I’m in control now
Sam* hadn’t heard of controlling and coercive behaviour until she was told to Google the phrase.
Reading up on the definition, it felt like it was describing her own relationship. “I realised then that he had been doing it from the start,” she explains.
“I knew I was done, I knew I had to leave the relationship, but I didn’t want to lose our home.” After living in fear for ten years Sam was finally able to end her relationship and keep her home, with the support and encouragement from her housing officer and the Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB) team.
The controlling behaviours had slowly got worse over the years and Sam had not noticed what was happening until it was almost too late. “He was in control of the family budget, he controlled my use of electricity, turning off the lights and TV. If he saw me chatting to a guy, he’d accuse me of having an affair.
“I ended up changing how I did things to try and keep him happy, to stop the accusations. He never outright said I couldn’t go anywhere, but he made me feel that I shouldn’t. It was a drip, drip effect. I was constantly having to justify what I was wearing, always having to justify where I’d been. I ended up driving and drinking soft drinks on nights out, then I’d wake him up when I got home so he knew what time I’d got back. I did all of this just to keep him happy; but whatever I did, it wasn’t good enough.”
The abuse was mostly of a controlling nature, but she does remember him jabbing her, pinning her up against a wall and grabbing her painfully by the wrists. “No one can see what is in your head, what they do to you emotionally.”
“I just put up with it for the security, to know the bills were paid, to keep a roof over my head. I was scared of change and didn’t want to be on my own.
“But I can see now what he was doing. He was trapping me.
“Finally there was no love for him left. He had pecked and pecked at me until there was nothing left.” Once she decided to end the relationship he refused to leave and for weeks they continued to live under the same roof. The couple had a joint tenancy giving them both the legal right to stay.
“Quite a few times I’d wanted to leave, but didn’t. I was always too scared to lose the house. I moved into the spare room and slept on a mattress on the floor.
“He’d throw my stuff down the stairs or in the bin, shout and swear at me, he even threatened to kill himself. Our son saw and heard it all. How do you explain that to a child? He was putting me through so much, in the end I called the police and they arrested him. But I still ended up going back to the same house.
“Eventually he wore me down and one day my Mum helped me to pack up my stuff whilst he was out; we just upped and left and locked the door behind us.
“After we left he locked the house from the inside so I couldn’t get in to get my things, that’s when I finally called my housing officer. I spoke to Iain in the ASB team who told me that they take situations like this very seriously and they came out to see me. They advised that I terminate the tenancy, giving four weeks’ notice. NCHA then took legal action against my ex.
“The day I went to the local council to sign on to the homeless register, Iain called me to say that I could keep the house. I can’t tell you how happy I was.
“I didn’t realise that NCHA would be so supportive. They did everything they could to help me keep my home. They even changed the locks as soon as I’d moved back in to help me feel safe. Iain rang me just recently, to check how I am. It’s really reassuring to know that NCHA are looking out for me and I know I can ask them for help and they will.
“I love it here. I’m so glad I could keep my house. I’ve redecorated in the way I like it. I’m in control now.”
“If anyone is reading this and it sounds familiar, my advice is to get out of there. You’ll be fine. Don’t be scared. I left and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.”
*names have been changed
Full details of help available can be found on our domestic abuse pages
If you’re are in immediate danger, always phone the police on 999