A-Z

Lolita

Age at interview: 20
Brief Outline: Lolita broke up with her controlling, dominating boyfriend 2-3 months before her interview, after just under one year, her first ‘serious’ relationship. She had previously been raped by a friend when she was 13. Her recent relationship began as friendship as he lived the other side of the country but he eventually moved in with her. Following episodes of physical, sexual, emotional and financial abuse, Lolita found it difficult to get him to leave, eventually getting help from the Police.
Background: Lolita is a 20 yr old black mixed race woman, living alone without children. She works as a school Sports Coach and plans to study for an NVQ in healthcare in order to access Midwifery training. Her domestic violence support worker is helping her with handwriting and other skills.

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Lolita was introduced to her ex through a friend on social media and they eventually met after two years of messaging, following the break-up of his previous relationship. Lolita was 18 and he was 17 and she forgave him his initial difficult behaviour, such as verbal aggression on the phone, as typical of a ‘young boy’. He failed to make their first rendezvous as he was drunk. Following their first meeting Lolita recognised trust issues as took her phone and deleted all her male contacts, whilst refusing to remove his own female contacts. 

Following cross –country visits Lolita’s boyfriend moved into her flat. Despite being in love with him and having high expectations of a future together, Lolita soon found his behaviour difficult and felt she was expected to ‘mother’ him. For example, he did not have a job and refused to take any part in the maintenance of the home such as shopping, cooking or cleaning. He became verbally aggressive when Lolita challenged him and a male friend of his condoned his behaviour, casting Lolita as a ‘bully’. Lolita recounts frequent arguments during which they would physically fight. She was pinned to the bed, part-strangled, kicked and had things thrown at her.

Lolita ‘lost the spark’ in her as her boyfriend told her she was ugly, fat and lucky to have him. He frequently forced her to have sex when she did not want to. Lolita, however, was forgiving, recognising that her boyfriend was in a ‘bad place’ in his life, had no family support, lacked a real father and had a difficult relationship with his step-father. Lolita could see that he had no-one to talk to but her and that his behaviour resulted from bottled up anger.

The worst behaviour Lolita describe is when her boyfriend abused her anxiety about security by kicking her front door down when it was locked, making her feel very unsafe.

Lolita confided in family and friends but found their advice to leave him unhelpful, since she wanted to offload her emotions but stick with the relationship and try to make it work, as she still loved him. Afraid that her family might force her hand by contacting the Police, Lolita contacted her local domestic violence agency for support.

The relationship ended after a particularly violent argument when Lolita told him to go, with some short-term support from her mother and the Police.

Lolita explains that she adapted her life for him so much that she now feels lost, lonely and ‘smaller’, drained and unable to trust men. She is getting all the help she needs from friends and from the domestic violence support worker and is beginning to learning to love herself. She describes herself as independent and is positive about her future and her career.
 

Lolita recognised her partner’s abusive behaviour but still loved him and was not prepared to give up the relationship without a ‘fight’.

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Yeah, so at this point when things got difficult and you were contacting [local DVA agency], did you realise that, “This is domestic abuse that’s happening to me”?

I knew that it was because I’ve been in, I’ve had domestic abuse done to me before.

Have you? Right.

Yeah, so I knew exactly what it was, I knew. I didn’t really know how to handle it because it was very, you know, if he’d lived in [name of city] I could have told him, “Can you just leave?” and he could have left and gone back tomorrow. But because he lived in [name of county], I couldn’t just say, “Can you leave?” because he had nowhere else to go. So I felt like it was forced on my part to be in the situation because it wasn’t so easy to just get rid of him.

Right. And what about your own friends at this time, were there any friends that were aware of what was happening or you were able to talk to, or not really?

I’m a very open person and I believe, you know, the more people that know your situation the better, because the more people that know the possibilities of what might happen. And at some point my family did say, you know, “The reason we don’t want him down is because we fear for your life.” And that was really hard to hear but, like I said, you know, I knew what was best for me. And I knew that in, in life, you know, I had a path that I was on, and if that path was going to end with that relationship then that’s what life had in store for me.

Right, right.

But I was positive that he would never do that, because I felt like I knew him better than that. And he never, obviously I’m still here today, he never killed me. He’s never really physically you know, hurt me to the point where I am bruised or I’m bleeding. But mentally, he’s hurt me more than anything and, in a way, physically obviously with the strangling me. He did hurt me, but I’m stronger than that. And I, I’m proud, you know, of myself because I a lot of people in relationships they just, you know, “It’s not working, I just want, I’m just going to leave.”

Right.

And I don’t believe in that. I believe that literally you will stay until you can’t, you’ll fight until you can’t fight anymore. You know, if you love someone you don’t just give up on them. Because relationships, they’re not meant to be broken.

So you still loved him, even though all this was going on?

Of course. Love is not, you know, face value, it’s not on the surface. Love is deeper than that. And still to this day I kind of feel like I’ve got some sort of love for him. I’m not in love with him, but I do care about him. Because he gave me the best feeling that I’ve ever had before, you know, he made me feel alive after a lot of stuff that I went through before I met him. He made me feel like I was human and like I could be loved. And he showed me that there is good in some people.
 

Lolita began to feel unhappy about her appearance, which led to comfort eating and weight gain. She became depressed, living her life ‘on autopilot’.

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And then it progressed like that throughout the relationship. Things, if I didn’t do things when he said, it was a massive argument and he was literally just belittling me and just trying to break me down to the point where I felt like I had to do it. And he was very horrible, telling me nobody else would want me, he’s lucky that – I’m lucky that I have him and nobody else would give me a chance because I’m ugly and I’m fat, and just basically making out like I’m horrible and I am unlovable, which I don’t think that I am.

Did you begin to believe those things about yourself?

I could never believe that, because if I was nice enough to find him I could be nice enough to find somebody else. So I never believed that. I just kind of lost the love for myself because I was giving someone all of me and I wasn’t getting anything in return. So I kind of felt like I had nothing left to give myself. So I wasn’t really happy with my appearance anymore. I put on weight because I was eating a lot to try and comfort myself. And I just felt like I’d lost the spark in me, because I couldn’t have a spark, every time I was happy I was put down. So it’s like I just felt like it wasn’t worth being happy anymore because it was never going to last. So I decided to just not do anything, and to just live life on autopilot.
 

Lolita’s partner played into her fears around security by destroying her front door to show it was no protection from him.

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What do you think was the worst thing he did to you?

I would say the worst thing he did was, I struggle with security and I always have struggled with security, and in my home I’ve never felt secure, and he knows that I was literally, I was terrified of living on my own, and he knew that, and after an argument he’d left my house. And the argument was because I wouldn’t lend him money, and I don’t believe that I should have lent him money for what he wanted the money for. He left the house, so I locked the door behind him. And he turned around and said, “Do you think that door is going to protect you from me?” and just kicked it completely off. So I was left feeling exposed and I just felt like everything, like all my fears had come true. You know what I mean. I, I’m not safe anymore. And I was just so upset because he knew how much I struggled with feeling safe and he just left me vulnerable and didn’t even care. And like that hurt me more than anything he could have done to me, because I, if I couldn’t have had the door fixed that night, I don’t know what I would have done.

Is there anywhere you could have gone?

Possibly to my parents’ house, but it’s not really a place that I feel safe either.
 

Lolita described her ongoing confusion and loss of trust as well as the impact she felt this would have on future relationships.

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And how has it left you feeling?

In a way I feel like I’ve survived, I’ve come out of it and I’m alive still, you know, I’m still going. But, in a way, I still feel broken because I didn’t want to not be with him, if I did I wouldn’t – I would have left him.

Yes, yes.

So it’s like I feel like I held out all that time for it to just amount to nothing.

Yeah.

And that hurts me the most because I was so certain that he was going to be the man that I marry but he’s not. I feel like I was prepared for life with him and I’m stuck living a life without him, so I feel lost and I feel lonely and I feel like I don’t know where I’m going. I don’t really have the confidence to meet new people anymore because I don’t feel like I’m myself anymore. I feel like I was myself with him. You know, I feel like I adapted my life to being his girlfriend and living with him. So now I just I’m slowly I’m not really looking for love, but I can’t help but want it.

Yeah, yeah of course. And what would you say was the main effect the abuse had on you as a person and on your life?

I don’t trust anybody now. Like I really don’t. I can’t imagine laying down with another man and being vulnerable. I can’t imagine having another man in my house. I can’t imagine trusting somebody. The thought of, you know, sex with another person, will it be consensual, will I really want it? And questioning what is consensual sex now, because I just don’t know anymore. You know, I feel so lost and so confused from being with him that I just feel like I just have to pick up the pieces. And, you know, like I said, I am really lonely, but I don’t know how I’d go about meeting people as friends or in a relationship because I’m so used to everything being about him. I don’t really know how to make it about myself.
 

Lolita’s partner would ‘just climb on top and do what he wanted’ and then leave, not caring that she was crying.

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And you said something about he was breaking you down so you had to do things.

Yeah.

Did he succeed at that? Did you sometimes do things which you didn’t really want to do just to please him?

I had sex with him a couple of times when I didn’t want to. I didn’t really feel like I had a choice. We had, it was usually after a massive argument where he was horrible to me, calling me all the names under the sun, calling me ugly, calling me fat, telling me, phew, nobody would want me, telling me he doesn’t even enjoy having sex with me, and then I’d be in the bedroom doing my own thing and he’d come in and just climb on top of me, do what he wanted and leave. Whether I said no, whether I cried, whether I didn’t want it, he didn’t care, he just did what he wanted and left. And then within an hour he’d try and come and comfort me and act like nothing had happened. And when I’d ask him, “You had sex with me, why did you do that? I told you I didn’t want it.” He’d turn around and say, “Well, you’re my girlfriend and if I want sex I should be able to have sex with you.” So I just kind of, I knew it was wrong, I knew that it was still considered to be rape because it was un-consensual, no matter whether he’s my husband, my boyfriend or the father of my child, I still did not consent to it. But because I felt like he never, he wasn’t always this person, I kind of thought that there was a point where he might become the person that I fell in love with.
 

Lolita said her support worker was ‘relentless’ in helping her stay safe and to see the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’.

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And who do you think these people are that have been empowering you in this way, helping you?

Definitely my friends. My [local Domestic Violence and Abuse agency] worker is the most relentless person I’ve ever met.

Relentless?

Yes.

In what sense?

She will not hear me, she will never ever let me speak down of myself. Everything is about, “But he did this to you but you can still do more. He may have said this is you but somebody else might say different.” You know, nothing, I can never just have a dull moment, I can never be down. Everything, she always picks up on the good. Like when I speak about him she says I go dreary. But then when I speak about my friends I light up. And she’ll always remind me of those things, so I see for myself that the way he treats me is affecting me.

For someone else to see it, I can see it, and that has given me so much. You know, for her to tell me, I met someone who I liked, but a lot as a friend, and she told me that when I speak of him, you know, my face starts lighting up and I glow, my cheeks go red, but then when I speak of him I start to look down at the floor and, you know, I look unhappy. So for her to recognise that, I thought to myself, you know, he’s not actually that great then. If somebody is making me feel happy, and that person is not him, even though he is just a friend, why am I with him? You know, he doesn’t make me feel happy. 

Right.

So for her to constantly tell me like, “You know he doesn’t make you feel happy. You know he doesn’t give you what you want. There’s people around you that can and do, so why are you with him?” And that’s what I needed. I needed that person to show me that there is still light at the end of the tunnel. And I believe that empowerment is key.
 

Lolita reflected on support she received from friends, family and a Domestic Violence support worker. Once she left the relationship, her friends and her sister were ‘there for [her] 24/7’.

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And during this time all this was happening, did you ever feel you could talk to anybody about it?

I talked to my family, I talked to my friends, but they all had the same thing to say, “You should leave him. You don’t deserve to be treated this way. You deserve better.” And those are all things that I already knew. You know, I knew that I deserved better and I knew that this isn’t the way that somebody should treat someone, especially somebody they love. I’d expect it from an enemy, not from the man who I lie down with, you know, the man who I give my everything, the man who I clean up after. I expected that from somebody else. 

Yes.

So I didn’t really feel like they were giving me the kind of advice that I needed. Because I needed the kind of advice that, if you are going to stay in there, hang in there and know that you do have someone you can turn to, not someone who is going to judge you or tell you what’s best for you, someone who is just going to be an ear, you know, someone you can just talk to and get things off your chest.

Did you find anybody who could be like that for you?

I ended up working with [local Dom agency].

Right.

And I had a [local Domestic Violence and Abuse agency] worker who heard me out, and that made me feel a lot better. And I had a friend in [name of another city], who I haven’t actually met yet, but I’ve known her since the same time that I met him. And she’s actually met him and spent time with him in [name of another city], so she, she thought she knew him really well until she found out the way he was behaving with me. And she was very, very understanding and she offered me the best kind of, kind of advice, because she’s seen him in a relationship and she knew what he was like.

A previous relationship?

Yes, she knew him when he was with his ex-girlfriend, the girl who he was with before me. So she kind of knew what he was like, but she didn’t know he was that bad. So she kind of said to me, you know, “If you want to stay with him then stay with him, but I will always be here for you if you ever need me to be.” And that’s what I needed, because I didn’t want to leave. If I wanted to leave him I would have left him. I had the strength and I had the courage to say, “That’s enough.”

Right.

Yeah, she’s been doing a lot for me.

Is there anybody helping you mentally like with how you feel and emotionally, that kind of thing?

Hmm my friends and my, my sister are there for me 24/7. And I talk to them about everything and, you know, they, they understand. They say to me all the time like, “We understand you still want him and you do miss him and you do still care about him but, you know, think about how you feel now.” Because now I feel like a massive weight has been lifted off my shoulders.

Do you? Yeah.

I don’t feel stressed anymore, I don’t feel constantly just drained of everything. You know, I feel like I can be who I want to be now. I’m not being dragged down. So, yeah, my friends are helping me a lot.
 

Talking with her friends empowered Lolita to feel that she could ‘achieve anything’.

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And out of everything that you’ve told me, what would you say was the most important thing that helped you to eventually make changes to the situation so that he did in fact leaveA?

I think it was self-worth, people telling me that, you know, I am better than that and reminding me of what I want in life, you know. When I was with him I was focused on what he wanted. He wanted a child. I wasn’t necessarily ready for a child, but I was working towards being in a position where I could give him one.

Right.

And I feel like, for me to have people around me who were telling me, you know, “Well what if you do have a child? You’re not going to be able to achieve what you want. Or, you know, if you do give him what he wants, what are you going to give yourself?” And not a lot of people, you know, will turn around and tell you, you know, “What do you want?” It’s more, “How are you going to get out of the relationship? You know, what about your children?” It’s not, “What do you want, you know, what do you want from your life?” and then helping you to realise that you can get it. A lot of it is not thinking that you can achieve all the things you want. Whereas if you have people to empower you and to make you feel like you can achieve anything, I think the possibilities are endless, especially towards your relationship. I feel like, you know, if you believe that leaving this man isn’t going to be the end, that you can leave this man, and if you believe that, leaving this man, somebody else will love you and you will find love with another person, you can do it. I believe that it’s all the support and the people pushing you for more. You know, even if they were to say, “I believe that if you want to be with him you can be with him, but don’t ever forget that your life goes on too. You know, you’d still achieve your dreams and you’d still go on every day for yourself.”

And who do you think these people are that have been empowering you in this way, helping you?

Definitely my friends. 
 

Surviving an abusive relationship taught Lolita that she can be happy and confident without needing to depend on a relationship.

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OK, so what is one piece of advice that you might give to another woman who was in, currently in an abusive relationship?

Hmm I guess it would be just to love yourself.

Right.

Because I spent a lot of life not loving myself. And when I found someone who loved me, I thought that I had everything. But learning to love myself now I don’t have him, I believe now I have everything.

Really?

I can do what I want, I can say what I want, I can wear what I want and I can look how I want and I feel great. You know, I have been so open recently about showing people, especially men, what I look like without make-up, and not caring how they feel or what they have to say, because I am confident now that I am a beautiful person on the inside. And beauty is only skin deep, do you know what I mean?

So as beautiful as I am on the inside, I believe that I can be that beautiful on the outside, simply from loving myself. And because I was so unhappy and I am so happy now, that shows that you don’t have to be in a relationship to be happy. You don’t have to have love. And as long as you have people around you that care about you and want more for you, you don’t even need to consider being in a relationship. And a lot of women that are, right now I know they don’t have family and friends, but they can just look for someone from [local Domestic Violence and Abuse agency] or anything, anywhere where they can look for help, and the people will help you and they will care about you and they will want more from you. You know, all it takes is somebody to make you feel good about yourself, to make you feel good about yourself. And it’s, it’s not easy, I know it’s not easy, but all it takes is one, one person. I believe that we should all, you know, stand in a circle and hold hands and pass that feeling of self-respect and self-worth. And that everybody should feel like they can achieve more, and every woman should believe that they deserve better and that they can have better for themselves, for their children, for their families, for everything. And I believe that every woman, at some point in their life, will have that feeling. And I hope that I can help them get it.
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