Leanne Fletcher wants others to leave abusive relationships sooner than she left hers. Photo: Charles Anderson.

Violence is not just physical

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Domestic violence comes in all forms. As part of White Ribbon month, Leanne Fletcher tells her story about escaping and understanding her own emotionally abusive relationship.

I met him in high school. I was young and inexperienced. It was my first relationship.

At that age you don’t know what a relationship is supposed to look like. To start with, he was nice and funny and normal. I didn’t expect it to turn into what it turned into.

But then three months into our relationship, he was kicked out of home and I followed him to Christchurch.

We were isolated, away from anyone we really knew. It started with comments. He put me down for certain things, telling me that this was the best I was going to get.

I didn’t know what a good relationship looked like. I thought ‘I love this person and he loves me, so this is what I have to put up with to have that’.

He used to get really angry. He often smoked marijuana to calm himself. If he didn’t have it, his anger would be worse and taken out on me. This would include yelling and swearing at me, telling me I was worthless.

When I was about to turn 18, I took a break from him. I thought ‘maybe there is more out there for me, I don’t have to stay with him’.

But then, now I can’t remember why, I got back together with him. Six months later I was pregnant. Then I felt stuck. But it only got worse after I had the baby.

He started making fun of me in front of my friends and putting me down and joking about my weight. Once he called me an elephant in front of my friends and they were really uncomfortable with that. One friend took me out and asked me if I was ok. That was the first person who asked that. It was all behind closed doors, so no one knew.

I saw that I was becoming more and more of a shell. I was really sad all the time. It was weird, it was like I loved him, but I didn’t like him. It’s hard to explain. You know that it’s not ok but it’s so hard to break that attachment. Then if you break up someone will be disappointed because they don’t know what’s going on.

And there was also a baby.

Then he started doing other things, like instead of punching me he would punch the wall beside me. I don’t remember panicking. I just froze.

After something like that would happen, we would be in different rooms and he would be on the couch crying about how bad he felt about it. I would feel guilt about it and think maybe it was my fault.

It was really complex feelings. The little put-down comments were every day. Especially if I hadn’t done the dishes or dinner wasn’t ready because I was busy with the baby. The bigger outbursts weren’t as often, but they were emotionally and mentally draining.

But this was my normal.

Then, just after his 21st birthday, and my son was just over one, I needed to leave the house for a few minutes, but he got really angry because I wanted to leave without our son.

He got angry over the smallest things. Then I was like ‘that’s not ok’. I said, ‘I want you to move out’.

It’s hard. My son is 13 now and I can see some tendencies in him that are in his dad. Some of the anger and language. But both of us have had help from Stopping Violence Services.

It has helped me make sense of the trauma, but that still continues. The negative psychological effects are ongoing, and they will be for many years.

I just hope my story helps others in this situation to get help before I did. Five years is a long time.

For more information about Stopping Violence Services click here.