For the last few years I have intentionally backed away from writing anything personal on this blog.
To be honest, I didn’t feel much like writing.
My head was too full and jumbled to make sense of anything.
When I decided to finally get out of my marriage to Mike, I thought I had made the toughest decision and taken the hardest step.
By facing up to the treatment and the issues I had been dealing with since I was a teenager, by realising the treatment I had been enduring was wrong, by realising the extent of the mind games, the control, the isolation, the pressing of buttons and sly game-play that made me out to be crazy-stupid-mental-insanely-mad and unbalanced, offset by his docile, gentle family-man portrayal, I thought I could move on with my life.
Three years on, and still I have not been able to break free.
I thought that once I spoke up and admitted that my life was a lie, that I needed to get out, that I would be supported, listened to, maybe helped and, most importantly, believed, I would be.
I look back at the naivety I had that help would be out there.
I thought the legal system would help.
I believed in justice and fairness and ‘the right thing.’
I believed in karma. Or at the very least, in the truth coming out.
And that once it did, it would be over.
And then I discovered that’s not how it works.
I was driven from my children and my home.
My world crumbled because I refused to be a victim of control anymore, and nobody cared.
I begged and pleaded for help.
I am still fighting through the financial courts for my share of the house. I have nothing. I left everything.
I am fighting through the courts to see my children, who I fought to stay with and look after. At the last hearing, my ex-husband told me I could see them if I admitted that what I am saying about him is a lie.
And nobody cares.
I have evidence.
But nobody cares.
This is the reality that women who are trying to escape abusive environments face.
The fear of not being believed, of not being helped, of being blamed, and ultimately, the fear of losing everything, is what keeps them trapped.
Mike often told me how I was unable to leave with so many children.
‘You can’t go anywhere!’ he would smirk.
‘And who’d want you?’ he’d sneer.
He was right.
In 2018 I finally made the decision to end my marriage. It took more than six months of legal action and me sleeping on the sofa before he left the house.
I was struggling to hold everything together. I was three years into a divorce battle, still being controlled, my children still being used against me. I was single-handedly trying to provide for ten children. I was trying my best to work, to study, to simply keep going and hold us together.
It wasn’t enough.
In January this year, my partner of the last year found me slumped in my bedroom. I was curled up and devastated.
Beside me sat a pile of envelopes containing letters to him, to my children, to my best friend, apologising for failing so badly.
If I had done x or y or z…
Or maybe if I hadn’t have done a or b or c….
Perhaps then someone I had gone to might have helped me.
And I had had enough.
I couldn’t take anymore so I sent out a final plea for help.
Now, deciding to publish this here has not been an easy decision for me.
I am still fighting through the courts.
I battle with feeling like the worst mum in the world daily.
I am still trying to rebuild my life day by day.
And I am still being asked, by those who we are told are there to help us and protect us, why, if it was so bad and I was so unhappy with how he treated me, did I stay?
It appears there is no reward for sticking to an abusive relationship because you think it’s your job to do that.
For wanting to keep your family together.
For protecting your children from what is really happening.
There is no recognition.
And there is no help.
I know that he watches and follows and monitors everything I do.
And when he sees this he will once again, somehow, try to use the children against me until I, once again, concede to protect his well-crafted nice guy ‘image’.
Social media might show smiles and the perfect life.
This plea for help that was sent to every authority, every person, every place, every organisation I could think of, tells the reality for what it is.
I am ashamed.
I am broken.
I am embarrassed.
I am tired.
And the saddest thing of all is that I know I am not alone.
There are too many of us out there going through the same. At whatever stage of my experience, whatever similarities or differences.
It took a long time and a lot for me to decide to go public.
I hope it will help just one person out there.
Ongoing Domestic Abuse/Coercive Control and Harassment – Please Help Me
Hello,I am writing to you all as a last cry for help. I am now at breaking point and desperate and, so far, nobody has helped to protect me from the abuse and harassment I am still enduring from my ex husband, who has never been held accountable for, or had his actions stopped by those I expected would help us.
I met my ex-husband at school when I was 13 and he was 15. Within a year we were dating and did so for two years. We split up for six years durng which time I got into an abusive relationship at 17, became pregnant and had my son and ended up having to run. I then found out I was pregnant, chose to keep the baby and was a homeless single mum of two children.
I rebuilt my life over the next few years and when my children were 4 and 3 respectively, I got back together with my school boyfriend. We then stayed together and over the years had a further 11 children.
By 2018 I had been controlled and emotionally abused to the point that I was suicidal. My exhusband did not work and I worked from home to support the family. Over the years I had less and less contact with my friends and family and, by the time my brother and father died of cancer in 2016, I had nobody except my husband and children. The children were home educated and my exhusband maintained the mortgage, all cars and bills in his name, requiring me to deposit £1500 a month into his bank account to cover ‘the bills’. I never knew what these were, who they were to or how much they were for.
My ex-husband would sit in the children’s bedrooms until they went to sleep, would hit them and scream at them that they were ‘little bastards’ and ‘cunts’. He would bounce me off his body, hands raised, all 20+ stone of his 6 foot frame against my 5’4, and say ‘this isn’t abuse, I’m not hitting you,’ and ‘Nobody will believe you. They know what you’re like but they like me’.
I discovered £17000 of hidden debt which he told me wasn’t my problem – yet i was the one putting money into his account each month as he gave up his job and did not want to work. Working from home was difficult with such a large, noisy house, so I began to work from the coffee shop for three hours a day, twice a week. He would tell the children I was leaving because I hated them.
He was heavily into porn and blamed me for not being enough, not pretty enough, not clever enough… not enough. Our sex life was purely to keep me pregnant. He told me I could never leave because who else would want me. My confidence was shattered and I was absolutely destroyed. I had two pairs of maternity trousers that I would alternate wearing, both when I was pregnant and not.
He was a prolific liar and would claim never to remember incidences or things he had done. ‘I don’t remember so how do I know you aren’t making it up?’ he would tell me. I would keep arguing the point, setting the scenario and trying to ‘make’ him remember and the more I did the crazier I looked as he calmly repeated how he didn’t remember and how I was making things up because I was mad. He would never hit me – his father used to hit his mother and so he believed that unless he hit me, it wasn’t abuse and I thought the same. In January 2018 after another incident of being bounced off his big, fat belly and him waving his hands stopping just short of my face and head, I ran out of the house and slept at a hotel. When I returned he asked, ‘Do I scare you?’. I replied, ‘I wouldn’t give you that power.’ Of course he scared me but I didn’t want him to know that.
To the outside world, we looked perfect and happy. He played his doting father and husband part well.
Once my father and brother died, he ramped up his behaviour becoming nastier and nastier to me and the children. He would loom over me, prevent me from leaving rooms or the house. I didn’t even have a house key to the family home until my brother was dying in 2016. It was the second property we had bought as a married couple since marrying in 2002. We bought it in 2006 (I was working three jobs at the time, running the home and we had six children) and from 2011 I was depositing the £1500 into his account every month, part of which was to cover the mortgage.
In 2018 I reached the point of suicide, not for the first time. I attempted suicide back in 2002 after a campaign of abuse by my exhusband’s family – six weeks later we were married. In 2018 I recognised I was at breaking point and called the mental health line begging for help and was given counselling for 18 weeks when normally only six would have been offered.
In September 2018 I asked him to go to a marriage counsellor with me as I had decided to divorce him but did not want to tell him without somebody present. The marriage was already over, I had been sleeping on the sofa for the previous three or four months already (since May/June) and had asked him to leave the family home. He refused to as he did not have a job. He didn’t look for a job during these four months and I had continued to deposit money into his account. He refused to leave unless I took out a £3000 loan for him to leave. I refused and instead got a solicitor. It took me approximately £3000 in fees to finally get him out of the house.
During this time, my solicitor wrote to him asking him for a breakdown of all the bills that the £1500 a month had been covering and the details of the utility companies etc that they were with. It emerged that only £1036 a month went on the mortgage and bills and the rest of the money, almost £500 every month for almost eight years, was unaccounted for.. Furthermore, every single company’s bills were in arrears. Thankfully the utility company decided that they would start me as a new account holder and not hold me liable for the outstanding amounts. A month before he moved out he got himself a job. I still deposited money into his account for the mortgage.
I continued to pay the mortgage money into his account. However, the mortgage is held solely in his name and I had no proof that he was using that money to actually pay the mortgage. As I am not mentioned, I could not even phone them to confirm the payments were being made. My solicitor wrote several times requesting the mortgage company’s details so that I could make the payments directly to the mortgage company. He refused and insisted I make the payments into his account but continued to provide any proof of payments. I had no issue with continuing to cover 100% of the mortgage payments but wanted to pay the mortgage company myself and not put the money into his account and trust him to make the payments. On the back of the £500 a month discrepency, the utilities arrears and the £17,000 debt, I did not have any reason to trust him. He refused to provide the details and also refused to pay the mortgage himself, instead threatening the ten dependent children (then aged between 16 and 4) and me with eviction. I also cannot get my decree absolute for the divorce (the nisi was granted back in 2018 so should have had it six weeks later), until the financials have been settled. He still has control of me. I can’t handle this.
I put a claim to child maintenance services who calculated he should pay £577 a month. He paid for three months and then began using £482 of the children’s child maintenance money to ‘pay the mortgage’, only depositing £85 a month into my bank account each month as child maintenance for ten children, again with no proof that the mortgage payments are being made. I informed child maintenance and they took his side, saying that if he says he’s paying the mortgage for the family home, that’s okay.
The further issue, as explained to CM, was that and also had to begin court proceedings for my share of the family home. My ex-husband claims that he is the home’s owner and pays the mortgage and is therefore entitled to 100% of the equity. I am asking only for my 50% share and it has cost me thousands and thousands. The case is still not settled, I am at the brink and he is determined to push me out of the house or hoping I will run out of money to fight for my share and give up. So he is using the children’s child maintenance money to pay 100% of the mortgage that he claims is solely his. I am continuing to support all the children, to work and to deal with all repairs and maintenance. There have been issues with a leak and the electrics that the buildings insurance would have covered, which he refused to do (it is only in his name so nothing i could do), insisting I pay from for *everything* myself. The electrics in one of the children’s rooms had water running down a live wire where the leak came through the upstairs bathroom and ruined their ceiling and he did not care.
I have no rights to the house or the equity and have to find extortionate amounts of money to fight him in the court for what should rightfully be mine as a straight split, but I have no protection or rights as a tenant at all. How is this right?
Last year, after six months of warning letters from my solicitors regarding his treatment of the children (he banned them from mentioning me or saying my name, he would get them to get changed into different clothes to the ones they were wearing when they went to his home, and getting them to change back in the evening, he continued to call them names and hit them, etc), then one of my 7 year old twin girls returned home with a black eye. Three other children returned distressed for different reasons.
I sought advice from my solicitor, the private counsellors I was paying for three of my children to see, and from the younger children’s safeguarding team at school. My solicitor explained that I had to make a decision as his behaviour was escalating and I would need to explain why, as a safeguarding issue, I didn’t do anything about it. She then wrote to him explaining that his visitation would be stopped and he would have to apply via the courts to see the children. He didn’t apply to the court for four months, stating that I had stopped the children seeing him ‘for no reason’ and that I had brainwashed them. In the meantime I did a self referral to social services, knowing they would become involved anyway.
At the same time as paying the costs for the two court cases and my solicitor, he was threatening us with repossession. I had to take on a second job in addition to my own job, and had to leave the house at 6.30am and wasn’t returnining home until 7.30pm. Obviously having to explain to the children why I was suddenly having to do this, and told them about all the costly fees to fight their father to make sure we were secure. During over a year of not seeing the children, he did not send one birthday card and only called about six times (my older three boys had their own mobile phones). At the preliminary the court asked if I had any objections to him calling the children and I said I did not. He began facetiming them, but within weeks i had to ask my solicitor to write to him to ask him to make audio calls only as he was getting the younger children to walk around the house from room to room to show him this and show him that…. He continued to have more interest in what I was doing, where, what and who with, rather than the children.
Despite CAFCASS acknowledging that their father admitted to hitting and abusing them, that the children all reported it, she blamed the breakdown of their relationship with their father on me failing to protect them from the financial issues between us. In a separate incident after one of my younger girls reporting me to the school that she ‘didn’t feel safe’ without me at home, social services opened another case investigating me and i had to give up my second job that I took on to keep us above water. Still, nobody had held him accountable in any respect, either financially or in keeping his kids free from the stress of potentially losing their home.
He continued to stalk me both outside my home and when I was out and about, something that my solicitor had written to him about in November 2018, and I met with PC Carless at Kent Police in 2019. He has also reported me to Social Services several times over the last two years. My three older children have become estranged from me, my oldest son, having previously been visiting for dinner and to see us, suddenly stopping without warning once he and my third child moved into a private home with my ex husband. I am constantly having to answer questions and be investigated and I am tired! I am tired and I am broken.
He reports me for leaving the children (my oldest at home turns 18 on February 13th, the next ones are 16 and 15), but refuses to help either financially or in arranging any suitable childcare. I have been retraining as a personal trainer and a diving instructor. The practical course weekends *should* have landed on the weekends that the younger children would have been with him. He somehow switched these weekends so that I would need to stay home to care for the kids, saying that ‘she’ll have to quit her courses then.’ I refused and my older children had to care for the younger ones. He keeps reporting me and social services are more concerned about ‘lack of supervision for the children’ which again falls on my shoulders. He makes things more difficult, nobody holds him accountable yet put. more and more pressure on me. I cannot take anymore. I’m doing my best to support my family financially, emotionally, practically and you all push and push and push me and nobody is helping me! You are enabling his continued abuse. Why?
In August he finally began seeing the children again. He continues to question them and they have returned terribly behaved at times, I have had my 11 year old swearing at me, my 13 year old saying things like ‘Dad says we can call the police on you’, my 8 year old saying, ‘Dad says you’re a crap mum and he’s right’.
A short while ago he found out I am now in a relationship. A couple of Wednesdays ago, my 11 year old text him at about 3.30pm to tell him he wouldn’t be going to his house on the Friday as would be spending time with me and my new partner instead. At 4pm my partner and I left my home to have a ‘date night’ and informed the children. At 7.30pm, having had text conversations with my children and calling the house, the police had turned up at my house after a ‘concerned neighbour’ phoned. Forgive me, but if my neighbours would have called the police regarding concerns it should have been when my ex husband was still here, whackign the kids and screaming out that they were little bastards or when he was yelling at me and bouncing me off him to keep me trapped. Even the children believe their father made the call. His and Caitlin’s continued treatment, his continued financial abuse, their vendetta and their use of the children in order to continue to bombard with erroneous claims against me, the bullying, the constantly being watched and monitored and having to continuously defend myself when I have done nothing wrong – this is desperabely untenable.
I asked to look at my 11 and 13 year old’s phones. It has emerged that my exhusband and my daughter, Caitlin Sullivan, have been bribing the children and quizzing them and encouraging them to make allegations in order to be able to report me (to social services, I assume, and my daughter stated ‘to her boss’ – I believe she recently starting working for Kent Police). Caitlin has also been bribing my children to send over photos of my personal mail, and they both continue to keep track of my whereabouts.
I have again asked to settle the issue of the house, pointing out that we can’t get divorced until it’s settled. He has effectively stated that should we need to remain married for another 12 years, so be it. (Please read the email chain regarding the boiler for context). I feel sick to the stomach at the thought of this continued control and that nobody i have asked for help has done anything. Why doesn’t this stop? Why can nobody help me? Why won’t anyone help me? I am at breaking point and close to snapping. Please, please help me.
I have nothing left. Please help me stop him. I just want to be left alone to get one with my life, to support and look after my children and to finally be free. How is any of this right or legal? To have to give up my job? To be told to quit my courses. To be told I can’t work or go shopping or to know my children are reporting my every move to them when I am doing my best to support them and care for them?
I have dealt with this man since i was 13. I am 46. I hoped my decision to get out of this abuse in 2018 by finally having the courage to end my marriage would have been the end of it, yet it has continued and still nobody helps. Still, he is not held accountable for any of his actions and still I pay the price for trying to do the right thing. Had I known I would still be fighting and continue to be destroyed by him, and even worse, that the authorities I had hoped would help and protect me would be enabling him, I would have gone ahead and ended my life in 2018. Instead the abuse and harrassment continues and he will not stop, mark my words.
I hope that someone will be able to offer some actual help and support at last before it is too late. As always has been the case, my home is open to anyone that wishes to visit in order to speak with me or the children to assess the validity of the situation.
Kind regards,Tania Sullivan
12 thoughts on “My Plea for Help Made Public: How Coercive Control, Abuse and a Broken System Cost Me Everything”
Omg Tania! I have no words! This is so horrendous. Sending love, Fiona
Thank you, Fiona xx
Heart breaking, your ex is obviously a narcissist, they can charm their way out of anything. My son was controlled by his partner she is a narcissist,she made his life hell, everyone believed her, telling him to man up, she treated him so vile & disgusting, but they always took her side, nobody would listen to me when i tried to get help for my son, i begged & pleaded, but it all fell on deaf ears. Its hard but we got him through it. I hope you get the help you need.
Thank you, Ann. I have lost everything and the system I naively believed would help, hasn’t. I want to ensure nobody goes through similar if sharing my story would in some way help prevent it
Having left a similar relationship a year ago I too am exhausted and angry. The system protects them and penalises the woman. Holding your hand from a slightly different bit of Kent and hoping that we can both survive xxx
Exhausted, angry, tired, broken, skint, frustrated, guilty, sad…. the list goes on….
Tania, this is awful to read and I am sorry for your pain. We will talk, overdue I know.
I fight similar battles here – the bullying takes many forms still – after 13 years apart.
It is brave of you to share this – and desperate. The desperation we live with every day is so dangerous and it isn’t that people don’t care it is that they don’t understand. They are a confident, capable woman, not the wrecks we actually feel.
I am a member of a support group which has made a real difference.
I completely understand how you feel, your frustration, the hurt, the anger, the shock, and continual offence to the never ending, incredible insults. We will talk ASAP. Lots and lots of love to you. You are not alone xxx
It astounds and horrifies me how many women have experienced this textbook behaviour, and yet they can still continue to get away with it.
That was meant to say they ‘see’ a confident
If you can please edit xx
My sister is going through something similar and her children have been manipulated into thinking she has abandoned them. She left because she was scared in her own home and the behaviour was escalating to the point he began to control and degrade her in public. I told her to leave as soon as I saw it as I knew he would eventually physically abuse her. She is a tiny 4ft 11 and he is 6ft 2 with a rugby layer build, she would never be able to defend herself. CAFCASS eventually agreed there had been parental alienation but the court just ignored it and refused to hear any testimony about his behaviour as they said she just wants to argue with him because she doesn’t like him. How can they disregard the results of an investigation they requested! He still continues to manipulate her and lie to the children about her and get them to lie for him and cover his back for abusive behaviour. There is so little understanding and support for people in this situation and I hope someone who sees this can help you. No one deserves this treatment.
I am so very sorry, Sophie. I feel her pain completely and understand what she is going through. Please do share my story with her and ask her to get in touch. Let’s support one another. Nobody should feel alone.
Absolutely shocked to be reading all of this as I saw your families episode on the big family documentary on YouTube recently and was honestly very inspired by how you managed a home full of children and homeschooled them as well. While also, what seemed to be, maintaining a normal healthy relationship with your partner. Discovered your blog today and I first came across your big family updates and read about you travelling with your kids to France and Italy as well as yours and mikes weight loss journey and it was all so refreshing to read. Now coming across this I am mortified at how “it’s not always what it seems” has become so true in your case. In the show you guys looked like a very happy normal family. Cannot believe what your husband has been doing to you all these years and how he has managed to manipulate Caitlin. I know during the show you were a believer of god. I hope you still know that god is watching everything. As a Muslim myself we believe that after every hardship there is ease and every unjust person will reap what he sows. I know it’s been a couple of months but I’m hoping you’re getting one step closer to freedom and that this year 2022 finally gives you the freedom and happiness you deserve.
God is watching everything Tania. Mike won’t get away with this and one day he will reap what he has sowed and will regret it very very much. Have faith, hope and patience and you will prevail.