My experience with coercive control.

When I heard three months ago that coercive control (controlling domestic abuse) was to be become a punishable crime I was relieved but yet angry that it had taken so long for this law to be passed.

I was 16 when I entered into my first serious relationship. I was excited to be experiencing love for the first time and with someone who I thought was truly amazing. I was in a state of perpetual bliss and thought I had the best boyfriend in the world.

Months went by and heated arguments left me tired, bruised, resulted in my phone being taken away and told I couldn’t go and see my friends or attend any parties. I had to prove to him I was at home on certain days by calling him on my house phone and I couldn’t talk to certain people if he didn’t like them. I was banned from school/college trips away and was even locked in his house on a few occasions. He would regularly break my personal belongings in his fits of rage and then shower me with gifts to apologise. There were times when I did try and fight back but it is hard when the person you are fighting with is much stronger and is also someone you love. I was being controlled and naively thought that it was because he loved me.

When I decided I wanted to leave the relationship after a year and a half he wouldn’t let me. Turning up at my college, following me home and constantly ringing me begging me to be his girlfriend again was a daily occurrence.

One night I had gone to stay at a friends house, after saying goodnight and getting into the sofa bed I was woken by a knock on the door and it was him. He had found out I was staying there and decided to turn up to convince me to take him back. She agreed to let him stay in the living room with me and to say I was angry was an understatement. All night he kept me awake telling me that we needed to talk. The hours went by and as I ignored him and tried to sleep he became more and more angry. He took the blanket I was sleeping under and repeatedly punched me in the thighs during the night for roughly five hours. I was cold and numb with pain. When he had finally fallen asleep at 7am I left her house and limped to college. I sat in the ladies toilets for hours crying my eyes out and looking down at my purple and blue bruised thighs. I spent the morning throwing up, only attended one lesson and went straight home. I was beyond exhausted.

Having to see him everyday became such a strain to deal with that reluctantly I agreed to start our relationship again. Of course it wasn’t long before the abuse started and I was a human punchbag. However he was smart, never hitting me in the face or arms and only in places where no one could see the bruises and marks. However on one occasion during a family dinner at his house he dragged me upstairs to tell me I couldn’t go out and see a friend that night. I begged him to let me go and told him I that I was going regardless and I didn’t care what he thought. As I turned to leave I felt his hand on my shoulder and then the force of his fist smashing into my face. The blood poured out of my nose and he put his hand over my mouth so his family couldn’t hear me crying from downstairs.

After 3 years of being in the relationship he decided that we shouldn’t be together any more and I agreed. I wasn’t sad or upset, a huge weight had been lifted of my shoulders and I felt free.

These are just of some of the incidents that happened to me over the years and it has taken me a long time to forgive myself and finally accept what happened wasn’t my fault. This can happen to anyone as the person I was with was very charming, a good manipulator and had everyone fooled. Unfortunately some people are not what they seem and it took me a long time to realise that.

I don’t know if anyone knew what was going on. I never spoke to friends or family about the issue as I was scared, ashamed and embarrassed. I thought going to the police wouldn’t resolve anything and as weird as it sounds I didn’t want him to be in trouble with the law.  It is hard trying to explain to a third party why you can’t escape the relationship or why you still love the person. I’m sure a couple of friends could see what was going on but it is hard to address those issues especially when you are 16, 17.

I do regret not telling anyone and I hope that he has grown up and become a better person.

If you do think you are in a coercive relationship or you know someone who is, I urge you to speak up and talk to someone. You are not alone and no woman or man should ever have to put with abuse in a relationship whether that be mental or physical.

Here are some of the signs of coercive control:

  • Demands.
  • Threats.
  • Intimidation.
  • Monitoring of time.
  • Physical abuse.
  • Taking your phone away.
  • Restriction of activities.
  • Degradation.

Click here for help or advice from the national domestic violence helpline.

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