Following White Ribbon Day on Friday 25 November, Knowsley Council continues to raise awareness of the support available to residents who may be experiencing domestic abuse.
Here we share ‘Jacki’s’ story (we have changed Jacki’s name to keep her anonymity). She is a 38-year-old mum of 3 who tells us not all domestic abuse can be violent.
Numb. That’s how I feel when I think of that time in my life.
I met ‘Steve’ (not his real name) at a party. He seemed nice. We were both on our own and things started from there.
Things were ok in the beginning – and I’ve since learned that it is usual – but if I’m really honest with myself, there were red flags. He was persistent. In the beginning I took it as him being ‘keen’ or ‘passionate’. My self-esteem was never particularly high – even as a teenager – but he made me feel special.
My first big warning sign was after a night out when I said he couldn’t stay over because of my children being up early. He was really put out and wouldn’t take no for an answer. I think in that moment, I understood it wasn’t passion, it was forcefulness, and I was frightened. He did leave that night, but he made me feel like I was in the wrong. The next day, he carried on like everything was normal and made sarcastic comments about how I was a “prude” and even though his comments made me uncomfortable, I did wonder if I’d given him the wrong impression and that I’d wanted to take things further. Later I knew that I hadn’t.
I felt obliged to take the relationship to the next level and ‘Steve’ moved in after just 6 months of being together. But deep down, it wasn’t something I wanted – it was his forcefulness that led to it. He’d say, “If you’re in love with me, why wouldn’t you want to live together?”
It wasn’t that easy though. I had 2 children at that time, and he would often make remarks about their behaviour, and how I wasn’t in control of them. There were times when I challenged him but somehow, he managed to spin what I said, making out like I was attacking him and calling him stupid. As things escalated, the way that he spoke to me became more and more vile every day. Every insecurity and feeling I had, no matter whether it was – my weight, my appearance, my dad’s death earlier that year – was fodder. He was determined to keep me down. But I only see that now. At the time, I just accepted it and felt like I was failing in every aspect of my life.
Over time he was the one making all the decisions in the household – bedtimes, mealtimes, even what to get the kids at Christmas. I realised I wasn’t making my own decisions anymore – I was too frightened of making the wrong one. Things improved for a little while when I became pregnant – another decision about us that he had made. But when I was about 6 months into my pregnancy, the old habits crept in. “You’re a fat, lazy b****” was used quite often and in front of my children and when he slipped up in front of visitors, he’d give a little laugh and a wink to make out like he was joking – little did they know. Sex became an issue. He didn’t understand that I was tired at the end of the day, and when I refused it didn’t seem to be worth what came afterwards. Days of sulking, ignoring me, ignoring the children, horrible comments. I knew it wasn’t right, but I didn’t know what to do – I started punishing myself for not doing something about it.
Despite all this, we were so happy the first few weeks our daughter was born, but quickly, things changed. He would take the baby for a walk in the pram, and then return to the house without her, telling me, “I’ve dropped her off with my sister for a while” and when I questioned why, it would lead to an argument. I know now that he did this deliberately. He wanted me to consistently be in a state of worry so I would bend to whatever he wanted. It was a difficult 18 months and I turned to alcohol.
My drinking got worse. It got to the point where I was drinking every day and it was noticed by my children’s school, friends and family. Within weeks, my life was a mish-mash of social care visits, meetings at the school and arguments with my family. I was paranoid that people were working against me. Steve was never around to support me through those meetings, he just told me I was the problem, and it was me who was the unfit mother. But eventually, the pressure of working with social care and his loss of control over our homelife became too much and he left.
With a lot of help, and a few blips here and there, things are better now and I’m in recovery. For anyone reading this, my advice would be don’t keep those secrets to yourself. Find someone to talk to. Do not wait for things to unravel. People don’t always know what to say, and sometimes you might not even like their advice but keep friends and family close. For me, I got professional help first and then went to my family, I needed that time to stop the pattern of behaviour that was hurting my life. But in the months that followed, my support came from all those people who had been so worried about me for such a long time but didn’t know what to do.
Where can I turn for help?
If you, your child, or anyone in the family are at immediate risk of harm, you should contact the police urgently, call 999. If you are not at immediate risk but are concerned, please contact one of the services listed below:
Knowsley Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub
Tel: 0151 443 2600
Knowsley Early Help Hub
Freephone helpline on 0800 073 0043 and ask for your information to be passed onto the Early Help Hub and one of our staff will call you back.
The First Step (Specialist Domestic Abuse Service)
Tel: 0151 548 3333