‘Mama, where are we going?’ My heart raced as I tried to quietly get his shoes. And then I heard the noise I was terrified of hearing. Footsteps coming down the stairs.’ Woman escapes abusive partner, re-marries ‘wonderful, loving’ man

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“When I was 16 years old, I moved out of my mother’s house, five hours away. I moved to a city where the only person I knew was my sister and a couple of her friends, who were siblings. They seemed like a nice family. They lived not too far away from us, so it gave us a chance to socialize. Among that group of siblings were three sisters and one brother. I remember my sister, as well as the three sisters in this family, telling me how I should date the brother and that he really liked me. They all said he was such a nice guy and would treat me like gold. Of course, my sister couldn’t have known how untrue that was. I doubt his sisters knew, either.

I wasn’t physically attracted to him, but I decided to give him a chance. Besides, maybe I would fall in love with him once I got to know him better. Who doesn’t want to be treated like gold?

At the beginning of our relationship, I remember him being quiet and shy. He seemed a little bit insecure, but I assumed that was because I was his first real girlfriend. Back then, he was known for his smile and I must admit, he did smile a lot in the beginning! As time moved forward, I started to notice some changes in his behavior. Being 16 years old, I had no idea these changes were red flags. That I should have ran as quickly as I could.

I remember starting a job at a call center and he didn’t like that. I became acquaintances with one of the guys at work. He became so jealous of this person who I barely even knew and began making accusations that I was cheating on him. It was absurd because at the time, that hadn’t even crossed my mind. I remember one day during my break, I went outside and there here was. My boyfriend.

Some people might think that’s sweet, that he came to meet me on my break, but it was not sweet. He had showed up at my work to check on me, to make sure I wasn’t talking to any guys. He also showed up sporting bandages on his wrists. I am now aware that this was for control and manipulation. There were times when he would follow me home from work, hiding behind bushes, to make sure he could see if I was alone and if I went home, or went somewhere else.

Shortly after this behavior started, my sister decided she was moving back to our home city and I had to make a decision on whether to stay for my partner, or go back home with my sister. I decided to stay. If I had made that one choice differently, my life would have been vastly different.

Once my sister left, I moved in with him and his family. It was only a matter of months before I got pregnant. Even though I was young, I was excited to be a mom. I knew it would be hard work, but I was so in love with my baby already and keeping him was the only option that crossed my mind.

Throughout my pregnancy, he became more controlling, but it was such a gradual process. I wasn’t even really aware that it was happening. He started to tell me not to wear makeup because he liked me better without it. He started to tell me that he didn’t like the clothes I wore and suggested I wear baggier clothes. He told me to stop straightening my hair and to gain weight. I lived five hours away from any of my family, so I was already isolated from them. I began to feel dependent on him for everything and was left feeling utterly alone.

During my pregnancy, his mother, who had been fighting breast cancer, was getting progressively worse. All she wanted was to see her grandchild before she died. On August 14, 2003, the day of that massive black out that swept across Ontario, I became a mother. During my labor, I remember him getting angry at me every time I would have a contraction and was in pain. I had to force myself to not make any noise or complain about being in discomfort, so that I could avoid upsetting him in any way. Once my son was brought into this world, my life changed forever. He was the most beautiful boy I had ever laid eyes on and although I was scared to be responsible for his life, I was also so grateful to hold my baby boy.

Courtesy of Eileen Thombs

A month after my son was born, his mother’s battle with cancer ended and she passed away. It was a heartbreaking time for all of us. After the death of his mother, my ex partner became more abusive. This was when the rage began. He would lose his patience over anything and everything. I was a sl*t and a wh*re every single day. I was a liar and a cheater, no matter what I did. If I wanted to go to the store, I would have to bring one of his sisters along. If I wanted to work or wanted to go to school, I was doing it so that I could meet other men. The control he asserted over me grew as time went on. I became so depressed and so alone, I didn’t know what to do. I was stuck in a city away from everyone I knew and loved and nobody even knew what was going on. I didn’t think I would ever escape him or the prison he was forcing me to live in.

When my son was 13 months old, my uncle had set up jobs for both my partner at the time and his brother in law, back in my home city. This was the shining glimmer of hope that maybe I would be able to move back home, be close to my family, and escape.

Courtesy of Eileen Thombs

We ended up making the move back to my home city and that was one of the most relieving moments of my life. Once we moved back to my city, him and his brother in law got fired for missing so much time. He was never able to get work and keep it. I think now it was because he would rather stay home all day and smoke weed and play video games, while keeping an eye on me. Even though I thought moving back to a city I knew and loved would make things better for me, this was not the case.

During this time, he would demand sex from me. I had built up so much resentment and hatred towards him, that the very thought of having sex with him made me physically ill. When I would not have sex with him, I would be punished. I would sit in the living room the next day with my son and when I would hear him get out of bed at 4:00 – 5:00 p.m., my heart would race and I would start to feel sick to my stomach. I would grab my son and make him sit on my lap so that his dad would not come down and take his anger out on him.

Courtesy of Eileen Thombs

He would usually wake up, call me a wh*re and a sl*t and tell me he was going to kill me, throw anything that was in his way, then proceed downstairs to beat his dog for making noise. The amount of times he would force me to have sex with him were endless and every single time he forced himself on me, I would bawl and cover my eyes, beg him to hurry up. I was raped on a regular basis by someone who was supposed to love me.

I would usually escape his advances by going to bed with my son at 8:00 p.m. and pretending to fall asleep in my son’s bed. I would hear him come into the room and my heart would race, not knowing what he was going to say or do to me. He began pinning me against walls and against the bed, grabbing me by the arms, and throwing me around. I remember once lying in bed with my son, while 8 months pregnant with our second child. He came into the room angry at me, and demanded I remove the dresser from the bedroom because it was in his way. When I said no, he picked up the dresser, threw it at me and my son, and I had to lie over top of my son to prevent it from crushing him. He then proceeded to throw it down the stairs.

Another time, I went to a prenatal appointment for our second child. While I was in the doctor’s office, he called the phone. I picked it up and he began yelling at me saying, ‘Where are you? Are you at the doctor’s office f***ing everyone there, you f***ing sl*t?” There I was, 8 months pregnant with this man’s child and the doctor is sitting there, listening to him calling me these names. Pregnant with a child who was conceived through rape. (I am so thankful for her, though. She is my heart and soul). This kind of behavior became a daily occurrence and I contemplated suicide. The only thing that kept me going was my son and, eventually, my daughter.

Courtesy of Eileen Thombs

When I became pregnant with our daughter, I decided that I didn’t care what he said or did anymore, I was going to better my own life and this meant going back to school. He was NOT happy about this decision, but I honestly didn’t care anymore. I had learned that he was going to abuse me whether I was in school or whether I was sitting at home. I decided to go to a school for young mothers and get my GED. This turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life. My teacher was an amazing young woman and we quickly became close. Once I got to know her and my other classmates better, I began to disclose information about what was happening at home.

Up until that point, everyone had assumed I was in a healthy, happy relationship. My teacher at that time decided she was going to help me leave him. She had showed faith in me like nobody else ever had. One day, I arrived at school and a woman called me into her office. She worked with an organization that helps people to leave abusive relationships and get back on their feet. She told me she was there to help me and they had found an apartment for me to look at. I went into full blown panic mode. The thought of leaving him was terrifying! After all, he told me daily that if I ever tried to leave him, he would kill me and I truly believed he would.

I also knew that this might be the only opportunity to leave, and so I agreed to view the apartment. My teacher and this woman took me to view this apartment and it was so nice. It was small and it wasn’t that fancy, but it was clean and it was away from the prison I was living in. I remember standing in the lobby, trying to decide if I was brave enough to sign the lease or not. I looked out the windows and saw a park right across the street and I started to imagine taking my kids there and pushing them on the swings, watching them go down the slide. This seems like a normal parental activity, but it was one that I was forbidden to do, because I would be ‘secretly meeting other men at the park and cheating on my partner’.

Courtesy of Eileen Thombs

I began to envision my life with my babies, without him. Even thinking about that moment now, brings tears to my eyes. That was the moment that changed my life forever! I decided that day to sign the lease. I remember my teacher saying to me, ‘We have helped you in every way we can. Now, you have to find a way to leave.’ That was a horrible feeling to have to live with. I had to figure out how to leave this man who basically kept me on a leash and wouldn’t let me out of his sight. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but I was determined to find my strength.

The next time we got into a big fight, I told him I was leaving him. I don’t think he truly believed I would have the guts to actually go. He said to me, ‘You’re leaving? Okay then, get the fuck out.’ I was already holding my daughter in my arms and I briskly walked down the stairs and called my son quietly to the front door. My heart was racing as I was trying to quietly get his shoes and coat on, without his dad hearing me. He kept asking me, ‘Mommy, where are we going? Mom, where are we going? Mama, are where are we going?’ and his voice progressively got louder each time he asked.

I was in such a state of panic trying to get my kids out of there before he came downstairs. And then I heard it. The noise I was terrified of hearing. His footsteps coming down the stairs. I knew I didn’t have any time left and I just had to get out ASAP. I heard him say something to his sister along the lines of, ‘This c*** is leaving me.’

I opened the front door and closed it behind me. It was the middle of January in Ontario, Canada. I had my son with his shoes but no coat, myself with no coat, and my 6-month-old daughter with nothing but a sleeper and a blanket. I stood on that step for a second, not knowing where to go and I knew he would come after me once he realized I had left, so I made a quick decision and knocked on the next-door neighbor’s door. Lucky for me, they were so kind and let me in. They told me they had contemplated calling police on him many times, because all they ever heard through the walls (townhouses) was him screaming at me and the kids.

They let me use their phone. First, I called my dad’s house and my stepmom picked up. I told her I had just left him, that he had been abusing me for years, and asked if they could come pick me up until I figured out what to do. Her response was, ‘Can you call us back after? We are just eating dinner.’

Next, I called my mom who lived 2.5 hours away and asked her to come get me and she said yes. I knew I had to get out of that area before he found me, so I called the school that I attended. They paid for a cab to come and get me and my kids and take me there until my mom arrived. When I got there, they gave me bottles, diapers, a stroller to use, blankets, baby clothes, clothes for my son, food, wipes, and many other items. They stayed there with me until my mom arrived. Once my mom arrived, I began to disclose that I had been abused.

The crazy thing is, up until that moment in time, I didn’t truly understand I was being abused. I didn’t know that abuse isn’t just punching and hitting, but that it’s sexual assault and rape, control and manipulation, isolation, financial control, threatening behaviors, restraining someone, etc. It took me years to realize what a tremendous amount of abuse I suffered at his hands.

It is only now, 18 years later, that I am dealing with the after effects of the abuse I suffered. To this day, I am unable to be intimate with my wonderful, loving partner, without feeling like I am being raped. I have slowly begun to rebuild my self esteem and make a better life for myself. As for him – I barely see him now. He is still heavily involved in my children’s lives, but luckily for me, I can communicate with his sisters if I need to and my children are old enough to communicate with me, without needing a third party.

Courtesy of Eileen Thombs
Courtesy of Eileen Thombs

It has been a long road of recovery for me. I am forever changed and will never be the same person I was before he came into my life. But I look at my kids and I am filled with so much love. They are the silver linings that came out of the prison I was in for four years.

Courtesy of Eileen Thombs
Courtesy of Eileen Thombs
Courtesy of Eileen Thombs

They are my pride and joy and although I will never be thankful for the abuse I have suffered, I will always be thankful for my children, because they are the light of my life.”

Courtesy of Eileen Thombs

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Eileen Thombs of Ontario, Canada. You can follow her journey on Facebook and Instagram. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

Read more powerful stories from survivors:

‘This is how her ‘boyfriend’ shows her he loves her. He is on the run. Her children are in CPS custody. Our family is devastated.’

‘He forced me to the gym because he didn’t want me to get fat. I assumed it was normal. I was sure I could change him.’ Survivor’s eye-opening recount of abusive relationship with ‘older, amazing’ man

‘He proposed in a big, elaborate way in front of my family. I was terrified. I didn’t know how or when, but I knew my life was over. I had to make my move.’ Woman escapes after decade-long abuse

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