I started to read “Why Does He Do That?” by Lundy Bancroft, the book was amazing, I felt this guy must have been living in our walls it was so accurate. I had a friend order it for me and read it secretly. (One thing people don’t understand is that when you are in these situations you can’t just order a book yourself or look something up online or even use the phone). My husband had cameras watching the whole of downstairs, that he could access from anywhere in the world. He completely controlled the finances and every time I bought something it pinged up on his phone, telling him how much I’d spent and where I was. He also tracked me on my phone. And at one point all my texts showed up on his computer. Yes I know - I still didn’t realise he was controlling!
At this point, his main way to control me had now become to threaten the kids. He knew I’d do anything to protect them. I needed to get out. But how? I thought I was stuck for the foreseeable future but tried to gather information. I spoke to Women’s Aid and even phoned a solicitor for the free half hour chat. Then one day he started ranting and shouted that he wanted to come and see my counsellor, as clear as a bell I heard God say “that’s your hook, that’s your way out. Do you want to take it?” I honestly believe God was asking me, eye to eye, ‘do you want to do it now?’
God could have stormed right through anytime, the fact that he asked me “are you ready, shall we do it?” blows my mind. I was ready “yes, I said I want to do it”. Wow - what a week that turned into!
My initial plan was that my husband would come to the counselling session and in that environment the counsellor would help me explain why I wanted a divorce. I was advised to hide passports and our marriage certificate and some cash with a friend etc. (see Women’s Aid for more info). I prayed with friends and we tried to work out what to do. All along I had a very strong sense that God was telling me:
1. It won’t work out as you’ve planned
2. It will be like a roller coaster ride in the dark - all you will be able to do is hold onto me with both hands. (‘But what about the kids?’ I asked, ‘ I’ll look after the kids was the reply’).
Then a friend phoned the local police station to ask advice on whether I could change the locks. They suggested I came in for a chat the next day. I was asked a lot of questions and finally the officer said, ‘We have a duty of care to you and your children, we’re going to arrest your husband.’ I was shocked, I cried (I think it was sudden relief someone cared and was doing something about it). He told me I was not allowed to go back to the house until they said and that I needed to go to the police station to make a full statement.
And this is why you need a team of friends to help you as you seek freedom. I needed:
1. A friend to look after the kids for unspecified time while I was at police station. It turned out to be 3.30pm-10pm- thank goodness for fish fingers and ice-cream!
2. A friend to be with me in the police station, asking questions, keeping track, and debriefing after.
3. A friend to take a food delivery at my house, so we had food when we eventually returned.
4. A friend to give us somewhere to stay the night.
Making the statement was a long and arduous process. Integrity and honour needs to be built on truth, not perfection. I learnt that I do not need to be perfect to not suffer abuse.
The police went to my house that night and arrested my husband. My husband was not allowed to return to the house, five months later he was convicted of ABH (Actual Bodily Harm) and given a restraining order preventing him from coming near me or the house. Did it work out like I’d planned? Not at all - infinitely better. Did it feel like a roller-coaster in the dark - absolutely? Did God look after the children? Totally.
When my ex was arrested, I was terrified at what might happen to him and felt it would be my fault. I felt God say two things:
1. The consequences are the fault of the sinner.
2. If he chooses to ignore God and sink even lower, that is between him and God, nothing to do with me. If it takes that for him to return to God, so be it.
Slowly I began to realise I could not hold onto my old life, this was a whole new start. I could shrink from the future, seeing it as overwhelmingly terrifying or seize the opportunity for something new and exciting (and it is a choice I keep having to make). God did not bring me out of my Egypt to let me die in the wilderness, I kept telling myself, I want to make it to the promised land.
Through this time my daughter was diagnosed as severely autistic, that too has challenged me greatly but nothing is too much for God. I have learnt to ask for help and am so grateful for the wonderful kindness I’ve been shown. I have learnt the miraculous ability of worship to lift me out of despair and remind me of how great God is.
I am forever grateful to the police for what they did. They were caring in a totally unsentimental way, supportive in an unbiased way and respectful. They originally wanted to charge my husband with rape. The stress of the ABH charge and looking after the children was pushing me to my limit and so I said I didn’t want to press the rape charge. The police were very respectful of my decision. If at any time God tells me to look at it again, I will do my best to be obedient.
Further information about Restored's work with survivors is here