Holding the phone, I listened to my partner’s soothing voice.
‘I want to fix this family,’ he said.
Hearing that, I burst into happy tears.
It felt like I had my old John* back.
We had two little boys, eight and seven, and I was four months pregnant with our third.
But for the past few months, the kids and I had been living in a women’s refuge.
After I’d met John through friends we were blissfully happy.
During our first year together though, there were glimpses of a different side to him.
Jealous and controlling, John made me throw out certain clothes and accused me of cheating.
Eventually it got so bad that I was made to give up work and barely spoke to my family.
Then John started being violent.
He’d whip me with a belt for hours or smack a thong on my legs.
One time, he smashed a coffee mug on to my leg so hard that it sliced right through to my kneecap.
Now, John was swearing things would be different.
‘Please don’t be scared,’ he said.
‘I promise I’ll never hurt you again.’
Believing him, the boys and I moved back home.
At first it was great and we enjoyed lots of family time together.
But within a fortnight, John started hitting me again.
He’d lock me in the closet with no food or water.
Another time, he doused me with petrol.
‘I’m going to kill you,’ he spat, viciously.
It was a relentless cycle of abuse and torment, and the whole time I was terrified I was going to lose the baby.
I just didn’t know how to leave him though.
Then, in December 2016, my waters broke.
John told me to get in the car so we could go to hospital.
But instead, he spent hours driving around – while contractions ripped through me – convinced I’d tell the nurses about the abuse.
At one point he said, ‘I’m going to drive us into this truck and kill both of us.’
Sobbing, I begged him not to.
Then all of a sudden he switched and decided to take me to Emergency.
Before walking in, he forced me to cover my bruises with make-up.
It was such a relief when baby Lucas* arrived healthy.
Doctors wanted to keep me in overnight, but John wouldn’t let me stay.
So just six hours after Lucas was born, he forced us to leave.
A few weeks later, on Christmas Eve, he made me wrap all the gifts and put them under the tree.
But at 4am, John woke me.
‘You’re not coming out of this bedroom,’ he smirked.
Then he let the boys open their gifts.
My heart broke. Unable to see their excited faces, I blocked my ears so I couldn’t hear the joy I was missing out on.
After that, the torture continued.
On New Year’s Day, John locked me in the garage for five hours.
He put a noose around my neck and tied up my arms and legs, before kicking, punching and hitting me.
Eventually I was allowed in the house, but only to sleep on the bedroom floor.
Over the next few days, he kept me locked in the room.
He tried to pour bleach in my mouth and smashed a hammer handle over my arms and legs.
As I lay on the bedroom floor with the baby one evening, John was passed out in the bed.
I can’t take this anymore, I thought, desperately.
By now, I’d been held captive for four days.
This was my chance to escape.
At first, I went to wake the boys, but there was no chance of getting them out without disturbing John.
Heart thudding, I carefully crept down the stairs with Lucas in my arms.
Gently picking up the car keys, I tried the front door, but it squeaked.
So I went to the garage door, but I couldn’t get the lock undone.
Each twist became more desperate as the fear of John catching me intensified.
Finally! I breathed as it opened.
Then I was at the car.
My legs were so badly beaten that I could barely lift them, but adrenaline took over and I was soon speeding to the police station.
As I hobbled to the door, the officer’s jaw dropped when he saw my battered body and he rushed to stop me collapsing.
‘Please help me,’ I sobbed.
I was taken straight to hospital where the doctors discovered I had a broken leg, ribs, cheekbone and fractured fingers and toes.
They had to give me a catheter, as I couldn’t even walk to the bathroom.
When police went to find John, they discovered he’d fled the house with the boys
After an agonising week, an officer called – John had been arrested and the boys were safe.
I cried with happiness as I was reunited with them.
In court, John was convicted of torture, deprivation of liberty and indecent assault.
He was sentenced to eight years behind bars.
I put up with the abuse for so long because I thought it was selfish to take the kids away from their dad. But now I realise it was selfish to stay.
I want other people to know they don’t have to deal with this.
It’s hard to imagine leaving all your belongings – but they’re just that.
Everything can be replaced, and most importantly new, happy memories can be created.
It took years, but I’m finally free and stronger than ever.