I met a guy in the middle of 2016, he was a single father of two, hard-working, he seemed so charming and loyal, we got on great, within weeks he’d convinced me how great it would be if me and my kids moved in with him.

He had a beautiful home in a lovely area with great schools for the children. I hesitated for a while, but eventually I packed up and moved in with him.

Within 2 months we had our first argument, over the children, he told me to leave, so me and my kids left and went to stay with friends. A few days later all was forgiven and we returned home, this then became a regular pattern, he would lock us out and take my keys and we’d end up with friends.

I found messages to other women in his phone and then he’d say he was working away for days. He wanted selfies of me cooking tea, checking that his animals had been fed at the correct times, he wanted my money because he dealt with all the finances and always said he didn’t have enough.

We eventually sold my car so we could share one, I wasn’t allowed a smart phone, it had to be a basic phone, so if I wanted to access social media, or online banking I had to do it on his laptop. We would argue about children and money all of the time, with him telling me I didn’t know how to parent and that it was my fault there was never any money, or it was my fault he was always tired.

I got a part time job, because he said I was lazy and sponging off him, I managed to do a few shifts but he made sure that as soon as I got paid I handed the money over to him.

Things just got worse and worse resulting in my 2 yr old having a lock on the outside of his bedroom door because he wasn’t sleeping through, he wasn’t allowed out of his room from 7pm till 7am. He would start arguments with my eldest son, throwing him out with no shoes on, so my son would walk to my work crying, he kicked him in the chest, out of the front door and then locked it, or he’d text me demanding I went home!

Now and again he would run me a bath, or surprise me with a nice dinner, by this time I hardly spoke or saw any of my friends or family. He would throw us out for any little thing, he would smash my phone up, he would often get us in the car and then throw us out at the side of the road and I’d have to walk home with only the clothes on our backs. He would ignore me for days, I would borrow people’s phones to beg him to let us in.

By the beginning of 2017 me and the kids ended up in a refuge, I’d never heard of these places and couldn’t understand what the Support Workers were telling me about domestic abuse, he hadn’t physically hit me? Maybe it was my fault we’d argued?

I stayed for 2 nights then returned home, I was exhausted, weak and totally dependent on him. That week was one of the worst we’d had, he took all the keys and left us in the house, telling me people were turning up at 2am. I had to barricade me and the children in one room.

A few days later Social Services came out to see me, as he’d threatened to kill me using hand gestures, the police were called. I could see the evil in his eyes.

They decided it was best that me and the children left, a few days later we were on a train with only a suit case, travelling 5 hours away, to stay at a new refuge out of the area, we stayed there for 2 months, before moving another hour away to our new home in Bradford.

When I got to my new home in Bradford, I was referred to BWA’s Resettlement service and had a Support Worker, she helped me with practical things, like helping to sort my benefits out and helping to get security locks on my doors. But she also listened to me and let me talk about how I was feeling. Through our conversations I started to learn about domestic abuse, how it is still abuse even if it isn’t physical. It was all a lot to take in and process, part of me still couldn’t believe this had happened to me.

As we were getting settled into our new home, someone anonymous started to message on social media, after a week of messaging, my ex-partner admitted it was him. He told me he’d been suffering with mental health and that he was seeking professional help, I was still totally under his spell and couldn’t see that he just wanted the control back that he had lost, he had no idea where we were but it wasn’t long until I gave in and we met up.

It was like meeting the guy I first fell for, he was great with me and the children, he’d visit me quite often, he got me a new smart phone, made a big deal for mine and my son’s birthday. I was still being supported by my Support Worker but felt much more in control because he’d changed and I was stronger and understood about abuse.

I started to make plans to move back with him, but by the end of 2017 I fell pregnant. By this time the mask had started slipping, he was going back to his old ways. I could slowly start to see he hadn’t changed. I decided that moving beck with him wouldn’t be a good idea.

Once he knew this, his text messages changed, he threatened to take my baby away once it was born, said I would never survive without him. I then then found out he had another woman living with him. I just wanted to be left alone but he continue to harass me via social media and making false reports to the police. My Support Worker helped me to report these incidents to the police and eventually he went quiet. After speaking to my Support Worker, she reminded me of how far I had come and all of the things that I had learnt about abusive relationships and power and control.

I was becoming stronger and knew going back would be a mistake. I was starting to move on, then one day he appeared out of nowhere, scaring me and my children. I contacted the police and my Support Worker, she came out to see straight away and we talked through what had happened.

The following day, my Support Worker helped me to get legal advice and attended the appointment with me, in the afternoon I was granted a 12 mth Non-Molestation Order against him. I felt so relieved. With the support, advice and guidance received from my Support Worker, me and my children started building our lives back up and I gave birth to a healthy baby.

My Support Worker organised specialist counselling for my children because they’ve been through so much. Throughout my journey, my Support Worker never told me what to do, she listened, advised me and helped me to process what was happening and look at different ways of seeing things, with her support she helped me to make healthy choices for myself. She never put any pressure on me to leave or not go back but let me make my own choices in my own time.

I now go to the BWA Weekly Support Group Drop In, which really helps me, speaking to other women and sharing our experiences, the staff are great, so supportive and always happy to help.

We finally feel free and happy and my aim for the future is to help other survivors, and let them know they’re not alone.