Mary was just 23 years old when she met the man who would caused her so much pain. A rapist. An abusive man who later admitted that he sought out vulnerable women who he could dominate.
Her story was featured in the Independent this week. This is a longer version of the events that unfolded after that first meeting between her and her husband.
With this, I end my week of blogging for the Mumsnet #WeBelieveYou Rape awareness campaign. If this and my other Rape Survivor posts show us anything, it is how resiliant and brave women can be. How they CAN escape abusive relationships, if given the support and advice that they need. These posts also show that abusers are not the ordinary nice guy who got carried away. They systematically isolate their partners from their support network, they shatter their partner’s self-confidence, they wear them down till their partners are unable to see clearly how utterly desperate their situation has become.
We must do more for these women. We must BELIEVE these women.
Mary’s Story (Trigger Warning)
I met the man of my dreams when my daughter was just 2 years old. He was handsome, educated, well dressed, and had a gorgeous smile. He was almost magnetic. People knew him, he waved to everyone in the village where I lived and they waved back. I’d never really noticed him before, and then our paths crossed in the village deli one lunchtime.
I was a single mum, working part-time as a manager in one of the village shops and just bumbling along with life. I didn’t feel great about myself, my confidence had been worn away bit by bit, my daughter’s father had been sleeping with other women hence the split and then after a few weeks of being apart, I found out I was pregnant. I decided to keep the baby because my GP had told me that I would never conceive easily due to Endometriosis. We decided not to try and make a go of it as we both wanted different things out of life, but he was and is a very supportive person, he and our daughter have a great relationship, and still see each other now.
I’d started to notice this man coming into work, quite often really, on his own, with other men, his friends most likely and once or twice another woman.Then I noticed him when I was walking home, he went past in his car. A few weeks later, he brought a card into work and left it on the counter, it was asking me to call him as he’d like to take me to see a film, out for dinner or to the theatre, it was my choice.
You can imagine how flattered I was. A single mum who had had a bit of shit ride in life, always going for the ‘bad lads’ and the ‘wrong ones’. I’d never found a man to settle down with and I’d always been in emotionally abusive relationships. Even my very first boyfriend, cheated on me during our 6yrs together after raping me the very first time we’d had sex. However, I hadn’t realised at that time he was raping me.
So, after 2 weeks I finally built up the courage to call him. We arranged a night out, he came to pick me up from my parents’ house where I lived with my daughter and we went for dinner. I had a lovely dinner, it was a very nice place and I actually felt as if it was too good for me to be in there because of my past, because I wasn’t worthy almost. After the meal, he drove me home, dropped me off and walked me to the door. The dates continued, nights out, days away, weekends in 5 star hotels, meeting his friends, and going to parties. I fell for him more and more. He made me feel incredible, adored. He treated me like no-one ever had before, I was utterly besotted with him. He was the man of my dreams and suddenly, I couldn’t imagine my life without him.
Fast forward six months and I introduced him to my daughter. She loved him to bits and him her. We went out as a family, together, united. We went on holiday, yes, a real holiday, on a plane! It was amazing. He bought us both clothes and gifts. We wanted for nothing. Soon after he’d met my daughter, he asked us to move in with him, and I jumped at the chance. He was like her real father, he tought her things, read to her, bathed her, snuggled her when she felt weepy and tired. I though that he loved her so much. He was so gentle with her.
Then there was the sex. The sex was mind blowing, he was older than me by 12 years and he really showed it in bed. What he didn’t do, wasn’t worth doing. We had such a great sex life. He refused to use condoms so I went on the pill which was fine. We shopped for sex toys together, he wanted me to dress up for him. So I went along with it, I wanted to please him, I didn’t like it but felt I couldn’t tell him that I was shy and had never used any toys before, but I wanted to be his everything.
We started work on the house too. When the building work was being done, he asked me to come to one of the refurbished rooms one night whilst my daughter was with her father for the weekend. There was a bottle of champagne, and lit candles everywhere. We sat in the room, drinking, talking, kissing and then he started to take my clothes off. I said I was too tired and asked if we could just go to bed as I’d been working a double shift. He refused and said if I loved him I’d have sex with him to show it. Of course I agreed and after a few glasses of fizz, he decided we’d do something different and tied my wrists and blindfolded me.
He started to touch and kiss me, giving me more and more champagne. I was so dizzy, I felt ill, really ill. I asked him to stop in a half jokey half terrified way, I was so unsure of what he was doing, but he refused. Then I felt something ice cold sliding up the inside of my thigh, and I knew it was a knife. He held the knife to my throat as he raped me. I was shaking with fear, not daring to breathe too deeply in case he cut me.
When he’d finished, he cut me lose and said for me to clean myself up, and that I looked a state. I showered and went to bed whilst he cleared the house. I could hear him tidying downstairs and prayed for sleep. We stayed together and that night was never mentioned again. Sex had stopped for a while, as if he didn’t want to push his luck.
We started going clubbing, which I loved, that was my thing. We had more parties and that lead to more sex. My daughter was staying at my parents’ more and more. Days on end so that I could be with him alone, with him more. I just wanted him. More treats, nights out, new friends, new faces, new clothes, new places to go to dinner.
Then one night he asked me if I fancied one of his mates, we’d been seeing him more and more but they were all good looking. I said I thought he was good looking. I didn’t realise at first what the plan was. It happened so fast and I was so out of it that after a while and trying to move away from him, I just lay there and let his friend rape me. Tears rolling down my face and my fists clenched, my teeth were grinding together and I was so so scared, I’d never known fear like it but I couldn’t stop him. It was so quick, a couple of minutes maybe, if that. Once he finished, he got up and walked off, muttering something to someone. It was my boyfriend, he’d been there and not stopped his friend, he’d been there and let it happen. He’d been there getting off on his friend raping me, knowing I was too out of it to stop him.
I sat up on the bed, shaking and nauseous with him watching me, telling me that there was more if that if I wanted it. He said that he’d start to hit me where no-one could see, that he knew how to hurt me so that it was hidden. And that’s what started to happen. He’d punch me in the stomach, on my legs and upper arms, my back. He even bit me on my upper thigh. He said that if I was marked and damaged goods, no-one would want me so I had better stay with him.
The next time he raped me was a few months later.
I said I wanted to go to bed as I had to work late the following day. He said he’d be up in a while so I went up to bed and cried myself to sleep. I was woken by him forcing himself inside me from behind. He lay half on me half off so I couldn’t really move. He had his hand over my face and was pushing down on me so hard I lost my breath at one point. I didn’t move. I just froze and when he’d finished, he lay there not moving and nor did I until I thought he was asleep. I waited until I heard his breathing change. The got up and crept to the bathroom, it was in the bedroom, an en suite so I didn’t have far to go and daren’t to to leave the bedroom for fear of him hearing the door creak open. Everything hurt, my legs were bruised with fingers marks, I was bleeding.
The months went by, we followed a regular pattern, clubbing, parties, new friends, rape, treats and beatings. He’d always ‘make it up to me’ with expensive presents and flowers and a million ‘sorrys’. He told me he loved me and needed me, he told me he would get help and change, he said he’d learn to be more gentle and that he got angry because of his past. He never went into detail though, I never knew about his past.
Then women started to come to the house asking to see him, assuming I was a friend or relative. I found women’s underwear in his car. Phone numbers scrawled on note paper. I read his phone one night, the texts were all about his and what they wanted him to do to them, these women. I started to build up the courage to ask him about them, he’d say that they were exes who couldn’t let go. Or that they were just friends.
I dropped two stone and my parents were so worried, I’d hardly seen them or any friends, I couldn’t tell anyone about my life, I was scared that they’s tell me to leave him, I knew I would make this all okay. I thought that I’d be the one to change him, if I loved him enough that he’d stop hurting me.
He always apologised, said they were lying in their texts, he bought more gifts, covered his tracks using work as an excuse and still beat me on a regular basis but I stayed. I wanted to change him. He needed to be loved. I answered the door to them, the other women, I told them I was his partner and to please leave. He told me they meant nothing and that I was the only one, he needed me to let him love me. He said that he loved me so very much and wanted me more than I knew.
The trips away with work and phone calls tailed off for a while, and all the time I forgave him. He even cheated on me when we were on holiday together. He’d been there before with friends and knew some of the women where we were staying. We rowed and he said he was leaving unless I said I believed him when he told me nothing happened. He was staying out all night, no call, nothing, yet he swore that didn’t mean he’d slept with anyone, that I was all he needed.
In the Autumn he asked me to marry him. I accepted and then he said that maybe we should have a baby of our own. Not that he didn’t love my daughter, he doted on her, loved her to bits, as if she were his flesh and blood and of course I lept at the chance to give him his own family. I felt that this would be the event that proved to him just how much I loved him, that I would never leave.
We got pregnant straight away and had a fabulous time telling friends and family it was all going really well. He stopped hitting me, the calls stopped, the nights away stopped, the women turning up, everything. It was as if the baby had changed him for the better. He still smoked weed but had stopped the nights out without me, saying that he needed to protect us both; the baby and me.
We celebrated Christmas with my family and his friends. I really felt part of his life at last, I felt like everything had been leading to this; my future, my family. Then on boxing day, he told me to get rid of the baby. He said if I didn’t he’d kick it out of me. I hadn’t worked for some time by this point, he made me quit my job so that he could look after me. He paid for everything, my clothes, make-up, my daughter’s clothes, even my tampons.
My friends hadn’t been around for a while nor my family. I hadn’t noticed them slowly ebbing away. As far as I was concerned, he was all we needed. I suddenly had no-one to talk to but have no idea how that had happened.
Two days after New Year’s Day, I got an appointment and a few days following that, terminated the baby and came home alone. When I got there he asked me if I was going to thank him for paying for the abortion.
I replied no, that I was so upset and thought that he loved me and the baby. I got a slap for ‘talking back to him’ nothing new there by this time. A few nights later, the police were called, a Domestic Violence Unit turned up, along with a WPC. He had thrown me out onto the street, dragged me with my knickers on, out of bed, still bleeding from the termination and just thrown me out into the icy cold.
Thankfully, my daughter was with her father.
A neighbour called the police when she saw him punching me in the face and belly. I was taken to my parents’, as I refused hospital. He had my phone, clothes, bag, car keys, everything.
Three days later, I went back to him. My parents were mortified. I didn’t care because he loved me and wanted me to come home to him. It was lovely for a while, really, really lovely. He seemed so very different, so remorseful. We went on another holiday and had a fantastic time.
When we came back, I was due to have an operation on my kidneys. It went wrong and I ended up in ICU and then on the Acute Ward for 2 weeks, losing another 1.5 stone. I looked awful. He came to see me most days, not all the time. My daughter stayed with my parents who refused to bring her to see me as I was so ill and said I would frighten her, plus the fact that they might bump into him.
When I came home, that very first night he said he wanted sex. I said I was too sore, having had a drip and drain removed that afternoon. He said if I loved him, I’d let him, so I did. Whilst he was on top of me he told me that whilst I’d been in hospital, he’d been ‘as good as gold’ and that he ‘hadn’t touched another woman for weeks’. I believed him.
The days rolled into nights, everything became a blur until I bumped into a male friend on a rare shopping trip alone. He said I looked so ill, so pale and weak, he asked if I was ill, what had happened to me.
The following night we’d fought about me not being allowed to apply for a job I’d seen, about not being allowed out on my own for more than an hour or two and he really started to lose it. I said I was trying to please him by having some money so I could buy him nice things, get him treats and gifts. He started to shout at my daughter because she was crying due to the argument.
He could hear her and told her to shut up. He was getting more and more angry and I was trying to keep her quiet. Then he lunged towards her in a real rage. I felt sick but knew I had to protect her, it was a split second thing, like I saw my life in slow motion for the first time I knew that this was all so very wrong. I saw his face, the horrid look in his eyes, I was suddenly scared that he’d hurt her, he’d kill her. I had to get her out, protect her.
That was all I needed. I could see the fear in her face. He screamed at me that he hated me and called me all sorts of names but it was as if I couldn’t hear him any more. It was as if I’d suddenly switched off that part of me and turned up the part of me that was a mother.
Right then and there, I knew we’d die or be seriously injured if we didn’t leave. I grabbed clothes and toys, filled two bags worth of stuff all the while with him now lay on the floor sobbing, begging me not to take his daughter away. I felt sick. He begged and pleaded with me not to leave him. I picked up the bags, my daughter and my car keys and got out of the house, straight into the car and drove as fast as I could.
Everything around me was a blur. I just kept going, not knowing where I was going, just knowing that I had to get out. I had no money, no phone as it was paid for by him so I’d left it there, I just kept going until my heart stopped beating through my chest.
My daughter was still sobbing when I stopped the car. I’d driven to my friends house. The one I’d seen just days before. I had two bags of clothes, my daughter and my car. That was it, my life. He was great and called Shelter for me who arranged for us to housed in a Women’s Refuge far away from where my boyfriend lived. It had all happened so fast, me leaving, just so fast that I hadn;t really given what I was doing any thought. I knew I had to protect my daughter at any cost, and that’s what I’d finally done.
We lived in the hostel for three long months before we were housed by a Housing Association. It was safe, secure and our own little home for a while. When we moved into our new home, I knew that I’d done the right thing. I knew that getting our was the right thing to do but it was hard to walk away, I wondered if I’d really done the right thing, maybe I’d given up too soon.
He tracked me down eventually but by this time, I’d had counselling and lots of support from my family who were so very relieved that I was no longer with him. My friends got back in touch, some said that they’d try to tell me and warn me what he was doing but I couldn’t see it when I was in it. I totally understand that these days.
I found out that he’d gotten his ex pregnant when he was with me and lots of other things that he’s been up to, funny how people can be so quick to tell you everything once they know you are no longer in a certain situation. I had lots of ‘well, I didn’t like to say’ remarks but by that time, I couldn’t care.
Some of my belongings were in the house (passports, driving licence etc) so spoke to him on the phone briefly, then went to collect them. He was there, sobbing in the kitchen, in our kitchen that we’d designed together. He was breaking his heart because he’d lost us. He looked broken and beat. He looked small, so very small and he looked ugly.
I was really weird but I suddenly wondered what on earth I had seen in him. I was shocked at how I felt but I just didn’t feel anything for him. I didn’t ask why he was crying, I didn’t care. I walked out of that house with my belongings, taking my key off of my car keys, looked around one more time and closed the front door behind me.
He didn’t beg me to stay, to come back. He’d just said over and over that he was sorry. So very sorry. I saw in his eyes that he was hollow inside. I didn’t even feel glad about it. I felt relieved. I felt tired and worn out. I felt finally free. I felt the wind on my face. I saw the trees, the road, the sky, I could feel my heart beating in my throat but it wasn’t out of fear, it was out of love for my daughter, knowing that I’d done the right thing at long last.
That was the worst three years of my life but I’m eight years on from that person, from that relatiosnhip. I met my now husband seven years ago and we’ve been married for six. I didn’t think I’d ever want to be with anyone again. I thought I didn’t need anyone. But then I met my husband, we were friends for a while first and then I just fell in love. Real love. I’ve never been happier. I’m safe. I’m loved, I’m respected and I’m trusted. I have friends and family and we share so much. My daughter adores my husband and we have a gorgeous son together.
Life is exactly what I didn’t realise I wanted, but absolutley love. I wouldn’t change a thing about my life now, well maybe a few more hours in the day.
One thing I’ll take with me from my time with my ex is that he used to say ‘First you fuck their body, then you fuck their mind’ and he would actively seek out single mothers to ‘rescue’. I found out after I’d left that he actually planned to lure women into his web of lies and beatings. I found out that I wasn’t the first and wasn’t the last. Apparently, he wanted to save them from themselves by giving them everything. He’d watch them for weeks, find out about them, ask after them and find out who they knew. Just like he had with me. My blood ran cold thinking about him and his behaviour.
I guess what he didn’t realise is that there was a breaking point with me. I saw him once, years after I had left. I nearly threw up right there. He said ‘Hey, how are you? How’s your daughter? Great to see you, you look good, what have you been up to?’
I stood there, frozen to the spot and then I heard a voice say ‘you have no right to ask about my daughter, I have nothing to say to you’ and turned and walked away.
The last I heard, he was still sleeping with a handful of women and had a picture of my daughter on his mantel piece telling people it was the daughter that he’d lost.
He is a very sick man.
Well, there you go. My life in a nutshell.
I was lucky that after I escaped my abuser, I met my husband. He is a wonderful man, he knows what I went through and is my absolute rock. He lets me ‘be’ when I need to be and lets be sob, smile, shout, wonder, question as much as I need to.