'My partner abused me'

One 28-year-old woman talks about her experience of domestic violence and reclaiming her life.

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"Four years ago, I moved to London, started a new job, and met Darren [not his real name]. He was very charming and complimentary, and was always sending me flowers and cards.

"He would get up to make my breakfast, put the shower on for me, and even watch me dry my hair as I got ready for work.

"It seemed odd, but he explained it was because he liked watching me. In hindsight, I realise he did it so he could see what I was wearing.

"Before long, he started asking why I bothered putting on make-up. He told me that I was 'beautiful and perfect' without it. Then he began laying out my clothes for me. It was his way of being able to choose what I wore."

Name-calling, then violence

If you need help, call 0808 2000 247, the free 24-hour National Domestic Violence Helpline run in partnership between Women’s Aid and Refuge

"After two months, he began to wait for me outside work. If I didn't come out immediately, he'd get angry. He accused me of staying late so I could flirt with other men.

"He said that he only waited because he loved me. He became moody and would start rows. He'd call me names and mock my accent.

"A little voice in the back of my head kept saying, 'You're not happy', but I tried to ignore it. I always seemed to be on the phone to Darren explaining what I was doing.

"Even though I was sometimes up at 3am for my job, he expected his dinner to be on the table when he came in from work.

"Gradually, he became the most important thing in my life – the only thing in my life. I had less and less contact with family and friends.

"One day when we were bickering, Darren pushed me on to the floor. Finally, I stood up to him and told him he couldn't treat me that way, that people go to prison for behaving like that. He laughed, called me a liability, then rang the police.

"He told them that we had been having a row and I was planning to call them the next day to say he had hit me so as to cause trouble for him. I felt really scared as I'd never been in that situation before. I was embarrassed and shocked, and didn't know what to do."

Hitting, spitting, humiliation

"After this incident, the violence became a regular occurrence in our relationship. One time, he broke my finger and I had to see a hand specialist. On another occasion, I went to A&E with bruising to my head, face and body.

"He spat at me, pushed me, kicked me and bit me. Once he even tried to run me over. After each bout of violence, he would tenderly rub Arnica cream [a treatment for bruises] on my skin and tell me he was my 'protector'. I began to feel that I was going mad.

"The degradation was harder to cope with than the violence. I became so insecure and unsure of what was right or wrong by my own standards, never mind legally, that I allowed many things to happen that I never would have before.

"Darren would make me beg on my knees if I wanted something, or he'd throw money on the pavement and order me to pick it up."

Leaving, and regaining confidence

"I became convinced I was ugly. When we went out, Darren would blatantly stare at women in front of me then, if I complained, tell me that I was imagining it.

"Bit by bit, my sense of reason and self-esteem evaporated. He became more and more controlling. He even told my mum to contact me only through his mobile because it was 'easier'.

"Each night, he would search my bag and check the mileage on my car. He would take pictures of me as I was walking around the house, or when I was sobbing after an argument.

"I finally left Darren after he attacked me with a corkscrew. It took me a long time to build up my confidence again, especially as he continued to harass me long after I left him.

"He had completely crushed my self-worth. My career in PR, which had been going from strength to strength before I met him, really suffered.

"With the support of my friends, family and the staff at Refuge [an organisation that provides services and advice for abused women and children] I was able to rebuild my life and confidence.

I have worked hard to get back on track and I'm doing really well at work now. Most importantly, I know my own mind again."

Anyone who has been sexually assaulted can get confidential help, treatment and support at a rape and sexual assault referral centre.

Find your nearest rape and sexual assault referral centre.

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The photograph used with this article is posed by a model.

Page last reviewed: 30/06/2014

Next review due: 01/11/2016

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