I knew my controlling husband had a dark side but nothing could have prepared me for our daughter’s shocking revelation…
By Nicola McDonald, 43, Hull
I finished off my lips with a slick of gloss and pouted in the mirror. I thought to myself: Not bad.
But my Saturday night excitement was short lived.
‘You’re not going out like that,’ snarled my husband Ian, 41. ‘You look like a clown.’
I rushed through to the bathroom and ran a cloth under the hot tap before wiping my face clean. I’d forgotten the golden rule: I wasn’t allowed to wear make-up.
I’d met Ian when I was just 18 and had fallen madly in love with him. Soon we had a son, James, and two years later we tied the knot.
Ian had always been very protective of me and at first, I was flattered. But gradually, he grew increasingly possessive and controlling.
We went on to have two more children, Charlotte, now 20, and Adam, 15, and Ian even became jealous of the attention I gave the kids.
I worked two part time jobs so it was important to me that I had time with the children in between shifts.
But Ian was a very insecure man. If I spent the day playing with the children, he would ignore me later that night in bed. He’d just roll over. I thought to myself: What am I supposed to do? Not speak to our kids?
For Adam’s first Christmas we all excitedly crowded around the tree to open our presents. Ian had asked for the Harry Potter book set, but being a busy mum of three I’d just picked him up the latest edition.
‘What is this?’ He spat, discarding the book and marching out the house in a huff. I shrugged my shoulders when I heard his car speed off.
I couldn’t believe that he could be so childish on such a special day. When he arrived back in time for Christmas dinner, I didn’t pull him up on it. I was reluctant to make a scene in front of the kids.
I didn’t dare question Ian’s terrible attitude. I’d asked him to leave once and he’d responded by kicking a stool at me. I’d learnt my lesson the hard way. He had a dreadful temper and it was easier to keep my head down.
I was incredibly unhappy but I couldn’t bring myself to walk out. I didn’t want the kids to grow up in a broken home and so I put up with Ian’s behaviour for the children’s sake.
I told myself: When they grow up I’ll leave.
But then in 2005 I was on a rare night out with the girls when a dark, handsome stranger approached me at the bar. ‘Can I buy you a drink?’ he asked. I looked behind me to double-check he wasn’t asking someone else.
When it was clear he was referring to me, I blushed. I couldn’t remember the last time a member of the opposite sex had paid me any attention.
‘No thanks,’ I politely declined. ‘I’m married.’
‘That’s a shame,’ my admirer replied with a smile. ‘You’re gorgeous.’
I couldn’t quite believe what I was hearing. It had been so long since anyone had complimented me. I was shocked by this man talking to me like another human being.
I smiled back at him then joined my friends. But my happiness quickly began to fade.
Although I’d just been chatted up by a hunk, I felt a swell of sadness rush over me. I was a caged bird. I wasn’t interested in a relationship with the stranger, but his kindness exposed a deep void in my life.
I wanted more than anything to be loved but I’d spent the last 15 years being manipulated and controlled.
Something inside me snapped. I was broken. I just couldn’t go back home to that bully.
‘I can’t be with Ian anymore,’ I confided in my closest friend Paula, 43, while on the brink of tears. ‘I can’t go back home.’
She took my hand firmly. ‘You’re staying with me tonight, I’ll look after you.’
It was over. I deserved so much better.
When I woke up the next day I felt like the weight of the world was off my shoulders. All I needed was my kids and together we had a bright new future to look forward to.
But Ian had other ideas…
‘You walked out on the kids the night you never came home,’ he barked at the front door of our house. ‘You’re not seeing them ever again.’
I was devastated. I knew he could be nasty but I’d never dreamt that he would be so cruel, he would keep my children from me.
They were my life and he knew that. Ian had never even made one parents’ evening at school. He was doing this to spite me.
I applied for a house and was forced to fight for custody of James, Charlotte and Adam. We’d been locked in a lengthy 18-month custody battle when the kids decided to open up to me about how they felt.
‘I don’t want to stay with Dad anymore,’ said James. ‘He hits me.’
I tried hard not to tear up. I felt helpless. But that’s when Charlotte piped up.
‘I don’t want to stay with him either,’ sobbed 11-year-old Charlotte. ‘Daddy hurts me too…’
‘He hits you?’ I asked, gently. This was all news to me and every word was like a dagger to my heart.
‘That’s not how he hurts me,’ she replied, her bottom lip quivering.
I felt a sickening knot tighten in my stomach as I gently asked Charlotte what had happened. She refused to talk and so instead, I wrote it down. Did Daddy touch your boobies? I typed out on my mobile.
When Charlotte broke down in tears, my worst fears were confirmed.
‘I was just three when it started,’ she finally managed to say. ‘He told me it happened in all families but that no one ever talks about it.’
I grabbed my precious girl and hugged her tight.
I was horrified when she revealed that Ian, her own father, had been brutally raping her all this time. Monster.
‘He used to tie me to the bed,’ she wailed. ‘He said if I told anyone that Adam wouldn’t have a daddy anymore.’ She could barely breathe through the heavy sobs.
I thought back to the shifts I used to work. Ian had been free to attack our little girl during the day and in the evenings. I thought: How many times has he got away with this?
I was consumed with rage – and guilt. Ian was a vicious bully but I never imagined he’d hurt the children. I’d endured his abuse because I wanted to keep our family together.
But keeping us all under one roof simply allowed him to rape our daughter. It was almost too much to bear.
I was so protective of my kids I refused to leave them with anyone other than a family member – but it turned out it was their own father I needed to protect Charlotte from.
I couldn’t get my head around it. I’d failed my daughter when she needed me most – so now, I was going to act.
I called the police immediately, who arrested Ian the same day. Charlotte howled for six hours straight before we managed to calm her down. Her nightmare was over now.
Examinations showed that Charlotte had suffered internal bruising as a result of her dad’s violent attacks and a court date was set.
I wanted nothing more than justice for my daughter for the horror she’d endured for years at the hands of her sick dad.
In 2008 Ian was convicted of rape, attempted rape, indecent assault on a female, committing gross indecency with a child and sexual activity, and jailed for 15 years. He was also placed on the sex offenders’ register for life.
Ian is up for parole in December and we’re terrified he’ll be freed in time for Christmas to prey on other children.
The thought of what Charlotte went through still makes me sick with guilt. She was betrayed in the most violent way imaginable by one parent and then failed by another, when I didn’t notice and protect her.
Charlotte doesn’t blame me for what happened, but I do. I’ll spend the rest of my life making it up to her.