Hopefully we all know that the short answer to this is yes. If you want to read my story, it’s below.
My (ex) husband always had a high sex drive and liked to push the boundaries and most of the time I was strong enough to stand up for what I did or didn’t want and we muddled along well. Then I had an unexpected pregnancy (just as I was planning to split up with him – we weren’t married at the time) and things started to change. He was still relatively demanding in bed but with spd and morning sickness, sex was less often.
After a very difficult delivery in which we weren’t sure D was going to survive (you can read the story here), I had a massive bleed and it was literally all hands to the deck to get it sorted so I would be ok. This meant a lot of damage, physically and emotionally and, the word no-one wants to discuss….. stitches. Following this I was still having to take codeine for 3 weeks following the birth and the physical pain from the stitches didn’t go for over 2 years.
When we were home from hospital Stu made a point of telling me that he had read that usually it would take six weeks before people could resume their sex lives. I thought it a weird comment to make when I’d just been through all that but wasn’t totally surprised as sex was clearly a big deal to him. Once D was around two and a half weeks old, Stu started nagging me for sex or at least ‘fooling around’ time. I was still in a lot of pain, struggling to feed the baby and was brushing off his advances as much as possible as everything was just too soon. Four weeks after I had D and nearly two weeks after solid nagging from Stu, I caved and it was the most painful, uncomfortable experience.
After that, Stu became not only very militant about sex, insisting that we must have it at least twice a week and wanting more from each experience, bullying me to do things that repulsed me and being abusive when I refused. If D woke up during these times and needed settling, Stu would insist that that time hadn’t counted and insist on starting again.
When D was 8 weeks old I saw my Health Visitor (babies have an 8 week check to ensure all is ok and they’re developing well) and had a melt down with her about Stu’s approach to sex and his attitude towards me. She told me that this really wasn’t normal, that she could help me to access help and that it would be documented on my medical notes for future reference.
I couldn’t access help – sex was something that we just don’t really talk about and I did speak to my sister about it, during a very dark day where I was feeling awful but she got the wrong end of the conversation and said she’d happily look after D so Stu and I could have some time alone and have sex. Needless to say, I didn’t take her up on the offer!
This went on for years with Stu’s requests getting worse and each time I asked him not to do something he would do it even more. It seemed that his mission was to break me. Physically, mentally he had to overpower and control me.
D’s pregnancy, unplanned, had not gone down too well with family members and my mother, who I worked for, punished me right up until the end of the pregnancy…. at work she would scream at me in-front of the staff, parents and children (I worked as an Early Years teacher), she would make it almost impossible for me to attend hospital/maternity appointments during working hours. Didn’t do a Health & Safety check (this is a legal requirement) and I was given no support for working whilst having spd (which is an extremely painful condition where your pelvis starts to separate). All this was because Stu and I were unmarried. I had never wanted to get married and yet, when D was 3 months old, Stu proposed and I felt forced to say yes. I didn’t want my baby to be eternally prejudiced for being born out of wedlock and I kinda felt that I had made such a fuck up of everything, that I should be swept along and give this a go so that at least, D would have a legitimate place in my family.
I can’t talk about every episode, it would take too long and it takes me to a place in my head that’s too dark. A while after we married we started trying for another baby. After two early miscarriages I was pregnant with J and the morning sickness and spd returned. Coupled with the fact I was working almost full time, looking after D and seemed to be continually ill throughout the pregnancy, it was the one time that Stu pretty much left me alone. J’s birth was completely different to D’s (you can read about it here) and the recovery was much quicker. Emotionally I was in a much stronger place, I had a lot more support with J (what a difference a piece of paper and a ceremony had made in my family’s eyes) and I felt more able to keep Stu at bay, or at least until J was 6/7 weeks old, when Stu started nagging about sex.
Life fell back in the same pattern – Stu demanding sex pretty much constantly, calling me everything under the sun when I resisted and telling me that I wasn’t normal, everyone had incredibly active sex lives, my friends were all frigid and or lying to me about how often they had sex etc. He watched porn pretty much every day, followed loads of porn stars on twitter and made endless references to sex. If he wanted to talk to me about something and show me on the computer, he would then deliberately go to a website or twitter feed full of sex/images. When I responded negatively he would use it as an excuse to shout at me and call me boring/frigid etc.
I co-slept with both my children (D went into his own room full time when he was nearly 4) and sometimes I’d curl up in bed with J in the hope this would protect me from him but J was small and Stu would move him to another bed/room. In the end I would climb into bed with D as, at 6/7 years old, Stu wouldn’t be able to move him as easily and I could get some sleep. Stu’s Mum started having the children overnight and Stu would expect sex every single time that she had them. He would follow me around the house, standing right behind my shoulder so I couldn’t even turn around. Twice I said to him ‘Stuart, this is rape, I don’t consent to this’ and he continued, telling me that of course it wasn’t rape, he was my husband and I did want it really. Sometimes when his Mum had the kids I would go to sleep in D’s bunk bed so Stu couldn’t get to me and he would then punish me by sulking for days about it. In the end I stopped letting the children stay overnight at his mum’s house.
Alongside this behaviour, Stu and I would watch tv in the evenings and every single time something remotely sexy happened (a woman taking her top off for example), Stu would comment on it. Then he’d start nagging for sex. He then started to say if I wasn’t going to have sex with him more often than once or twice a week then I would have to allow him to have sex with other people. I tried to speak to him about how much it felt he always had to break me, that if I told him I found something deplorable then he would see it as a challenge, forcing it on me and actually I wanted intimacy, respect, I didn’t push for love as I don’t believe someone can treat you the way he treated me, and love that person at the same time. He just brushed it off as ‘trying to keep things fresh’ and refused to listen to any of it.
I started to get anxiety attacks, I would be driving down the road and not be able to breathe, I felt utterly trapped and completely alone. Who the hell could I talk about this to without feeling that they would judge me? I didn’t want to blow my whole personal life open, I didn’t want people to think of me as weak. I started to fantasise about leaving, about just turning around, walking out and not even taking my keys but I never wanted to leave my children.
One day I reached out to an old friend, I didn’t mention this as we don’t have that sort of relationship but I hadn’t spoken to him for a while and I messaged saying that I missed him. His reply was gentle, non-judgemental and it made me realise that I deserved gentle. I had spent so long judging myself and thinking myself weak over this issue and if I could be strong now and end this nightmare with Stu, then I could start to rebuild my self respect and treat myself gently for the rest of my life.
Nothing changed over the next few days, in Stu’s eyes anyway, he still constantly nagged for sex, being vile to me about it and then I went to the pub on the Saturday night with a friend and I started to talk to her about wanting to end my marriage. We got home around 1am and just as she and her boyfriend were leaving, J woke up. I came upstairs to settle him and a few moments later, when I was lying in the bed with J, Stu came into the bedroom and whispered for me to not fall asleep as he had plans for later… this was at 1am, I would be up with the kids in 5 hours and honestly, he just gave me the creeps behaving like this. Roughly 10 minutes later I heard Stu come back to the bedroom to check I had obeyed his orders. I pretended to be asleep and knew there was no going back. It was time to stand up for myself and reclaim me.
There were many factors in ending my marriage, Stu’s depression, his refusal to help out with anything to do with me or the kids, his not working, the lack of love. For me the sexual abuse was the biggest issue. I never really thought of it as abuse until the end of my marriage. It made me hellishly uncomfortable, yes but I don’t think that anyone really thinks they’re being abused, even when it’s written in black and white on their medical notes.