Sometimes it can help to read the experiences of people who have been through experiences like this. Here is an example of people who have suffered abuse, but have sought help and come out the other side.
See what others have to say – many people in similar situations have asked questions about abuse in their relationships.
When I was 16, I was sexually assaulted by a family friend. He gave me loads of alcohol and I got really drunk. I was too embarrassed to tell anyone and he told me that no-one would believe me. I started to drink and take drugs to try to get it out of my head.
Soon after I came out and I started going out to gay clubs. I met my first boyfriend when I was 17. We were together for two years. He was 25. He was really popular and good looking; he knew everyone on the scene. He was really fun and always seemed to have loads of money. I really liked him, although there were things about the relationship that were hard. At the start of the relationship, I had sex with him because I thought it was what I should do as his boyfriend - it was expected of me. I was scared of losing him if I didn’t. I didn’t tell him about the sexual assault or that I found having sex difficult.
When I turned 18, I moved into his flat. I noticed that things started to change. He didn’t like me going out without him and would make life difficult for me if I did go out. He said he didn’t like my friends and gradually I lost contact with people. He started to restrict the time I spent with my family too. He said he didn’t want me to work and that he wanted to look after me. He started to look through my phone and my facebook and check up on where I was and who I was with. I was dependent on him for money and I became increasingly alone and cut off from other people.
Arguments began to happen more regularly and they would often become physical. He would slap me, push me, hold me down and throw things at me. I started to make excuses to avoid having sex with him and for a while, he didn’t question it. But eventually he started asking questions. During an argument, I told him I was assaulted when I was younger. He said he could understand why I was raped and that it sounded like I led the guy on. He started to pressure me into having sex and would threaten me if I refused. I had sex with him to keep the peace, even though I didn’t want to. I didn’t tell anyone about what was going on - I pretended everything was fine when people asked. He said that it was normal for men to fight when they are together. He was my first boyfriend and I didn’t know any different. Things got worse and worse between us. One night we had a big argument and I tried to leave the flat to get away from him. He locked me in, beat me up and threatened me with a hammer - forcing me to have sex with him.
Afterwards he blamed me, saying that I was a tease and that he was entitled to have sex with me whenever he wanted to. I managed to escape from the flat when he was asleep and I called the police. They told me that what I was experiencing was domestic abuse and they put me in touch with organizations that could help me. I thought that it was only women who could experience domestic abuse from their partner. I didn’t realise it could happen to men too.
For help and support click here.
* Names have been changed to protect the individuals involved. Story from Survivors UK & Galop.
I first met Mark* when I was 15 and he was 16. He was kind and charming, and he was the first boy to show me any real attention. The first few months of our relationship were amazing – he made me feel so special.
Mark was protective from the beginning, going miles out of his way to walk me home in the evenings. I had no reason to think that he was being anything other than caring, until one day I was away on a school trip and he hacked into my emails. He broke up with me because he found a message I’d sent to another boy months earlier. Afterwards, he agreed to get back together, but from that point onwards I was wary about using the internet – I was worried about what he’d do if he saw something he didn’t like.
We started to argue more frequently. Mark would deliberately call me names he knew would hurt me, like fat, ugly and, most of all, stupid. He would call me a slag or a whore, even though he knew I’d never been with anyone else. The emotional, verbal abuse became more and more intense – at one point he started threatening to kill me.
One day we were walking home from town when he started an argument. He pushed me against the wall, grabbed my wrist, and forced my arm up, twisting it so badly that he tore my ligaments. I fell to the floor crying in shock. I never would have believed that he’d lay a finger on me. When he saw me crying on the floor, he apologised profusely, but over time the abuse became worse and worse. He kicked me and tried to strangle me on several occasions – he even pulled a knife on me once. He punched me so hard on the hip during an attack that I couldn’t do my jeans up because of the swelling. He never hit me on the face, so the bruises were hidden.
I tried to cover up the abuse because I felt ashamed. At the hospital, I would make up accidents to explain injuries, and once I told friends and family that I’d been attacked in the street.
Over time, I became isolated from my friends because I had to spend all my time with Mark. I loved him and gradually, he was all I had left.
At first I found it difficult to accept that I was experiencing domestic violence. I believed that the abuse was my fault and that I could stop it. I wish I had known Refuge was there to support me. Things are going much better for me now, but I would urge anyone who’s experiencing domestic violence to reach out for support, call Refuge or talk to someone about what you’re going through. Don’t cover it up.
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* Names have been changed to protect the individuals involved. Story from Refuge website.
When I was almost 15 I was out with my girlfriends. We happened to meet and chat to these older teenage boys who were friends of friends. We were on our way to other friends in another part of town, but the group got split up and while the others went off to get something I was left with this one boy I hardly knew. He asked me to come and wait at his place until we met up with the others again. I thought he was being nice. At the time I had an injury so I had trouble walking and moving about so this was a good option.
We were alone in the house. He started off being nice, but he didn’t make me feel comfortable at all. At one point he went out and said he wouldn’t be long and when he came back he had condoms. I was in shock - I had no idea this would happen, there was no warning. He then told me to get undressed and I said “what for”. I felt completely powerless and scared. He was older and bigger than me and very assertive and dominating; he made me feel compelled to do what he said. I was worried that if I refused he might get aggressive and he could turn nasty. I really didn’t want to find out what would’ve happened if I didn’t do as he said. I felt completely taken advantage of.
Later, when we met up with the rest of the group, he just acted normal, like nothing had happened and he had done nothing wrong. It didn’t seem to bother him at all what he had just done. That was really difficult - it felt surreal. I kept quiet about it ‘cause I was shocked and confused. I was worried what would happen if I spoke about it. I didn’t want my friends or the boys to think I was easy; I didn’t want them to talk about me or twist the story. I thought it was much more likely they’d listen to his version of what happened ‘cause I felt powerless. I was worried if I might be pregnant too even though a condom was used.
There was a second incident that happened a while after this one that was similar. I was out with a large group of friends. I got stuck talking to this boy a year older than me. He was really quite drunk. He started hugging and kissing me which I went along with and I was kind of OK. Everyone seemed to disappear around me and he led me into the trees behind us. He just kept taking me further and further. He started off being nice but also being persuasive. He kept on and on and pressured me for oral sex. He said no-one would find out. He gripped my arm and was squeezing my wrist. He said he wouldn’t let me go until I did it. I had no idea what he was capable of, especially since he was so drunk. Again I felt powerless, that my friends had disappeared, I had nowhere to turn, no-one to help me. I was in shock. And again, later when we met up with others in the group he acted as if nothing happened, nothing was wrong. He was kissing me and it felt weird.
What happened to me really, really knocked my confidence. The only person I could talk to about these experiences was my NSPCC counsellor. He was so understanding and supportive. He talked it through with me and helped me work through the shock of what happened. We talked about how I can feel less powerless and more safe. We worked on boosting my self esteem. I think without his help I would have so much less confidence in myself. I’m so glad I had the NSPCC to talk to.
For help and support click here
* Names have been changed to protect the individuals involved. Story from NSPCC.