Anna’s story

Anna met Mark at a party when she was 17. He struck her as fun, passionate and confident, and he was always incredibly charming. Mark and Anna became friends, though it was a few years after they’d met that things developed romantically.

From the outset, Mark was controlling, but Anna didn’t have much to compare his behaviour to being so young. Mark had previously been in a relationship with a close friend, and she had already seen that he could be quite possessive and domineering. Whilst they had a lot of fun together in the first few months, going out to see friends and partying, Mark’s behaviour was confusing. At times, he was loving, passionate and sweet, and then would turn on Anna, belittling and insulting her. Mark began to make Anna feel as if everything she did was wrong, that she would never amount to anything, and that no one else would love her if she decided to end their relationship.

As their relationship progressed, Mark became increasingly verbally abusive to Anna, routinely calling her a bitch and telling her she had no personality. Mark dictated what Anna could wear, sometimes saying he wanted to show her off then berating her for being a ‘slut’. At other times he would call her ugly and ‘weird-looking’. Anna began to hide herself around men, and stopped seeing her male friends, in case Mark became angry.

Mark also started to smash and throw things – he said to ‘avoid’ hitting Anna. He’d often throw things around that were in reach to frighten her. Anna struggled to keep her friends around her, as they disliked Mark and Anna was rarely allowed to see them. She felt totally isolated and lost a great deal of confidence. Mark assured her that his abuse was her fault, and she believed him, changing her clothes and behaviour to suit him – though nothing she did ever seemed to have an impact.

After two years of constant abuse, Anna decided to end her relationship with Mark. For another two years they lived separate lives. During their time apart, Mark was in touch occasionally but mainly kept his distance. However, things reconciled a few years later after he sent a series of letters to Anna, where his usual charm and charisma made Anna think that he deserved another chance. It was around this time his behaviour became extremely frightening. During the next three months, Mark became physically abusive. He once bit her, leaving a large mark on her arm. During arguments, he would push and shove Anna and threaten to kill her. He even became abusive towards Anna’s friends, punching one of her male friends in the face because he had smiled at Anna in a bar to say hello.

A short time after they’d gotten back together, Mark came to lunch at Anna’s parents’ house while they were out. He was very agitated and angry when he arrived, and started a fight whilst they were eating. He crushed the roast chicken Anna had cooked with his bare hands and smeared it all over her face and hair, pulling her hair tightly behind her head. He then pushed her around the house, yelling and insulting her, finally picking up the largest knife in the kitchen and holding it to her throat. Mark asked why he shouldn’t kill her, and told her, “You don’t deserve to be loved, and you don’t deserve to live. You are a no-one.”

Anna hid the bruises from the fight and kept it a secret as she was incredibly ashamed and didn’t know who to turn to. At the time she was unaware of organisations like Refuge. Her confidence was at an all time low and she thought her family and friends would think the violence was all her fault anyway. Anna’s parents had taught Anna growing up that if a man hurts you, you break up immediately – never give him the opportunity to do it twice. But Anna had stayed out of fear; she was ashamed and thought her parents may be angry with her for letting them down. She also thought that if she went to the police they would laugh at her, or that Mark may hurt her even more, or worse, hurt her family.

At this point, it had been organised a long time in advance that she would move abroad. She hoped that she could escape him. When the day came, Mark tried to make her stay and told all their friends that they would marry when she came back, but she managed to leave, and later ended the relationship by letter. Although he visited her once at her new home, the trip was overshadowed by his abusive behaviour. Later, Anna found the courage to write to Mark to tell him that his actions were unacceptable, and that he should have never treated someone he loved the way he treated her. After this she never heard from him again.

Anna feels extremely passionate about raising awareness and funds for Refuge, especially since there were no specialist services available when she herself was experiencing domestic violence. Today she is a successful marketing consultant, happy and confident in her own abilities and has recently taken on an incredible feat of fundraising for Refuge, cycling 2,000km on an international cross-country challenge.

 

All names and identifying details have been changed to protect individuals involved.