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“I had no idea what a normal relationship felt like” – Staffordshire survivor shares 20 year story of domestic abuse

A survivor of domestic abuse in Staffordshire has shared his story after being left physically and mentally distraught after around two decades in a toxic relationship.

As part of our ongoing fight to protect victims of domestic violence, Brian* has bravely shared his story in the hope more people come forward and get the help they need.

Brian said: “Hindsight is a wonderful thing and looking back there were signs from a very early stage in my marriage that things weren’t right.

“Very soon after we started married life my wife would stand in front of me so I couldn’t go to work, she’d lock me in the house so I was late and then she would lock me out of the house when I came back – it was very much a hot and cold situation.

“In 20 years, I never, ever knew what I would be walking into when I got home, whether that be a volatile situation or a nice, family environment and that feeling was constant. It just felt like I was treading on egg shells 24/7.

“There was the constant verbal and physical abuse. I was told I was worthless and that if I ever left nobody else would ever love me and I’d always spend my life on my own. I’d also always wear long shirts to work to hide bruises and it just became my new normal.

“I also got locked in the shed and one night I was hit over the head with a frying pan. It could also turn from very chaotic to very calm very quickly – normally as soon as the phone rang.

“However, being the type of person I was I always made assumptions that these actions were as a result of things out of her control – such as post-natal depression for example. I was always looking to make excuses for what was being done to me and excusing my wife for doing those things.

“I’m very old school and my attitude is that I wanted to get married for life and I was constantly hoping there would be change – but that never came and things got worse.

“These circumstances went on for years and years but the abuse was hidden from people so very few understood what was going on. A few did see things here and there but it takes a lot to put everything together.

“One Sunday afternoon, I had my shorts and a shirt on because it was warm and I had to get out of the house for my own safety. I went over to a friend’s house and they were absolutely amazing and gave me the money to go to the shop the following today so I could buy some clothes for work. It was not long after that I decided something must be done as it was getting unsafe for me – it was every single night.

“When everything came to a head and I went into work and told people what had been going on for 20 years, the overwhelming response I got was one of disbelief that this could happen to a man. That horrified me as domestic violence can happen to anybody, any age, any gender and at any time. It really needs emphasising that there are no boundaries with this.

“I often look back to when I told my boss what had been going on, she just looked me straight in the face and told me that I had no idea what a normal relationship felt like and that really hit the nail on the head.”

Brian then went on to talk about his second interaction with police and how it differed from his first.

“There was an amazing contrast between my two experiences with the police. The first time, and this was many, many years ago, I went to the police station and told them what had gone on. I specifically asked them not to tell her what I’d done as I’d only gone to them so that a record could have been kept should more occur in the future.

“Unfortunately, they contacted her and things got worse for me for a time.

“However, the second time I went, it couldn’t have been a bigger contrast and I can’t fault them. I was positively shaking and crying before I picked up the phone to them and I couldn’t even hold the phone. The lady who answered my call was very calm, she listened to what I was saying and completely understood everything.

“Then when I went into the police station to give more information I couldn’t have been treated any more differently. First time, I struggled to think I was believed but this second time they really listened to me and really understood and I knew they would take things forward.

“Throughout that time after and through the court case, I had regular contact with the police, they were excellent in telling me what was going on and were really good in looking after me and ensuring I remained safe as things could easily have escalated once the perpetrator was outed.

“After the court case, the officer said to me “I don’t think you realise how much danger you were in”. It was only then that I realised how fortunate I was to still be here.

“The experience is one I wouldn’t wish on anybody but it was very heart-warming to see the police handle my situation seriously. They deserve huge credit for the way they looked after me.

“It’s important not to forget that it does happen to men. It can happen to anybody. You lose your identity and when you come out of the other end you feel like a true survivor. With the police’s help you can take those first step and you can get through it.

“The stigma around being a male victim was hard because people didn’t quite believe me, one neighbour even blanked me because they thought I was making it up and I fell out with friends and family. It was difficult to come forward but it was a huge step, a scary step but it was the best move I ever made as the help is there for you from police and local charities such as Glow, who helped me.

“We think we’re tough but men have feelings too and the more I look back on those 20 years I realise I completely suppressed who I was. I wasn’t Brian, I was a person that somebody wanted me to be and through their abuse, they moulded me into that person and I now feel so, very different. I can’t thank those who’ve helped me.”

You can hear more from Brian and a second domestic abuse survivor by tuning in to The Beat Podcast by Staffordshire Police. Episode 5 airs the week commencing March 1 2021 and you can listen here.

*Brian is not his real name. Staffordshire Police have changed his name to protect his identity.

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