#This person's name has been changed to protect their identity
“I was a single mum with a young daughter. I had just moved back home – I had a brilliant relationship with my dad and he encouraged me to go out and meet new people.
“I got a job working behind a bar – I loved it and it gave my confidence a real boost. There was a man there who kept asking to walk me home after every shift. I kept turning him down, but eventually I gave in – that was the biggest mistake of my life.
“At first, I was completely oblivious to what he was doing. He would turn up with new clothes and jewellery for me to wear. He used to get angry if I wasn’t wearing the stuff he bought me – I thought it was his way of showing how much he loved me.
“He asked me to marry him. I had my doubts but I said yes. He began to show his true colours. He took control of every little detail – when the wedding invitations arrived he presumed that I didn’t like them, so he took a pair of scissors and cut my clothes.
“We moved in together. I became his prisoner. If I didn’t answer his calls, he would accuse me of having an affair. He would come home from the pub and begin laying into me. I wore glasses to hide the bruises from my daughter.
“Every beating was followed by the standard apology and gift. He said it would never happen again, and that he would kill himself if I ever left him.
“I became pregnant, and things calmed down from a physical point of view. But the mental abuse and vile comments kept coming.
“He would force himself on me. It hurt so much – I would just cry and think of my children.
“After the baby was born he bought me more clothes and jewellery. He followed my every move – I couldn’t talk to anybody. He would even wait outside the toilet until I was done. He even beat someone up because he thought they were looking at me.
“It was my turn when we got home – he gave me a black eye and I was bruised from head to toe. I wondered if this was ever going to stop.
“We had another child together and we moved into a bigger house. I was feeling optimistic and thought this would be a fresh start. That dream was soon shattered.
“It became routine – he would beat and use me, before pushing me aside like a dog.
“One Sunday he came home from the pub, tied my hands behind my back and raped me in front of the children. He told them this was a game and encouraged them to put ‘sweets’ down my mouth – sweets that were actually tablets.
“The neighbours had witnessed what was going on and called the police. He was taken away and I finally felt that my children and I were safe.
“I went to a refuge that night but all I felt was anger. Why should we suffer when we had done nothing wrong? After that I stayed with family and friends but he found us. I wasn’t willing to put anyone else in danger, so I went back to him. I didn’t think there was any other option at the time.
“It became the norm for my daughter to run out of the house in her pyjamas, knock on our neighbours door and ask them to call the police. They would come and take him away, but I would always get a phone call in the morning saying he had been released.
“I had nowhere to go. I was full of resentment – why should my children lose the friends and family that they loved so much? None of this was their fault, so why should they be punished?
“My children were older now and they began to realise what was going on. They saw their mummy coming down the stairs covered in bruises.
“That was the turning point for me – I didn’t want my children to grow up thinking this type of behaviour was ok.
“I had a plan. I didn’t have much money but I used to put a bit aside so he wouldn’t notice. It took many months – the beatings and sexual abuse continued – but I pulled enough money together to put a deposit down on a flat.
“The day finally came. As soon as he went to work I packed the car. I sold my jewellery because I had so little money left. My heart was racing – but I had to do this for my children. I had to show them that this wasn’t normal family life. They needed to experience love, respect and understanding.
“Our peace didn’t last long. He found us again - he used to sit outside the house waiting for us. Once again, we were prisoners in our own home. The mental health nurse came to the house because she thought I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I was put on medication to help – but this time I knew there was no going back to him.
“My dad found us a house. We had to move in the middle of the night when the coast was clear.
“We were finally free. We started a new life and my children were able to experience a loving and caring family environment. They flourished away from him.
“I was no longer scared. I grew strong and became independent. I got a good job, was able to pay my bills and didn’t have to look over my shoulder anymore.
“We all remember, but my children are happy. Everything that we have been through has made us stronger.”