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'The scariest part was there was no remorse' One survivor on her experience of domestic abuse

Our reader has survived an abusive relationship and has advice for anyone else trapped in one.

I KNOW THERE is someone sitting at home at the moment in complete despair, living with their abuser. I know how scary it is to face the future alone and yet how scary it is to imagine living like this forever. 

I know what it’s like to lie in bed stifling your sobs afraid to wake your abuser lying next to you. A little over a decade ago, I had a new baby, a teenage son and a career that had ended with the redundancy of my industry.  The country was at the start of a major recession and austerity was decimating family incomes.

I was also in a highly abusive marriage that had ripped my confidence apart and left me as a shadow of my former self. At a time when I needed all my strength, I was at my lowest and believed I couldn’t survive without my abuser.

Abuse, in different forms

I was physically abused on numerous occasions, but the emotional, verbal and financial abuses were much more soul-destroying. At least when he left me bruised, I had concrete proof that it had actually happened and he couldn’t convince me it was all in my head or that I was a drama queen. I had my first child before I had met him and one of the biggest fears I had was being left raising a child alone again. He knew this.

Once I became pregnant with our baby, the subtle warning signs of abuse suddenly became impossible to ignore. The first physical assault happened when I was five months pregnant and he was drunk. The scariest part of that incident was there was no remorse. Once I accepted him back home after this incident, I knew I had signed my future and he knew I would accept anything.

I know that is hard for people to understand, but the reality is that by the time the first physical assault has taken place, the emotional damage has already been done. Confidence is at its lowest, family and social supports have been pushed away and dependency has already been established. 

Pregnancy and new motherhood can often be a difficult time, but for me it was torturous. I really could see no way out and by this stage believed what I was told, that I was worthless and a burden in the world. In the end, I tried to take my own life and ended up in the hospital.

The final straw

I was put in contact with support services and I was given the time and space to see what was happening. We were still living together, but shortly after this, when he physically assaulted my teenager, I had the strength to finally end it all. I am so upset that my son was hurt, but I am glad that I finally had the catalyst to make the move. I honestly don’t believe I would be alive today if I had not made this move then.

I am not going to lie. It has not been easy. I had reached rock bottom and felt I had nothing left to fight with, but I took small baby steps and each step helped bring me back to who I was.  I have had endless sleepless nights worrying about money, repossession and my children’s well-being.

I have lain awake at night scared, lonely and feeling guilty that my children weren’t having the perfect family life that they deserve. I have second-guessed myself and wondered should I have just put up with things and whether I had been selfish escaping. I have been in and out of courts more times than I ever thought possible.

Once I received physical treatment, for my suicide attempt, I was referred for psychiatric help. The staff were amazing and I was diagnosed with postnatal depression. They also saw that I was in an abusive relationship, but I couldn’t see it.

They kept encouraging me to call Women’s Aid but I thought I didn’t deserve their support as I didn’t reach the threshold of abuse. I believed that they were for women in really abusive situations and that wasn’t me. 

A nurse eventually called Women’s Aid and handed me the phone, she said she would never ask me to call them again if they agreed with what I said. Over the course of a  month, I called almost daily. Just verbalising really helped me see what had been happening. I had the space to see what was happening and the validation that was happening was wrong.

As I started to work with Women’s Aid, I slowly began to develop my confidence and despite his attempts to keep me trapped in the house, I was able to start leaving the house and access support. A friend dropped me over a buggy, so I could leave the house again.

He could feel the shift in me and a month after I started getting support, he assaulted my son, while I slept. This was the final push I needed. During this whole time, I had taken photos of bruises and injuries.

I confronted him with this evidence and the bruises on my son and told him to leave or I would go to the Guards. He did leave, but as this had happened before, I think he imagined that I would call him back.

I had absolutely no money and he knew this and controlled me through this. I went to court and got a maintenance order which he repeatedly ignored and meant we were in and out of court for years. He controlled me through finances and as this was the reason, in my low points I felt tempted to accept him back.

I decided to tell my friends what he did to my son as a preventative measure, to ensure I would not take him back, no matter how low I would fall.

Support needed

It has not been an easy road and as a society, we need to do more to ensure abuse survivors have a well-signposted path into recovery and freedom, but I got through it and you can get through it too. There isn’t an easy solution and staying or leaving both come with a heavy price.

The difference is by leaving you can create a new peaceful future for yourself. Today, I look at my two confident capable children and my peaceful home.  I can imagine no greater prison than being trapped at home with an abuser during this time of global uncertainty. 

Let this moment be your catalyst to start planning your escape and imagining your future. I know it feels impossible now, but every journey starts with one step, make that step today.

There are supports available, find the support that suits you. Good luck you can do this, start believing in yourself!


This letter was submitted anonymously via SPARK Campaign Ireland.

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