I Escaped, But Only Just - Part 18: Into The Fire
Part 2 - In Danger Of Death
I have long maintained that the experiences in Part One paved the way for what would follow. Indeed, I believe that abusers can sense if past abuse has occurred.
Age 17: A Sunday evening a few weeks later. I was walking down the main road when a man outside an off licence stopped me. 'Don't I know you? he said, a mocking glimmer in his eyes. He was stocky with sandy coloured hair that looked like it had been permed.
'No', I said. The girls standing with him sniggered. I felt the familiar flicker of unease and glanced around the main road. The men in the house continued to berate me occasionally, but mostly I managed to avoid them. ' Look, I've got to go.'
'Okay', he said. A strange expression settled on his face. 'Bye, Ermatrude.'
An unusual name, I thought as I hurried towards the traffic lights, my unease lingering. The evening light was ebbing away. The man's voice kept replaying in my mind. I thought of the pale face and the mocking eyes, and wondered if I'd seen him before.
Over the next few months, I saw him twice by chance in the Polygon, a street about ten minutes from my house. The Polygon consisted of rows of damp looking bedsits and huge trees that blocked out the sunlight, and it was a pretty horrible area. Each time, he stopped to speak to me, but he never spoke about anything of significance, just rambled on in a manner I found disconcerting.
An afternoon in February shortly before my eighteenth birthday. A former student from Sixth Form College, Sam, came to visit me at home and we went for a wander in the area, keen to get rid of our hangovers from a mammoth drinking session the evening before. Sam lived a few roads away from me and had recently celebrated his nineteenth birthday, but a lot of people were wary of him and regarded him as trouble.
'I feel like crap,' he said, lightning up a cigarette at the entrance to the playing field near the Polygon.
'Me too,' I groaned. 'I'm never going to drink again. Two's you on that cigarette?'
'Yeah, okay then.' He smoked his half of the cigarette and passed it to me. I took a few drags. 'Who are those two blokes over there?' he said. 'They're coming over.'
'Sh**', I muttered. 'Don't say anything.'
'I've seen him around too,' Sam said.
'Has he ever spoken to you?'
Sam had gone pale. 'Sort of.'
The man who'd stopped me outside the shop came over to where we were sitting. He was with a rough-looking man I didn't recognise. He told us that his name was Bob, although that was not his real name. Very quickly, violence erupted and I knew I was trapped again.
Later, we followed Bob and his mate to a building site, Bob muttering under his breath, getting increasingly angry as he went on about searching for a house to burgle. Bob's mate took Sam in search of tools, leaving me alone with Bob on the building site. Once they went, Bob instructed me to accompany him into a rear room of a house in progress and cornered me there, making clear his intention: sex.
I blocked out the experience, like I had three years earlier with Les; fixed my mind elsewhere during the act I had not willingly consented to.
'Don't tell anyone about this,' he said afterwards. 'Or I'll kill you.'
Then, I joined the others, trying not to think of had happened in that cold cemented room with the sawdust scattered over the floor.
Ten days later, a car ground to a squealing halt by a clump of trees at the bottom of the crossroads a few minutes away from my house.
'Get in,' Bob shouted. I wish I'd had the sense to run, but it probably wouldn't have made any difference. When I eventually did run from him, he caught up with me and sank his teeth into my ear.
It was early evening. I climbed into the passenger seat and Bob sped away, down to a secluded lane near a railway track. Pulling up by the kerb, he stopped the engine and turned to me. An expression of crazed madness had crept into his eyes. He was breathing heavily, his face flushed with perverse excitement.
'I want you to do it,' he shouted. 'Come on, hurry up before I get angry.'
Again, I focused on something else.
'My boyfriend's in prison,' he told me, afterwards. 'But you're my new boyfriend. I like you.'
I sat there silently, thinking only of getting away from him.
'Give me a kiss,' he said. 'Quick, or I'll hit you! '
Under the circumstances, I felt I had no option but to comply. He was older than me, and stronger. I made towards him, as instructed. He pushed me away, his laughter ringing through the car. He did this twice before issuing the usual threat. 'Tell anyone, and I'll kill you.'
It got much worse over the coming months. I'm fortunate to be alive. Future attacks were brutal. I eventually escaped by embarking on a degree course in a different part of the country - but the encounters have left me struggling with panic attacks and PTSD two decades on.
Please note that all these offences have been reported to the relevant police force and that I gave a Video Statement in 2017.