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Domestic abuse: 'He hunted me down when I thought I was safe'

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When Holly began her relationship with Simon, it felt like the "best thing she had ever encountered". But as time went on, he became violent. When she ran away he hunted her down.

This is her story from the time she became pregnant with their child, in her own words, as told to the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme.

"When I found out I was pregnant, it should have been a happy, joyous time.

Since the start of our relationship it had been a whirlwind, I felt like it was the best thing I had ever encountered.

But then it started to get intense on another level.

One day, as I returned home, all I felt as I came through the door was the most shocking and excruciating pain right between the eyes.

Simon had punched me. And he wasn't finished.

He dragged me through the kitchen, still punching.

I remember so clearly trying to protect my baby in my stomach and my head from his blows."

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Image caption Holly thought becoming a mother would be a happy time. Instead, she was beaten while pregnant.

"He left me on the kitchen floor, confused, with blood pouring from my nose.

He later came over and was super loving, saying he had lost control and that I needed to be more aware so I didn't make him feel like that again.

But the more I put every effort into making him calm and happy, the more he seemed to pick on things I was doing wrong.

The cleaning, the cooking, not showing him enough affection or attention. I could never do anything right."

'Rushed home after pregnancy'

"He told me mid-pregnancy he didn't want to be at the birth.

When the time came he was at the neighbour's. I called him and told him it was time, but I didn't want to anger him.

While at the hospital he was constantly texting me, telling me to hurry up as he had work in the morning.

I became really stressed and had quite a difficult delivery.

I waited for the doctor to check over my daughter and rushed back home."

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Image caption Simon texted Holly while she was giving birth, telling her to hurry up

"Upon returning he was very mad.

The next day I absolutely lost it, saying having a baby was not a party.

He slapped me across my face and threw me down the stairs.

He then came down after me, stamping on me.

It was seriously painful as I had not long given birth.

I was bed bound for approximately 10-12 days. I couldn't walk.

I had to have a friend come in to bring my baby to me to breast feed."

'Snatched my daughter'

"I eventually fled to my friend's house.

I stayed inside, petrified to come out.

One day, my friend had taken my daughter for a drive. When she got out he appeared from nowhere, snatched my daughter and ran away leaving a message that if I wanted her back I had to return.

The police said it was a civil matter and there was nothing they could do."

Domestic abuse

  • Domestic abuse can include emotional abuse, threats and intimidation, physical abuse and sexual abuse.
  • An estimated 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men will be affected by domestic abuse across their lifetime.
  • 1.1 million incidents and crimes related to domestic abuse were recorded by police in 2016-17.
  • There were 76,000 convictions that same year.
  • On average, around 150 people a year are killed as a result of domestic violence. The majority at the hands of a partner or ex-partner.
  • Just under a quarter of referrals to women's refuges are declined due to a lack of space, one survey of 120 services suggests.

Source: Crime Survey for England and Wales, Office for National Statistics, Women's Aid

For information and support on domestic abuse, visit the BBC's Action Line.

"I returned [to Simon] and got a really bad beating.

He made a point to tell me he owned me, and would rather kill us than see us leave.

I felt scared for my children, and my life."

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Image caption Simon would break the window when Holly locked the front door

"The beatings continued.

He proceeded to rape me.

A couple of times I tried to lock him out the house, but he would break through the windows.

He stabbed me in the thigh because I had disturbed him in the kitchen.

The only thing that kept me going was my children."

'My heart stopped'

"A neighbour gave me the number of a refuge, in a place I had never heard of, and they found me a space.

I got on a train with the children and left.

I was having panic attacks.

But day by day I got stronger. We started to rebuild our lives, and life was beautiful.

Then one day [years later], my daughter heard that someone was threatening to hurt us.

My heart stopped. I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.

The next day my daughter was attacked by Simon.

He then tried to gain access to my house. Police were called but said there was nothing they could do as he had left by the time I got through."

'His sole intention'

"I spent a huge amount of money on hotels as I was scared to stay at the property.

I notified my housing association and requested a move to a refuge, but I was informed they had nothing available.

Everywhere I went Simon would be there."

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Image caption Simon tracked her down at a petrol station

"If I went to the supermarket he would be there. If I went to a petrol station he was there.

He would do signs like mimicking a knife cutting a throat.

I knew his sole intention was to end our lives."

'Wake up without fear'

"I was really considering killing myself.

It was a hard decision to move to the new refuge [when the offer later came], because it was uprooting our lives again.

All we want is to be together somewhere nice and quiet, and be positive members of the community.

I want to remember what it's like to enjoy life again. To wake up without fear and anxiety somewhere nice."

Holly and Simon's names have been changed.

Watch the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme on weekdays between 09:00 and 11:00 on BBC Two and the BBC News channel.

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