Editor’s note: The following article contains discussion of domestic and sexual violence that some readers may find upsetting
At the beginning, my husband always made me feel very special. Shortly after we married, I fell pregnant with our first child and felt I was getting my ‘happy ever after’.
We lived in a lovely house, and I was kept busy looking after our four children. I made sure my husband had a meal on the table every night when he got in from work and our children always looked immaculate.
But all was not what it seemed.
Right from the start of our marriage, my husband behaved in a very possessive manner in the bedroom.
If I didn’t want to have sex, he would call me frigid. If we had sex he would criticise me and tell me I was not performing properly.
He liked me to perform oral sex on him, but I didn’t like it. He told me if I didn’t, he would go to a prostitute, so I did it.
I was very slim when I met my husband, but after having four children I’d put weight on. He would call me names such as “fatty” or “fatso” and told me that I shouldn’t be eating.
Once I didn’t eat for a week just to prove to myself I could do it.
Over the years, the sexual abuse got worse. He would put things over my face while I was in bed, like clothing or the bedsheets or a pillow and force himself on me. I never tried to stop him. It was easier to just let him, as then it would be over quicker. I also didn’t want to make any noise or fuss, as that could wake the children and all I cared about was they would not be affected by his behaviour towards me.
During all my pregnancies, he had pinched and squeezed my stomach and I was worried the children would be born with abnormalities, but I was thankful they were all healthy and that he was a good father.
Sometimes he would put porn movies on and try to make me do the things on there. If it wasn’t painful, I’d usually just do it, but if it was, I’d try to reason with him.
Sometimes he’d accept that, but often I suffered from injuries or soreness.
One day, my husband decided to get CCTV installed into every room in our house. He would call me up while at work and tell me to turn the light off in the back room. I felt like I couldn’t breathe without him knowing what I was doing.
It wasn’t just in the house; it was while I was out, too. He would make me take pictures to prove where I was.
One time, I ignored his calls and had 72 missed calls from him. He accused me of having an affair with my sister’s husband. It became easier for me to just take his call and prove to him where I was.
My husband would give me an allowance of money and I would have to keep the receipts and show how I had spent it. Once I lost a receipt, so I went back to the shop and begged them to write me out another one. They thought I was mad, but that was better than having to face my husband’s anger.
By now I was really scared of him. Over the years, he’d given me the odd shove or thrown things at me – a toy, a book, a shoe – but he also started holding his hand over my mouth so that I couldn’t talk and threatened to drown me in the bath.
Part of me thought there’s no way he’d do that, but then I never thought he’d do half the things he had. Things came to a head last year when he hit me in the chin with a hardback book. My chin split open and my daughter saw it all. I was very upset she had to see that.
My husband would give me an allowance of money and I would have to keep the receipts and show how I had spent it. Once I lost a receipt, so I went back to the shop and begged them to write me out another one…
Having seen the Jewish Women’s Aid (JWA) poster in my synagogue toilet, I decided to call. I didn’t know what I wanted, I just knew that I needed help. JWA put me and my children in a hotel for a few nights and brought kosher food and toys, as well as calling me every day. They put me in touch with a solicitor and I managed to get court orders for my husband to move out of our house, as well as prohibiting him from physically hurting, threatening or intimidating me.
Going to court that day was the most frightening thing I ever did in my whole life, but my children and I returned home, and JWA arranged for a company to put alarms on our windows and give us a new, secure front door – all free of charge.
I am currently going through a divorce. This is not something I am proud of because I thought marriage was forever, but I am proud I finally realised it’s not OK to be treated like that. I’m having counselling with JWA and this really helps me to be able to talk things through without being judged.
Jewish Women’s Aid has changed everything for me. For the first time in my life, I have spoken out about my situation, without feeling I was being criticised.
It feels like JWA saved my life and I wouldn’t be here without them. There’s still a long way to go, but it is made easier knowing they are only a call or email away.
Details: JWA domestic abuse helpline, 0808 801 0500 and Dina Service sexual violence support line, 0808 801 0656