Case Study 1

Sitting on the floor in my new flat, I felt confused, shocked, had this really just happened?

Sitting on the floor in my new flat, I felt confused, shocked, had this really just happened?

Only last week I had moved in with my boyfriend, my wonderful, funny, loving boyfriend Jo. What was this all about? I have never seen anyone act like this before.

Today had started like any other, with him dropping me off at work, always so considerate, never letting me walk or take the bus. At the end of the day I left the building having a laugh and a joke with my colleagues. I looked over and there was Jo ready and waiting in his car to take me home, I felt so happy, so loved, so looked after. Little did I know how this bubble was about to burst.

I got into the car wittering on in my usual fashion, leaning across to kiss him and instead of the kiss being reciprocated he pulled away and just started to drive. It was only a five minute drive back to our flat, but with his silence it seemed never ending.

The silence was soon shattered when we got indoors. Taking off his belt, he was shouting that I would not be acting like a whore with those c—-s again. He was lashing out at me with his belt, pulling, pushing, grabbing and hitting. I was terrified, this had been a normal day, I had acted in my normal way, what was happening, why was Jo doing this? Was he going to stop?

Yes he stopped and just left the flat, for several hours. I just sat bewildered, hurt, physically and emotionally, alone – so alone. I could not comprehend what had just happened, what do I do next? He had threatened to hurt my ‘poxy’ parents and my ‘stupid’ brother if I turned to them for help, this I believed.  They were peaceful, loving people who didn’t even shout and certainly didn’t do this, no they could not help me or themselves against this new Jo.

After many hours he returned home, calmer, apologetic, giving jealousy and a fear of losing me as his reasons for this outburst. I was both scared and flattered! That someone loved me so much, this was all new and scary and life was never going to be the same again. The old me was now about to morph into something different – a Mrs Jo.

Yes, I became Mrs Jo. Within a few weeks of the belting I found I was pregnant. At this news Jo seemed more settled and wanted to immediately marry. With this I could again see the old Jo, the Jo I so loved, all he needed was that security of knowing I was his, this was going to be fine, happy ever after. Dear, dear, dear.

Happily ever after with Jo lacked most of the happily – strangely enough! We went on to have two sons and sixteen years together, most of which I spent wishing one day a Police officer would come to the door and tell me he had been ‘tragically’ killed in a car accident, any accident.

The life of Mrs Jo was a strange existence. With my ‘learned behavior’ being the thing that kept my sons and myself relatively safe. He seemed omnipresent always seemingly aware of what we were doing. Consequently everything we did, even when he was not there was done as if he were. I learned not to look twice in the direction of a male and certainly not speak to one, even if they were just offering pleasantries at the checkout! The boys could not have friends, birthday parties etc, due to his anti social ways.

Life rumbled on with no chance of change. Jo’s physical outbursts were mostly confined now to pushing, shoving, hair pulling, but put together with the threats of what he was capable of kept me and the boys in line. Divorce or leaving him seemed far too dangerous, bizarrely it felt safer to stay than to leave. I felt in some way in control of my life with my ‘learned behavior’, even having bizarre thoughts that perhaps this was normal and that secretly this is what went on behind other front doors.

A phone call one day dramatically changed this. The voice on the other end accused my husband of having an affair with her sixteen year old daughter. Life suddenly became more unreal, if that were possible. Surely Jo’s extreme behaviour had been because of his intense love for me, hadn’t it?

Once again I was devastated and bemused. This suddenly made a mockery of this life I had endured and passed on to my boys. Somehow in my shock I found myself confronting Jo with this. In all the years we had been together I had never once challenged him, or even answered him back.

He vehemently denied the accusation, but was incensed by my disrespect. Once again the physical violence became extreme as he became paranoid that we may leave. I was now too afraid to be alone with him in the house, so always hid my older son in his room, pretending he was at school. This was obviously a situation that could not go on for much longer.

In so many ways his last violent outburst was to be our salvation, as it required hospital treatment. Of course he had to be present most of the time, but luckily the lady Doctor was astute enough to separate me from Jo to ascertain the truth behind my injuries.

We secretly contacted the Refuge, from the hospital plans were made for me to leave in the next few days. I had to return home that day as my boys were not at the hospital with me.

These last few days, were some of the best of my married life, as I knew the end was in sight. I once again felt in control as I secretly gathered key essentials, arranged care for the dog etc. dangerous but exiting. Jo, I think felt all was well as I had ‘calmed down’, in his eyes.

For so many years I had been too afraid to go until the time came when I was too afraid to stay.

One day when he went to work we left forever, for a real happily ever after.

Bury St Edmunds Women’s Refuge