My husband and I married each other because we shared an outlook on life and family. We had similar ambitions, and had 6 happy years together. My husband changed after his father died.  He became very self obsessed, and controlling of me and our children. The business that he’d built up himself over years began to fail.

He wouldn’t let me have contact with other men either socially or professionally. He tried to control what I wore, how I did my hair. I wasn’t allowed to wear any make up or nail varnish, or any clothing which he considered immodest. I was a professional, confident woman with friends of all backgrounds and he wouldn’t let me have contact with them. He forced me to be a housewife, cook, cleaner, mother and nothing more. The change in him was very quick and he became incredibly controlling. It affected the children a lot – he was very aggressive and rough with them.  We were all so scared of him. When I heard his key in the front door, I would be terrified – we never knew what mood he would be in.

I stayed with him for the sake of my children, but they were badly affected. They could see what was going on. There was no love, no affection in our family.

I knew he wouldn’t grant me a divorce, so I kept a secret diary of all the incidents of his aggression. I had to get a non-molestation order and an injunction which meant he wasn’t allowed within 100 metres of our home. We were terrified when he eventually moved out. He kicked the door down and broke in three times. I was always scared he would try to break in and so I kept the curtains closed and all the doors securely locked. I was terrified to leave the house. There was a time when I thought I’d never open my curtains or back door again. It was dreadful for the kids, they saw a lot.

A friend’s husband put me in touch with Jewish Women’s Aid. The first time I met my keyworker [from the client support team] in the counselling room, I felt so safe that I didn’t want to leave. She was so reassuring and helped me to feel that I was going to get through. She called, texted and emailed me constantly and offered loads of practical help. She helped me to write letters and contacted people on my behalf. She arranged for extra locks to be put on my house so we’d feel more secure. She was amazing – it would have been so much harder without her. JWA took me and my children on days out and offered counselling support to me. I was so grateful to them that when I felt stronger, I did some fundraising for them. I wanted other women to know about them and to know where to go for help.

I think that what got me through was the belief that I would survive. My client support worker helped me to believe that. I was a strong, confident woman, but he broke me and it’s taken two and a half years to put myself back together.

*Names and some details have been changed to protect anonymity