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A letter to women in abusive relationships – from a survivor, me

EVERY week in the UK two women are killed by a current or former male partner.

Yesterday, I also discovered that around 30 women a DAY attempt suicide as a result of domestic violence. Chills your blood doesn’t it?

As a woman who survived an abusive relationship in my late teens, I consider myself one of the lucky ones.

But for the ones who aren’t so lucky at the moment, this is my letter to them.


My dear Comrade,

It took me a while to consider what to address you by and how to start this letter, as obviously I don’t know your name. But as a woman who I think understands more than most what you are going through and living with, I thought ‘comrade’ was perfect.

Because you’re not alone you see, there are many of us ‘comrades’ out there who have experienced or are experiencing abuse at the hands of a man they love. And I hope that might just make you feel a little better and a little less alone for starters.

Loneliness is one of the worst things isn’t it? When we are in a relationship that is damaging, unhealthy and painful. I can remember it now. The feeling that I couldn’t really talk to anyone, that no one would understand, of feeling too embarrassed or ashamed to tell anyone how the man I adored – and who claimed to adore me – could hurt me so much, in so many ways. The way in which I cut myself off  from loved ones so I didn’t upset him or make him angry.

My abusive relationship happened over 16 years ago and yet I can still vividly remember that horrible feeling of knowing that I had to ‘keep him happy’ in order for everything to be ok. And like you I learnt how to walk on eggshells and tip-toe over minefields so I wouldn’t make him explode. Oh yes. I remember it very well. The exhaustion. The pressure. The way my heart would sink when a furious look would cross his face or he’d start with his thousand and one questions, about where I’d been or what I’d been doing.

I remember it all. I really do. But The irony of course is that it doesn’t really matter what you do for it will be never be enough. You know that right?

I bet he can’t stand your friends or family. I bet he hates the way you do your hair or the way you dress. I bet the meals you cook are never to his satisfaction. I bet he even hates the way you speak. Because let’s face it, you’re not allowed to have a voice are you? To offer an opinion or express your feelings. Hell, I bet you’re not even allowed to do as you please.

It’s not normal you know. This behaviour of his. The relationship you have.

I say this because it can often feel ‘normal’ to us when we are in it, but it isn’t. This kind of relationship is not the ‘norm’. If you don’t realise this already, please start. It’s crucial that you realise that in a good, happy, healthy relationship, abuse just does not figure. And that it doesn’t have to be your future.

Do you feel like you are controlled? I know I did. I certainly remember realising that he did his best to control me, as much as I resisted it. Or perhaps it’s worse. Perhaps you know that you ARE controlled.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

How do I know? Well, because I am proof. You can read my story here, if you fancy it. About how a man I loved tried his best to destroy me. It may make you feel less alone. Inspired perhaps. Either way it is my hope that it might bring you some comfort. That you’ll realise that it happens to the best of us.

I know you love him. And I understand how you still can. I loved my abusive ex too. And I also know that you relationship may not be all bad either. (Otherwise you would never have stayed in the first place would you?).

Was it like a fairytale at the beginning? Was he your knight in shining armour? Did he come in, sweep you off you feet, charm you, make you feel like a goddess?! I know the man I loved certainly did.

Yes he was possessive and jealous, but so what, I told myself, it was because he LOVED me! I mistook his aggression for passion, his criticism for care, his smothering for love. I thought he was my ‘hero’ but he soon turned into something far from that.

First came the little put downs. Next full blown criticism. Then the control started. The questions. The rifling through my belongings. The demands. The mistreatment. The cruelty. The abuse.

Sound familiar?

It’s so subtle that by the time you’ve noticed what’s really going on, it’s too late.  Before you know it, you’re in way over your head wondering what the hell has happened. You become confused, upset, bewildered and terrified. You long for the man you met and don’t recognise the monster he has become.

You hang on to the memories of the man you fell in love with and to any bit of positive, reasonable behaviour as proof that he IS ok. That you will be ok. But deep down in your heart, you know the truth. As did I.

I say this to you because I understand what it is like to love a man whose behaviour is often monsterous. Because I’ve lost count of the amount of times a female friend has said to me, “if any man ever hit me, I’d be out of there like a shot!” Because it infuriates me when people say “why doesn’t she just leave?!” as if it’s the easiest thing in the world to do.

Most people like to think / need to think that abusive relationships are black and white, but they’re not are they? We know that. The abusive men we love or have loved don’t start out hurting us at the beginning nor are they always total monsters. That’s what makes it all so confusing and so hard.

But they are weak. And cowardly. And demanding. They need love and affection in impossible amounts. They are brilliant at crying, at faking emotions and making you feel that somehow their behaviour is all your fault. Experts at manipulation, tyranny and bullying.

Do you know that they prey on women who have big hearts like you and I? Women who are loving and joyful but vulnerable to a sob story. They truly are vampires of the worst kind you know. They have so little good in them, that they seek it out in a woman and then somehow try to steal it for themselves. And when they realise they can’t, they go out of their way to destroy the goodness and life in YOU. Abusive men suck the lives out of their women because that is all they know how to do.

Please don’t ever think for a moment that their behaviour is about you, because it isn’t. It is about THEM.

Every time I tried to walk away from my ex, he would cry, apologise, make promises (he never kept) or occasionally, when things were really bad, even threaten suicide. My head told me to leave him on many occasions and I often did. But I always went back. Until the last time.

Because I did manage to walk away one day and here I now am talking to you, a very different person from the hurt, confused young woman I was back then.

I am happy. I am confident. I have a good life. There is no abuse in my life (in any shape or form). When I wake up in the morning I feel grateful to be alive. I know my worth and my life is generally a wonderful, positive experience.

And it can be the same for you. Really it can.

It’s not easy to leave I know. Even the thought of leaving may be too much to consider. But escape from the prison that he has created, that he has put you in, in a bid to control and terrorise you, is possible. Perhaps not now, perhaps not even next year, but it is. Honestly it is.

Hold on to that thought when things get tough. When you feel like you’re in hell. Hold on to it and if all you can do right now is to hope for a better tomorrow, then just do that. Hope can take us to happier places and possibilities, so it’s always a good place to start.

I know you will have lost your confidence. I know you feel weak and broken and incapable. I know you feel a mere shadow of your former brilliant self. And I’ll be honest with you. It won’t be easy.

It will take time to recover. It will take time to heal. But that pain you are feeling and the horrible stuff you have experienced at his hands can be overcome. Life can become happy and peaceful again. Take that from a woman who’s been there and survived.

You will know when the time is right for you to leave. In the meantime, there are things you can do to help get you through. Stop denying the truth about him and your situation to yourself. Be hopeful and make plans, even if you’re only thinking of them. Dream of a better life and know that it is possible. Talk to someone – anyone – about what you are experiencing. Go to the police. Know that you are NOT alone. People can and will help, if you let them.

Organisations like Refuge and Women’s Aid can help you deal with all manner of situations and provide practical advice as well as emotional support so seek them out. They will help you to rebuild your life. It is their job and they are brilliant at it.

Finally, I want you to ignore everything he’s ever told you and let me tell you this. Are you ready?

You ARE beautiful. You ARE capable. You ARE worthy. You ARE loved. You ARE strong. You ARE magnificent. You ARE more powerful than you can imagine.

I salute you comrade and your bravery and resilience. The way in which you try to protect yourself. The way you try to protect your children. And I salute your huge capacity to love. To love a man who is unloving, because that is no mean feat.

But now it’s time to show yourself that love instead, to gather what strength you have left and create a new happier life. I know you can do it. I know you can be happier. I know you can find a gentler kind of love and a more peaceful existence.

And from the bottom of my heart, I wish you all the luck and courage in the world.



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61 Discussions on
“A letter to women in abusive relationships – from a survivor, me”
  • Oh darling, I had no idea you are one of these women. What a fantastic post! You rock, and only wish all women were as strong as you are. Us women we need support each other more, and this is definitely a very encouraging article.

  • This is the most amazing post that I will be sharing far and wide – like Mirka I had no idea that you had been through this yourself and I’m so so sorry that you did, but to bounce back and help others going through abusive relationships like this shows not only how far you’ve come but how powerful and magnificent YOU are. Thank you for writing this – hugs x

    • Aah Michelle. This made me tearful. It’s been a long journey getting to where I am now and as I’m say, I’m one of the lucky ones. It happens to SO many women (and men too), much more than we realise or would like to admit. I just hope this letter brings some comfort and hope to women that are currently living in hell.

      Thank you for sharing, commenting and for your kind words x

  • Oh gosh this is wonderful and so powerful.

    I am so sorry you went through this but this letter is brave, brilliant and I imagine inspiring for so many women.

    Well done xx

  • Thank you so much for your beautiful letter a ‘must read’ for all women. It will surely be inspirational for women who are still victims of abuse but also for recent survivors like me, it fills me with hope that life gets better and better in the years to come (and its already better than when i was with him)

    • Thank you Sally :-) And well done Comrade. And life will most definitely get better, trust me on that x

  • Wow, what a post. I am so moved by your words. Luckily I have never had to go through this, but the way you write about it so eloquently means I have a glinpse of what it must be like. I hope this post goes viral and helps all the women out there who need it most. Such powerful words. Well done you.And well done for finding the strength to change your life when you must have felt least able. RESPECT. xxx

    • Thank you so much Jude. This post has been really popular – which in one way is lovely – but is more heartbreaking as it means that this has happened and is happening to so many women :(

      I just hope in some way it helps. Thank you for your lovely, kind words x

  • Kate,

    Today I feel like I am staring into the abyss & it’s quite by chance that I have stumbled upon your letter.

    My partner of 6 years & father of my beautiful & amazing daughter (now 2) has become a monster. I feel like I’m about to lose everything I ever wanted & it’s utterly terrifying.

    But you know what. A fabulous house, a nice car, flash holidays – it’s no compensation for being with a man who deep down you no longer trust.

    That you’re frightened might turn on you physically at any moment, that controls the tiniest details for everyone because he’s so chaotic in his own head. Someone who bullies & belittles his partner & his children because of his own inadequacy. And who lies, manipulates & tramples those who oppose his view of how things should be.

    Life is so short. And my daughters childhood is too precious to squander on this utter waste of space of a man.

    So thank you for your letter Kate. And I hope over the coming weeks & months I have the courage to do what you’ve done.


    • I’m so so sorry to hear this Anna but thank you so much for commenting. You’re incredibly brave to share your story.

      And yes you’re absolutely right, life is too short and precious, as is your daughter’s childhood, to spend it living in misery and pain.

      It won’t be easy – you don’t need me to tell you that – but you can transform your life, when you’re ready. When you have the strength. You’re already a step there by realising that you deserve more.

      I’m not sure how I can help but if you ever need someone to talk to, please know you’re not alone and feel free to email me on my blog email address. (I mean that too)

      Take care and best of luck x

  • I got out of an emotionally abusive relationship in May. He never hid me, but every word of this post still rings true. Brilliantly put.

    My life has changed for the better in so many ways in a short space of time and I am unbelievably happy right now. One day I may even find the strength & conviction to write about my own experiences.

  • When I clicked on this through #brilliantblogposts, I couldn’t leave without commenting. I haven’t been through anything like this but reading your beautifully written post gives me a small insight in to what a terrible thing it must be. So, so brave of you to tell your own story and I’m so sorry to hear that you had to go through this.

    • Thank you for taking the time to comment. I’m so pleased it has given you a small insight into what it is like. The more aware we all are of domestic abuse, the more we can help those who are suffering. Thank you for your kind words x

  • Very heartfelt post. I started welling up reading it remembering relationships I’d been in but more importantly the relationship my mum was in. I’m fiercely protective over her and saw a lot of thins I shouldn’t have when I was little. People forget that you can be of any back background, race, society, religion and still be affected by violence. It’s a very scary place for an outsider too. Not knowing what to do and how to deal with the situation. I got hurt in cross fires but that’s life when you are protecting ones you love. I would never be able to write about my story so I’m so pleased that you can reach out to people that are in absusive relationships. I just hope they listen.

    • Thank you Kat. So sorry to hear about your experience :-( And yes, you’re absolutely right. People do forget it can – and does – happen to anyone. I can imagine, it was incredibly scary for you to witness as a child. I hope that both you and your Mum are in a happier place now and well done you for trying to protect her. Now THAT is courage xxx

  • What a beautiful, strong and empowering message. Thank you. You are a testament to women everywhere.
    Visiting you from the brilliant blog post

  • Oh Kate, I got the sense reading this that all of the words were pouring from you in a rush of care and concern for anyone you can imagine going through the awful time you had to endure, but were able to find the strength to rise up from. If only one person, if only that one woman who has commented, can change her life because of what you have written, you will have achieved something incredible. Bless you. Words are power – to harm as well as to support and inspire us. I pray yours do the latter to help to vanquish those that use them and their fists for the former. Much love. xxx

    • Thank you Zaz. It is was a tough letter to write but yes the words did coming whizzing out. Let’s hope they help. If it just makes people feel less alone, I will be happy with that xxx

  • I remember reading about you suffering at the hands of an abusive man before which like today, saddened me so much-and you are so, so brave sharing your story that will help so many women. Lots of love to you x

  • I am just getting out of an emotionally draining relationship that while never physically threatening was one that had me hiding my true self in order to keep peace. We always did what he wanted when he wanted and I learned to just accept that was the way things needed to be. I am looking forward to this next chapter in my life and hope that anyone in these sorts of relationships will read this and find hope.

    Also for those children of parents that were in this sort of relationship (My mom’s ex was abusive to me in place of being abusive to her in order to control her), things do get better. You can also read this post and take the advice to heart…. The problem is theirs not yours….

    • Steph – I wish you all much happiness in your new chapter. Enjoy every second of your ‘freedom’ and make it count. It’s incredible how liberating it feels when you find yourself in a happier place.

      And yes absolutely – the problem is always THEIRS. X

  • Oh my Katie! This is the most moving, powerful and emotional post I think I’ve ever read. I think you are such an amazing woman for managing to get to where you are in life, to walk away and recover from an abusive relationship and then furthermore to openly talk about it in the hope to help someone else suffering in some way. You are one amazing lady and Elsie is very lucky to have a role model like you. Xx

    • Thank you so much Franki. It’s something which needs to be talked about and understand I feel. Let’s hope it helps x

  • Such a powerful post Katie. I don’t think people realise how much strength it takes to walk away from an abuser. I read police crime and incident reports at work and sometimes you read about a pattern of behaviour – domestic abuse – where you read the most recent incident first then find yourself going back over 5-10 years of similar stuff and wonder why the woman didn’t just call it quits. Without having experienced it at first hand I think its impossible to second guess the nuances of what has made that person choose to stay in a bad place. I was in a relationship with an alcoholic who had some controlling tendencies but never violent and never to the extent of making me cut ties with friends and family. I also had the benefit of a very close family bond with my own parents who were happy to have me back (thankfully child-free) at the age of 29. I have also experienced what I would now term very much as ’emotional abuse’ and I think that is the worst really because it feels so subjective and will anyone outside of the situation understand or believe you? Women often get labelled ‘hysterical’ – it’s just another form of control. I hope this post gives others the strength to make a radical change in their lives. X #brilliantblogposts

    • Thank you so much Sam and for your sharing your own experience. You’re right people just don’t realise why people would stay in such a situation but the longer it goes on, the harder it becomes to leave. Abusers are so good at taking people’s power from them and making them feel utterly hopeless. It’s frightening how ‘normal’ it seems when you are in this kind of relationship.

      I hope you are in a much happier place now x

  • Oh Katie I don’t know where to start! That was the most amazing and inspiring post I’ve read in a long, long time! You’re a true superwoman, a survivor and a protector. Congratulations on breaking free and being brave enough to share your story, in your own beautiful way.

  • I grew up with a mum who moved from one abusive relationship to the next and I wish I could have said to her so eloquently what this post says xxx

  • I really have no idea what to say. A comment seems a tad meaningless or trite. Plus I’m actually struggling to type through the tears. Looking through the comments it has already struck too many chords. But its so important to write, particularly from one who has come through, and is showing the world just how better it can be. Thanks for linking up to #sundaystars

  • So brave of you to make your escape and so brave of you to share. I’m sure this will help many women who are in abusive relationships but I also think it helps those of us who aren’t. It helps us to understand what others are going through and the kind of support and words they need. Wonderful you. X

  • I sat reading your post, and it all came flooding back the things I had buried and forced myself not to think about for such a long time, it is all so familiar. My sentence was 8 years, the last 3 I spent trying to get away. 8 years of my life ill never get back, that’s what sucks the most. it was 9 years ago now, seems like a life time ago, a different me and a different life. Your post was so heart felt and so honest. I hope women in the same boat can gain confidence in reading your post and make a change.
    one of the most inspiring posts I’ve ever read, thank you x

  • What an inspiring post Katie,

    I thought I was alone, that no woman was dealing with the same as I was, 8 years ago, the lies about my family (which teared me apart from them, only my mother kept visiting me), the lies around me (that just kept me far from my friends).

    Happily I now see more and more strong women speak loud and clear, spreading the word, that we do not have to keep up with this s**t. I imagine a world where with 18, I would read your letter and you would change my life.

    Thank you for this amazing and inspiring post.
    x Marta

  • You honestly could have been writing this letter to me. It describes my ex husband to a tee and its scary to think how many other men out there are exactly the same. I actually started my blog {the same time as you incidentally in Feb 2012} while I was going through my divorce to try and process all the thoughts I had rushing around in my head. It took me a while after that to eventually tell my story but I did and I also did it to encourage other women in similar situations that there is light at the end of the tunnel {this is my story here if you want to read it http://www.findingmyselfyoung.com/2014/06/leaving-my-narcissistic-husband-changed.html} So glad that you realised you were worth it and found a better future. This week in Australia there have been 2 women killed by their abusive partners and it just sickens me how big of an issue this is.

    • Thanks so much Toni. It’s terrifying how commonplace it is but hopefully by speaking out we can raise awareness and help women to not feel so alone. x

  • Thank you so much…I’m at the beginning stages, Im working my way out of denial and trying to get away. It’s very scary, and we have children together. Your letter expressed everything I am feeling and going through, and it is so encouraging knowing I’m not crazy and this is real….that someone else went through it too, and just put into words what I could not. Thank you Kate. I’m reaching for that light at the end of the tunnel.

    • Oh Amy, I have been through it and I know how horrendous and devastating it is, but as I’ve said, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Life can be peaceful and happy again, I promise. I wish you all the luck in the world, you’re never alone, don’t ever forget that. Many of us comrades have been in your shoes and we know how difficult it is. Keep searching for that light. Much love X

  • Thank you so much for this post. I stumbled across it just at the right time. It is definitely hard. It helps to know that I’m not alone and this too shall pass. Now I just pray for strength to get thru this as you did.

    • You’re not alone Mandy. EVER. I’m so glad it has helped a little bit and trust me if I can get through it, so can you. Stay strong and best of luck. X

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