Siobhán's story

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The first sign that something wasn't quite right was when Robert offered to start buying all my clothes. Naturally, I told him thanks, but no thanks. Next he turned on my friends saying, "If you truly love me, like I love you, you'd want to spend your time with me, not your friends."

Then a nasty side to his personality crept in. He'd laugh at my opinions, dismissing whatever I said as though I was stupid. He put my job down, saying that what I did was worthless, and eventually convinced me to leave work and stay at home. He became more moody and unpredictable, flying into rages without provocation.

Then one day I called him in work about an overdue bill - he said it was none of my concern, and then he just hung up the phone. When he walked in the front door that night he went ballistic. Terrified, I said I was leaving. He shouted and roared at me, and completely destroyed the living room with a knife from the kitchen. Then he locked the front door, pointed the knife at me and said: "You're not going anywhere." But amazingly, not another word was ever spoken about it. Somehow, I buried it inside me and carried on.

Then three months later, I accidentally dropped a bottle of perfume he gave me on my birthday. One minute I was standing there watching the perfume bottle shatter then, bang! I was sitting on the kitchen floor wondering what the hell had happened.

The next day, while Robert was in work, I stared at a Women's Aid card that a friend had given me a few months earlier and contemplated my life. I'd gone from being a strong, independent woman to this quivering wreck with no friends, no job, and no confidence. I felt so low, I searched the house for pills for an overdose. But fortunately, I rang Women's Aid instead. The woman on the end of the line just listened. And when I'd finished she said four simple words: "That's what they do." She didn't mean men. She meant abusers.

And she wasn't just referring to that one punch. She meant the ongoing mental cruelty, humiliation and emotional manipulation I'd lived through. It was a real shock to discover I'd been in an abusive relationship for two years without having realised.

I still think of that day as the day my life changed. After calling Women's Aid I went straight upstairs, packed my things and left. I never looked back.

About Siobhán: Siobhán'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.