My name is Sarah. I am 24 years old. I am a survivor of emotional abuse.
When I was 17, I got into a relationship with an older boy. I thought at the time that he fancied me. I was in school at that time, which wasn’t the best time for me, I really struggled. Looking back now, that was clearly a reason why he was able to do the things he did, as I was quite vulnerable.
From the start of the relationship, I was vulnerable. I turned 18 a few weeks after we had started to go out with each other. He was older, he worked full-time, and I attended secondary school. At the very least this should have been a warning sign, why an older boy would want to see a girl as young as me? I didn’t think anything of it at the time.
A few months in, he was adamant for me to stay in his house on the weekends, this is where the isolation began. Not hanging out with my friends on weekends, not spending time with my family. If I was to hang out with friends or attend a birthday party he would always join. I was bombarded with messages and calls from him. Asking me questions like “who’s there? Are there any boys there?”
I ignored this. I started a part time job in a nightclub. As I was young, he was very against it from the beginning. He was adamant he was to collect me no one else, I wasn’t able to get a lift with a colleague or my parents.
I started a new job and the same thing happened. Except this time, I worked weekends and any days off I had, he would bring me back to his place. Again, I didn’t have much time for family or friends.
After I finished secondary school, I started college and worked part time. From the minute I finished school he immediately told me I wasn’t intelligent enough to do my course.
Early in the relationship, he never planned any dates or spent time doing things that I enjoyed, it was always what he wanted, which I voiced many times. However, this is where the love-bombing started. He would get me anything I wanted, and I never had to worry about money.
He would discuss very personal things about me and my body to his ‘friends’. Eventually his friends saw that this made me uncomfortable and stopped. He would also question what I was wearing on nights out, he hid some of my clothes so that I couldn’t find them. He’d tell me I didn’t need to wear makeup or do my hair, and ask me “who are you trying to impress?” Was I looking to attract other boys? I couldn’t speak to my friends who were male.
After two years of this behavior, I became a recluse. I felt so alone from falling out with my best friend and family over him. This made me feel even worse as I thought he was the only person I had left.
One day I got a message from his best friend’s sister, she said she had something to tell me. I was told that he had slept with her. She was the same age as me when I had met him and still in secondary school.
I got many other messages, I found condom wrappers in the strangest of places, I found clothes not belonging to me, I found messages on his phone, which was a rare occasion as I was never allowed on his phone. But he had full control of my phone and who I spoke to.
I tried to end the relationship, more love bombing, empty apologies and exhausted “I love you”’s. I decided to take him back. He made me feel absolutely insane. I thought I was dirt on someone’s shoe, he didn’t care about me.
After three years, I finally started to see the light. After my graduation I packed all my stuff I could find into my suitcase. I found some more messages while he was in the shower and decided that I will not be hurt like this anymore.
We had an altercation where I was held against the wall in his bedroom as he exploded and continued to tell me he loved me while he wouldn’t let me move. This was the moment I knew I needed help.
I was hysterical and said goodbye to his parents for the last time, I knew I wouldn’t be back. I pretended I was okay the entire journey home and talked about the following weekend. As I got home, I entered my kitchen and I collapsed onto the floor. I told my mother I needed out and I didn’t know what to do as I had tried to end the relationship before.
I had to change my mobile number and block him on multiple platforms and email as he kept trying to contact me.
I never heard of Women’s Aid and their Too Into You campaign, I wish I had sooner. I knew what he was doing was wrong, but I couldn’t stay away, he had isolated me from all my family and my friends, and I felt like I had nothing left but him. Now, four years later, after years of therapy and countless reflections, I finally have my voice back, and I am ready to use it.