A WOMAN who suffered years of emotional control and physical assaults at the hands of her partner has opened up about the difficulty of leaving an abusive relationship.
While it can be easy for those on the outside to ask ‘why don’t you just leave’, there are often fears around housing, money, or the impact leaving might have on children. And as Jess explains, someone who has been abused might still have a form of connection with their abuser, or has been manipulated into thinking they have changed.
Jess has spoken out about three years of emotional and physical abuse as part of Dyfed-Powys Police’s winter campaign, which aims to empower those living with domestic abuse, stalking or harassment to report incidents and find support.
When Jess started a relationship with her ex-partner, she admits there were early – if subtle – signs of abusive behaviour, which stemmed from his jealousy. While friends picked up on these behaviours, Jess would be told by her partner that they were ‘interfering’.
“He always convinced me that he was just emotional due to the strength of his feelings for me and that he obviously didn’t mean the nastier things he said under the influence of alcohol,” she said.
“My friends tried to tell me the relationship could have been considered abusive, but I was deeply in denial.”
Over time, the abuse Jess faced escalated. She was called derogatory names, emotionally controlled, and was repeatedly accused of being unfaithful. If she spent time away from home, her partner wanted constant contact.
“Time spent with friends would always result in abuse when I went back home, so there were times when I decided that it wasn’t worth it,” she said.
“He would constantly question me on what I was doing and my feelings towards him, he went through my phone behind my back, read my diary and would use entries from the past against me.
“For some months, despite his emotionally abusive behaviour, I always believed he would never physically hurt me.”
The emotional abuse did lead to physical assaults, however, and Jess was subject to attacks and threats. Following one incident she took the brave step in calling Dyfed-Powys Police after fleeing with her phone.
“For once I had physical evidence in the form of a cut, so I thought I would be taken more seriously, rather than it being just his word against mine,” she said. “Until then I had always felt as though anything within my relationship was my own mess to sort out.”
Jess learned that she had been the victim of domestic abuse in the form of controlling and coercive behaviour for two years.
“I was surprised when the police said I’d described one of the more serious situations of domestic abuse they’d ever encountered, based on just how much I’d come to accept as normal,” she said.
“Up to this point I had felt embarrassed for involving the police and assumed they’d dismiss it because I didn’t have serious physical injuries.”
Jess’s abuser was arrested and charged with assault.
Despite this, she was manipulated into restarting their relationship a few short months later, with promises that he had changed. However, she suffered another year of abuse before calling it off once more.
While they are now separated, and Jess knows he poses a danger to her, she fears she might never be free from him.
“I feel massively emotionally affected and traumatised by our time together,” she said.
“He’s still contacting me on a daily basis trying to win me back. I’d rather have no contact with him at all, but he keeps talking me round to it. I respond to this because part of me has been conditioned to please him to avoid the abuse.
“Sometimes I fear I will never truly escape him – and that my remaining friends will abandon me to this fate.”
While Jess appreciates how difficult it is to speak out, she hopes that reading her story might be the push someone needs to seek help.
“I always liked to think of myself as a strong, intelligent, independent woman and never imagined I would find myself in this sort of situation, but it really can happen to anyone,” she said.
“It’s not your fault. The only person who should feel shame in an abusive relationship is the abuser.”
*If any of Jess’s story resonates with you, or you need to report domestic abuse, stalking or harassment, you can contact Dyfed-Powys Police in the following ways:
Report online: https://bit.ly/DPPContactOnline
If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908
In an emergency, always call 999.
*If you feel you need support in contacting police, there are organisations that can help you. Click here to find them, or search online for Live Fear Free, Women’s Aid or the National Stalking Helpline – all of which have free helplines available.