The power of fear

One of the main reasons for my staying put was the very thought of trying to leave and knowing what that would mean. To people on the outside, or those who have never been in an abusive relationship, they might think it should be a simple case of deciding you don’t want to be in that relationship any more, tell your partner and leave. When I hear people say things like this, it does make me smile or even laugh a little. Hah! If only it were that simple! How sweet of you, how lovely and simple your life must have been up to this point. Good for you.

I heard a story on the news recently of a woman who was being so badly abused by her partner she actually stood in front of him and opened her mouth and allowed him to rip her teeth out, one by one. Eventually she passed out, of course and thank goodness for that. But let me ask you this, what must he have said or done to her that would’ve meant she was so terrified that she would offer herself to him to do this to her? That he would hurt her even more so? Or, hurt her loved ones?
Abusers will often use the threat of hurting the people you love if you start to fall out of line. This is exactly what he used to do. When I told him I wanted to leave, that I didn’t care how much he kicked or punched or strangled or bit me, it wasn’t going to make me stay, he would threaten the children and my family. The problem was, I knew he wasn’t joking, which is why I stayed…

‘I managed to leave yesterday, but only on the premise I left our daughter with him. It was my only way out, and knowing how useless he was as a father, I knew he would bring her back to me within 24 hours. I was right. He’s on his way over with her now. I decide not to let him in, I’ll go to his car and get her. I don’t want to start a dialogue with him in case it ends in an argument. Part of me knows this won’t happen. He’s been in a funny mood since I said I wanted to leave yesterday. He had sat on the bed and watched me whilst I packed. The faintest hint of a smirk traced on his lips. He’d told me in the most matter of fact of his voices not to worry taking everything at this point, he would bring everything to me as and when I needed it. It was too easy. Something wasn’t right. That’s when he said it… ‘Go, but you leave her with me’. My blood had run cold, I tried begging but his mood started to change and so I reasoned with myself inside my head. What’s he going to do with a three year old all day? It’s the weekend right now, but what about when he needs to work? What about when he wants a hit? I’ll give it 24 hours, he’ll bring her back.
I agreed. He clearly felt he’d won.

His car pulls up in the drive and I dart straight out to it. I stand back while he gets out and gets her out of her car seat. ‘She was asking for you,’ he says. She may well have been, but I know that’s not the reason he’s bought her home; with her in tow he can’t get his daily four o’clock dose of crack.
He gets her out of the car and passes her to me and she instantly wraps her arms around my neck and cuddles in close. I stroke her wild, curly hair and kiss the side of her face.
‘Okay, thanks,’ I say, ‘Say bye to Daddy.’ She gives a little wave and snuggles back into me. I turn away from him and start to walk towards the house.
‘Is that it then?’ he shouts after me, a hint of rising anger in his voice. I stop and turn back towards him. ‘It’s over,’ I say softly. ‘I’ll call you later when the kids are in bed and we’ll sort stuff out, okay?’ I give a him a false reassuring smile and turn back around and continue walking towards the front door. I push the door open with my foot and step inside.
‘So you’re just going to leave me? Is that what you think you’re going to do?!’ He’s at the door beside me now, the hint of anger gone and replaced with pure fury. I put the little one down and usher her inside. ‘I’ll talk to you later’, I say firmly, trying not to show my nerves, but his face tells me he isn’t listening. He pushes his way into the house behind me and flies into a rage, putting his foot through the glass panelled porch door sending glass flying everywhere. I put my hands on his chest and look into his eyes, begging him to calm down and to think of the kids. He is bellowing at me, gesticulating wildly. My mum runs out from the kitchen, clearly shocked that he has pushed his way into her house. He glares at her. ‘Fuck off, this is between us two. Go back into the kitchen and let me talk to my wife,’ he snarls at her.
‘Enough!’ she shouts at him, ‘you’re frightening the children.’ She comes between him and I and pushes me backwards into the small sitting room to my left where the two eldest children are stood rooted to the spot. The baby is still sleeping in his moses basket in the lounge. I pull the children towards me and hold onto them tightly at my side, still watching him having his tantrum in the hallway. Mum is standing her ground, telling him repeatedly to calm down and to leave. I can tell his anger is rising still, and I panic as he steps towards her, puffing his chest out. She doesn’t shrink away from him, instead she makes herself taller and squares up to him. He towers over her, his eyes wide, staring her down. ‘Leave’, she demands calmly, looking at him squarely in the eye. But then, without warning, his head lurches forward and connects with her mouth. I scream out and dart forwards as my mum staggers backwards clutching her face. ‘No!’ I scream. ‘Go! Get out!’ I’m pushing him backwards now, I’m not scared of what he might do to me anymore, he’s gone too far. Behind me I see Mum go back into the kitchen, and I hear the loud beeping of the cordless house phone as she punches three numbers in. He is immediately past me, I hear her scream and the smash of plastic against one of the kitchen units. He’s shouting at her even louder now, calling her a cunt for trying to take me and the kids away from him, telling her it’s all her fault that I have left, that she made me do it. I make sure the kids are okay before I follow into the kitchen, they’re terrified. ‘Is Nanny okay?’ my eldest asks. I nod silently and put my finger up to my lips to signal them to stay quiet. I pull the door closed behind me. As I enter the doorway of the kitchen he looks up. He has white spittle collecting in the corners of his mouth, his pupils are as large as they can possibly get, making his eyes look black and wild. His momentary lapse of concentration allows mum to dart past him and she rushes out into the hallway. He runs after her and is just in time to see her grab the other phone that lives on a desk under the stairs. He roars after her as she rushes up the stairs clutching the handset. His fists swipe at the wooden banisters and one by one they break in half, splinters of wood flying across the hallway. He picks up half of one that has fallen to the floor and screams that he is going to come after her, that he will come back tonight while we are all sleeping and burn the house to the ground. I grab at his arm and change tack. ‘Darling please, come on. Calm down please. The police will be here soon, you must go now quickly! I’ll call you later okay? We’ll sort this mess out, I promise!’ I look at him pleadingly, telling him falsely with my eyes that everything will be alright. He drops the bannister. ‘Please!’ I beg him. His shoulders seem to relax a fraction and then he moves towards the door. He points his finger in my face, his eyes still black and mad, and whispers, ‘You make sure you fucking do. Don’t you dare betray me, do you hear? I swear, you fucking do and I’ll fucking kill them.’ And with a screech of tyres and smash of my parents brick wall with his bumper, he is gone.’

When the police came minutes later, I refused to give a statement, terror of what he might do if I ‘betrayed’ him stopping me from doing so. He was prosecuted for what he did that day, but was given a suspended sentence and so nothing really changed. I may have been away from him physically, but mentally I was not. I was still terrified of what he could and may well do if I didn’t return to him, what he would do to my family, to me, to the children…

Two years ago my daughter bought home some school books and I found a piece of work in one of them which shocked me. Her little mind had regurgitated her three year old memories of that day I described above, and distorted it. I suppose to her it’s like a dream. A memory that lives inside her head that she doesn’t quite understand, or know what really happened.
One day I will have to explain it to her, but for now, I will let it seem like a dream, because that is all it is for me now, a bad dream.

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