The slow, grinding impact of being worn down, day after day, should not be underestimated

Share
Related Topics

In the beginning, Justin Lee Collins was the perfect boyfriend. He was wonderful, kind, generous. I remember thinking: "How on earth did I ever get so lucky?" I was completely smitten.

Within weeks of moving in together, however, his true colours started to show. He started telling me what to wear and how to do my hair. He was jealous of me seeing my friends and family, and would make it difficult for me to see or speak to them. The abuse built up gradually. It was mainly emotional and verbal: he would call me names if he didn't liked the way I looked – "slut", "whore", "dog" – anything to make me feel bad about myself.

If I didn't do what he wanted, he would fly into a rage. I wasn't allowed to have an opinion. He forced me to tell him details about my previous relationships, which he wrote down in a pad. He told me it was important for our relationship, and that he wanted to know only because he loved me so much. He became more possessive, making me close down my Facebook and Twitter accounts.

I was so scared of upsetting him. I knew that what was happening wasn't right, but I was terrified that he would leave me. I desperately wanted things to work out, and I thought that if I did what he wanted, his behaviour would change.

When I look back now, it's so clear to see that he was bullying and harassing me. But at the time I was incredibly confused and worn down. He made me stay up late, and he would wake me up in the middle of the night, telling me I had to sleep facing him. I was emotionally exhausted – a shadow of my former confident self.

I know people find it hard to imagine why women stay with abusive men, but the truth is that it can be very difficult to accept that the person you should love and trust the most is hurting you. My ex could also be charming and kind, lavishing me with gifts. The constant switch in behaviours was disorienting. It was like living with two different people.

After enduring months of emotional and verbal abuse, something snapped. He was never going to change. I had to get out.

I didn't go to the police straight away. I went to my parents' house and stayed there for a couple of months. I cried a lot and spent time looking at websites about domestic violence, trying to come to terms with what had happened. I'd always thought that if a man treated me badly, I'd never put up with it. I realise now that it's not that simple.

The slow, grinding impact of being worn down, day after day, should not be underestimated. People think that domestic violence is all about black eyes, but the effects of emotional abuse and harassment can be just as damaging. I am still bruised, inside, from the experience.

In the end, my dad went to the police. I was reluctant, but they were very supportive, and I realised that I couldn't let my ex get away with what he'd done. If I didn't speak up, I knew he would go on to hurt someone else.

Going through the court process was incredibly hard. I had to describe all the ways he had abused me. I couldn't cope with seeing him in person, so I was allowed to give evidence behind a screen. In the end, he was convicted of harassment and sentenced to 140 hours of community service. Of course, I was pleased that he was found guilty, but I was appalled at the sentence. I experienced a prolonged campaign of fear and abuse at his hands. For that I believe he deserved to spend time in jail.

Channel 5 recently offered my abuser the chance to appear on Celebrity Big Brother. Although he turned down the offer, I am deeply upset that it was even made. What kind of message does that send out to society? That domestic violence is not a serious crime? That abusive men should be rewarded with lucrative deals?

There are thousands of women who are going through the same thing as me. Some of those women might be reading this right now. My message to them would be this: you are not alone. There is support out there. Refuge can help. I have been working with this wonderful charity for a couple of months now, and I have seen the extraordinary work it does.

There is a way to rebuild your life after domestic violence. I have done it. I am still doing it. And I will continue to speak out against this horrific crime to help other women.

Anna Larke is a supporter of Refuge's work. www.refuge.org.uk

The Independent on Sunday Christmas Appeal is for the national domestic violence charity Refuge. To make a donation visit: http://refuge.org.uk/independent-on-sunday-appeal/

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: A widow’s tale with an unexpected twist

John Rentoul
 

For all his faults, Russell Brand is utterly sincere, something politicians should emulate

Janet Street-Porter
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing