“I WAS raped every day for a year but I am no longer a victim, I am a survivor.”
During an exclusive interview, one brave mum-of-two, from Essex, has spoken about her horrific experience in an attempt to save others.
Hers is an inspiring story of turning despair into hope and a dark past into a bright future. Her name has been changed and her address kept secret to protect her and her children.
“Jenny” speaks here about how there is help and hope for victims of domestic abuse in Essex and how she supports the countywide Standing Together campaign...
“I HAD known him for 28 years. We grew up together.
“After years apart we met up again. I can’t remember how, but it was amazing.
“We had so much to catch up on and I had found my lifelong friend.
“We moved in together three months later and it was picture perfect.”
That was about three years ago. Then the warning signs started to appear.
Jenny’s partner, and soon to be husband, began checking her phone.
She said: “It started with little things. He was checking the phone and being overprotective, but I thought it was sweet – he was making sure I was OK.”
Things started to get worse but Jenny decided, with a bit of help and counselling, they could solve any issues and they got married.
Three days later, she was raped for the first time.
Recalling the horrific event, she said: “The kids were at school. He came in and raped me in the bathroom and the shower.
“I was so scared. I felt naive, I felt guilty and he thought it was my duty as his wife. He raped me every day.
“At first, there were mixed emotions.
“He was my best friend. I felt guilty for letting him do it to me.
“But I didn’t have the courage to get help, although I knew there was some out there.
“For 14 months it happened daily, but I had to protect my children, and I thought if anyone knew social services would take them away from me.
“Also, I loved him and I was so vulnerable and so low.”
By now, Jenny had distanced herself from her friends, quit her job and had no life, other than protecting her children and trying to cope with the daily torment.
She said: “People will ask, why did I not just hit him in the face with a frying pan? And today I would, but by then you have been emotionally broken down.”
However, one day he began shouting, screaming and then threatening her daughters.
Jenny said: “I woke up one morning and looked at him and mouthed, ‘I hate you’.
“Just by saying that, it helped.”
Jenny began secretly researching what to do to get out. She became better at lying and would delete her internet history.
Then one day, more than a year ago now, she made a phone call. She said: “By now he had taken me off Facebook. I had no job or friends. He had made sure he was all that was in my life.
“But we went for a walk and, although he was watching, I called social services.
“It was one simple five minute call, but it was not simple to make.
“I felt so good after calling.
The next day someone came out to see me. He did not know anything.
The relief was amazing.”
Excuses were made for the visit and Jenny continued to be in regular and secret contact with social services staff.
Jenny said: “The social worker told me she would not leave me, she would not abandon me, but it was still my choice what I did.
“I looked into her eyes the first time we met and she just knew.
“She was amazing.”
Twoweeks later, Jenny left her husband.
Everything was carefully planned. While he was asleep in bed she packed what she could and jumped into their car with her children. They drove to the end of the road and then switched to a taxi before being taken to a refuge.
She said: “In those two weeks I felt rejuvenated.
“Everyone had been so helpful.
Nobody pressured me and I was more scared than ever when I left that he would find me.
Three days before I left, I had a place in a refuge and they have been fantastic.
“I felt bewildered and guilty for leaving him, but when I arrived someone gave me a hug and I broke down.”
In the coming days she had 720 missed calls from her ex, but she did not reply.
And little by little, the refuge helped her.
Jenny said: “I was not by myself, but I was scared all the time at first.”
Jenny has been in the refuge for a year and is now getting ready to move on.
She said: “They made me feel comfortable. Nothing was ever too much – there was never a stupid question.”
They supported her with things like banking and benefits help, and Jenny finally had control of her life again.
She said: “Refuge staff were encouraging, they were reassuring.
Within a few days, he had made more than 1,000 calls and messages, but I can look back now and see I have come so far.”
There are, on average, 80 calls to police about domestic abuse in Essex every day.
Jenny hopes her story can give strength to women, and men, who are coping with abuse.
When she returned to her house, under a police escort, to collect her belongings everything had been destroyed.
There was blood and empty bottles everywhere. But she was safe and her children were safe.
Jenny said: “Now I am not a victim, I am a survivor.
“I am looking forward to the future and I want to help others do the same.”
During her time at the refuge, she has gained qualifications and now hopes to find work.
She said: “It was so hard to make that first phone call, but such a simple thing changed everything.
“It makes me proud to think what I have achieved.”
Today there is even more support than ever for victims of abuse.
The advent of Claire’s Law and Sarah’s Law now allows people to ask about the history of potential future partners.
Councils across Essex have also joined forces with the police to launch Standing Together.
It encourages victims to lead the campaign to raise awareness.
To find out more, visit essex.police.uk/standingtogether