Tuesday 20 August 2019

'There's a constant pushing until you are left as nothing' - one survivor's terrifying story of domestic abuse

(stock photo)
(stock photo)
Kathy Armstrong

Kathy Armstrong

A brave woman has opened up about how her partner physically and emotionally abused her until she felt isolated and "left as nothing."

The woman, who has been identified only as Sarah, told how her relationship with her ex partner left her feeling worthless, cut off from her friends and on edge.

Speaking on the Ray D'Arcy Show on RTE Radio One, Sarah said that she met her ex shortly after her father had died and he swept her off her feet.

She said: "I had moved home to stay with my mother because she was having a very difficult time.

"I was kind of isolated in the countryside and didn't have much in the way of friends or a social life there.

"I was also finding it hard to cope with my grief as my mother's grief was coming first in a lot of ways and I had to be there for her more than I needed to process my own.

"I met him through friends of mine on a rare night out and he was the most charming person I had ever met.

"He seemed to fall head over heels in love with me, he said I was the most amazing person he had ever met and I think he said he loved me within three weeks, which I thought was a bit silly but it felt great to be wanted that much - especially when you've been isolated for a while.

Stock image
Stock image

"He made me feel amazing, he was an escape."

She said that their relationship was "very intense" and within a month he had started giving out to her if she wasn't texting or phoning him as often as he wanted.

Sarah said: "It was almost like he had this radical Disney idea of a fairytale where you're obsessed with each other.

"He had an amazing way of making me feel sorry for him, he would say that he loved me and I wasn't showing it enough - nothing I did was ever enough for him.

"I was never measuring up to this idea he had in his head.

"Within a few months the anger came out and he had an amazing way of giving me the silent treatment, a way of removing love from a situation - I felt like I wasn't worthy of him loving me because I had disappointed him.

"There was a cycle of ignoring me and silence and me having to beg to communicate again, it was a bizarre cycle.

"It was a reward and punishment system - I was always getting punished for disappointing him and then he would get rewarded when I begged him to talk to me."

She continued to say: "It was all about his moods and I wasn't allowed to have a bad mood - for a long time it was about psychological abuse.
"He wasn't jealous of other men but he would get paranoid that I liked hanging out with his friends more than I liked hanging out with him.

"He was jealous of my friends too, so any time we were out he would ruin a nice situation if I was the one getting any kind of attention."

Sarah said that she would spend her rare nights out with friends on edge as she was always worried about if he would be angry with her when she saw him again.

(Stock photo)
(Stock photo)

She said candidly: "Sometimes it's not worth it to come home, and have to go through that again, so you change yourself like that, stop doing the things you like."

The pair briefly broke up but when they got back together they moved in together almost straight away, Sarah explained: "I thought it would fix that things and that he would finally see that I loved him and I did want to be together."

She said that things became more physically abusive then.

She said: "He was very sexually aggressive and if I didn't sleep with him then it must mean I didn't love him, it was a very teenage attitude.

"Even if I had fallen asleep I would get woken up by being screamed at.

"I tried to reason with him, I asked him if he needed to see someone and said that if he was suffering from depression I would be with him.

"At this point I would tell him that he couldn't shout at me, swear at me or call me names."

Sarah added: "It was a system of coercion, I had sex with him because I knew if I didn't I would be in big trouble - he hadn't been physical to me at that point but he would square up to me with gritted teeth or sneer at me with clenched fists.

"There was always a threat of violence or there was the threat of being ignored or screamed at.

"I was having sex when I didn't want to but I didn't say no, it was about what he wanted and my needs or feelings didn't matter."

Sarah said that things came to a head one day when he physically assaulted her.

She said: "Look back I think I was waiting for it, I was lying at his feet and I just thought, 'It's happened now.'

"He started laughing as if I'd done it to myself."

Sarah eventually managed to leave her toxic relationship but she told Ray how she feels the abuse escalated.

Shes said: "It started with small things - a muttering under his breath, or if I did something during the night, he would say the next day that he was disappointed in me or embarrassed him, there was a lot of ego and insecurity involved.

"It's normalised as you go on and it's only afterwards when you step away that you see the huge gap between who you were and who you've become...

"I wasn't crying any more so he had to go further because that sense of power and control over someone is probably addictive - that constant pushing, pushing, pushing until really you are left as nothing in the end."

  • If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article please contact Women's Aid on 1800 341 900 or visit here

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