I Haven’t Told Anyone: private stories from Britain’s women

A collection of private experiences of abuse from women in the UK

Leisha, London, 27

My husband is violent, but that’s sadly pretty normal in our community. My mum and dad broke up when I was seven, so I feel like I have something to prove with our marriage working. He loses his temper over stupid stuff like bills or whether I’ve cooked dinner for him on time, or if I’ve left my hair net in the bathroom. He screams so loud I want to run sometimes. He always says sorry. He calls me lazy and fat and stupid.

We have kids together and I don’t think I can leave him. He was so sweet before we married. We used to go out for a takeaway or to the cinema and he’d treat me like a lady. He always paid. Now he hates having to buy the kids shoes. I wonder who else he is spending it on.

Ella, Nottingham, 30

My abuser is married and I feel like if I say anything, I’ll have to tell everyone I was having an affair with him. I knew he was married and it was wrong, but we ended up seeing each other after shifts at the store and it escalated. He’d had a bit to drink one time and he hurt me and then assaulted me. I cried for ages after he did it. I told everyone I’d just shut my wrist in the freezer door in the garage but I wish I’d told the truth. He knows I’ll stay quiet about whatever he does now because I’m embarrassed. I feel trapped. I wish I’d never started this.

Jeanne, London, 25

My boyfriend changed the wifi password when I hadn’t cooked him dinner on time. He won’t let me have it. He checks my phone all the time. He’s so controlling and he really makes me feel insecure about myself. He’s super jealous when I spend time with anyone and demands to know where I am or what I’m doing. He doesn’t hit me or anything. But that doesn’t make what he does okay. I feel like I’m in a cage sometimes. I love him, but I really need him to go.

Saeeda, Birmingham, 17

I grew up in a Pakistani Muslim household. My family are more cultural than religious. He (my abuser) was a family relative that my parents and I trusted: he used their position to take advantage of me at such a young age. Keeping in mind that I grew up in a conservative household, so I had no knowledge of sexual relations, or anything related to that. All I remember is how much I started to hate my abuser and myself.

I was scared and nervous all the time. And after two years when I spoke out against it, I was told if people found out about it my reputation would be ruined. So nothing happened to my abuser, and I had to pretend it didn’t happen. He is still in my family, so I see him and his grown-up kids sometimes. I’m still a virgin, I haven’t kissed a guy since. I have never had a relationship with a male of any kind and I think that’s because of my past experiences and what he did. I don’t trust men, even though I do know not all of them are like that. It’s just hard for me to trust again.

Marie, Edinburgh, 22

Other women have had it a lot worse but this has been on my mind for ages, so I thought I’d share it. When I was at uni (I graduated last year) I used to drink quite a bit and go out with my friends. This one guy must have known I was wasted because I couldn’t walk- I was well past it- and I remember being in bed with him at his flat and too scared to get up and leave. I’d never have sex with a bloke if he had passed out or was so drunk he couldn’t stand, so I’ve often thought about why he did that to me. I blame myself a bit. I feel really guilty because my boyfriend doesn’t know. I wish I could tell him. I felt raped, although I know a lot of people will say it was my fault for not making it clearer I wanted to leave. When I smell his aftershave I panic.

Note: All names have been changed. Thank you to all the women who came forward to contribute to this article.

Anthropologist with an awful lot to say about everything. Opinions entirely my own. Usually. madelaine@madelainehanson.co.uk

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