You’ve left. You’re out. You’re free… Or are you? What happens next? Is that it? Does life return to the way it was before you met your abuser? One of the reasons it took me so long to leave was the thought that I would end up losing my children to him at the weekends, and now I was out I was terrified that this would be the case. Although I spent seven hours giving my statement to a lovely police woman the day after I returned to the UK, although she said it was, in her opinion, one of the worst long term cases of abuse she had ever heard of in her career, there was nothing she could do.
Within 24 hours of my return, he was on the phone. There was no mention of what had happened. No sorry. No remorse. He wanted to speak to his children. That’s when the games started. The tactics he used on me for all those years before, to gain control, to manipulate, to instil fear in to my heart he turned towards the children. I watched in horror as he called throughout the day and asked to speak to my daughter and refused to speak to my son. The following day, he switched that around. He played them off against each other, and there was nothing I could do to stop him.
He wanted to see the children, and terrified as I was, I couldn’t refuse. Legally I had no right to stop him. The first time I saw him again was about ten days after I had returned. I agreed to meet him at a local park, Stanborough Lakes. My dad drove us there and he would stay and watch us from the car. I wanted somewhere open, somewhere busy. I have never felt fear like it. I felt sick with terror but I made sure my kiddies couldn’t see it on my face. I smiled at them and told them everything was just fine. They were safe and he wasn’t going to hurt them. Even though he had pestered and pestered me on the phone on the lead up to this meeting that I had no right to keep his children away from him, that this was ALL about the children now, HIS children; that day he didn’t even really look at them. He sat beside me on the bench while I watched the children play and pestered me. Come home. Come back. What was I thinking? What was wrong with me? Why wouldn’t I talk to him, tell him how I was feeling? He tried to touch me, to hold my hand, but I recoiled in disgust. He looked confused, as though he really couldn’t understand why I was being this way, and then that familiar look of rising anger flitting across his face, because being nice wasn’t getting him the result he wanted. I knew that day, as I tried to remind him why we were there, pointing to the children, telling him to go and play with them and leave me alone, that this really was only the beginning.
It was a few weeks in when he announced he’d be taking our eldest son in to London for a ‘father/son day out’. Again, my hands were tied, I wanted to keep his good side at the fore, after all he was spending time with my most precious possessions, I didn’t want them to see the other side of him without me around to protect them.
The day out turned into a sleep over afterwards. Throughout the day I had a running commentary from him. Telling me what they were doing, what a good dad he was…Phone call after phone call, message after text message. Eventually I reminded him (in the nicest possible way of course) that perhaps it would be a good idea to spend the time he was spending talking to me on his son. It seemed to work and all was good, until around 12am. He called me and from the first word uttered I knew he was on one. He started roaring down the phone at me. I was a dirty whore. A slag. What was I? He’d tell me don’t worry! I was a cunt! Go on, say what I was! He was going to wake our little boy up and I could tell him down the phone what I was… I was begging him to calm down. Begging him to be quiet, not to wake our boy. But I heard him storming up our old hallway, I heard the familiar sound of our bedroom door opening and I heard him wake our little boy up.
I failed my son. I promised to protect him and I failed at the first hurdle.
Things became even more tense after that night. I was more and more reluctant to let the kids be with him unaccompanied and I told him so. I wouldn’t let them stay for sleep overs. I knew at any moment he could blow, and it was like trying to tame a tiger. I had to make sure I was using the right words, the right tone of voice, no quick movements, nothing underhand. I knew he would sniff out my fear, knew he would bite with my one wrong move.
Things came to a head one afternoon. He had picked the children up from school and I told him to meet me at the end of my parents road. He wasn’t allowed down there since he received the suspended prison sentence the year before for his attack on my mum when I had tried to leave him the first time. We swapped the kids into my car, everything seemingly okay, but all of a sudden in one swoop he had reached in and taken my car keys from my ignition, slammed the drivers door, locked the car and stood firmly in front of the door.
‘What are you doing?’ I tried not to panic. I knew how to placate him, I had been doing it for years, I was an expert. Just do that I told myself. I smiled at him, quizzically, asking him with my eyes what he was doing. He looked down at my wrist and pointed. ‘What’s that?’ It was an old watch. A tiny gold Gucci one with a black face. I had given it to my mum when I met him because an old boyfriend had given it to me and I knew he wouldn’t like that, but since I had come back she had given it back to me as I had no jewellery. ‘It’s just an old watch,’ I told him. Surely he wouldn’t remember where it had come from. He did. He immediately switched. He went mental, screaming, frothing at the mouth, ‘Why are you wearing that fucking thing? To wind me up?’ He insisted I had gone back to my ex boyfriend. I tried reasoning with him, telling him it was simply a watch to tell the time and it meant nothing more, mum had given it to me to wear. Big mistake. That sent him off on a tangent. How he was going to kill her, cut her up. I watched my kids through the car window, watched their terrified faces and I hated him. I hated him. He ripped the watch from my wrist and threw it into some undergrowth across the road. I just stood and watched. Usually I would cry, but I was so sick of him I couldn’t even be bothered. He was vile. Ugly. A truly disgusting human being, if he was even that. He must’ve seen this look in my eyes, and almost instantly gave up. Shrinking in front of me he began to cry. ‘Dan. Dan. Dan, please.’ He was sobbing, clutching at my arms. ‘I love you so much Dan.’ Tears streamed down his face, as he looked at me, his eyes pleading me to say I loved him back. But I didn’t. I hated him. ‘Its over,’ I heard myself say. ‘Whatever you say, whatever you do to me, I’m never, ever coming back. I don’t love you.’
He gave me my keys and moved away from my door. I jumped in that car, and drove so fast down my mums road we almost flew. I bundled the kids into the house and collapsed onto the floor shaking.
That’s when the phone calls began. Over and over he rang my phone. Sometimes I answered, sometimes I left the phone ringing. Sometimes I was met by crying and begging, sometimes by cursing. I called the police. Within minutes they were round. I gave another statement. The call log on my mobile showed an excess of sixty calls. Apparently the calls and the incident earlier that day amounted to harassment. He was on a suspended sentence and now they could get him and take him into prison. Another unit was called and told to go and pick him up.
But, he was running. Somewhere out there he was running, he knew they were after him. I knew he wouldn’t come quietly. I had told him it was over to his face without fear, only hatred, and now he had nothing to lose.
Two days passed and still the phone calls continued. I had been told to leave my phone on in case he gave any details on where he was hiding. I answered a few times and told him the police were looking for him, that I’d given a statement and he was in trouble. He was softening, realising his only way out was to butter me up so I would feel sorry for him and withdraw my statement. Again and again my mobile rang, and if I didn’t answer he would call my parents house phone. I spoke to him at one point and asked him to stop ringing the house phone as the children had gone to bed. He was apologetic, ‘I’m sorry princess, I won’t wake them I promise.’
Around midnight my parents and I went to bed, and still he was ringing my mobile. ‘Enough’ I told him, ‘I’m tired, let me sleep.’ He agreed.
‘Promise me you’ll retract your statement in the morning?’ ‘Yes, I promise.’ I told him.
My phone on silent, I watched the screen light up over and over again on my bedside table as I tried to get to sleep. Then the house phone began to ring. I heard my dad rushing down the hallway. I followed. At the bottom of the stairs I saw him pull the phone cord out of the wall. The phone fell silent. He looked worried. ‘He’s not going to leave me alone, dad,’ I said, starting to tremble. My phone screen lit up over and over. ‘Dammit!’ I cursed, and answered. ‘You fucking cunt!’ He screamed, and he spat down the phone. ‘Who the fuck do you think you are? You’ve fucking dared to cut your fucking house phone off! How fucking dare you, cunt! Cunt! Cunt! You dirty fucking cunt!’ The phone went dead.
Mum was at the top of the stairs now. She asked what was going on. We went back upstairs. My heart was pounding, I didn’t know what to suggest we do, apart from report the incident again in the morning. We sat upstairs talking for a little while then went back to bed.
At ten to four in the morning we heard it. A car horn getting louder and louder as it came flying down the road towards the house. And then it was outside. We ran to the window and watched as this lunatic who was my husband screamed my name with his hand firmly on the car horn. We saw lights come on in the houses opposite. Beside me I could hear my dad breathing heavily, my heart was thudding in my chest. At one point the children woke up and it must’ve been my mum that put them back to bed. I called the police and spoke to them whilst watching him going loopy outside. He started revving the car engine and pulled into our drive at high speed, only stopping inches from my dads car, he backed out and threw the car forward again, only just missing the car again. Then, as though he knew the police were on their way, he suddenly backed out smashing the wall opposite, turned at high speed hitting my parents wall, and accelerated off.
The police turned up minutes after he left. One officer shot off in the direction I had told them he had gone in, the other stayed and we began giving more statements. The officer returned, he had driven around looking for him but no such luck. We each gave a statement, and as the sun began to rise the little ones began waking up. We were exhausted. I wanted it to be over.
Two days passed, they still hadn’t found him. Still the calls continued. I answered some of them. I wanted to get him to hand himself in, but he had his own ideas. ‘Either you drop the charges or I won’t hand myself in. Don’t do it and I’ll come there again.’
That evening I requested an officer to come over so I could tell them what he had been saying and the level of constant harassment. I gave another statement. It was the officer that suggested I tell him I would drop the charges, to lull him into a false sense of security. And so, with mounting anxiety at what would happen when he found out I had duped him, I did.
The next day he called mid morning. ‘Go to the police station, I’m calling them to tell them I’m withdrawing my statement.’ I told him.
He spent eight weeks in prison.
Don’t think for a moment that that was the end of it. It was a welcome lull. What was to come next was more terrifying than anything I had experienced yet.
To be continued…