‘He’d call me on my way to work, threatening to change the locks and smash my car.’: Woman details overcoming domestic, financial abuse

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Disclaimer: This story contains details of domestic abuse that may be upsetting to some.

Looking Back On Our Relationship

“When I was 17 years old, I got with my first official boyfriend. He was older than me and I felt I was so lucky. During the relationship, I just presumed it was a normal one. There were a lot of arguments and again, I just thought that was typical. Now the relationship is a bit of a blur; it’s been challenging to remember some things before June of 2019.

However, here are some things I do remember. I remember when we first got together, about a month in, he just stopped speaking to me. I did not know the reason and I was so confused and hurt. I would see him on the street and he would blank me. I thought it was going to be the end, before it had already started. But after a week he started to speak to me again. I never got the answer behind why he stopped speaking to me, and he never apologized, but at the time I was just relieved.

I also remember when I got with him he did not have a job, he did not drive, and he was a drug user. I felt sorry for him and thought I could make his life better. So throughout our time together, I aimed to make his life livable. I made him a CV, got him a job, and started to financially help him. When he lost a job, he never really told me the reason why — it was always the employer’s fault. He must have lost around 10 jobs when I was with him. It was so frustrating, again, never knowing the reason why.

I applied for numerous jobs for him and when he got one I felt relieved, but he would soon lose it again. I helped him financially with his rent when he was short and was paying toward driving lessons, for his theory test and his driving test. He failed but passed the second time round. When he did pass, he bought a car, with my help financially, and the cars would always break. He also went through a stage of buying motorbikes which always broke too. It felt like a waste of money, but if I said anything an argument would occur.

I also used to find dating websites on the phone or iPad I bought him. This would really upset me and he would tell me it wasn’t him and must be someone else using his phone. If I got upset, I would never get an apology. It was my fault for looking and accusing him.

I was so determined in life to get a mortgage; it was the one thing I always wanted. So by the age of 22, I got a mortgage… a joint one with him. His credit rating was not great so I helped build it up. I saved all the money I could for a deposit and then we were on the property ladder. My family helped with paying for a new bathroom, new carpet, and all the large appliances. I then paid toward painting and decorating, a new boiler, new electric box, and other things. It was my home I was so proud of.

However, I felt like I was Cinderella at times. He had a job, it was local. I worked 2 hours away. I would leave the house for work just after 6 a.m. and come back around 5-6 p.m. If he was not out with his friends, he would be chilling on the sofa or his Xbox. No dinner would be made and no cleaning would be done; it was left to me. If I left him a to do list, he never did it. If I mentioned anything, again, it would cause an argument and it was my fault.

Seeking Separation

By January 2019, I did not think the relationship was working. I did not want to be a part of it anymore. I was stressed, financially struggling (where he would take a lot of money out of our joint account), and was doing everything. I explained this to him and he promised things would change, to give us another go. So I did. Throughout the whole relationship, I did not realize I was experiencing domestic abuse.

In June 2019, I broke up with my partner. It was ‘amicable’ and we remained living with each other, as it was a 2 bedroom property. In July 2019, he started to become verbally abusive. He would call me when I was on my way to work, threatening to change the locks, smash my car up, and on one occasion, threatened to burn my mum and dad’s house down with them in it. It started to impact not just my personal life but my work life too, as I felt the need to go home in case anything was to happen. I tried to keep things amicable as possible. In August 2019, it got to be too much for me. He wasn’t cleaning up after himself, was making things awkward, and was verbally abusive. I decided to leave. I packed a bag and moved back home to my parents’ house.

Once that happened, things started to settle down. I would go there once or twice a week to get my mail and update him on anything to do with the bills, as all the mortgage and bills were coming out of my personal bank account. He would send me money each week, but it started to show it wasn’t enough to cover his half. He used to use my car daily. I bought a car in December 2018 and let him use it every day, as he needed it for work. He got himself a car and I was able to take mine back. But during the split his car kept on breaking down. He would ask to borrow mine and I would say, ‘On the condition you clean up the property so we can put it on the market.’ He never did.

The Night I’ll Never Forget

On Friday, October 11th, he asked to borrow the car again for work. Enough was enough and I decided to have a chat with him about it. I drove round there in the evening, in my pjs, to say he could no longer borrow the car and he needed to clean up so we could sell the property and move on with our lives. He tried to get me to give him the car and said he would pay me for the next 2 years, as it was on a bank loan. This wasn’t an option for me and the answer was no.

He owed me around $1,000 at this time due to not paying the correct amount for bills and when I mentioned this to him, his mood changed. He started verbally abusing me about my looks, how he never liked me, how he was glad to be rid of me, and how he was not letting me sell the property. I didn’t respond. I was in shock but not surprised as I was used to the verbal abuse. I went to leave and he pushed me back with force, causing me to fall to the floor and get bruising to my arm. He then stood over me while I was on the floor, screaming at me and trying to take the car key from me.

I was screaming for help, as I lived in a small block of apartments, but no one came. I was able to reach for my phone and call the police, and he ran off. Once I had spoken to the police, I sat on the floor and couldn’t move. It took the police 45 minutes to come, and three men turned up filming me with body cameras. It was very overwhelming. I had to give them a statement and I had to repeat things over and over again — small things like my date of birth — which became unbearable. All I wanted to do was get out of the apartment and be at home. I remember sitting on the sofa, staring at my front door that was open, praying he wouldn’t come back. Once the statement was complete, which took around 2 hours, I was able to go home. This was the same day I had just accepted a job offer. It’s a day that will now stay with me for the rest of my life.

It’s very difficult to know what to do when you are in that situation. Domestic abuse isn’t spoken about a lot and people like the police/court presume you know what you are doing when you don’t. It’s overwhelming and scary. The police were still trying to arrest my ex partner, and at the time, I was receiving victim support through the police and had been assigned a support worker through a domestic help line. I was also receiving private counseling and had been put on antidepressants.

Working Through Court Orders

When I had got more information on my situation, I went with my support worker to court as an emergency case to get a non-molestation order so he couldn’t come anywhere near me. I was penalized by the court system for not coming the day after my attack and leaving it nearly a month later. However, she granted me a 6 month non-molestation order. I had requested an occupation order so I could live in my apartment, but I had to await another court hearing in December with my ex partner present. I would be behind a screen and protected. When you get a non-molestation order you have to pay a bailiff to deliver it. My bailiff tried on numerous occasions and my ex partner refused to take it. I had to go back to court for a judge to grant the non-molestation order be sent via email.

This all happened the week before I was to join my new role. I was at my lowest and was really struggling. My old work department was aware of the situation. I felt I had to tell my current manager what was going on as I had a lot of police visits and court hearings coming up. She did not want to know and told me to not burden people with my problems. I built up the courage to call my new manager, who I didn’t know. I sobbed through the phone, someone who hardly knew me I had to tell my story to. At this stage I had repeated my story so many times to so many different people it was draining. That manger was a massive support and got everything put in place for me for my arrival. It was a great reassurance and to this day, I cannot thank them enough.

My first week in my new role was great work wise, but unfortunately not personally. I had been granted permission for my bailiff to email the non-molestation order and he did so on a Wednesday evening. On Thursday, I was at work and I received a Facebook message on my phone. It was from a friend and it was a screenshot of my non-molestation order posted onto social media. It had all my personal details and comments from his family and friends calling me a liar, calling me horrible names, and saying I should kill myself.

My anxiety went into overdrive and I couldn’t cope. I went home and contacted the police, as it was a breach. The next day, I came back to work and around midday I got a call from the police he had handed himself in for the assault. I let them know again of the breach as this particular police officer hadn’t been told. I had to leave work and go all the way to Essex police station and give a statement. My ex partner was released on bail not guilty for assault due to not enough evidence, but for further investigation on the breach. At this time, I was just relieved he was getting done for something. It was upsetting there wasn’t enough evidence for the assault, as no one was there to witness, however I just wanted the ordeal to be over.

A couple of weeks passed and I was back in court in relation to the non-molestation order and the occupation order. It was the first time I had seen my ex partner since the attack. Even though I was behind a screen, to get into court I had to walk directly past him. Once he started to call me a liar. He said I had fabricated the truth and my statements didn’t add up. The hearing was adjourned for a final hearing in April. I was devastated. Even though he had breached his non-molestation order, it didn’t matter and I felt like the courts didn’t care.

My ex tried to get back at me for putting him through this in many ways. He hacked all my social media accounts and started stalking me. He used my laptop to print screen photos, and with proof I went to the police. The police told me to shut down my social media and said they couldn’t charge him. I was blamed and basically told it was my fault. I felt at the time maybe it was, but now I know it wasn’t. They agreed to keep the peace they would take me to my apartment to retrieve the laptop and any other belongings I wanted. I remember I took a friend with me and I was so nervous. I didn’t want to see him. Fortunately, he wasn’t there and I was able to get everything back. It broke my heart to see my apartment, that myself and my family had spent thousands of dollars on doing up, was now ruined. He had trashed the apartment and wasn’t cleaning up even though he was still living in it.

Waiting For The Bank To Repossess

It came to 2020 and I had instructed a solicitor to try and get the sale of the property moving. By this stage, my ex was paying me monthly, but when he felt like it, and he owed me over $2,400. I was still paying all the bills for the property and my solicitor advised me to cancel them. This caused a massive uproar with my ex partner and he demanded all the money back. Again, causing more stress in my life I didn’t need. His court hearing for his breach also came up and he pleaded guilty — receiving a restraining order for 6 months, 100 hours community service, and 2 fines. I didn’t have to go to court as he pleaded guilty, and it was a massive weight off my shoulders. However, he then stopped paying for the mortgage all together.

My solicitor and I tried many ways to get my ex partner to sell the property. I tried mediation, which I wasn’t eligible for due to domestic violence. I agreed to give him half the profit. I then offered to do all the work and give him half. And in the end, I offered to give him the whole profit when the sale was finished, which he still refused. I was paying in full and by May 2020 I couldn’t do it anymore and applied for a holiday payment. He started to pay in June and July, which my solicitor advised him I had a holiday payment. He then started to become abusive and controlling, and as my solicitor said, ‘bullying’ through letters and threatening me. I had to come to the decision to stop paying the mortgage. This was really difficult for me working in the financial sector, but I had no choice. I did not want to be tied down to him anymore and have him try to control every aspect of my life.

I wanted to be free and this was the only option. He is still living in this property, not paying, and my missed payments made me go into default with a bad credit rating. It isn’t fair but it’s the only way I can get him out of my life for good. I am currently experiencing what they call post separation abuse, financial abuse, and economic abuse. At the moment, I have no other options and have to live with this. Throughout this whole ordeal, I have had many down days. I have been unable to leave my house on my own. The only time I do is to go to my car, and I lock it as soon as I enter it. I haven’t gone around the area like I would to the shops, to the pub, or any restaurants I loved to do before.

Every time I would get the train to work in the morning, I’d cry as I’d be scared to bump into him, his family, or anyone he knew. I have had multiple counselors and sessions along with being on and off medication. My brain has now blocked the whole past relationship out and I can’t remember barely anything from the 7 years we were together. Apparently this is normal. I still have nightmares about the ordeal and most days I am running on next to no sleep. From educating myself I realized I was experiencing domestic abuse for the whole 7 years of the relationship. I thought my relationship was normal, but sadly it wasn’t.

Once I stopped paying the mortgage, I started to get multiple calls from the mortgage company demanding I pay. They knew my situation; I called them weekly with updates and to be kept in the loop. When they called, they made me retell my story rather than looking at the notes on my account and I would cry. In December 2020, I received the last letter I ever got from my ex partner through my solicitor. The letter was asking me to start paying the mortgage in full as he was trying to finance a car and I would ruin his credit scoring. It is safe to say, I did not respond.

Finally the bank moved me to a specialized support team, but the support was lacking. I was told my property was being taken to court, the outcome I wanted. I called week after week and was told it was happening, to then find out it was on hold due to covid. I was so upset, given false hope. I made a complaint. I then waited patiently until in January 2022 it was taken to court and the bank was granted a repossession order. The bank knew I wanted my property repossessed and the reason behind it; they had all the paperwork. In early June 2022, I received a call asking if I knew my property was in repossession and if I was going to pay the debt in full. Another mistake call made by the bank, not reading the notes and making me re-tell my story. Safe to say, I made another complaint.

I am proud to say, at the end of June 2022, my property was repossessed. The feeling I got when this happened was absolutely amazing. I felt so many different emotions — sad, anxious, happy, etc. It feels like the end of an awful situation for me. Of course, the property has to be sold and there might be debt, but at this stage, I’ve taken back control and my life. I’ve started to rebuild myself and this is how I did it:

Fighting For Change In The Financial Sector

In February 2021, I decided I wanted to see change in banks. Banks had a lack of understanding, empathy, and systems in place to help people like myself who experience domestic abuse. So I entered a competition called Young Banker of the Year Worldwide 2021. I came up with the idea of a Fairer Financial Future for Sufferers and Survivors of Domestic Abuse. I did not think I would get anywhere in the competition; it was worldwide and I lacked confidence and had limiting beliefs. However, I won the competition in October 2021, being the first UK female to win! Since then, I have brought change to the financial sector worldwide. I have done talks, blogs, podcasts, etc. More of my work can be found on my LinkedIn profile, Instagram, and Twitter.

I can now leave the house on my own. I no longer live in fear and I feel free. I share my experience every day to educate people and to give a voice to those have suffered or survived domestic abuse. I will continue to fight until change is brought into place.”

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by a woman who wishes to remain anonymous. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

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