White Ribbon Day: ‘Mr Perfect’ turned from charming partner to domestic abuser
- Credit: Archant
It was two o’clock in the morning when Sue’s daughter made a simple, panicked call from her Dagenham home: “I need help.”
By the time her mum let herself in and edged into the living room, she was lying in a pool of her own blood. Her jaw was broken and her front teeth knocked loose.
Today Sue is speaking out to raise awareness of domestic violence ahead of White Ribbon Day, a global campaign to end male violence against women and girls.
“She’s still struggling to this day,” she said, “because there’s no help for these girls.”
It had started so well. The couple had been friends for nine years before they began dating.
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Six months later, they moved in together.
‘Mr Perfect’, said Sue (not her real name), was quick to make a good impression. He always carried her daughter’s shopping bags and even visited her grandma in hospital.
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“In the early stages she was euphoric about him,” she added. “He came across as extremely charming, very family orientated. A really nice guy.”
But, over a year and a half, Sue said she watched her daughter wither away from an outgoing young woman to “a skinny, withdrawn wreck”.
“Where she was, what she did, who she spoke to, what she wore, where she went – It was all controlled by him.”
First came excuses to leave family events early, then lies about bruises on her body (“I bumped into a cupboard”). When normally she would pop round for a coffee and a chat at mum’s after work, she become anxious if she stayed for too long. Eventually, the visits stopped.
“She didn’t talk about him – never mentioned him,” said Sue. “If I tried to bring it up in conversation she would just shut me down and skirt round it.
“I knew that there was something desperately going wrong.”
Mr Perfect was seeing two women. At times he would shower the daughter with love and praise. Then, suddenly, he would berate her and swap partners, playing the two off against each other in a sick power game.
“I would describe it shoving them over the edge of a cliff and then reeling them back,” said Sue.
“It’s to make them mentally unstable. And it works.”
Everything changed with the frantic call.
A row had ensued after Mr Perfect accused her daughter of having affairs. He demanded to see her phone and, when her back was turned, grabbed it and smashed it against the wall. A beating followed.
While he went to get a tea towel – “to try and stem the bleeding” – she called mum for help from the landline. That, too, was smashed.
Sue arrived after he left. She would spend the following morning scraping congealed blood off the living room wall, floor, fireplace and settee.
But first: get to a hospital.
“I expected, when I got there, for her to be in a state”, Sue said. “But she wasn’t. She was completely and utterly numb.”
Then, the truth came out. Bruises were commonplace. On one occasion, Mr Perfect had tried to strangle her. In another, he knelt on her chest and “battered the living daylights out of her”.
But her daughter would not approach the police.
“That’s why these girls go back to these guys,” she said. “They live in a state of total chaos whilst they’re with them, and they become dependent on the chaos.”
Sue waited three weeks to report the crimes under Clare’s Law, which allows members of the public to make enquiries into the partner of a close friend or family member.
The two policemen at the front desk “had never heard of it”, she said. It took a policewoman stopping by the station to change her clothes to finally make a disclosure.
Mr Perfect was eventually jailed for two years after pleading guilty to grievous bodily harm.
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, contact the council’s domestic and sexual violence service on 0208 591 3498 or visit lbbd.gov.uk/dv for more information.