I had just started at a university in the next city over and I had a girlfriend back home. She hadn’t had a good life so far, her parents didn’t pay much attention and her ex had died in a car accident a year or so before. She was nice – I liked her.
An alarm bell should have sounded when she would occasionally start calling me Dan. She had her demons, but I was young and this was my first girlfriend, I honestly didn’t think I’d ever find someone to pay attention to me. I was always the quiet kid, not many girls noticed me.
Fast forward a year and I had met someone else on the same course as me. Although I hadn’t pursued her, I was having feelings I shouldn’t have been and wanted to end the relationship with my girlfriend back home. I told her that we were breaking up before I started seeing the other girl.
She had always had a temper, I might go as far as saying she was verbally abusive – accusing me of cheating all the time, not spending time with her and comparing me to others she had dated – but when I told her it was over she didn’t take it well. She started stalking me. I would get emails, non-stop texts and multiple calls an hour.
I came home that next weekend to celebrate my birthday. I just went to the pub with a few mates of mine; I didn’t want anything big just in case someone I knew invited her. I got a text saying, “I know you’re in town” and it made my heart sink. I was trying to have fun but I was constantly looking over my shoulder. I managed to get through the night without seeing her, but she had managed to text me letting me know she was near, she knew where I was and that she was making sure I “behaved”.
I went home and went to sleep, and then awoke to her leaning over me.
My grandma had let her in not knowing we had broken up. I was scared stiff – I couldn’t move, I just starred waiting for her to do something; I didn’t know what to do. She slowly reached her arm out to touch my chest and smile; it was like she was stoned. I jolted my arm out to stop her and she flipped – she had her keys on a lanyard in her hand and just started whipping me with them. They hurt, spiky chunks of metal on a nylon cord being hurled at you repeatedly. She was screaming and I was trying to use my arms to stop the keys from hitting my face.
She was only 5ft, and I’m nearly 6ft2” – I restrained her the best I could as my grandparents ran into the room. I managed to pick her up, and while suffering kicks and key stabs to my back, carried her down the stairs and put her outside. Before she could make another swing at me I slammed the door shut. My grandparents wanted to call the police, but I stopped them – I was afraid of being blamed. I was taught it was bad to treat a woman like that and that a man shouldn’t hit a girl. I was scared that I was in the wrong.
The next evening she surprised me at a gathering with friends. I didn’t know she was even connected to these people otherwise I would have thought twice about going. I told her subtly to leave me alone and that I was leaving but she started making accusations about how I hit her. She gestured to a bruise on her arm (I didn’t see it on her the night before but I could have carried her a little too rough) and I frantically tried to explain to those I could the circumstances that led her to make them, but few took my side of the story.
I tried to leave, but she stopped me at the door and tried to say sorry for her actions, started crying and tried to hug me. I stopped her and she punched me in the face. The room cheered.
With a bloody nose, I went straight to the local police station pleading my case and showing them my injuries from the night before. The police scoffed at my accusations. “Mate, we take these things kind of claims seriously around here – we suggest you think long and hard about your ‘story’ before you file a complaint” They made me sit in the reception for half an hour to think it over. I saw a couple of police officers come over, look at me and shrug – some even laughed.
I walked out and have not spoken about it since - until now.
Over the next few days I got over 50 texts and voicemails. I never called back. After that I rarely came home. I was too afraid. It affected me at university too and I failed my second year and dropped out. It took me five years to trust someone again.
I’m in a better place now. I have a wife and a baby girl – and I’m truly happy now that I’m open about things and was able to find the help I needed. It’s why movements like Stay Brave UK are so vital! I wouldn’t have been able to come forward without knowing there were others like me that understand that domestic violence isn’t just a women’s issue.
Josh's story, and others like it, are the reason our Founders' Appeal needs you support. If you're able please donate to this appeal here: www.staybraveuk.org/appeal
Josh is a survivor of stalking and domestic abuse living in the UK. No one took his side of the story and he's decided to speak out for the first time to help others.
All names in this article have been changed. If you wish to tell your story too, please get in touch here.