For the avoidance of all doubt--
A year ago today.
A year ago I had gone to bed afraid and woken up afraid.
18 months of control and abuse that had reached boiling point.
I had two hours.
I had to get out.
Where is he right now?
How many times have you tried to end the relationship?
Does he break things in front of you?
Has he ever hurt a family pet?
Has he ever threatened to kill himself?
What are you afraid of?
Words tumbling from my mouth as I hadn't considered the answers to these questions might paint a picture too horrifying to contemplate.
I will forever be grateful to Women's Aid for telling me they considered me at high risk and needing immediate refuge space.
I only had a few big shopping bags... maybe five. So I shoved as many clothes as I could in them. I used one bag for my son's toys he had gotten for his birthday four weeks prior. I rushed to get it in the car with my newborn baby wriggling on the sofa.
Raced to his school to collect him. Said we had a family emergency.
"Where's Optimus Prime?"
The bag of toys.
I only had twenty minutes. I pulled up outside the house again and ran inside and got it as I couldn't face letting him down again.
We sped down the a470 all the way to Cardiff all the while my phone was going off--
Where are you where are you
I'm not ashamed of having spent six months in a refuge. It's something I haven't necessarily publicised due to ongoing issues.
It's my story, and I have been prohibited from sharing it.
Our first refuge was like a big boarding house with shared bathrooms and kitchen. We slept in a converted office downstairs - my son in the top bunk, me and the baby tucked into a single bed. So many women and children and heavy doors and every task was hard but I did it.
Our second refuge was a top floor self-contained flat which was more bearable. We slept on the bottom bunk and my hair would get stuck in the rungs above and the mattress was so slippery the sheet would fall off in the night.
I simply was not safe anywhere else.
Then I found my house.
When people ask why don't women leave sometimes it's because you don't realise it's abuse. Sometimes you are just very very afraid.
"Aren't you ashamed to be in a refuge with women who have actually experienced abuse, don't you feel like a lying fake? If they knew the truth they would be as ashamed of you as I am." My abuser said to me.
I have told nothing but the truth to all agencies I have been involved with and followed all recommendations to keep myself and my children safe.
It still baffles me that there are people who believe a woman would choose to spend Christmas in a refuge with an 8 week old baby, report herself to social services, take her four year old out of school, make him miss his first Christmas concert, risk the end of her business and income because she was a bit upset about the end of her relationship. But I guess if manipulators weren't believable we wouldn't fall for it in the first place. I know I did.
The lies - I went to refuge to get a council house. I don't have one. I went to refuge to get a free solicitor. I don't have one I self-represent.
He holds no power over me anymore.
Leaving is scary and messy and unknown. It's the first step on a long road. I have been stalked, harassed, bullied and intimidated including at my place of work where I had to hide in the toilet. I was spat at in court, followed to my car. Threats to burn my possessions, to turn my baby against me, harassment of my friends.
Women are FIVE HUNDRED TIMES MORE LIKELY to be killed in the first year after ending the relationship.
My year ends today.