I would have followed my fiance to hell and back, but nothing could have prepared me for the price I had to pay…
By Debbie Hawke, from Launceston, Cornwall
I stared at my shiny, gorgeous locks in the mirror and thanked the hairdresser. I had to admit it, I looked fantastic.
‘You’ve done a brilliant job,’ I smiled, patting my bob.
I paid up and pulled on my jacket, snatching one last look at myself before stepping out onto the high street feeling a million dollars.
That’s when I saw him.
‘Debbie! How are you?’ It was Dan, 28, the son of a close family friend Jerry, 51. I hadn’t seen him for years, but time had been kind to him. He was gorgeous.
‘I’m great Dan, how are you?’ I blushed, my cheeks glowing crimson.
‘Great,’ replied Dan. ‘You’re looking well.’
‘Thanks,’ I gushed. ‘So are you.’
Dan smiled and said: ‘You have to let me take you out for a drink so we can have a good catch up.’
We swapped numbers and a few days later filled in the missing years together over a couple of glasses of wine.
‘The last time I saw you, you were about to drop,’ Dan recalled.
He was right. I’d been eight months pregnant and the size of the side of a house.
But so much had happened since I’d been introduced to him over a decade ago. I’d had four children and although I remained close to my ex, we’d been separated for a while.
Since then, finding love had been the last thing on my mind but there was something about Dan, a farmer, that made me hot and bothered. I hadn’t been this attracted to a man in a very long time.
So when he kissed me at the end of the evening, I melted into his arms.
‘I’d love to see you again,’ Dan said, brushing the hair from my face.
‘So would I,’ I added shyly.
I was so relieved. I wasn’t just developing a silly crush, he liked me too!
From that moment on, we were a couple. We wasted no time in telling our family and friends including his dad Jerry who gave us the thumbs up.
Then a few months later at a family gathering, Dan leaned in for a kiss. His face looked full of mischief.
‘What is it?’ I giggled. ‘Why are you looking at me that way?’
‘I was just wondering…’ he paused for a moment, staring intently at me. ‘If you would marry me?’
I gasped in disbelief and cried: ‘Yes!’ We hadn’t been together for long but I was madly in love with Dan and wanted nothing more than to spend the rest of my life with him as his wife.
‘Of course I will,’ I said.
Dan swept me up in his arms while the rest of the party remained oblivious to the proposal. But when we delivered the happy news to everyone, Jerry forced a smile.
Although I couldn’t put my finger on what was wrong, I could have sworn that our engagement had upset him in some way.
Not that we let it bother us and in July that year we moved into his parents’ remote property while we saved for our wedding.
Everything was bliss… apart from Jerry’s inappropriate behaviour. I’d notice Jerry glancing at my cleavage or staring at my bum but whenever I said anything to Dan, he dismissed it as ‘mucking around’.
‘You know what he’s like,’ said Dan. ‘It’s just part of his character, don’t take it to heart.’
Then one Sunday morning, after Dan had left to tend the land, I woke up to find Jerry in my room.
‘What time are you getting up? He asked.
‘What time is it?’ I asked him in a daze, before closing my eyes and drifting back to sleep.
The next time I awoke Jerry was lying in bed beside me, his hulking frame inching towards me. I froze.
‘What do you want?’ I shuddered.
‘I want a cuddle,’ he groaned under his heavy breath.
‘Go cuddle your wife,’ I spat. But still he moved in closer and began rubbing his hands all over my body.
Rigid with fear, I begged him to leave me alone but when he threatened to kill my children I was terrified into silence.
I clamped my eyes closed and prayed for it all to be over. After he’d viciously raped me, I’d never felt more dirty – or alone.
‘Remember that if you say anything I’ll make sure that you never see Dan again,’ he snarled, pulling his heavy weight off me.
As soon as he had left, I ran to the bathroom. I needed to scrub myself clean. All I wanted was to see my kids – but I was trapped in the middle of nowhere with the future father-in-law from hell.
I couldn’t tell Dan about his depraved dad, it would break his heart as well as our relationship.
And besides, I had to think of my kids. Jerry was a big guy capable of terrible things and I couldn’t let him hurt them.
So I stayed silent – even when Jerry went on to rape me twice more, each attack on a Sunday when Dan was down on the fields.
I loved Dan desperately and longed to tell him the truth about his sick father but I was terrified it would tear our family apart and that he would choose Jerry over me. I couldn’t imagine my life without Dan in it.
So when I walked down the aisle three months later to marry my rapist’s son, I avoided Jerry’s eyes at all costs. I hoped that we could start afresh away from my monster and live the life I’d always dreamed of.
Now that we were man and wife, we were tighter than ever, despite my dreadful secret.
But one day in January 2010, just three months after our wedding, Jerry started bombarding me with pervy messages.
‘I’m going to throw you onto the bed later,’ read one creepy text. ‘I want you,’ read another.
I’d been pushed to the limit. Although I still couldn’t find the words to say what happened, I could show Dan the texts and hope that his dad would confess all.
When Dan walked in from his shift on the farm later that evening, I showed him my mobile and said: ‘Your old man has been texting me all day.’ Dan’s face drained of colour as he scanned my inbox. He was livid. We finally had a breakthrough.
‘I’m going to sort him out,’ Dan shouted.
I breathed a sigh of relief. My husband believed me and he was going to put an end to my nightmare.
‘Are you going to speak to him tonight?’ I asked, shaking from head to toe.
But to my dismay he said: ‘I’ll speak to him tomorrow.’
I couldn’t understand why he didn’t want to act immediately but I still hoped against hope that the awful truth would emerge.
However when Dan confronted his dad the next day he shrugged it off, telling me Jerry was simply ‘messing about’. I was crushed. Dan believed his sick father over me, his wife.
Just days after the confrontation I received another text message. This time, it was from Dan. It read: ‘I want to end this. It’s over.
I was devastated. I had worshipped the ground Dan walked on and I’d lost him to his rapist father. We’d been married for just three months.
I sank into depression and even developed post-traumatic stress disorder as I struggled to come to terms with my horrific ordeal.
But the following year, I finally climbed out of my pit of despair.
Finally, I felt able to go to the police. I needed justice. That monster had violated me in the worst way imaginable and destroyed my marriage. He needed to pay for what he’d done.
I told officers everything and in 2013, Jerry was jailed for 17 years for raping me. He was also found guilty of raping another woman and sexually assaulting two other victims.
A sense of pride surged through me when the jury delivered their verdict. Justice had been served, finally.
I still have dark days but I’ve met someone else and I’m beginning to piece my life back together.
I’ll never forget the day I married my rapist’s son, but I refuse to let that monster take my future.