Shelly's Domestic Violence Story
Shelley, an young University student, recounts her domestic violence story. Despite the physical abuse, she never realised she was in an abusive relationship, instead trying to make sense of what was happening in a rational manner and feeling that, somehow, it was all her own fault:
I first met Darren when I was 18, just before going to University, but we lost touch and only began our relationship the following year, after my first year of university. It was my first relationship, and I soon grew incredibly close to him, and quickly fell in love with him. We spent all our spare time together, but we missed each other so much when I had to go back for the next term of university. He too was at a different university at the time, as an mature student (he was 8 years older). He was actually studying English Literature and psychology (the irony of this would only display itself to me later on in our relationship).
When my last year of University was about to end (he had already finished by this time) we discussed moving in together, as we had been in a relationship for 3 years at this time, and wanted our own space. Even when I had been at university, I travelled to see him each weekend, as I missed him so much. Although we argued sometimes, I was never afraid of him at this point, and thought that all couples argue, and it was nothing to worry about.
We eventually moved in together in the summer of 2007, and although it was an adjustment for the first month or so, all in all, it was great. This must have been the initial honeymoon period. Soon after, the arguments became more frequent, and heated. I felt that he wasn't helping around the house at all, and expected me to do most of the work, and not stress him out, asking to help. It was always me that had to suggest things to do for us to get out of the house, as I assumed that maybe the problems were worse when we felt like we were stuck in the house together. I also knew that we would be less likely to argue in public.
The first time he hit me was such a shock to me, as I really wasn't expecting it, and did not think he was capable of hitting anyone, let alone me. (He had previously warned me that he had a short temper, and not to make him angry, but I had always thought he was saying this in a general way, rather that it having anything else behind it). Whenever he said it, he never sounded sinister or angry - he would just say it in a matter of fact way.
We were constantly arguing about our relationship, and how much we fight, and it led to conversations about the past, and we were stood by the living room door, and he was stood in front of me, and gave me the hardest slap across my face. I was literally speechless. I didn't know what to do, and just ran to the bedroom. He apologised, and that night, he showered me with kisses, and we had sex that night. I still don't know how or why I let him, but for some reason, I did, and I'm still ashamed of this.
The next day, he didn't really talk about it, and was a nice as usual, and we didn't mention it for a while. I was still so confused about what happened, and I always thought that I would not only instantly leave if a man ever hit me, but I always thought I would call the police, or hit them back (this from a girl who has never been in a fight before, but you have these fantasies of how you assume you would behave if you got mugged or were in a certain scenario etc, and it seems it is usually far from the reality of how you would really react when the situation actually occurs).
When I mentioned what had happened, a few weeks later, and questioned how he could do that, when he had told me about the abusive relationship between his parents. He wasn't happy at me mentioning this. Maybe he knew it was almost clichéd - the cycle of abuse continuing, even despite him studying this in psychology at university.
I always felt like I had turned Darren (a guy that everyone likes, and thinks is quite shy, studious, into his computer games, and doesn't really raise his voice) into this monster, so it had to me my fault.From this point onwards, we would have periods of calm, followed by more violence, and him blaming me for 'pushing' him to do it, or him saying it was what I wanted, or 'I just couldn't take him not responding to me' and I' I always want a reaction don't I?' He always used these phrases, and I still think that he believes them to this day. He says he doesn't like violence, and hates the sight of blood, and yet he was doing this to me - hard hitting to the head, hitting and slapping my back, putting a knife to my throat, constantly accusing me of cheating on him, and disapproving of certain outfits I wore. He always thought he was within reason to act the way he did, and always managed to convince me it was my fault, and I always felt that I had to apologise to make things right. He made me feel like all the things he was saying were true, and that I was spoilt, and was used to getting my own way, and that I like arguing.
I honestly thought I was expressing my opinion on things, and was used to people disagreeing or agreeing - that's life - people won't always agree with you, and I know that, but he always thought I was being defiant when I spoke, or that I wanted him to agree with everything that I said. I used to tell him that arguments don't have to turn violent, and that it isn't normal, and he would always say that I was doing it again - wanting everything done my way, and get angry again. He always said I was twisting things and a manipulative girl, but I never realised he was the one manipulating me. He would hit me, and 9 times out of 10, I would apologise to him because he made me feel like I had started the argument with my mouth, and once he finished it with his fists, I got what was coming to me.
I always felt like I had turned Darren (a guy that everyone likes, and thinks is quite shy, studious, into his computer games, and doesn't really raise his voice) into this monster, so it had to me my fault. I would keep up appearances to my family, and pretend I was ok, and we were happy, but had some normal arguments and problems like any other couple - they all believed me because he was such a nice guy and got on well with them. I think a part of me wanted to keep our secret because I was scared to lose him, and had been with him for all my adult life - my first love, and the man I lost my virginity to, after always promising myself to wait for the right person - and I thought he was.
Something started to change when I had to go to hospital after he beat me over the head so hard that my ears bled - I lost some hearing in that ear. From that day, a part of me started to hate him, and I wished someone else would just tell him to stop, because again, he always said it was my fault, and my behaviour and words made him do it.
The day it all changed was on New Years' eve 2009. We had argued while I was getting ready for us to go out- ironically he had wanted to go to church instead, despite drinking a bottle of vodka as soon as he got home- he said he had to have it so that he could act happy and jolly, and be ok that night. He wasn't actually an alcoholic, but found it easier to be in a nightclub/ bar type social situations when he had had a bit of alcohol, as there was always a part of him that felt uncomfortable in those situations, as he was more of a homebody, and preferred us to stay in.
The argument escalated that night, and we ended up arguing about everything from the state of our relationship to his parents' previous abusive relationship, to his Dad's physical abuse towards Darren himself. I triggered him off by saying that I blame his parents for starting this cycle of abuse, and messing up his head. He attacked me, eventually headbutting me several times, and repeatedly beating me over the head, making me clean the blood that he said he despised looking at, and then beating me in the bathroom again after I desperately tried to wash it away. As the blood continued to pour, he carried on hitting me. It was like he was possessed, and I honestly thought he would kill me, as he had me trapped. I finally saw a chance to escape, and just ran out of the house- no shoes, no coat, no money, just ran. I luckily had my phone in my trouser pocket, and as soon I got away, I phoned for help.
I couldn't believe that someone could change so drastically after being together for 3 years, before we lived together for 2 years. So many thoughts went through my mind that night, and I've still got unanswered questions about how this could happen, and I'm in this situation.
I moved back to my mum's house the next day, and my family were shocked and disgusted with Darren, and what had happened, and don't want me to have anything to do with him. He came over a few days later and apologised to me and my Mum and admitted he needed help, and he shouldn't have hit me. He looked such a mess, but to me, his eyes looked like they were back to the 'normal Darren' that I always loved.
We have spoken since that day, and I know he wants us back together properly, and I still love him, but if I'm honest with myself, I know that things can't ever go back to that, and I'm best off at my mum's until I find my own place. He is getting counselling, and I will too, but I know he also wants us to do it as a couple - something I always wanted us to do when we still lived together, but never did. I think it's best we get our own individual counselling, for our own general well - being. I still love him, but I know that what he did was wrong, and there will always be a fear that he will do it again, so I know I can never really go back. I feel like if I give him too much of a chance, he will try and get us back to where we were, and be back in that state again. I want to move on, but as I am writing this two weeks, after I ran out on the attack, it is still very raw, but one day, I hope to have moved on from this, and have somewhat healed. I just want other people to know that this can happen to anyone, as I never thought it would ever happen to me. I know I will be fine one day, and whether alone or with someone else, all I want to do is be happy, and I can't do that if I don't feel safe.
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Domestic Violence Stories
Lundy Bancroft has written what is probably the most comprehensive and readable book on domestic violence, the beliefs of the abuser and the dynamics of abuse. This truly is a MUST READ for anyone seriously trying to understand domestic abuse and how to cope with an abusive relationship:
To order in the US: Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men
To order in the UK: Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men
Hear the voices of other women who have lived through and escaped from domestic abuse. This collection of personal survival stories help us understand the struggles, the pain and ultimately, the courage of victims who are determined to be survivors.
To order in the US: Surviving Domestic Violence: Voices of Women Who Broke Free
To order in the UK: Surviving Domestic Violence: Voices of Women Who Broke Free
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