“I just someone to realise what was happening and to ask me…”

Trigger Warning: This article contains themes of domestic abuse and rape. If you are affected by anything in this story please follow the links for support.

A survivor has shared her story of domestic abuse, coercive control and fear.

She has shared her story to highlight the importance of looking out for the people around you. By checking in and asking questions, you could give someone the confidence they need to take the next steps.

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It started when I met someone aged 18. We exchanged numbers and things progressed quickly. Not long into our relationship he moved into my home, and I fell pregnant.

I was young and scared, but he made me feel like everything was going to be okay.

Three months into my pregnancy, things changed.

He was controlling, and he convinced me we had to do what was right for the baby.

I became isolated from my family and friends, and I was rarely allowed to see them. He convinced me to get rid of my car in order to save money, however it stripped me of my freedom. Eventually he took away my bank card, and he had complete financial control.

The physical violence didn’t start until I was six months pregnant. One night I received a blow so hard, it knocked me unconscious, and I couldn’t feel the baby move.

As I sat in the hospital being checked over, he explained to the nurses how I fell, and no one questioned it.

I sat there in hope that someone, anyone, would take me aside privately and ask me what had happened, because I knew I wouldn’t be able to lie.

By the time my baby arrived, I was completely isolated and stripped of my independence.

He drove a wedge between me, my family and my friends. My dad had a gut instinct about him and thought something was up, but he completely drove a wedge between us.

Things were getting worse. He would hit me, sexually assault me and rape me. He would fully restrict me from eating and as a result I became really unwell.

This was the point people started to notice, my mum made me go to the doctors and I was referred to get specialist testing at the hospital.

When my appointment came round, he looked after our child and a family member took me to the hospital. I was put to sleep for the tests and when I came round, I was given tea and toast.

To some tea and toast sounds like nothing, but that first taste of tea after being deprived for so long hit me. I nearly cried out of joy.

Noticing my behaviour, my auntie encouraged me to go to lunch with her. I was scared at the thought of this as I knew there would be repercussions, but she was persistent, so I switched my phone off and joined her.

It was at that moment, sat in a coffee shop, when she looked at me and said: “I know what’s going on.”

I broke down. I told her everything.

I wanted to tell someone; I knew I couldn’t lie but I just needed someone to ask me.

She had initially asked me, thinking I may have an eating disorder, as she had noticed something was wrong. Together we spoke about everything I was going through.

We made a plan to get me out of the relationship. It wasn’t easy, but I had support, and I got out.

But this isn’t where the story ends.

For the sake of our child, I agreed to allow him supervised visits. It wasn’t long until he manipulated his way back into our lives. I was a police officer with shift work, and I needed the support with childcare to continue working.

Whilst I never got back with him, he ensured I was still in fear of him. This went on for years.

He would question my every move, and question me if I changed my route to work. He would even mess around with childcare dates so I would miss shifts to hold that control over me.

There was one day when I had had enough, and I went to hand in my notice. My manager looked at me, and asked why, and I said due to childcare.

He didn’t accept this, he asked me again, and again.

Until I opened up and told him everything.

He reassured me and encouraged me to get support from the Emerald team we have here in Bedfordshire Police, where we pursued a criminal conviction.

From this point, I will be honest and say it didn’t get easier. I faced a number of challenges, from appealing and securing a charging decision. There were court delays and adjournments due to covid, and I was even encouraged to take the stand and be questioned, when I didn’t want to.

There were times where I was so close to giving up. Where it felt all too much.

However, the support I received from my manager and my case worker kept me going. They reassured me and guided me through the difficult process.

I never got the results I wanted in court, and he walked away not guilty.

But for me, I got closure.

He had to listen to what I was saying.

He could not shout louder than me.

He could not hurt me.

I could tell from looking at the jury that I was believed, and that was enough.

And most importantly, I am still here.

By sharing my story, I hope I can give at least one person the confidence to come forward. The journey isn’t easy, but you will be believed and there is support available.

There are people who will do everything to protect your corner.

For those who are worried about friends, family or colleagues, remember the power of checking in. If something is worrying you, or doesn’t seem right, then just ask. They may not respond straight away, but your care or your support may just be the nudge they need to open up and get help.

A few years later, I bumped into one of his friends at the time. It scared me as I didn’t know how he would react, but he came up to me and apologised. He apologised for never questioning his mate’s behaviour or the way he spoke to me.

For not noticing that when he came round, I was never allowed to be involved in the food plans, or I was never in the same room. But now is the time to start challenging behaviours, especially your mates.

If you were affected by this blog, remember there is support available.

Bedfordshire Police has a dedicated domestic abuse team – Emerald – who are always on hand to support.

If you are a victim of domestic abuse you can contact Signpost for Bedfordshire, which offers free and confidential support regardless if the crime was reported to the police.

There is a number of support organisations which you can contact by phone or online. Visit Bedfordshire Police’s website for full list. In an emergency always call 999.

Mental health crisis support for all ages is available 24 hours a day every day across Bedfordshire and Luton by contacting NHS 111 (option 2) or the Samaritans on 116 123 (freephone).

If you have concerns about your partner you might be eligible to ask the police about their past through the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme, also known as Clare’s Law. Visit Bedfordshire Police’s website to read more and submit an application.

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