I was a strong person from an academic family. I was a youth leader and then an army commander. After that I built a great career, working internationally as a creative.
One thing was missing though. At 38, I was still single and longing for children. With no man in my life, I started IVF alone. The process made me feel so lonely, that I signed up for online dating. That’s where I met Ron*. My self-esteem was so low, but he made me feel beautiful, he told me he loved me. He was living with his parents after a broken engagement; I took him under my wing, supporting him professionally and financially.
We had already decided to have a child when Ron started to throw things and be abusive towards his family. When he turned on me, I made excuses for him. I figured his problem was ADHD.
He told me that I looked like a cow. I stopped wearing make-up, because he said I looked like clown wearing it. My self-esteem plummeted.
Ron criticised me more and more. After we had my daughter, he would say that I was losing my mind. I decided to break up with him and he threatened me with violence.
One day, I found a pitchfork on my dining table. That was a message. I was so scared that I stayed; I got pregnant again and I was trapped.
. ..I stopped wearing make-up, because he said I looked like clown wearing it. My self-esteem plummeted.
Ron was so controlling. He put cameras everywhere to monitor me. I wasn’t allowed to talk in the car, even if I was driving. He’d say that I didn’t know how to speak. He’d threaten me physically. He’d make me feel guilty whenever I spent money, even though my unemployment cheque was three times his salary.
Somehow, I found out about WIZO’s shelter for domestic abuse survivors. They told me to leave, but I made a huge mistake and stayed for another year. We went to a counsellor, who got us to stay together – that was a mistake. I also didn’t know how to uproot my daughter, who’s severely diabetic.
I didn’t fully realise that I needed to leave until I watched a TED talk on emotional abuse. Only after that did I ask for a separation. Ron said he’d stop my kids from seeing my family and that he’d put my father in jail. I was terrified and believed everything Ron said.
In fact, Ron’s plan was to put me in prison. He called the police: I was the victim, but they took me away instead. I was still in my pyjamas. He’d told them that I was abusing our kids, but after interviewing me the police realised what was really happening.
They called social services, who said I needed to leave straightaway for the WIZO shelter. I had half-an-hour to pack up everything for me and the kids.
It was midnight when we arrived at the shelter. The shutters were down and there were bars on the windows. Some of the residents came downstairs and silently carried up our stuff and my children.
When we got to our room, I sat on the bed and started crying. Then one of my kids thanked me for leaving home. I knew then that I’d done the right thing and that made me cry even more. Five years on, I still cry when I think about that.
After four months of rehabilitation in the shelter, I felt I was done. But the manager said if I left too soon I’d go back to the abuse, so I stayed for another six months of psychological support. I learned how to cope with seeing Ron during access visits. I was able to look him in the eye for the first time. I wasn’t scared of him anymore.
Life has been full of police, restraining orders and court hearings ever since. It’s still not over – I have another hearing coming up. Ron’s taking me to court over my daughter’s medical treatment. He’s also demanding that I issue a public apology for “kidnapping” his kids to the shelter. When he sees the kids, he manipulates them.
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Without WIZO, I’d be a mop at Ron’s feet. I’d be completely non-functional. I was nearly there. I’m much stronger now. It’s great being able to decide things for myself and I have my own jewellery business. But things are still hard. I’m nearly out of money after paying all the lawyers’ fees and I can only look short-term into the future.
Abuse crosses all divides. It has nothing to do with intelligence. I gave a talk at WIZO LA’s luncheon last year and, after I spoke, seven women approached me to say that they were in abusive relationships.
You’d be surprised how many people in your circle are in this situation.”
*The victim’s real name and her abuser’s have been changed to protect their identities
- Miriam’s jewellery is available online at etsy.me/2UoCH7j. To find out more about how WIZO supports domestic abuse victims, visit wizouk.org