It all starts as a normal routine life. I enjoyed a loving childhood as any child would, until I was 16 years old. At 16 I left home to start a life with my boyfriend. Everything seemed okay. It was hard. Money was tight, but even so we still managed to be able to go to the pub most nights with our friends.
My boyfriend who was 5 years older than me was a heavy drinker. Arguments started on the odd occasion, but nothing too heavy to begin with. Then one night, after too many drinks, he hit me. I was stunned, my head was saying so many things. Then because he said he was 'sorry' I thought: well maybe he is. Is this normal and should I forgive him? Like a fool I did forgive him. That was the biggest mistake of my life!
Life carried on and what I thought was normal - being hit and having to be abused verbally - became a part of every day life. I carried on like this for three years. On the outside I appeared happy go lucky with not a care in the world, but on the inside I was crying out for help. I was so scared.
The next error I made was to become pregnant. At 17 I had a little baby boy. Was he there for me during labour? No, I was on my own, but of course he was able to celebrate with friends the birth of his son - the proud father. How easily he forgot that he had put me in hospital while I was carrying his son. And he wasn't even there to see his son being born.
When I came home from hospital I thought everything had changed. He showered us with love and was so proud to take us out. It felt good, but that was short lived, as I was about to find out. Of course now we were both in the way of his heavy drinking sessions at the pub. I became so frightened. I hated the thought of going out.
My problems became worse. He was not only hitting me with his fists, he was using items from around the home too. I started to hide things thinking maybe he would use them on me next time. This pattern of life became normal. He would get up, saying: "Sort him out. - the baby needs this or that", then he would go to the pub, for hours, on our son's money.
I would be pacing the floor. "Have I done this, have I done that? What will trigger that blow today, or what will he use as a weapon?" I went on like this until I was 19 years old.
The last few day of my life with him, I was mad. He had asked me to marry him and I had agreed, and the day before I left, the registry office had been booked for us to marry later that year. I can remember the next day so clearly. I had taken our son swimming with my mum. I was relaxed until I had come home. He was there, high on drink, and he was not happy for whatever reason. Again I don't know why.
It was the last straw when I took another blow from his fist again, but this time I had to think fast. I had our son in my arms when he head butted me. This is what woke me up to him. That last blow could quite easily have been our son's head. No more was I going to take that chance.
I left. I got help from his parents that night to get me out. Finally, I went to a Police Station. The Police said he was known for his violence and they would get me out of the area.
I got a travel warrant for the train. I went to a women's refuge in Bexley Heath overnight, then needed to travel further, to Basildon Women's Refuge. This is where my life actually began - it's not easy being in a refuge, your first few days are so hard, so many things to think of. Had I done the right thing by leaving him? I had broken up a family unit after all. I just wanted things to be normal for our son with a loving mummy and daddy.
Many things went round my mind, but speaking to members of the refuge staff who were always there for me, helped. They asked me: "Is it really normal to BE USED AS A HUMAN PUNCH BAG?' Of course I knew the answer was 'No'. That was no life for anybody and certainly not the type of life I wanted for my son.
Today, after help from the staff, friends and my family, life is normal. I am married and have two wonderful sons. This is a family unit. My thanks go out to the staff of Basildon Women's Refuge, my family and my friends for both being supportive and for just being there when I needed them the most.