Gemma

This story was shared with us through our Every Story Matters project. Gemma is not her real name.

My parents severely neglected me, emotionally abused me and physically hurt me from around 18 months old. This included being hit with items like shoes and dragged down the stairs by my hair. My dad broke my arm twice.  

My first long term intimate partner was very abusive, he raped me, hit me, tried to kill me. He strangled me with a wire and then threw me against a wall when I was pregnant with his child. After she was born it continued and he started on her too.  

Eventually, when she was 10 months old I tried to run but he clocked on to my plan and stopped it. One day when he went out I locked the door from the inside so he couldn't get back in with his keys. He physically kicked the door down, beat me and knocked our baby unconscious. I called the police and they didn't come out until the next day - by which time he had fled. When they came, they sent a single officer who took brief notes and advised me to seek a custody arrangement.  

After this we moved 250 miles away to safety although we spent those years homeless (I would have gone into a women's shelter, but I was 18 and did not know they existed then). When we moved back to our old area three years later, under the impression that it would then be safe, he tracked us down and found us within three months.  

The last incident we had with him was when he turned up at my daughter’s new school, drunk and with the intention of taking her. The school supported me in taking him to court for a non-molestation order and we have been safe since. 

While living together, he claimed benefits in my name without my consent or knowledge (forging my signature etc on the forms). He kept all the money from me and did not share his wages. At the time I was young, 17/18 and unable to work because of a lack of childcare and so I relied solely on him to feed us, keep a roof over our heads etc. This was partly why I stayed for so long, because I had no idea how not to. When he eventually left, he left no money and then a year later I got a letter from HMRC stating I owed over £5,000 in overpayments. When I called to ask why, they told me that I'd been claiming for two years, which was not true. I am currently still repaying that debt. 

I don't feel safe because my house is easy to break into and I worry every day that he will find us. I also fear for my child's future, in case he tries to reach out or find her when she is older. I could not ever have another live-in partner because I do not know if it will happen again or not, there's never a guarantee.