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We provide advice to parents, grandparents, relatives, friends and kinship carers who are involved with children’s services in England or need their help. We can help you understand processes and options when social workers or courts are making decisions about your child’s welfare.

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by Clarissa - a young mother

“I was a vulnerable young mum who fell in love with a monster.”

Obviously he never looked like a monster in the beginning. He seemed like the perfect prince, promising that we and my baby, were going to ride off into the sunset. But slowly the abuse crept in like the tide at the beach, the waves started creeping up on me and before I knew it I was drowning in his evilness.

When will the cycle get broken? I watched my mum get beaten up, controlled and manipulated. I watched her destroy her whole life with the wrong type of man, drugs and alcohol. I knew I wanted better for myself and my child, so I have never touched drugs or alcohol and decided to be nothing like her.

Unfortunately, growing up I wasn’t taught true values or self-respect. I already had low self-esteem and lacked confidence by the time we met. On reflection, I was an easy target for someone who wanted to control every aspect of my life and I fell for it. I used to scream I will be nothing like my mother and yet I went on to do exactly what she had done, I failed to protect my child from the monster.

Abuse isn’t as clear cut as some would think. When you’re blindly in love there are things you don’t see until it’s already too late. If someone asked you “What is a healthy relationship?” would you know? They don’t teach ‘how not to end up living with a monster’ in school. Even if they did, would it sink in or make sense?

“Mine, like many abusive relationships, didn’t start with physical abuse, it started with words, small gestures to change things he wasn’t happy with.”

Soon you end up not wearing makeup, not wearing specific clothes, not going shopping, not spending money and not working. You were spending all day, every day, cleaning, cooking, washing, and in the mix of it all becoming completely isolated with no one to turn to and no one to confide in. Feeling, who would even believe me anyway?

He had this charm about him, people just seemed to like him, and he convinced the world he was a “nice” guy, until he stepped foot into those four walls and slammed the door behind him. Everyone thought because I wasn’t contacting them anymore, and removed my Facebook account, I was “happy”. Yet I was spending hours brushing tears from my face! I cried so much I could have filled the bath a hundred times over.

I thought that I would be able to change him, in time the abuse would stop but it just got worse. I could never plan anything because I had to wait until he woke up to see what kind of person he was that day. I would sit next to him with a burning question, but I would rethink it in my head for hours, scared I was going to make him angry.​

“Control, power, isolation, manipulation, coerciveness, these are things that should never be a part of a healthy relationship.”

If you had asked me seven years ago to describe what these words meant I would have had no idea. I was asked at one stage by a social worker if I was in a domestic violence relationship? I had no idea what that even meant but I swore blind that I wasn’t because I was terrified that it was something that could be bad for my baby.

Growing up I had always been blamed for things, so when he said that I was to blame for him putting his fist through the window, I accepted it. When he grabbed me by my throat and pinned me against the wall it was “obviously” my fault. All of the times I was beaten black and blue, I was to blame. Worst of all, when he attacked my baby and left thirty three marks on his body, I took responsibility because I had failed to keep my baby safe, even though at that time, I was terrified that he was going to kill me. That is why I was charged with this offence and he was not.

I can now freely admit that I told so many lies to social services and the courts, not because I wanted to, but because he was always there. The supportive partner, sitting in front of me or beside of me, impressing professionals. I was the only one who had to leave those meetings and court hearings to go home with that monster.

I did try my hardest to split up with him, but even when he left, he kept on coming back. Once, to teach me a lesson, he cleared my whole flat, leaving me with only a futon bed and a broken TV. He got real satisfaction from knowing that by that time, I had no friends or family around, so no one visited and therefore they had no clue what he had done or was capable of doing.

I felt even more trapped when social services removed my first child from me.

“I didn’t feel I had any professionals that I could turn to, no one to help me so I could try to help my child.”

I remember a particular day, I was so determined to try to bring the nightmare to an end. I don’t know how, but I summoned all my courage and persuaded myself that no one could help me unless I was brave enough to say something. So I tried to open up to my social worker. Unfortunately, she cut me off, having already made up her mind about me. She inferred that I was a liar and she couldn’t believe anything that came out of my mouth. I felt so desperately lost and decided that I would not do that again!

There were no boundaries to my body, he used to force himself onto me sexually, usually at the most inappropriate times. I found out I was pregnant by him after my first born was already in care because of him. He insisted that I kept his baby – which made things a hundred times worse. I spent hours in the hospital just to make sure the baby was okay.

The monster never cared about me, my child or the child we had created together. In the end he walked away from his son, never to look back or even to try to ask how he was. He was only ever in it to fuel his ego and to energise his control.

“Looking back, would I do things differently?”

If I had the strength and knowledge that I have now, then I would have made sure he was rotting in a cell. It wasn’t until I moved out of the area where we had lived, that bit by bit I started to find myself and realise the ordeal that I had just come from, the scared little girl wasn’t so scared anymore.

Having a relationship with that man cost me everything, my children, my family, my friends, my home, my job, my confidence, my pride and my self-respect. No woman should ever have to lose her whole world to feed the satisfaction of a controlling man.

I often wonder if someone could have helped me back then?

“If I could go back in time, I would sit on the shoulder of my younger self and scream at her to tell the world the truth, tell everyone what was happening to her behind closed doors.”

If a social worker or another professional had come into my life and explained things to me properly, broken things down in a way a young parent could relate to, it could have made such a world of difference. I needed someone to have been transparent and open about the consequences of my choices. I strongly believe that if I knew what I was going to lose, I would have found the strength to leave that negative relationship and protect my children.

Sadly, back then I didn’t have someone I could trust enough to be honest to, I didn’t feel capable to reach out to anyone. I believe that I made things so much worse by not being honest. There are so many organisations, like Family Rights Group, that could have supported me and that I may well have contacted, if I had known that they would have listened and believed me.

A healthy relationship doesn’t mean you shouldn’t argue, it means that it’s balanced. You should be able to respect each other and each other’s opinions, be open and honest with each other. A good partner should love you for what you are, no one is perfect. You should never feel afraid to be yourself, if you do then it’s time to seek out the right support!

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