Wales

'So under his control' - whirlwind romance turned to abuse

Domestic violence staged picture Image copyright Science Photo Library

As the latest domestic abuse figures show more people are being prosecuted and convicted for domestic abuse, a victim of abuse who was beaten, locked in her house and controlled to the point she could not see any way out tells her story.

Domestic abuse and sex offences now make up 18.6% of CPS cases, with prosecutions and convictions at record levels. In Wales 76.3% of cases are successfully prosecuted.

A spokesman for Welsh Women's Aid said: "While we welcome the progress that has been made we are also aware that this report does not cover the thousands upon thousands of women who feel too scared to report or to pick up the phone to ask for help."

Ellie* was one of these women. After a whirlwind romance she ended up married to an abusive husband.

She was left partially deaf in one ear and has permanent damage to the tissue inside her mouth from a year of abuse.

Eventually she went to the police and her husband was convicted of actual bodily harm.

Here, she tells her story.


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How we met

I was in school with Sam*. I knew of him but he was in the year below me.

I moved away when I was 16, but when I moved back home 20 years later he kept sending me messages on Facebook.

I finally went out on a date with him in January 2012 and we just hit it off straight away.

I had been married before, but had been single for a long time and I just thought "wow". He seemed like a lovely guy, down to earth, and we just were inseparable.

I moved in with him in June with my children aged nine and six in tow. And it was amazing, everything was great.


How the abuse began

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Within a couple of weeks of me moving in we went out for a meal, and as we came back he was basically quite offish with me, and I just didn't understand.

When we got back to the house I put some music on and he said: "I don't like this effing music."

I went upstairs into my daughter's bedroom, my children weren't there at the time. He came upstairs screaming at me and was shouting in my face.

He grabbed me by the back of the head and threw me down to the floor, and dragged me from my daughter's room into the other room.

He hit me back on the back of the head and he raped me. That was the first time.


'Sleeping with the enemy'

He began to be very controlling of me. It would be little outbursts of him coming up to me and shouting in my face, just screaming.

It could be one little thing that he thought I had done wrong, but I hadn't. But it would just be a trigger. It was like the film Sleeping With The Enemy.

If there was something out of place he used to get worked up. But it wasn't like arguing, it would just be out of the blue, a sheer force of violence from him.

He never did anything in front of the children, he always waited until his and mine were gone.

He wasn't very tall but he was strong. When he kicked off he was like an animal. It was a rage. It was something else.

Once, when we were out, I called him by my ex-husband's name when he was shouting at me. With that he just punched me full force in the side of my head. I could feel the blood pouring down the side of my head.

I learnt to not fight back. I knew if I did he would snap my neck.


The marriage

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We had planned to get married that October, and I honestly didn't want to do it.

Prior to that everything was worse, the rapes were worse and he was very manipulative. Even on my wedding day I had a big bruise on the inside of my arm from where he had held me down.

One of my best friends was up in the room with me before the wedding begging me not to marry him, but I was gone. I wasn't the person I am now. I lost myself.

I was just so under his control, so scared and so intimidated by him.

I thought he would change, because he was my soul-mate and it was so amazing between us at the beginning.


The rugby match

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England were playing Wales in the Six Nations, so I dropped him to town with his friends to watch it.

Even though Wales won convincingly, I knew I was going to get in trouble as I always would when there was a match. He would drink so it was inevitable.

I went out with my friends, but he called me at about 7pm saying he was on a train coming back and told me to meet him from the station.

He was an hour late because something kicked off on the train. I knew he would be annoyed.

When he got off his face was like thunder. We got in a taxi and as soon as we got home I knew I would get it.

He hit me on the back of my head and raped me, and I remember thinking it was getting worse and worse.


Locked in the house

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When I told him I was thinking about leaving him he was trying to be as nice as possible.

The next day we went to the wedding of one of his friends in Margam Park. He bought me a dress to wear because he wanted me to be the best looking person there with him. That's all it was for him, a fa├žade.

He wanted us to go out the next night, but I said: "No, I don't want to go out with you anymore, you're so horrible, you're vile. Look at all the things you do to me."

I went upstairs and he came after me and was swearing and screaming in my face. Then he punched me in my mouth so hard I thought he could have killed me.

The pain was awful. I thought he had broken my teeth and I was screaming. He just stood there as if to say he didn't care. I ran into the bathroom and leant over the bath and the blood was just pouring out.

He locked me into the house. I tried to get out, but he wouldn't let me. He took everything off me, my keys and my phone.

I was just sat on the settee bleeding. It was horrific. And he was still having a go. I had to have every strength I could just to be quiet and sit there.

He went up to bed and my face was throbbing, I was sobbing. I thought I can't go on like this anymore.


The turning point

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The next day Sam wanted to go to the pub down the road. I said I needed to go to the hospital.

He said: "Man up. I've had more injuries in rugby than that."

And that was it. I turned around and walked away. It was May 2013, so I had been with him for just over a year.

Obviously when I left him I lost my husband, I grieved for that as well. But friends of mine rallied around me, put me up and helped me get back on my feet.

I moved into a new home six weeks after leaving him, and in that time he got cautioned three times for following me. My house was put on police watch as I was by myself with my two children.

At Cardiff Crown Court he was found guilty of two offences of ABH and given a community order for two years. I found out I wasn't the first woman he had abused.


Still healing

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You can rebuild your life. Money, bricks, whatever, you can restore all that.

I'm back on my feet but I'm still healing, it's been a very long journey.

I have been left partially deaf in the one ear from the head injury, I've got permanent damage to tissue inside my mouth from where he punched me, and my speech has also been affected very badly.

I've met somebody else now, and I never thought in a million years I would be with someone else, but he is amazing. He has picked me up off the floor so many times.

But there's still days when I come home and just burst out crying. Things will trigger it off.

Our divorce came through last month and now I look at him for what he is - a monster. It took me a long time to get that through my head.


*All names have been changed

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