“I can never have a routine again. My life is still controlled by his behaviour. I have to do what I can to keep myself safe.”

These are the words of a woman who was stalked, controlled, and threatened by her ex-partner.

She has bravely shared her experiences as a victim of domestic abuse as part of Dyfed-Powys Police’s winter campaign, which aims to speak to those affected by domestic abuse, stalking and harassment, empowering them to report incidents, and offering means to find support.

Cathy outlined the ongoing effects of the psychological abuse she was subjected to by a man who ‘targeted, groomed and controlled’ her when she was vulnerable.

Appearing to be ‘the nicest of people’ when they first met, Cathy said his behaviour changed when they began a relationship, and he started to control her.

“I was totally manipulated and managed by this man,” she said.

“All the things you see in domestic abuse cases where the victim and perpetrator are married or live together, he did to me – he controlled me, he stopped me from seeing friends, he was damaging things and blaming me. He was totally gaslighting me, but he would be so angry that I didn’t dare do anything about it.

“He never physically abused me, but the effects of being coercively controlled are the most dangerous – the psychological abuse is impossible to get over.”

Realising some of his actions were warning flags, Cathy started a diary where she could log his behaviour. He was watching her while she was at home, turning up at places she had not told him she was going to, and she later found out he was stalking her.

As well as getting advice from Dyfed-Powys Police, she sought help from several support organisations.

“I would crawl to the kitchen to make a cup of tea – that’s how unsafe I felt at that time,” she said.

“For months and months I had an overnight bag packed so I could just disappear. From every room in my house, I had an escape route. I knew exactly how I could get out of there if I needed to.

Domestic abuse covers physical or sexual abuse; violent or threatening behaviour; economic abuse; and psychological or emotional abuse. The victim and offender are linked as relatives, partners who are or have been married or in a civil partnership (or are engaged to be); in an intimate relationship; or have had parental relationships with the same child.

“I want to spread the word that domestic abuse isn’t always linked to somebody you may live with, have lived with, or you have children with,” Cathy said. “If you’ve had an intimate relationship with someone – even a one night stand – and they go on to stalk, harass or control you – that is domestic abuse.

“It doesn’t matter how old you are, what your background is, or your education, you could be affected by it.”

Cathy was mostly complimentary about the action taken by police, and at the end of the criminal justice process measures were put in place to protect her. The effects of the psychological abuse took a toll on her mental health, however, and her experiences have led to major changes in how she lives her life.

“I always consider the consequences of what I do or say,” she said. “I’m permanently scanning my surroundings, I’m always checking my rear view mirror, I cannot switch off.

“I still always have to be prepared.

“He is still a threat. Until he dies, I feel he is a threat to me and my life.”

Domestic abuse
Support is available for people suffering from domestic abuse (Dyfed-Powys Police)

* If any of Cathy’s story resonates with you, or you need to report domestic abuse, stalking or harassment, you can contact Dyfed-Powys Police in the following ways:

• Call: 101

• If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908

In an emergency, always call 999.