The first time my husband hit me was on our honeymoon. We were coming back to the hotel room after a nice meal and I turned to ask him something when his fist smashed into my face, breaking my cheekbone. It turned out he thought I had been “too friendly” to our waiter. He never apologised and was almost casual about his violence.
Over the next 16 years I couldn’t count the number of times Dermot has hurt me. One thing I do know for sure is that as far as he is concerned, it was always my fault. Something I did or didn’t do or should have done – or just because I should have known he was in no mood to talk to me at the time. He always said that if I told anyone what was happening, that the way he treated me now would be a “walk in the park” compared to what he would do.
I believe that he could kill me, or the children. We have three kids, and I wasn’t even allowed to name them. That was Dermot’s right. They are everything to me and all my energy has gone into trying to keep them safe, but it got impossible to cope. I asked my GP for anti-depressants to help, but thankfully he gave me the Women’s Aid number instead.
The Women’s Aid Helpline told me about a refuge I could go to with the kids to be safe and where Dermot couldn’t find us. They also made an appointment for me with one of their workers for support. I’m trying to get a protective order against Dermot, and the support worker is going to come to court with me to help.
But this isn’t over yet. I spend as much time every day looking over my shoulder as I do looking forward. I’m still terrified of Dermot and what he might do, but I don’t feel as alone any more now that I have spoken out. There are others now who know what Dermot is capable of. I know this, and he does as well.
*About Maureen: Maureen’s story is based on real accounts as told to the Women's Aid National Freephone Helpline and Support Services. Specific details and circumstances have been changed in the interests of protecting identity and to preserve the confidential nature of Women's Aid Services.