We’d been drinking shots of Slivovitch, a rather nasty plum liqueur that he was awfully fond of and to which he was immune, when I saw him swapping numbers with the couple at the table opposite. He had the look I knew only too well, the sexual leer that froze my chest and meant our evening – actually our second anniversary – would be celebrated by me yet again suppressing my fear and shame, and disassociating myself from my body as he invited people into our bedroom to hit me or to stimulate him…all in the name of sexual adventure.
But after 6 or so shots, I was in no mood to keep quiet. And so our last fight began.
It started in the street and escalated. The taxis refused to take us. So I ran.
I was screaming out of blind panic and fear and when we arrived at my house, at front door of the building where I lived in my tiny attic apartment and which had seen the worst of my alcoholism.
He’d chased me for what felt like miles and I continued to scream hoping that the police would come, or that someone would come to my aid. He held my wrists in a grip and muscled me in the door, but short of bodily picking me up the stairs he couldn’t take me in any further. I don’t know whether the roaring was in my head or from his throat, but it felt like I had gone mad.
Then he popped his fist twice BAM BAM…into my face. The first hit is to put them down, he used to say. The second hit is to make sure they stay down.
In truth, I didn’t feel anything but the force. And as I fell to the floor he took out his penis and started to piss on me.
‘This is what you deserve’ he snarled. ‘You belong in the gutter.’
I ran up the stairs to my apartment and tried to open and close the door behind me. He was too quick and too strong….he broke down the door. But as he continued shouting, he suddenly caught sight of my face. The blood vessels in my eye had exploded and his ring had caught the skin. My face started to turn black and in horror, he dropped me onto the bed and said.
‘My God, what have I done.’
I looked at him, fascinated. I looked at the extent of his fear and went to the bathroom to examine the damage. It was bad.
The next hour was spent with him waving money in my face.
‘I’ll pay you to stay off work.’ he said. ‘You can’t go out like that.’
‘I have to go to work’, I said. ‘What am I going to do staying in an apartment of 13 metres squared? But don’t worry I won’t tell anyone it was you.’
He started crying and put his head in my lap. I mindlessly stroked his hair and soothed him. He was a child. And his sorrow was real. For two weeks until my face and my eye healed, I told people that I’d walked into a door. I thought I’d convinced them. When you are abused, your denial knows no bounds.
I’d heard of those women. The abused women. But I never thought I would be one of them. And secretly I was relieved. I finally had the evidence to get out of the relationship. The bruises on my body I could hide and I did. But this. This on my face I could not. I had spent two years trying to escape. Maybe now I could.
It’s rare I suppose, that people get into a relationship that they never really wanted to be in from the beginning. But it had been the case for us. At the time, part of me felt grateful; finally someone respectable wanted to go out with me. Part of me felt isolated; he kept all my friends away from me because he said that they were bad influences. He wasn’t wrong about that, because we were all pretty fucked up. A crowd of wounded souls. Part of me felt trapped; he controlled me. Through his connections he found out where I was, what I was doing. I couldn’t be sure that his spies weren’t everywhere. And since he knew everything about me, my past, and my shame, he could easily manipulate my guilt and turn me into his unwilling and yet obedient sexual servant. We fought constantly, but I wasn’t strong enough to walk away. I had been brought up to be an object, and I made a good one.
I had the relationship I thought I deserved. It was abusive, but I never called it that. Not until much later. Why would anyone want to go out with me? And as our relationship continued in its sexually warped vein, my self esteem sank even further.
It was years before I could walk past the place he worked. And 3 years after that especially not with the man I loved, my new husband – I was afraid for him and for me. Even though my ex and I ostensibly remained friends, it also took me years to realise that what had happened was awful. At the time of writing, it’s been over 10 years, but I can still feel the fear I experienced.
It was only in the year 2013, that I finally plucked up the courage to defriend him on facebook where he tracked my movements. That’s 15 years of being scared.
To all thoseout there who have ever been abused, I can only say this. You do not, whatever you think, deserve it. You partner may be sorry. Sincerely so. They may even love you. But if you stay, it is a tacit complicity to accept that you allow this behaviour. You are abandoning yourself. They must feel the consequences of their actions and you must walk away. You must protect yourself because you are the only one who can.
But in order to do so you must believe you’re worth it. It’s the one thing that will save you and it’s also the hardest thing you will ever have to do.