Where did it all go wrong? Is it my fault? I guess it must be. What am I doing in this refuge? I should be in my own home, my child's home. How did it get so bad?
Thinking back it all seemed so right. He was God's gift, every woman's dream. I could not believe my luck when he asked me out - my friends were so envious. He treated me so well, so full of respect. What a nice guy. So caring and gentle, so thoughtful - and he was all mine.
After a whirlwind romance he asked me to marry him. Of course I said yes, so the date was set and the wheels were in motion. A friend of mine wanted a chat. She told me about this other girl who Paul had gone out with. She told me that one night he had punched her in the face, after a date. I did not believe a word of it and told her so. She was lying; she was jealous. She must be.
We lived in a quiet part of town in our love nest, just the two of us. Life was all planned out for us. I would carry on working. We would save up and when the time was right we would try for a baby.
As time went by, Paul would not come home from work from time to time. I would wait up for him in sheer panic thinking something had happened to him. When he did eventually turn up after working very late, he did not seem the same Paul. It was like a stranger had come into our home. His presence made me feel unsure of the situation; my instincts were to hide away, shut myself away from this invader.
At first this behaviour was just now and again. I found excuses for this. After all Paul had a lot of stress at work. Then it happened. On that bloody awful night Paul was late home again, the third time that week. Instead of waiting up for him, unusually I had decided to have a bath and go to bed, so when he shouted up the stairs for me to get him something to eat, I just ignored him thinking that he would sort himself out. How wrong I was.
In the next instant, he came up the stairs and into our bedroom. I will never forget his eyes, the aggression in his body language, the slap round my face, him pulling me out of bed, the boot in the stomach. My mind was racing, my heart was pounding. What is happening to me? Am I going to die?
That was the start of things to come. Why did I not leave? Why did I stay? No one knew what was going on. I was so ashamed to tell even my own family. Everyone thought he was so nice and I was so lucky.
Eventually, I started thinking that if things were different then maybe Paul would be happier. Therefore the main focus in my life was Paul's happiness - his needs and wants. I thought that whatever it took, I could change this mess.
As time went by I became even more careful that everything was in order when Paul did show up. His favourite dinners were always cooked, and his shirts were all washed and pressed back in the wardrobe. If he was late home, I began to think: well he works hard, he needs to relax, he deserves it.
It was at this time I found out we were going to have our first baby. I thought things would be different. I thought that it would make Paul happy. This could be our chance to start again - this time as a complete family.
For a short time, Paul was over the moon. He was like he used to be, caring about me. This made me feel so special. Has my Paul come back to me at long last, I thought?
Unfortunately, Paul did not like the fact that I was putting on weight. He said that he found me repulsive, weird even. Still I believed that once our baby was born things would be different.
Our daughter, Hannah arrived after a long labour. When I saw her for the first time I was so happy. She was so small and so beautiful. Her dad will be so proud I thought.
He could not be with me at the birth. He had a lot on at work. Still I knew that he would be in to visit us at some stage. All the other husbands were around wanting to be involved. I felt a twinge of jealously and felt terribly alone.
Paul told me that he had wanted a boy. He also said that I could sleep in the next room with Hannah so that we did not disturb him.
As time went by Paul complained that all I cared about was that baby. He was the man of the house. He should come first he said. When he was around, I tried not to take too much notice of Hannah. Then one day when Hannah crawled over to her father he pushed her away, complaining that she might make his trousers dirty. Paul was very particular about his clothes. Hannah's little face looked so rejected. She looked how I felt - unwanted, unloved - nothing more than a nuisance.
We both learnt how to stay out of his way. Then one night after I had just settled Hannah down Paul came home early. I immediately knew something was wrong. I could sense that there was going to be trouble.
"Where's my dinner you slag". I could hardly speak because of the fear of what was about to come: "I will go and cook you something, I whispered". "Don't bother, it should already be on the table". "Paul, I did not know what time you were coming home". "Shut your mouth you lazy, fat cow".
He came over to where I was already cowering in the corner of the kitchen. He picked up a bowl of fruit and threw it at me with so much force that I fell to the ground. Please don't hit me Paul, please don't hit me, I pleaded. This seemed to make him worse. The attack lasted for about 5 minutes; to me it seemed like a lifetime.
Once he had left me lying on the kitchen floor I realised that Hannah was screaming. I managed to get to my feet, and then saw Paul with my baby in his arms: "there, there look at your silly mummy, she has tripped over again, and I bet next time my dinner will be ready, whatever time I get home".
Once Paul was asleep that night and little Hannah had settled down, I felt physically sick, and so very tired. I knew that I would have to do something about the situation that my daughter and I were in.
Paul got ready for work the next day as if nothing had happened, and I knew from experience that I would be safe from his attacks for a short while, perhaps a week or so. Once he had left for work, I looked through the local phone book and found the Women's Aid help line number. The woman on the other end of the phone gave me the local refuge phone number. I could not believe that there was someone on the end of the phone that was offering me advice and support. I decided there and then that I would go and speak to them.
Once there, I decided that we needed the shelter and safety of the refuge. I could not take any more!