My first warning should have been that I met Martin on a blind date – the blind date wasn't with him, he was a stranger in the bar that came and sat with us and refused to leave until I handed over my number.
In hindsight, that was a clear signal that he wasn't all there, but didn't Ryan Gosling do something similar to Rachel McAdams in The Notebook? There's a fine line between stalker and romantic. Think Milk Tray man vs. cat burglar.
I'd just come out of a five-year relationship and been forced to move out of our flat and hundreds of miles away back to my hometown to live with my parents. My ex was very cold, critical and undemonstrative. He'd cheated on me throughout our relationship and delighted in belittling and 'knocking me down a peg or two'. Despite this, we'd parted amicably.
So when Martin began showering me with affection and attention, I didn't know what hit me. At first I refused to go on a date with him, he wasn't really my type and had a reputation for having a bit of a temper, so we struck up a deal: I needed a lift to the next town one day, so he said he'd drive me there on condition that he could ask me out again at the end of the journey.
When we got talking I was surprised at how smart and funny he was. And genuinely kind. Our first date was a weekend at a seaside town: he booked a huge hotel suite and told me he loved me.
We quickly fell in to a pretty intense relationship, made worse by the small town we were then living in. There were three places you could go on a night out so we lived in each other's pockets.
Despite this, about a month in he started accusing me of cheating on him. He'd ring my phone in the middle of the night and accuse me of having a man over, or show up at my parents' house to catch me out. I thought he was being sweet when he offered to pick me up from the local flea pit at the end of the night, but he was doing it to make sure I went home alone.
By this point I'd got a new job, so he would trail me there and sit outside in his car for hours to make sure I really was working. Of course, after a few weeks he lost his own job because he wasn't going in.
He befriended my siblings and would come over to see them on the days we were apart. I'd take him to work events and he would send me texts accusing me of fancying other men “WHY AM I EVEN HERE IF YOU'RE GOING TO FUCK HIM” while standing next to me and my heart would sink.
He would phone me 50 times in a row, and if I didn't answer, would report me missing to the police. He began to stalk my friends – male and female. He cloned the Facebook page of someone he'd found out I'd been on a date with years before and started impersonating them online. We were about five months in at this point.
He got and lost about three jobs during this time. Mainly for not showing up (stalking is a time-consuming business), but one he lost for punching his boss in the face at the office Christmas party. He'd been allowed to bring a date (me), and when I went to toilet, he'd assumed I was in there sleeping with someone else. His boss. So started a fight, then inexplicably stripped naked and lay in the snow outside.
You might be wondering why I was still with him at this point… But it was impossible to leave. He'd wait outside my house for days or until someone else let him in. Which they always did because when he was on his best behaviour he was charming.
No one else saw the side of him that I did. He kept it well hidden. I became too tired and too downtrodden to leave. It was easier to stay. Plus, I hate to say this, but I never doubted that he loved me.
When he was being normal he was affectionate, funny, kind and my best friend. If he'd not been as equally good as he was bad, it would have been a no-brainer, I would have left.
When we argued – and we'd have nasty, spiteful, screaming arguments where I said the most evil thing I could think – he would always cry after and tell me how much he loved me. I've never spoken to anyone like the way I spoke to him in my life, and to this day I'm still deeply ashamed of it. He told me he'd had a tough childhood growing up in care, and how he'd never had anyone love him before. It broke my heart, so I stayed.
Things came to a head when one of my friends invited me to her hen night. He wasn't happy, but said I should go, by this point we'd worked out coping strategies for him for when he felt out of control, and they were starting to work. He said he would pick me up after because 'there's dangerous men out there'.
So I went, and I got drunk. I got drunker than I'd ever been in my life. It was an all day, all night event (including cocktail making classes, a boozy lunch, bar crawl and a nightclub). I got so drunk that when I went to the loo I couldn't figure out how to pull up my pants, so took them off and stuffed them in a sanitary towel bin.
Three of us got so drunk (including the bride) that we didn't even try to get in to the nightclub. Instead we phoned Martin to come and get us. He was polite and charming – the perfect boyfriend, as he deposited my two drunk friends in their partners' arms, before driving me back home.
As soon as we got through the door his attitude changed. He dragged me up the stairs by my hair (I tried not to scream too loudly in case I woke my parents. What an idiot) and in to the bedroom where he insisted on conducting 'tests' to see if I'd slept with anyone else that night. I failed: my missing underwear was 'proof' that I'd been unfaithful.
So he threw me on the bed, face down, and raped me. If I'd been sober I would have been strong enough to fight him off, but I was too clumsy to stop him. At first I didn't understand what was happening: I thought there had been a misunderstanding and if I protested enough he would stop. When I tried screaming he choked me then raped me anally.
I don't know what happened after that. I was so shocked that I can't remember. When I eventually passed out he washed my face, put clean pyjamas on me and tucked me in bed. I woke up the next morning because he was kicking me. He wanted me awake to finish arguing about the cheating. Eventually, he accepted my explanation and we made up.
After that - and I can't explain why - I almost forgot what had happened. It was so horrific that it didn't seem real. I tried to pretend that my mind had made it up – but there was blood all over the bedsheets, my thighs and the new underwear.
He wasn't the slightest bit sorry. He told me that he had cum inside me, so I was probably pregnant. He'd tracked my menstrual cycle on his phone and figured out which day I was most fertile, and had waited for that moment. He then dropped an even bigger bombshell: he had herpes, and now, most probably so did I.
Luckily, the herpes turned out to be untrue: he has abrasions on his penis from where he had tried cleaning it with hand sanitiser and a loofah (did I mention he was an idiot?), which he had mistook for an STD. I went with him to the clinic and watched his examination so know that much is true.
The menstrual cycle tracker part was true, though thankfully his plan didn't work. Weeks later he apologised to me and said he didn't realise how wrong he'd been until afterwards. He said that he was scared that I'd leave him and he knew that if he 'damaged' me or got me pregnant I would have to stay.
Amazingly, I can't say for sure that this incident was what broke us up – if anything we slowly drifted apart until I accepted a job offer on the other side of the country and left. We'd been together less than a year.
While he seemingly took it well at first, he soon started stalking me again and threatening to blow up my car or burn down my new flat.
Eventually I reported him to the police, for stalking, nothing else, and received the most chilling information ever:
“I can't give away any confidential information,” the police woman said, “but I can strongly advise you to press charges because you might not be the first, second or even third woman to make similar complaints about him. I can suggest that his face his well known.
“Think about it… How many jobs did he have in that year? How many fights did he get in to with strangers? Next time he'll hurt someone. “You don't know someone after nine months. You don't know what they are capable of.”
I didn't press charges, something I regret to this day, but my complaint remains on his file.
For years I didn't think the incident affected me: I felt like he was a good boyfriend a lot of the time, and I loved him. We'd had sex hundreds of times before and if he'd asked I probably would have agreed. I didn't see how one night could change the way I was forever.
I didn't ever tell anyone because I didn't want to be a 'victim' or, even worse, a 'survivor'. I hate that term, like half an hour of your life indelibly marks you forever. I didn't want people to look at me differently, or to question my version of events.
It was the wrong sort of rape: I was drunk, he was my boyfriend, and I didn't fight back hard enough. I could have screamed louder, or hit back harder. I could have called the police the next day, but I didn't.
I didn't want my every action afterwards to be attributed to that night. If I act slutty, it's because I want to act slutty. If I want to wait before sleeping with someone, I didn't want it to become because of that.
I don't hate Martin. I don't even regret our relationship. Most of all I feel sorry for him. He has so many demons that he'll never be happy.
But it has changed me. I don't think I'll ever have a proper relationship again, because, like the policewoman said, you can never really know someone. I'll only start relationships that I know have a sell-by date, and end them before 9 months.
I can feel that a part of myself has shut down. And for me, that's the worst thing about this story.
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