Elizabeth lives in a rural part of county Galway. She is 58 years of age and was married for 34 years. She tells us about some of the experiences that led to her seeking support from our Outreach Support Service and ultimately to her freedom from emotional abuse and coercive control. While revisiting this traumatic period is not easy, Elizabeth hopes her story will inspire even one woman to reach out for the available support.
“My life back then was awful. I just wanted to die. I would go to sleep at night and pray I would not wake up in the morning. It was like being in a washing machine and I could not stop the cycle and get out. I hated being in the house we built. I always called it my prison.”
Someone on the outside looking in would say I had an amazing life. My husband was always telling people what a wonderful wife he had and how lucky he was. Who would ever believe he was so awful to me? What was shocking to me was he had been so nice to me but the moment we were married he changed so much. It was like being with a completely different person. Life was extremely difficult. My husband had complete control over me, and I didn’t even realise it, until I left him. I always thought he was very strict. He always said, “you don’t have any friends; they tolerate you for my sake.”
“He never called me by my name unless someone was visiting.”
I had to sit beside him on the couch. If I didn’t, he’d ask, “What kind of marriage is this, don’t you love me?” For special occasions, birthdays, Christmas, he went all-out with flowers and took me out and made sure everyone knew he was treating me like a queen. He would be awful to me for at least a month after. My husband never raised his voice to me in front of the children; they could sense the tension but never heard him shout or argue. He was very jealous of my relationship with our children. He didn’t like me feeding them when he was around. When they were born, I had to keep a diary of nappies and how many ounces they drank. He would go on and on if milestones weren’t reached according to the baby book.
He was unbelievably nice to my family. When my father died, my first thought was, ‘people are going to want to talk to me, he is going to hate that, how am I going to manage’? I always wanted to leave. The opportunity came about by complete accident, and I grabbed it with both hands. On my very first visit to Modh Eile House, after a two hour talk with the support worker, it became very clear to me that they could help me in so many ways and help get me out safely. It was also very clear to me that my support worker completely understood the huge difficulties I was dealing with in my marriage. This gave me so much courage.
“To be believed is an amazing, empowering thing.”
Living rurally helped me cope with the abuse. I walked a lot and the change in seasons would always give me a great lift. I never wore headphones; I found the sounds of nature very comforting in the very dark days. By shutting it [the abuse] out I was able to function and survive. I also had a car, so I didn’t feel ‘stuck’, in that sense. Years ago, I heard a woman on the radio talking about putting away small amounts of money, if it’s safe to do so. I hid €5 at a time. I found those envelopes recently with money in them.
“I would like other women to know that, even though it can be very difficult to make the decision to leave a marriage, if you go to the right places and talk to the right people, they will give you all the support you need.”
The day I chose to leave, I knew I was leaving no matter what, and I stuck to it. I had my safety plan and my supports in place. Now, I have complete freedom in every way possible. I have control over my money. I can go where I want, when I want, talk to whomever I chose. I have a completely stress-free life and I am loving every minute of it.
It is never ‘too late’ to seek assistance. Whether living in the heart of the city or a remote rural area, you do not have to be isolated. To find out about a service close to your area, or for free confidential support, call our 24-hour helpline 091 56 59 85.
*Name changed to protect privacy.