I thought I’d met the man of my dreams. But it was just the beginning of a nightmare…
By Emma Barrett, 38
Strolling into town on a sunny Sunday afternoon, I only had a list of chores on my mind.
My little Jack Russell-Chihuahua cross, Lola, had dragged practically all of my knickers out the drawer.
And of course I’d turned up too late, they’d all been savaged.
So picking up some new underwear at the shops was first on my ‘to-do’ list
And then I had to make a quiche for a work party on Monday. Of course there was the usual cleaning too…
But then I bumped into a friend outside our local pub.
“Em, you coming to the barbecue later?” she called out to me.
“Better not, I’ve got a list of things to do up to my neck,” I said. Plus I didn’t really fancy walking all the way to a party when I didn’t really know the host, a bloke from the pub.
But she twisted my arm when she said I could just jump in the car with her and Jason, a guy she knew.
So later that afternoon, late last July, I met Jason for the first time when he picked me up.
As we tucked into hotdogs in the garden he barely left my side, chatting about anything and everything.
Then my phone rang.
“That was my son Liam,” I explained.
Me and his dad shared custody since we split, while my older daughter Lily, 17, lived with her grandparents.
“It’s my afternoon to see him, but he wants to come to the barbecue too.”
“Don’t worry my little flower, let’s go and get him,” Jason grinned.
I felt a bit bad about taking a favour from a stranger, but Jason seemed so charming and genuine.
At the end of the night when he dropped us back I knew I wanted to see him again. I’d been single for three years, and was flattered by the attention.
So over the next few weeks we started spending time together, with long walks along the beach and cosy nights in.
Quickly our relationship turned sexual, but I felt safe with Jay.
I’d heard he was a bit of a bad boy, getting in trouble from pub fights.
But he treated me like a princess, always paying me compliments and so eager to see even more of me.
Then things started to change mid-way through August.
It was Jay’s birthday and we’d celebrated with a couple of drinks down the pub.
Back at home in the bedroom, he starting forcing me to do sexual things I wasn’t comfortable with.
I tried to say no, but he begged.
“Come on my little flower, do it for me,” he cajoled, his pet name taking a darker, more threatening tone.
I did it, after all it was his birthday. But that was just the start.
Soon he was quizzing me on my sexual history, and treating me like his play thing.
He’d wake me up in the middle of the night for sex, even if I had work the next day.
His mood swings confused me. Then three weeks into our relationship he told me he loved me.
What have I got myself into? I worried.
Then, on Liam’s 9th birthday in September, my nightmare really started.
There’d been a mix up with Liam’s dad. Somehow we both thought we were throwing him a party!
We got together to both drop him off at school in the morning as a treat, and decided to let Liam decide what he wanted.
In the end he chose to go to his dad’s so he could have a friend stay over. I put on a brave face, but inside I was devastated.
I’d planned balloons, banners, and party food… I really needed Jay to cheer me up with a few drinks down the pub.
Instead, he sank pint after pint and by the time we got back to my home around 10pm Jason was in a terrible mood.
As soon as the front door shut he started yelling horrible insults.
“You’re a rubbish mum, you let Liam down,” he raged.
“But he’s happy, it’s what he wanted” I tried to argue.
“Get out, leave me alone,” Jason shouted, pushing me away.
I was terrified, and hurried to the back door. I’d never seen him like this.
But when my hand reached the door handle he grabbed me and dragged me back into the kitchen.
“Jay, calm down!” I begged.
“Shut up, or it will get worse,” he spat.
Instead he pummeled me, breaking five of my ribs and cracking my head on the floor.
With Jason’s powerful hands gripped around my neck I started to pass out. Then he stopped just as soon as he’d started.
“Come on, we’re going to my place,” he ordered.
It was a struggle to even get up off the floor. Still scared for my life, I did what he said.
Gone was my loving boyfriend, in his place was a violent monster.
We packed up the car and set off. But not before he made me scrub my own blood up off the floor. It was sick.
We ended up at the static caravan he was staying at. My plan was to wait until the next day, then get out and never see the monster again.
My face was throbbing and my body ached. But that night, with tears streaming down my face, he forced me to have sex.
“You’re a good girl, you can take it,” he said.
The next morning Jason was still as manic as the night before. He was adamant we had to get to his flat in Norwich.
But not before he’d hidden the damage he’d done to my face.
“You need some make-up, you look like a state,” he snarled. I didn’t dare argue back, but I desperately needed help.
“Please can I get some medicine for the pain?” I croaked in agony, as I tried to cover the swelling with pale eyeshadow.
“I’ll take you to a walk-in place,” he countered. “Tell them we had a pool party, and you slipped, but we had a lovely time.”
It was ridiculous but that’s what I found myself telling a nurse later that day, as Jason waited outside.
I wanted to tell the truth, but I was terrified Jason would make me pay.
“Are you sure there’s nothing else you want to talk about?” the nurse asked, concerned.
But I shook my head, clutching a painkiller prescription, and wearing some sunglassses Jason had shoved on my face to hide my black eyes.
That day was the start of two weeks from hell.
Jason smashed up my phone, and kept me shut up in his flat 65 miles away from everyone I knew.
Colleagues thought I’d just vanished, and when Jay lent me his phone to call Liam I had to lie why I couldn’t see him.
Jason made me into his slave – he’d make me dress up in sexy clothes and dance for him, and forced me to have sex up to eight times a day.
The constant pain from his beating was enough to scare me into complying.
He’d still call me his “little flower,” but now it sent chills down my spine.
One day he even marched me down to a local nudist beach, still wearing those sunglasses.
We spent the day in the dunes while he drank countless bottles of beer.
On the way home he made me pull the car into a layby and have sex with him, in full view of a young family.
“When we get home Jay, I’ll do whatever you want,” I desperately pleaded.
He grabbed at the steering wheel. “No! It has to be right now, or I’ll make us crash,” he drunkenly slurred.
As he lifted me on top of him I was absolutely mortified, and desperate for other parked drivers to call the police – instead they drove off in disgust.
He’d make me shoplift too, whenever he was hungry or wanted more booze.
Even when the police caught us I didn’t tell the truth.
They knew something was up – the bruises on my face said it all.
But I stuck to the pool party story.
By now I was well and truly in Jason’s grip, and scared for my life.
He’d hurt me, or even worse he’d make my family pay.
Days had passed in a blur when eventually Jay agreed to let me see my son, for the first time since his birthday.
I had to beg for the car keys and a bit of money to take Liam to the cinema.
Back in Cambridge I felt safer and sure I’d find a way to escape.
I hadn’t even thought about how, I just didn’t want to let my boy down.
Instead Jason flipped again and insisted we were all going back to Norwich.
Hands shaking, I started the car, but we’d barely gone down the road when Jason started ranting and raving again.
Scared for my son I stopped the car sharply, dragged Liam out and we just ran.
“Keep going, we’ll be safe,” I panted at him.
After taking refuge in a shop until we’d lost Jason, we ended up back at my usual pub.
Walking in and seeing familiar faces, the ordeal suddenly hit me and I burst into tears.
“I’ve been so scared, I didn’t know what to do,” I sobbed.
As friends reached out to hug me, I knew my nightmare was finally over.
Soon Liam’s dad had arrived to get him, and later that evening I was collected by the police.
That night I stayed in a safe house and over the next few days the police heard everything.
They found Jay back at my house, hiding under a duvet.
He’d completely trashed the place, even urinating over the floors.
But as he was charged with rape, ABH, common assault and affray, the damage was the last thing on my mind.
That’s when I found out I wasn’t the only woman he’d terrorised. He’d even done jail time in 2006 for beating up a previous girlfriend.
If I’d known I never would have gone to that stupid barbecue in the first place.
In February this year I stood up in court to give evidence against him. I was there to look him in the eye too as he was sentenced to life in jail, with a minimum of nine years.
Now I’ve moved out of the area, on the advice from the police. I lost my job, my home and a lot of friends. I’ve even had to have surgery to fix the damage he did to my nose.
But I survived – while he’s rotting in jail, where he belongs. I’m so thankful no other woman will never have to go through hell with that monster again.