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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 July 2007, 23:56 GMT 00:56 UK
'I knew he was going to belt me'
Domestic violence survivor Mel Rawding
Mel Rawding suffered domestic abuse for five years
The BBC's Domestic Violence Day aims to raise awareness about abuse in the home.

Mel Rawding, 36, from Plymouth, speaks of her own experiences at the hands of an abusive husband.

When Mel decided to get married at the age of 27, she never suspected her fiance, a gunner in the Royal Navy, would raise a violent hand to her.

He was charming, generous and good with her two-year-old daughter. But, when Mel became pregnant with her second child and their wedding day came, all that changed.

"He became nasty," she says. "He verbally abused me and then ignored me for most of our wedding day. I just didn't know what I had done."

Then, after her new husband left home for a tour overseas, Mel began to discover he had been telling her lies about his past and that he had mounting debts.

Bruises and manipulation

When he returned, his behaviour became increasingly threatening and he began to abuse Mel emotionally and mentally.

"Everybody loved him, so I thought it was me doing something wrong," she says. "It started by giving me dead legs and bruised arms, but then he began to manipulate me by doing things like leaving the gas on, and then blaming me for doing it.

"I was also only allowed to go shopping for two hours. Any more and he would think I was having an affair. I had always bought the wrong stuff and he would throw it out of the doors."

I knew I was going to get belted. I ran for my mobile phone and that is the last I can remember

Mel's husband slammed doors, smashed windows and threw dishes. He kicked the family's pet dog and Mel and her daughter often hid under the bed.

When she was eight months pregnant, he pinned her against a wall and violently attacked her.

Mel endured five years of abuse until her husband knocked her unconscious.

"I could see the rage in his eyes," she says. "I knew I was going to get belted. I ran for my mobile phone and that is the last I can remember.

"When I came round I could hear my daughter saying, 'Mummy, mummy, he has broken your nose.'"

Helping others

He was arrested and Mel and the children stayed in the family home.

But it took Mel a long time before she realised she had not been to blame for the violence.

She contacted the domestic violence victim support charities Refuge and Women's Aid and attended group sessions.

Now Mel works for Victim Support helping other women who have been through the same experience as her. And she has advice for those who find themselves being abused in their own homes.

"Plan your escape," she says. "Use the support services out there, put money aside and get the family's passports together.

"You will be alienated from your friends and family but you need to get away."

The National Domestic Violence Helpline (run by Women's Aid and Refuge) can be contacted on 0808 2000 247.


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