“Oh come on. It’ll be a laugh. You could do with a bit of attention to cheer you up!” It proved to be, unknowingly on her part, one of the worst decisions I had ever made to follow her advice. Joining an online dating app was something I should never have done having just come out of another abusive relationship. Abusive relationships drifted towards me as that’s how I had grown up. Having found out that I had a brother who died at birth due to my mum being beaten up when pregnant had a profound effect on my life. I was conditioned to swearing, threats, put downs and constant fear because you would never know what would set Dad off. That way of life seemed normal so I can see now why I ended up in abusive relationships. 

After a bit of persuasion I then found myself scrolling through this online dating app. The first “like” I saw…I was puzzled. He wouldn’t have initially been my type. I thought, “What? I didn’t swipe him.” Turned out I had been swiping right to everyone. 

He, who wasn’t initially my type, started messaging me and appeared very polite and respectful. He was very muscular and I suppose I swayed because he would have been very much a lot of other women’s cup of tea. I began to feel flattered…Which eventually led to a meeting. 

The meeting was everything I had wanted on a first date. He was far better looking than his photograph and I found him so easy to talk to. He seemed too good to be true.

He didn’t drink and that obviously appealed to me because previous partners had drank a lot. No drinking I thought equalled security. He also had a son that he had brought up on his own. That looked very good because it made him look like someone who took his responsibilities seriously as a father. After the first date he sent a lovely message saying what a great time he had. The next few dates were uplifting – he made me feel special with the things he said and he made me laugh. It was refreshing to go out with someone who didn’t drink. It made me feel safe and I felt protected by this very masculine man. He was also a listening ear about problems at work. I had never had that before. I really felt meeting him and the dates were all too good to be true…..but  within a few weeks the icing fell from the cake. Little put downs, moody behaviour and he didn’t seem to want to see me that much. That was all designed to make me feel grateful to be with him and his plan worked. I had fallen hard for him. I also kept wishing and hoping that he would return to his initial self – the person I had first met. I longed for that feeling to return…It did occasionally but I suppose that was his dangling carrot to make me keener and I was. His approval meant everything to me. I found myself constantly checking my phone to wait on his messages. I was in a state of anxiety all the time – a far cry from the first date. 

One day, after about three months of being together he said, “What’s the kinkiest thing you’ve ever done?” I struggled to come up with an answer. He then blurted out that he thought I was bisexual. I immediately knew what he wanted. Typical male fantasy. To see me with another woman. The thought horrified me because I am not attracted to women. He then suggested we go to a swingers’ club. I was aghast. This did not seem like the kind of guy to go to swingers’ clubs. “Don’t worry. You don’t have to do anything. You can just watch.” I asked him if he would ever have sex with another woman. He paused briefly. “It’s just sex. You are who I’m with.” 

I knew I did not want to go to a swingers club but I was so desperate to keep him happy…I agreed. The first night we went into the couples’ room. The couples’ room is a hotbed of several couples having sex. We were having sex…which I found strange infront of other people. He then held my body down, turned around to a dark haired woman, clicked his fingers and pointed to my body. I froze. This wasn’t part of the agreement. He said I wouldn’t have to do anything. After the ordeal was over, he said, “You were a good girl for me there.” That weirdly made it all better. He had approved. His approval was everything to me because he made me feel not good enough to be with him. Over the course of the next few years I was made to have sexual encounters with countless women, I was choked regularly (without him discussing this dangerous act first), spat on, slapped and anally raped. He wanted me to go with men also. One night I did have the courage to say no when he asked me to perform fellatio on another man. I also had to watch him have sex with countless amounts of other women. He would taunt me with this in bed. Reminding me of sexual encounters he had with other women. This obviously led to a lot of insecurity. 

I would find myself breaking down in tears a lot. I didn’t feel normal around other people. I felt dirty and ashamed. His good side kept me in the relationship. His nice side was cuddling infront of the tv and he didn’t drink so to me that felt like security. Everything would feel totally normal until he would say the dreaded words, “Do you want to go to the club at the weekend?” I knew if I said no, the relationship would be over so I would go. Eventually, after a brutal anal rape, I finally woke up. I had been abused.  This wasn’t a kind of abuse I had known. I was used to verbal and physical abuse. Not sexual. My story proves sexual violence in relationships is very much on the rise. This man knew immediately I was low in self esteem and he took advantage of that. A predator. 

When I first met him he seemed too good to be true for many reasons but one reason in particular – his son. As he had solely brought up his son, I thought that made him seem like a wonderful person but his son was totally controlled. The boy was very withdrawn because he had dominated him so much. His son was forced to clean the house regularly and if it wasn’t good enough – he was made to do it again. I began to wonder why he had custody. According to him, the mother of his child was a lunatic but I eventually began to think he had mentally worn her down so much, it was maybe easier for her to walk away rather than deal with him. Sadly she died three years ago and tellingly he wasn’t allowed at her funeral. When I asked him why he said, ‘It’s a long story.’ He obviously didn’t want to tell me the truth. 

When in his house, I felt like I was treading on eggshells. I wasn’t allowed to put the hot water on when his boiler was whirring. I became very anxious about this. One day, he came downstairs and whacked me on the knee and said, ‘Oi! You’ve been using the hot water again. Do we really need to discuss the water again? You’ve done wrong and would you behave like this in your own house?’ I began to cry and he said, ‘What are you crying for?’ I said, ‘Because you’re so angry with me.’ He then said, ‘If I was angry, you’d know about it.’ I felt so humiliated. 

Incidents like this in his house were a regular occurrence. Sometimes I just used to buy a sandwich for my tea because it felt like less hassle than using his kitchen. I often would have scenarios in my head of what would happen if I were to put a carton of tomato soup in his microwave and the soup would go everywhere. I would shudder to think at his reaction so I purposely never bought soup because I was scared of the outcome. I dreaded using the hot water and I was always scared to shower incase the boiler would start when I was showering. I was always living on my nerves and I was slowly becoming like his son – a shadow of my former self. I was withdrawn and very quiet around him. If the three of us were watching television, we were just an audience to him and his thoughts. 

I have, without a doubt, found this kind of abuse to be the worst I have gone through. I now don’t feel normal around people. The feelings of guilt and shame never go away. Some days it’s a struggle to get out of bed. Especially if I have had a flashback dream. He could have easily killed me by strangulation during sex and I find this very hard to deal with. I also have difficulty being around women sometimes as I feel abnormal around them because I was made to have sexual encounters with so many women. I also had the crushing blow of revenge porn. He had shared pictures of me on a swingers’ site without my permission. This I found to be the ultimate betrayal.

People are starting to talk about the rise in sexual violence within relationships but there is still taboo around the subject. I hope more people can open up about this problem. The more people open up, the more awareness we have. 

Help for victims of sexual abuse:

If you are in immediate danger, call 999 and ask for the police.

If you are over the age of 16, living in England & Wales, and have been affected by any form of sexual violence or abuse, specialist and confidential support is available 24/7. Call 0808 500 2222 or visit https://247sexualabusesupport.org.uk to chat online or find out more.

If you can’t find the information you’re looking for or would like support as a victim of another type of crime, contact Victim Support’s 24/7 Supportline on 08 08 16 89 111 or live chat.