‘I woke up to his friend’s girlfriend dragging me across the garden, screaming. But why? Whatever she’d seen had terrified her.’: Woman escapes abuser to finally marry ‘amazing man’

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“My life has always been full of ups and downs. Never really knowing where I fitted in, until one day, I met the most amazing man. A man who made me feel loved, grounded, and most of all special. After what seemed like a lifetime of heartbreak with ex-partners – including the death of my first boyfriend when I was only 18 and a devastating ectopic pregnancy at the age of 24, I felt like my life was finally fitting into place.

Courtesy of Katie Walker

I had shut myself off emotionally, seeing all my friends around me settling down, starting families, living these seemingly perfect lives. I convinced myself that this wasn’t the life I wanted, but really inside I was crumbling, oozing with jealousy for the stable life I craved so badly. So when this amazing man came along and swept me off my feet I felt like all my Christmases had come at once… it was finally my turn.

Looking back it was scary how easy it was to get lost in the relationship. My ex was so focused on us…on me. He said all the right things, that he really loved me, that he wanted the same things in life as I did. It felt natural when he asked me to move in after a few weeks it really seemed like the right thing to do, my alarm bells never rang.

Looking back, I was so wrapped up in this perfect relationship I had no idea of what was really going on around me. He became depressed and angry. He didn’t want me to see my family, he started to say things like – ‘Your mum doesn’t like me, how could you want to spend time with someone who doesn’t like me?!’ I would feel guilty and I knew how much my amazing boyfriend loved me so why would he lie to me?

Slowly, I found myself not talking to friends or family, it was just easier that way, it made him happy. And to be honest I didn’t even notice, I was blissfully building my own little family.

But then something in him really changed, the amazing man I met starting criticizing everything I did. My cleaning, my driving, my cooking, it felt like I was never good enough for him. I’ve always been a strong person but his words really cut me up inside. I didn’t realise at the time how he was stripping away my self-worth, my strength of character, ingraining himself into my head. But then he would cry, cry and apologise. He promised me he would go to the doctors and get some help and change for me, I knew how much he loved me so I believed him. I really thought I could help him get back to the person he was and we could have our happy ever after.

But the control grew worse every day and I started to feel trapped.  I threatened to leave, but it was only ever a threat, I wanted him to realise what he was doing to us but his reply was if I ever left him he would kill himself.

I wanted to leave for a few days, I just wanted him to realise how he was making me feel.  But what would happen? Would he really kill himself? He was depressed and not thinking straight, and I knew how much he loved me so I really believed him and I just couldn’t have that on my conscience so I stayed.

Until one day I went to see my Nan without his permission, he locked me out the flat for 3 days. 

I had nowhere to go. No one to really talk to. No one to tell how bad it had gotten.

Finally, I was allowed back into the flat. I found that he had trashed the place. All my belongings were ruined, smashed up. I knew this couldn’t continue anymore so I moved out.

I told him I just wanted some space. I got my own house and things seemed better for a while. It appeared to have shocked him into going back to the person I met.

He started working and paying the rent on my house, paying the bills and buying me gifts, taking me on days out and for nice meals. He was trying so hard to get me back and I was flattered by his efforts. Then he invited me to his works’ day out.

It was family day at Chester races. The sun was beaming and we were having such a good time, all sat on the grass drinking and laughing. I really felt like we were in a good place. I had never met his work friends before so this was a huge step forward in our relationship.

The day ended and he asked me if I wanted to get the train back to Liverpool and meet his friends in town? I couldn’t believe it; I had never met any of his friends and now he was introducing me to everyone- this day couldn’t have got any better!

We traveled the hour journey back to Liverpool and talked about the day. I felt like he was a completely changed person… I was wrong. 

We met his friends in town and he started acting really strange. It was like he was drunk and uncontrollable but I knew we hadn’t drunk that much. He began trying to fight with everyone.

I was worried about him, so I mentioned to his best friend and his girlfriend we should get a taxi back to mine. It was early, only around 7 pm, so there was lots of time for him to calm down and we could carry on our perfect night.

Only he didn’t calm down. We got back to mine and he started punching holes in the walls. I locked us in the house as I didn’t want him to cause trouble with the neighbours. I didn’t feel threatened at the time- out of all the nasty things he had said to me he had never laid a finger on me. Plus his friends were there so I felt worried but ultimately safe.

I was sat in the garden when I heard his friend telling him to calm down as he was scaring us.

The next thing I knew he came storming out into the garden and he was screaming at me ‘Oh am I scaring you?!’ Then he punched me off my chair- It all happened so quickly, I was dazed and confused. I can remember just thinking ‘Just don’t look at him.’

Lying in that soil and grass with my head facing down is a memory that is permanently etched into my brain, a smell I will never ever forget. 

He was standing over me screaming and I lay there thinking if I just stay still, he will stop. But he didn’t.

I’ve never been so scared in my life. I never thought I would react the way I did to a man hitting me but something took over my body and I froze.

I have very little memory of what happened next. I woke up to his friend’s girlfriend dragging me across the garden. She was screaming, it was such a terrifying scream. But why? I didn’t understand what had happened? But whatever she had seen had terrified her. 

She dragged me to the front door and I can remember feeling panicked. Where was the key? We were locked in, slipping on the blood pouring from my face on the laminate floor. Still, in a daze, I found the key and ran to my neighbour’s house.

The police came- another neighbour had heard the screams and called them.

They took me back into the house and asked me what had happened. But I didn’t really know- so I lied. I told them I didn’t know who had done it, that it was a fight that broke out. But they were not stupid, they had arrested my boyfriend running down the road and found a letter with his name on at my house. Still, I wanted to protect him so I said nothing.

I went to the hospital and thought they would maybe tell me I had a broken nose and I could go home. 4 a.m. came and went, after a few x-rays the results came in, both my eye sockets were shattered, my cheekbones shattered, broken jaw, broken nose, fractured skull, a puncture wound on my side. Panic hit me I was so confused. So I decided to finally call my parents.

Courtesy of Katie Walker

The next few weeks are still a bit of a blur, as the doctors tried to figure out how to put my face back together, I was trying to figure out why this had happened? There were visits from the police wanting me to press charges… but how could I? I needed to speak to him first and find out what had happened. I knew he really loved me so there must have been a reason. I must have done something wrong to cause this.

I made a statement saying he punched and kicked me once. The hospital reports showed otherwise, the doctors said my injuries were like a high-speed car crash with no seat belt, that there was no way I could have got these injuries from just one punch and kick but I still wanted to protect him so I made it sound as good as I could.

He was convicted and sent to jail and as time passed I started to see the relationship for what it really was and I was shocked. I had no idea I was being controlled, but I also didn’t know the signs to look out for.

I tried to rebuild my life but the flashbacks and panic attacks took over. As soon as summer came the smell of fresh cut grass brought all the memories flooding back, paralysing me in fear. I felt hopeless. 

Courtesy of Katie Walker

But then I met an amazing man who was to become my husband. A man who showed me what amazing really meant, what love really is, real love, not the kind full of empty promises and obsession. He helped me when I would wake up screaming from the nightmares. A man who was patient with me when I shut myself off, a man who helped me follows my dreams of opening my own salon.

Courtesy of Katie Walker

And in 2013 after our wedding, I finally did it, with the help of the Prince’s Trust I finally opened my own salon! This should have been the happiest time in my life but the panic attacks continued, so in 2015 I decided to share my story on social media. I needed to take control back of my life, I decided if I could raise awareness and help just one person escape their abuser it would turn a negative day into a positive one.

Shaking as I wrote my story down, and scared of what people would think, I pressed send on my phone. I couldn’t believe the response. Hundreds of messages from men and woman just like me who were struggling too. I needed to do something, so I started offering free pamper services in my salon. I wanted to help improve their confidence and show them their self-worth.  Along with going into schools and colleges to raise awareness, I became a young ambassador for the Prince’s Trust.

For this work, in 2017, I was awarded with a pride of Britain award and a gift of £10,000 from Sir Rod Stewart.

I have now taken helping other survivors to the next level. I am currently setting up a charity called KatieCares. I am renovating the two floors above my salon to provide a confidence-boosting course for other women who are struggling. This will include pampering, relaxation therapy, counselling, and life coaching, legal and financial advice and training and work experience.

I want to show men and woman that you are strong enough to escape, you do deserve more.

I will never be the person I was before because I am now so much stronger and I feel like I am still alive to show others there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

Courtesy of Katie Walker

This story was written by Katie Walker of Liverpool, England. You can follow her on Instagram here. Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our free newsletter for our best stories.

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