way.  Thankfully my unborn baby was fine.

  • Over a third of domestic violence starts or gets worse when a woman is pregnant
  • One midwife in five knows that at least one of her expectant mothers is a victim of domestic violence
  • A further one in five midwives sees at least one woman a week who she suspects is a victim of domestic violence

Domestic abuse can increase the risk of miscarriage, infection, premature birth, low birth weight, foetal injury and foetal death.

Many perpetrators can impregnate victims to trap them, to control them and to use the child as a weapon too.  Perpetrators will use verbal abuse to manipulate and humiliate victims about their mothering skills.

Perpetrators who abuse their victim during pregnancy, aren’t only endangering the victims life but also the life of the unborn child.

Why I stayed

Three years I was with my ex perpetrator and I had no idea I had been a victim of domestic abuse until I had left.

I always lived in hope.  Every day I hoped the abuse would end, hoped he would change and hoped he would love me, but he never did.

I don’t think he wanted to change because he didn’t see anything wrong with his behaviour and I simply accepted it, thinking it happened in all relationships.  I lived in the hope that things would change and work out for the best but things never worked out that way.  They just stayed abusive.  He was the perpetrator and I was the victim.

I guess during the relationship, I was in denial, pretending it wasn’t really happening to me.  If I didn’t think about it, it wasn’t happening at all.  Whenever people spoke to me about it, I brushed it aside.  I was in denial, blaming it on the drink, making it seem acceptable for his behaviour.

I had lost everything in my life at this point, everything I had worked for and what I believed in, I had so much shame living inside me.  I had let down so many people, including myself.  I was ashamed of who I had become.

He certainly knew how to make me feel guilty.  Maybe I did deserve to be treated this way.  Maybe I did provoke him.  Maybe it was my fault.

If I did leave him, where would I go, my friends, family and parents didn’t want to know me and he was always there for me, the one I could rely on.

I didn’t leave because his verbal threats were always constantly ringing in my head and I knew he was capable of carrying out the threats.  He petrified me.  I was scared of the man I loved.

I stayed because bit by bit I had been broken down mentally and physically, my thoughts, feelings, wants and needs no longer mattered because I wasn’t living, just existing.  I had been moulded into someone I wasn’t.  My confidence had been crushed, my self worth drained and my self-esteem taken away from me.

If I had left, would anyone really believe me, he told me they wouldn’t.  I believed him.

My life became very disorganised, no routine, sometimes sleeping the clock around.  I neglected my basic care, I didn’t wash or change my clothes, felt there was no need.  My relationship with my parents had deteriorated and I felt so alone.

I stayed because he wouldn’t let me go.  Even when I tried, he would find me, sweet talk me and tell me he would change and never hurt me again.  I believed him because I wanted things to change, I wanted him to change.  I stayed because I wanted the hope inside me to be the hope that happened in reality but it never did.  I was broken, he had broken me, piece by piece.

Professionals and how they should respond to domestic abuse

It might be common sense, but the most important thing to do is give priority to ensuring the immediate safety of the victim.  If they have spoken out they will be petrified of the reaction to the perpetrator when they find out they have reported the abuse.

Recognise the victims’ need for a positive response.  They have reached out and put their trust in you to help support them and get them way from the dangerous situation they are in at the moment.

Believe them and be sensitive to their needs is important to do.  You might be the first person they have confided in.

Reassure them that the abuse is not their fault.  Victims will have been brainwashed, manipulated and controlled into thinking it is their fault.

Remember their options may be limited.  They will have been isolated from friends and family.

Check it is alright for you to contact them because more often than not, perpetrators control their phone.

Respect their wishes if they don’t want to contact you but remember safeguarding procedures

Always fine out what the victim wants to do and if you can help them achieve it, do so.

Explore ways of maximising their safety, remembering, what is safe for one might not be safe for another.

Make them feel as though they are in control.  Being in an abusive relationship will mean their perpetrator has controlled every single aspect of their life.

Take responsibility when referring and remember child protection issues.

It’s important to understand the reasons why victims stay and the difficulties they experience making these decisions

Staying safe with your perpetrator

If the time isn’t right just yet for you to leave the relationship, don’t be too hard on yourself, it’s just that the time isn’t right to leave just yet.  However, there are a few things that youcan do to try and stay safe with your perpetrator:-

Seek advice and support – this could be speaking to someone you can trust, support from organisations, support from websites, support from professionals/agencies

Ensure agencies have a safe way of contacting you

Memorise a list of number you can use in an emergency – if you are in fear of your life, 999

Organise a signal to alert others that you need help

Think about safe escape routes – avoid rooms where there are weapons/no exits

Try and safe money for expenses you may have

Ensure medical help is sought for inuries you may sustain so that these are recorded – future court proceeding and take photographs of any injuries sustained

If possible, fit secure window and door locks

Love is blind

We can’t help who we fall in love with.  At the beginning of the relationship the charming partner overpowers the controlling perpetrator, even fooling society, yet when the controlling perpetrator comes out, the victim is often blamed.  Through lack of awareness and education, questions are asked, why don’t you just leave, instead of, why are you being abused.

Love is blind, when isolation is mistaken for love and care, when jealousy is confused for well they must love me, when possessiveness is seen as charming and when abusive behaviour is accepted as normal.

Being a doting parent, allowing your partner to go out and buying gifts is all part of the controlling perpetrator not the caring partner.  Showing society you are a doting parent will prevent people from believing the victim when they speak out, allowing your partner to go out shows society you are trusted and buying gifts is because they care for you not because they want to control you.

Victim blaming it to break them down, make them question themselves and believe the perpetrator when they say it’s their fault.  A Jekyll and Hyde character played by the perpetrator confuses the victim, makes them even wonder if they are being abused or not.

Love is blind when the perpetrator is in constant control and they are.  They have to be.  It’s all about them.  They can do no wrong and it’s everyone else’s fault but theirs.  They will never taken responsibility for their own actions because you made me do it, it was your fault, you pushed me too far, you provoked me.

Love is blind when accusations are turned into a light joke, when it’s ok for the perpetrator to cheat but not ok for the victim to have a friend of the opposite sex.  Love is blind when victims think receiving 200 calls and 30 text messages each time you go to the shop, is love but perpetrators see it is as controlling who they speak too.  Love is blind because we don’t have enough awareness around us to tell us any different.

More often than not, a perpetrator will have a history of abuse yet the victim might not have anything to compare this relationship too and simply accept coercive control and domestic abuse as normal and something that happens in all relationships.

Perpetrators make victims fall for their charm, impress them with goals that they know perfectly well they will never achieve and will suffocate them with care whilst blinding them with love.  Being in a relationship that involves coercive control and domestic abuse is dangerous.  Warning signs aren’t understood and simply mistaken for something they aren’t.  Victims will be physically and mentally wore down, exhausted, existing and no longer living.  They won’t have the strength to leave, too scared to stay and absolutely petrified to leave.

Love is blind when you are isolated from everyone around you and the one who loves you, abuses you, when society blames the victim and when killed because, if I can’t have you, no one else can.

4 years to die

#MurderedByMyBoyfriend

Oh. My God.  After watching this documentary, I went upstairs to cover my 9-year-old daughter with kisses.  I could still see the image of Ashley lying on the floor in my mind and the thought of, that could have been me running through my mind.

It was difficult to watch because it was so true.  This is real life for many victims of domestic abuse.  It tells society how domestic abuse really is and why it’s not so easy to “just leave”.

Watching, I could relate to so much, especially when Reece the perpetrator kept harassing her with the calls and constantly going to the house, saying the things she wanted to hear, the lies to lure her back to him.

He physically, psychologically, sexually and financially abused her.  He victimblamed her, he verbally abused her, he manipulated her, he controlled her, he made her feel like nothing; all the characteristics of a perpetrator but to the outside world, he seemed like the caring partner.  He seemed to be a good dad, but all he was doing was using her to get maintain that control.  He stalked her knowing where she had been when they were on a break, he made her feel guilty when she phoned the Police.

He was flattering, charming and tried to impress her by talking about what he wanted to do with his life – become a Property Developer.

Just a few days after meeting, Ashley was saying, he was different, talking about his eyes when he looked at her, how he “really got her”, how he was a gentleman and she was happy.

In the club Reece offered to buy Ashley’s friends and drink, he was a complete charmer.

He pulled up Ashley’s strap as it had fallen down and she thanked him for that.

Reece told her how had seen her before, in the clothes shop and thought how she was beautiful.

He is being the charming partner, until he picked up Ashley’s phone and says, you’ve got a text.  Laughing and trying to make light of the fact that she has just received a text message, he says come on I need to see who my competition is.  Whose Mick, straightaway thinking it’s a guy.  Ashley doesn’t like the fact he looked at her text message and laughs as she reveals Mick is Michaela.  Reece covers his jealousness by saying, I was only playing, I do trust you and I don’t want to lose you.

Ashley’s body language tells you how smitten she is with Reece.

Just three months into the relationship, Ashley finds out she is pregnant, saying over how she is only 17.  She wants to talk about the issue, but Reece says all the things she wants to hear, I’ll love after the baby whilst you are at college I’ll look after you and I’ll never leave you.

We do see how Reece babysits their daughter whilst Ashley goes out, but there are consequences.

The conversation between Ashley and her mum is a common one with mum saying, you don’t even know him and think about your options.

Reece is already out buying baby clothes yet 6 months down the line he’s not ready for that committment and won’t live together because of his dogs – my dogs are my dogs.

We see Ashley physically abused for the first time when she is pregnant yet the coercive control has always been there.  Ashley is frightened, scared and shocked as Reece physically abuses her.  Straightaway, Reece is full of remorse, sorry and he will never do it again.  Ashley leaves.  But as she walks down the street, thoughts running through her head, she goes back to Reece, saying, I couldn’t leave for a single moment, he loves me, the father of my child who is crying like a boy in front of me.

Reece knows that getting Ashley pregnant and getting her to keep the baby, that will be the hold he has over her to go back; using his own daughter as a weapon.

Three years into the relationship and the coercive control is still there.  Reece is talking to his daughter, laughing, saying is that what mommy is wearing.  She’s going out with friends. She goes into the bedroom to change.  Bruises on her back.  We hear her ask for her own purse whilst Reece is looking through receipts and questioning her every movement and purchase.  He gives her some money, saying, you can pay me back on Friday obviously financially abusing her too.

Whilst Ashley is out, Reece is constantly monitoring her movements by logging onto her Facebook account, which he obviously has the password too.  Talking to his daughter, saying let’s see what’s happening and, we’ll get her back.  Ashley is out with her friends and Reece keeps on calling her.

When Ashley gets home, he says you had a late night, you can see so much fear over Ashley’s face, thinking he is going to hurt her but he just kisses her.  Confusing behaviour.

3 years and 3 months, Ashley is telling us, there were good times too but I had to feel what he wanted to feel and, I could only be happy when he was.

Reece buys her a phone but it’s only to control her: send me a photo, I wanna see where you are, tell me what you are doing, why did you turn it off, who are you with, you think I’m being ridiculous.

Ashley’s neighbour phones the Police.  Ashley lies to protect him.  The female Police Officer tries to coax Ashley to tell the truth, but she doesn’t, Reece is listening the whole time.

It was never his fault, it’s me, I provoked/hurt/pushed him to the limit.  I believe him.

Friends telling her she’s got to leave him, saying, if he did that to someone in the street, he would go to jail.  Ashley is making excuses up for him and blaming herself, saying she winds him up.

In the kitchen, Reece has left his phone on the work surface, knowing Ashley is preparing the evening meal when he gets a text message.

Whose Kim?  Does it matter?  Why are you fucking her?  You’re sick, you know that, I do everything for you!

Reece asks, do I give you money? I buy you thinks, I drive you round like a Princess and you accuse me, how do you think that makes me fee, why are you dong this to me?  Is it about your weight, is it making you feel insecure because if it is, it’s time you did something about it.

Ashley went to see the said Kim, but didn’t speak, just to see who it was.  Reece went to the shop where Ashley was, head butted her, dragged her into the changing room, repeatedly punching her saying, I told you to stay out of my business, you phone the Police, you are fucking dead.

She had left him.

Please don’t take him back this time Ash, he won’t change.

3 years and 8 months down the line and he is still controlling her.  I just want to talk, I miss you, it’s been ages, I just want to spend the night with Jazz, she needs her dad too.

He phoned the store, he phoned her mobile, he phoned her landline, he banged on the front door calling through the letterbox how he just wanted to talk, shouting to Jazz how he wanted to see her.  You called the Police, you bitch.

Her friends try to get her to be with someone else.  You know I like ya but Reece won’t let this happen.  It’s my life, it’s not up to him.

Reece goes round to the house saying how he had brought Jazz some £60 trainers, open the door, I’ve got something to tell you, I start an anger management course.

Have you met someone else, please baby I just want to talk to you, I’m never going to let you go, we belong together, open the door, please I didn’t mean to shout, I don’t wanna keep doing this Ash, come on open the door please.

Ashley says, how many times can I call the Police.  He has destroyed the last thing I held onto, hope, without home there is nothing.  He has made me into nothing.

You’ll never find this with anyone else, he tells her.

Lets start afresh.

What about when you were in Leicester?

Why would I want anyone else when I’ve got you.

When Reece comes back from a night out, he’s intoxicated.  Baby you awake, baby you awake, I just wanna know his name, did you talk to him first, what did he say, what did you say, did he touch you, did you fuck him, tell me the truth.

He killed her through his own insecurities.  A beautiful young woman with a beautiful young daughter who had the rest of her life to live.  Dead.

This documentary highlight just how serious domestic abuse is and should be shown in sex education classes because this is the reality of this crime.  This is why awareness is vitally important.  Young people need to be aware of the early warning signs and what the difference between control and care is because it could cost them their life.

It was difficult and uncomfortable viewing but one with an important message that society should understand, it’s not just that easy to live, you don’t just leave the first time you are hit and how the perpetrator always has power and control.

Deserving Dads

I gave him a chance.  It was all arranged.  He was supposed to have come to see her on the Friday.  The day and time were arranged.  He never turned up though.  He didn’t want to see his own daughter.  Didn’t want to s spend time with her.  Didn’t want to love her.

He had never been a fatherly figure in her life from day one.  He wasn’t even at the birth.  He turned up at the hospital, after visiting hours, causing a scene, he had to be escorted off the premises and wasn’t allowed back to see us.  When we were living together a few months after her birth, his life stayed the same, he didn’t want to do anything with her at all.  He didn’t feed her, he didn’t rock her to sleep, he didn’t change her nappy, he didn’t bath her, he didn’t bond with her.

That hurt me.  She was an innocent baby.  Our baby.  His only daughter.

From day one, he wasn’t bothered at all, didn’t care, let’s face it, he didn’t care about anyone but himself, not even is own daughter.  Yet, here I was, giving him another chance again.  Wanting to put his needs before my own, but I wouldn’t put his needs before my own daughter.  Ever.

He decided to take me through the Family Court and use our child as a weapon to still have his power and control over me.  But on the other hand, I was pretty impressed because I thought he was going to prove me wrong, stand up to the mark and being a father.  But it didn’t work out that way.

Three times he took me to court, instructing various solicitors, missing many appointments and using his powerful manipulative behaviour when he could be bothered to turn up.

He had abused me for three years yet I still wanted my daughter to have her Father in her life because I knew she would have divided loyalties.  He was my perpetrator but still her father.  I tried to think what would be best for her.  I simply agree that children should have two parents in their life but times have changed so much over the years, that many parents aren’t simply a mum and dad, but it is my belief that all parents who genuinely care for their child, who will love, care for and nurture them should be allowed to see their child.  I do not think it is fair that perpetrators, male or female, should have it quiet so easy to go through the Family Court because it is simply to use their children as a weapon and to maintain the control over their victim.

However, we are still living in a society that focuses on supporting the perpetrator rather than the survivor which, in turn, makes life difficult and can often put the child in danger.  This is why awareness, education and training should be mandatory for professionals and agencies yet we are hearing time and time again how there are so many barriers put in the victim’s way that prevents them from getting the support they need and deserve to see their child, yet on the other hand, the same as my perpetrator he was allowed to instruct 2 different solicitors, take me through the family courts, missing many of his appointments and instruct that I undertake a psychological and substance test which if I didn’t complete I would be fined.

We still aren’t taking domestic abuse seriously enough to actually be supporting the victim, perpetrators are fooling society and constantlly being allowed to be in control.  This needs to change.

There’s no heartbeat

There was no heartbeat.

I felt lost.  I felt empty.  I felt alone.  I felt as though it was my fault.  If only.  If only I had looked after myself more.  If only I had gone to the doctors sooner.  If only.  They were just two words.  They didn’t mean anything.  To little too late.  I couldn’t change a thing now, no matter how much I wanted to too or how hard I tried.

I had lost my baby.

I was supposed to protect my unborn child.  I didn’t.  I was to blame.  It was my fault.

I remember it was New Years Eve.  The year, I am unsure of but we were at the flat, me, him and his ex.  That might sound strange to you but to me, it was normal, he often invited her around.  Looking back now I think it was so he could play us off against each other, see two women argue over him and battle for his affections.  Quiet pathetic really.  The music was on.  Laughter.  Giggle.  Smiling.  For a change.

A knock at the door changed everything.

Suddenly I was flung like rag-dolly-anna across the long hall way; he had picked me up by the scruff of my clothes and just thrown me.   I slided along like skating on thin ice.  My eyes were closed.  It felt as though I wasn’t going to stop. I could hear what was going on around me but couldn’t see anything.

The look on her face, the silent words that no parent should ever hear slipped out of her mouth, there’s no heartbeat.

Tears stung my eyes like sharp pieces of glass, I blinked trying to blink them away but that just hurt even more.  Suddenly, it felt as though a golf ball had appeared in the back of my throat making it hard to swallow.  I lay their, defeated, useless, worthless, empty, a failure.

I sobbed quietly.  What had I done.  Why had I let him do that to me. To my unborn child.  What sort of mother was I to allow him to kill an innocent baby.  My innocent baby.  I just felt numb.  People were talking around me but I couldn’t hear what they were saying.  They were there but I wasn’t.  It was as though I was living someone else’s life and just watching what was going on around me, it felt as though I wasn’t a part of it.  It wasn’t happening to me.

I was devastated.  I still think about it.  Not all the time, like everything else, it’s subconsciously stored at the back of my mind.  Little Miss would have had a younger brother or sister now, she wouldn’t be an only child.  Whenever she said to me, I want a baby brother or sister, guilt would just overflow my body.

Almost 10 years on, it is still with me.  The fact that I could be a single mother to two children.  Maybe it was a son I lost or it could have been another girl.  Sometimes I find myself staring at baby clothes in the shops, thinking and wondering what if, but then on the other hand I see it as a blessing in disguise.  Maybe it wasn’t to be for a reason.  Would I have stayed with my ex perpetrator and then had my two children taken away from me?  If I had have had my child would something had have happened to him or her?

I can’t remember everything that happened that night but as I type this I can see myself lying on the floor, eyes closes and I am crying, really loud.  This must have happened in 2004/5 I can’t remember the specific time or date but I know that the experience is still a part of me.  I don’t think about it all the time and I have never spoken about it to anyone before.

Society think that once you leave that’s the end of the abuse, once you leave the abuse doesn’t happen anymore or that the traumatic experience doesn’t affect you once you leave, for many that’s just the beginning!  There are many issues that surround domestic abuse it’s not just physical and domestic abuse leaves so many consequences behind, including miscarriage.

Real Relationships

Do you know what it’s like, to lose control?

To have no control whatsoever over any aspect of your life.  To have no control in who you see, who you speak to, what you wear, where you go, what you eat, what you taste, what you smell, what you breathe.

Do you know what it’s like to not see your friends, family and loved ones, do the things you loved to do and have the life you had before.

Do you know what it’s like to have someone monitor and watch your every single move.  It doesn’t mean they care about you or love you, it shows how they don’t trust you, it shows how they don’t want you to live your life, be you , they don’t want you to live your life.  Paranoia overrules their body, their mind, their life completely.

Bombarding you with texts shows control, texting back 10 hours later shows trust.  It is vitally important you learn the difference between the two because it’s the difference between life and death.

No one is perfect, we all make mistakes, annoy our partners and say stupid things but isolating, manipulation and jealousy should never be part of any relationship.  Obsession and stalking isn’t about proving your love for that person but proving you are controlling them because you don’t love them.

Being in a relationship with a perpetrator means you won’t know where you stand with them or what you mean to them.  They will continually move the goalposts and whatever you do will never, ever be good enough for them.  They won’t care about your wants or needs, just use and abuse you for what they can get from you.

Time and time again you will forgive them because you don’t want to love them but they won’t ask for forgiveness because they still want to abuse you.  Being in a relationship shouldn’t mean cutting ties or being isolated because the partner you are with should be someone you are proud to be with and to be seen with.  You don’t have to explain your movements or why you were 5 minutes late in replying to that message because your partner will know they can trust you, wherever you are.

A perpetrator has the power to make you feel special and then suddenly acts as if you they don’t care about you at all, leaving you feel like you can never get over them again.  Domestic abuse is all about power and control.  In a real relationship, these two things don’t exist.  A real relationship should thrive with trust and be full of love and care.

Being in a relationship where you constantly blame yourself for the actions of someone else but sometimes you have to give up on them because they gave up on you a long time ago.  Real relationships are where you are loved for who you are, not what someone want’s you to be.  You can live your life how you want, smile at who you wish and do the things you love and believe in.  Real relationships don’t make you choose between them and others, real relationships let you do the things that make you feel happy not mould you into someone who makes you sad.  Real relationships are a place where butterflies live in your tummy, not putting fear into the pit of your stomach.  Real relationships don’t blame you for something you haven’t don’t, real relationships care about you, your wants and needs.  They want to be your wants and needs.  Real relationships do exist, you just have to be aware and educated who the perpetrators are.