I first met John when I started working at the hotel. I had just left college and it was my first 'real' job. I started earning money and making new friends. I was able to go have a good social life, go shopping, go on holidays abroad and even moved out of my mam's house. There was always somewhere to go and someone to go with. It was a wonderful time in my life. John and I started going out about 8 months after we met. It was nothing serious at first - the odd dinner and a trip to the cinema. He was very good looking and charming - full of compliments. After a while it got more serious and we started spending all our time together. It was always at his place - he always said he wanted me all to himself. When we did go out in company it with was with his mates. He said that my friends were too stuck up.
The first time I felt something was wrong was the time I booked a holiday to America with my best friend, Carol. We had been saving for a long time. But John wasn't happy. Every time I talked about it he went quiet or would just ignore me. He had given me the silent treatment before but nothing like this. I could feel his anger seething below the surface. About two weeks before the holiday he started to pile on the pressure. He moped around telling me how much he was going to miss me. He said that I should be putting the money towards our future rather than off galavanting with 'that bitch Carol'. He accused me of wanting to get away from him and sleep with someone else. That was the last thing on my mind. But I started to feel sorry for him and began to think that I should stay. The night before I was due to leave we had a massive row. He had hidden my passport and wouldn't give it back. He screamed and shouted at me and called me all sorts of names. I was so upset and shocked. All I could do was stand there. I eventually ran up the stairs out of the way but he followed me and started to kick and punch the door and told me that he was going to kill me. I never made the flight and stayed indoors the whole time in case someone saw me. Things have never been the same with Carol. I couldn't tell her the truth because I didn't want anyone to know. He begged me to forgive him and for a long time after that he was great. I convinced myself that he didn't really mean it and that he must have been really stressed out.
We got married the following year and moved into our new home. John suggested that we get a joint account for our wages as it would be easier to manage. All the bills for the new house were in my name and I was always the one to make sure they were paid. He earned a lot more that I did but he never seemed to have any money. I never knew how much he earned. When I had Amanda I went back to work part time. John didn't want me too - he thought I should be 'a proper wife' and stay at home to look after him and the child but I really loved my job and wanted to stay on. So, he said that that if I wanted to work I would have to pay for the childcare. So that is how it worked. My wages went directly to the childminder and the rest was spent on the household items. Every so often John would buy a flash new car or book us a holiday. He was never out of the golf club. I am sure to the neighbours it looked like everything was perfect. But it was very clear that his money was for him and mine was for the house.
Then when Jack came along it became impossible to stay on at work. The cost of childcare was going to be more than what I would earn. It really broke my heart to leave. Since then I have been at home 24/7 looking after the kids. Don't get me wrong, I love them to pieces but everything is such a struggle. All the money coming into house now is his and he makes it so difficult for me to get at. He holds all the cards and I feel like a child again asking for pocket money. He gives me an 'allowance' for food for the week and to cover the bills but it is never enough. When I have to ask for more he tells me I am being wasteful and insists I account for everything I spend. He even checks the till receipts. When it comes to personal items like sanitary towels or clothes he makes me beg. The only income I have in my name is the child benefit. It is a life saver as the kids always need something but, again, it doesn't even come close to covering all the expenses.
Back to school and Christmas are the worst. I try to make sure the kids get what they need but I have to constantly beg John for extra money. If I ask him too much he loses his temper and starts screaming at me. I have to walk on eggshells most of the time and have sex with him whenever he wants, just to keep him happy. He makes me wait right up to the last minute before giving me some money. Last time he just took out this big wad of money and threw it in my face and said that I should count myself lucky. I felt so ashamed I cried. I felt worthless.
The bills still come in my name and the electric and heating bills are in deep arrears - I get letters all the time threatening legal action and he just ignores it and tells me to cut back. The kids are getting older and need more things. I've started to go to money lenders and it feels like I am getting deeper and deeper into debt. I've even borrowed money of my family and I know I won't be able to pay them back so I have started to avoid them. I feel so hopeless and stressed and I have nowhere to turn. I have no job, no money and no options. I just feel trapped because the money worries will only get worse when I leave.
I saw an ad for Women's Aid in the local paper in the supermarket and I took down the number. I had that number for a long time but never called. One day everything got so on top of me I picked up the phone and for the first time in my life I was able to tell someone what was happening. They didn't judge me or blame me. They just listened.
About Suzanne: Suzanne'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.