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Debbie's Story

After I was married I rarely saw much of my family and the children only knew their dads side of the family but it wasn’t often that we saw them because my husband didn’t have or want to much to do with them.

Hearing about the coronavirus pandemic with the news of lockdown and isolation made me feel physically sick. My heart started pounding and I felt this deep sadness that turned everything extremely dark, like a heavy cloud that was getting closer, darker and duller by the minute until my heart sank into a quiet, empty and dark place then I felt nothing but numbness.

My husband blamed me when he started with symptoms of a cold, he said I was a bad mother for putting him and our children at risk.

He told me how the lockdown was going to give him more time to finally work on me and my bad habits and he would be making sure that I’d learn my lesson. He told the children it was important for us to face the facts and all of us had a good chance of dying because of me not being careful and bringing the virus into our home.

I hadn’t left the house since the middle of December. I knew he was going to take advantage of this time. I knew the abuse I had lived and put up with for so long was about to get worse. Much worse.

I crept around walking on eggshells trying not to do or say anything that would make my husband angry. The second day of lockdown he made us all sit down to tell us we had some new rules to follow. He started by telling us that If any of us became sick we wouldn’t be going to the hospital or calling the doctor.

He said it was a good time for all of us to have a long hard think about certain things, and then he asked the children to think about the songs they like and the songs that remind them of me. He asked what outfit they most like to see me wear.

I was confused and our youngest asked if we was playing a new game, he said it wasn’t a game “We have to prepare for mum’s death and her funeral, and we do want her to look her best don’t we when she’s dead” those are the exact words he said. I was horrified, I saw my children’s faces fill with fear and the tears streamed out of their eyes My eldest started to ask how he could be so cruel but his voice just became louder and louder.

“We have to prepare for mum’s death and her funeral, and we do want her to look her best don’t we when she’s dead”

He carried on shouting saying we must stick to the rules, he would throw me on to the street if he heard me cough or sneeze. I wasn’t allowed to go on the back garden to hang out the washing.

He insisted that the central heating was left on because the virus didn’t like heat. He said to make sure all clothes was dried over the radiators. If I opened a door or window while he was out of the house he would lock me out of the house and let me no where near the children again.

My husband watched my every move and controlled everything that I did. He knew where I was and what I was doing every minute of every day because he had cameras fitted in almost every room in our home which are all linked to his phone and computer.

I’ve wanted to leave my husband many times but I didn’t because i fount it so hard to think about leaving my home and everything I’ve worked for. I also felt really embarrassed and didn’t want to admit to any of my family or friends that our marriage had failed, I felt like it was all my fault and I was a failure.

I’ve been a prisoner for 17 years.

Our children have seen their father angry many times but the lockdown made everything much worse, they’ve seen him punch me in the face, spit at me, hold my head under bath water, throw me to the floor, throw glasses at the wall, kick me, push me and pull by the hair. My husband beat me more times than i can remember and the very first time was on our honeymoon. But what we was seeing him become was something different.

Not knowing when the children would go back to school or what would happen with work meant he was no longer in control of everything, which meant he was becoming more violent and aggressive towards me and the children every day. It was no longer only me who he was criticising, he started saying how stupid, ugly, and useless we all are, he said he deserved a better family than us and we was a nothing but a disappointment to him. We all became terrified and It was absolutely killing me knowing the children was now so afraid too. Whenever we had the opportunity to speak without him hearing us the children told me how scared they felt and how much they just wanted us to run away from home.

I tried my best to keep them calm, telling them it would be ok and i was thinking of a plan for us to leave, but really I had no idea what to do.

I had no phone and it was only his phone that i was ever able to use, which was for emergencies or a rare occasion when I spoke to my family and only when he was there.

We was locked inside our home, isolated from everything and anyone who could help us and not knowing what he would do next was the worst feeling of my entire life.

Weeks went by and I couldn’t think of anything, where to go or how to leave, I didn’t have friends, my family live miles away and the travel restrictions meant we had no way of getting to any family.

It was one day when the sun was shining, hotter than a summers day when my husband was out of the house all day because he spent the day alone in our garden drinking beers and spirits. He still insisted we stay inside and the central heating must not be turned off.

Him being out of the house gave me a chance to speak to my children but we had to be careful not to look afraid, to whisper or cry because he had his phone with him. If he didn’t have the phone he couldn’t check the cameras to see what we was doing. The phone didn’t leave his sight, ever.

That afternoon I realised my children was no longer my babies, when my 15 year old told me how terrible life had become and it wasn’t right for me to be slapped, dragged, punched, thrown to the floor and spat on almost every day, “We are all his victims now Mum and we’re all suffering domestic abuse, we don’t deserve this”.  Then my youngest agreed saying we would be better dead than live this awful life, wondering every morning If they was going to find me dead and frightened what would happen to them if I wasn’t there.

“We are all his victims now Mum and we’re all suffering domestic abuse, we don’t deserve this”.

What I was hearing made me realise how bad and dangerous the situation was. I told the children everything was going to be ok and all agreed that we would wait until he fell asleep and that night we would go as far away as possible.

When I told them we was going I saw happiness and a light on their face that made me feel so guilty for making them live like this for so long.

Around 7pm he came inside and slurring and banged on the table asking where his dinner was. He was drunk and I remember trying my best not to shake when I put the plates on the table, I felt like a bag of nerves but I hid the fear and nervous energy because I wasn’t going to let my children suffer any longer. When I passed my eldest her plate she gave me a little wink. I thought when did my babies become these young, beautiful and intelligent adults.

The time I should have spent focusing on them and their happiness was instead spent walking on eggshells, trying to please him and make sure he never hurt the children. He could yell and beat me and I thought that it was ok. I felt worthless like I deserved it and as long as he didn’t hit the children I was ok with him hitting me.

We finished our dinner and as I stood up I tripped over his foot and knocked in to him loosing my balance the next thing I remember I was on the floor and the children was screaming.

He was stood over me, shouting and kicking me, shaking me shouting I will never learn. Grabbing my hair, pushing and dragging me up the stairs while my children was trying to stop him.

He pushed me into the bedroom and said if I moved I would regret it. I didn’t feel any physical pain from the beating but I felt like my heart had stopped, I’d let them down. I had failed my children one again.

I heard him say to the children that I had to be punished and needed time to think about what I had done so I was to stay in the bedroom for a week and if they tried to come into the bedroom to see me he would punish me again.

Inside I was dead, we had no way of escaping this misery and hell. I was in the bedroom thinking how and why did I allow this to happen and how did I become this person, who was nothing like the person I was before I met him.

On the third day I went to the bathroom and as was about to close the door I felt it push open. It was my daughter. She whispered quickly and nervously to me that she had found a way we could go and I needed to trust her that it’s safe, she said “is that ok mum is it ok?” I said yes.

That night we was free and it was because of my daughter’s determination to find a way out.

We was picked up and taken to safety, as it was all unfolding I couldn’t believe what was actually happening and how my daughter had planned this and made it possible. We was cared for and we was given everything we needed for 2 days until we was then driven miles back to the place I grew up and back to my family where we will stay, be safe and be happy.

Me or my children wasn’t allowed mobile phones but what the children did have was laptops. The night I was pushed into the bedroom was the night my daughter searched for help.

She typed abuse and how to get away into her laptop and she found something she liked and she believed it would set us free.

She sent a message to the page she found and thankfully someone responded.

My daughter was asked questions and she was listened to, and then she followed step by step instructions from a lady she had never met but she tells me she trusted this lady and thank god she did. The Lockdown was the worst experience of our life’s and we had no where to go, no way of finding help or safety, until this lady saved us.

Francine you made this possible you have done this. You made sure we were safe and made sure we will stay safe. You have set us free.

I will never forget what you have done for me and my children.

Forever you are our Hero.

Debbie (Survivor)

Next storyYasmin’s story. 

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