I met my first love when I was 14 years old.
I felt like a lost soul at that age and befriended a much older neighbor who was in his early 30s. I told him all my problems and he seemed very sweet and caring towards me. If I’m honest, I developed a crush on him but knew that nothing would come of it because he was married with a young child and I was living at home with my family.
Anyway, fast forward 2 years and we’d become friends, so to speak. I recall the date, it was one month before my 17th birthday and I had just broken up with my boyfriend at the time. I’m not sure how, but my older neighbor had invited me to have some food with him and go for a walk and somehow we had ended up back to his house after this, where we kissed me on my neck and he kept touching me and telling me how unhappy he was in his marriage and that he wanted to be with me. I remember going home and feeling quite confused but the feelings were so strong and I knew it was wrong but I felt like he was the only person who understood me and listened to me.
I don’t understand why, but we started seeing each other secretly and I fell in love with him. He took my virginity and I felt like he was “the one” but knew that being with him was wrong. In hindsight, I realize that I was so naive that I didn’t see that starting a relationship with a much older person who was cheated on his wife is a massive red flag. He said all the right things and he had me completely fooled.
His wife and him separated and shortly after that and my parents told me that I was no longer welcome to live in their house anymore. I was 18 and whilst I felt so grown up, I was just a silly young girl who knew nothing about love and nothing about what ‘grooming’ is and how there were already early warning signs of abuse.
Once we moved in together, he started slowly chipping away at my self-esteem and made me feel like all that I was good for was sex, a pretty body to look at and that his way was the only way. Over time he used all sorts of putdowns and made me feel like that I was boring sexually for him and that I needed to sleep with other men otherwise he’d be unhappy and that he wouldn’t love me anymore. He also explained that if he didn’t want me anymore, that no one would love me and I’d be all alone.
Crazy as it sounds but by this time, I was isolated from everyone, I didn’t talk to my parents and hardly had any friends. He was always wanting to know where I was and I didn’t like going places without him as he said he was worried something might happen to me.
He’d tell me that if I ever left him, he’d break my piano into pieces, all my possessions would be on the front lawn and that my life would be hell on earth as his friends and colleagues would follow me everywhere and watch my every move.
We got into an argument one day and I wouldn’t back down so he stuck me with the tea cloth so hard that I had marks on my arm, so much so that I knew to never stand up to him again.
He made me feel like I was worthless and that I would be nothing without him. I didn’t drive and he said that no man who ever love me, other than him and that I should be grateful that he loved me so much to care for a person like me.
From 20 years of age, he kept pressuring me to sleep with other guys and that it would make him love me more if I did that while he watched. Once I started doing that, he would then torment me afterwards, saying all sorts of awful things about my body and that I needed to please him more and more otherwise he wouldn’t love me. So many memories are blocked from my mind but I remember that I usually drank large amounts of champagne and that he would be telling me to drink more and more. I also remember him standing over me and telling me what sexual acts I had to perform on the man.
This happened on and off for 6 years and the more I did these things, the more I became suicidal, hated myself, had feelings of uselessness and questioned why I bothered even being alive.
Each incident felt so terrifying and I felt like he ‘owned’ me, that my body was no longer mine and that loving him meant him hurting me with his words, his rages and that I had to give my body to other men as I no longer had a voice anymore.
The events were beyond description and I remember hoping that it was not really happening to me, hoping I would pass out so that the abuse would end.
One day I stood up for myself and said that I no longer wanted to do this anymore because the condom broke and I had to get tested for HIV and other STDs. The 3 month wait seemed like an eternity and it made me determined to never be sexually abused again by these awful strangers whilst he pleasured himself in the midst of my nightmare.
I realized that I wanted to become a mum and I fell pregnant quickly with his child when I was 29. This is when he became verbally abusive every day, telling me how he didn’t want the baby, telling me he didn’t love me anymore and that I should just “f*** off”. I stayed in the marriage because I wanted to try and make it work, believing that God would be angry with me if I broke my marriage vows.
Once our child was born, the happiness was short lived as he had raging tempers and our little one was getting more and more scared of his father.
Our marriage was coming to an end and he knew that his time was running out. One day a few months before we separated, he decided he wanted anal sex (which I declined), so he proceeded to hold me down and rape me, whilst I cried in pain and bled. I know this happened on another occasion and this time I just accepted that I just couldn’t be in this abuse any longer.
My son was becoming so scared of his father that he told me one day to “take me away, take me away” and “take me away, I don’t wanna go to daddy”. This was the final straw and over 3 weeks, I slowly planned my escape. I met with my parents and told them that there would come a time when I would be on their doorstep.
That was over 5 years ago and I’m happy to say that whilst I’ve survived and achieved great things in my life, what I have experienced has forever changed me in more ways than I ever thought possible.
To life a life of happiness, free from fear and abuse is a blessing and I’m thankful to God that I was able to leave that abusive relationship behind and make a better life for us.
— Karen, age 38