'My happiness is the best revenge' - Ipswich mum's triumph over domestic abuse
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An Ipswich mum who faced nearly 30 years of abuse at the hands of an ex-partner has spoken of the fight to regain her freedom and how "happiness is the best revenge".
The woman who was just 17 when she met her partner described how over the course of 27 years she was cut off from her family.
She said the unsettling behaviour was minor at first beginning with questions about how she knew people and being encouraged to leave her job.
Now 48, she said: "He was concerned with the hours I was working.
"I thought his controlling behaviour was romantic and thought he really cared.
"You make excuses for the behaviour and think he's just like that."
Pregnancy and moving in together came soon after and this was when the abuser's "emotional blackmail and violence" got serious.
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"I was a feisty, independent teenager," she said. "These men see this behaviour as a challenge.
"The physical abuse was quite bad. He had an alcohol problem as did his father."
The mother-of-two said she felt ashamed but did not feel like she could turn to anyone for help.
She said: "He had in his mind I was going leave him all the time.
"Some of the violence was quite horrific. He pushed me down the stairs and hit me in the face."
The injuries she sustained were in places that could be hidden, with one trauma she sustained affecting her walking.
The violence was accompanied by her abuser being overly kind.
"When he was good he was very good and then the bad cycle would begin again," she said.
Every part of her life was soon under his control. When she went to drop off the kids at school, he would question what she was wearing.
And then he made her change her benefits to a joint account where she had to account to him for every payment.
"Bills in my name were not paid," she said. "I ended up in a lot of debt.
"I was so frightened I would bang on the wall to my daughters for them to get up. He would hear them and the violence would pause.
"It was horrendous."
The abuser would not let her go to a doctor or the hospital, even when she needed stitches.
In 2017 and after 27 years of having her entire self torn away, it was the stories of other women that made her plan her escape.
Kerri McAuley was murdered by her partner Joe Storey in Norwich in January 2017, and the Ipswich woman who was living in Norfolk at the time worried she could be next.
She described a time he took her to the place a prostitute had been murdered.
"It just came to a head," she said. "The abuse was more intense than ever and the breaks in between less."
She planned to leave and it was when the abuser was out of the house that she went to the council and was placed in emergency accommodation in Lowestoft.
"I was so scared to go and ask for a spoon or a fork there," she said. "I rang the woman at the council and said I just don't think I can do it.
"I felt really unsafe."
She was brought to Lighthouse's women's refuge in Ipswich and this is where everything changed.
It was Christmas and they had wrapped up toiletries and the clothing she needed in present parcels.
"I believed and they never doubted what I was saying was true," she added. "They teach you about the perpetrator.
"There were so many women all different backgrounds and the behavior was so common.
"When you're free it's kinds of like you don't know what to do. These things stay with you."
Now, she works within adult learning and has a place of her own in Ipswich but is reluctant to report it to the police.
"My happiness now is the best revenge," she said; "It's the two-finger salute."
She was also able to see her father before he died of dementia, has proud daughters and a sister who now knows what she went through.
"I like making arts and crafts and cakes and having my own home," she said.
When her ex-partner sent her a text saying he needed her back so she could cut his toenails, she had it framed.
"I look at it and I know I've made the right decision," she added.
Suffolk Domestic Abuse Helpline, is free, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year. The phone number for this service is 0800 977 5690 and the website is www.suffolkdahelpline.org.uk.