The beginning felt like a fairy tale.

Anne's story

When I saw my ex for the first time, I thought: Wow. He was the coolest guy ever, really good-looking. All the women were crazy about him - and he chose me.

In the beginning everything was wonderful, I was on cloud nine, it felt like a fairy tale. He was incredibly charming, gave my mother presents, had a good job in the military police. He could have had any woman he wanted. I now know that he was also violent in other relationships. I was neither the first nor the last.

Relatively quickly I realised how jealous he was. If I talked to another man, he went berserk. I was not allowed to do that - I was his possession, his property. At some point, he hit me for the first time. He felt remorseful. He cried, apologised: this would never happen again, he loved me. I forgave him. But it only got worse from there. I covered up bruises with make-up or with my hair. I was constantly in a state of alarm, desperately trying not to provoke him.

The way he manipulated me was extremely cunning. I confided in him - secrets from my past, problems with my family. He used this knowledge against me. He emotionally blackmailed me. As time went by, he managed to isolate me from my family and friends. I had no privacy anymore and felt completely alone. In his view, a woman should be a cook in the kitchen, a lady in the streets and a whore in the sheets. That was my role, my purpose. Nothing else.

I think one of the reasons I stayed in this relationship for a long time was because I had already experienced violence as a child - my father was physically violent towards my mother. These abusive relationship patterns were familiar to me. I also stayed because I loved him. And because I was afraid. He used to threaten me that if I left him, he would kill my mother.

In the end, I was only able to leave him thanks to the support of my family. Even though my relatives were completely overwhelmed with the situation, they wanted to be there for me. They helped me flee form our flat and I was able to hide. He did not know where I was and couldn't reach me. I could break free.

I only saw him again by chance a few months later - by then he already had a new girlfriend. There was that instant spark again. We talked briefly - he spoke badly about his new girlfriend and flirted with me. He managed to lure me back in. He called me on the phone, wanted to meet up. I resisted at first but could not say no and visited him at home. We slept together. The next morning, I woke up and realised: «I am trapped again. I have to get out of this abusive relationship now or I will not make it.» It was only then that I could finally break away from him.

A few years later, I went to therapy and realized how toxic and destructive this relationship was. I also started to understand the sneaky ways my ex controlled me. His excessive jealousy, for instance, was a clear warning sign that I did not recognize at the time. Unfortunately, I did not know that I could have gone to a women's shelter or a victim advisory center to get help.

But even sad stories can have a happy ending. Today, I am happily married to a kind man who loves and respects me.