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I met up with my ex after he went to prison for nearly killing me

Metro logo Metro 22/03/2022 Anonymous
It felt like he’d taken everything from me, and I had so many unanswered questions (Picture: Getty Images/fStop) © Provided by Metro It felt like he’d taken everything from me, and I had so many unanswered questions (Picture: Getty Images/fStop)

Steadying my breath, I looked at the door in front of me. I hadn’t seen my ex since the court case.

Here I was meeting the man that had beaten me so hard that he nearly killed me.

I know what you’re thinking: that I should run for the hills, or that I’m in love with him and want to take him back, despite him being sent to prison for breaking every bone in my face. 

Except, I wanted to see him, not because I loved him, but because I needed to – for my own sake. I needed to be able to move on with my life.

When I first met him, we fell for each other fast – the relationship lasted a couple of years. But after we’d split up, he’d visit my home even though I didn’t want him to.

The domestic abuse started pretty soon after we got together and I always knew that things might end up with one of us in a body bag.

The night he hit me repeatedly on my face and head with a wooden pepper grinder, I don’t believe he planned to kill me – I think something in him flipped. Except, he violently attacked me and left me close to death, putting me in hospital.

I don’t remember much from the night, but my daughter was in bed, and has since told me the sound of the attack woke her up. She started crying and my ex told her that I was dead. We haven’t talked much about the night since, and I don’t really think I want to know any more.

After the court case and he was sentenced, at first I thought it was great, similar to a life sentence, but it turned out he could be released at any time on parole, on appeal or good behaviour. It haunted me.

It felt like he’d taken everything from me, and I had to many unanswered questions

A few years later on my daughter’s birthday, I discovered he’d been released. I was advised to move out of the community I knew and loved. If I didn’t, I was told my daughter would be added to an ‘at risk’ register. 

I felt like I’d been backed into a corner that was through no fault of my own and my life pretty much spiralled from there. For six years, I remained indoors with the curtains closed. It was as if there was this massive black cloud over my head, and I couldn’t shake it off.

I lay in my bed, drinking, with my television on mute and the subtitles on, a nervous wreck about every noise. I lost work, friends and my routine. I woke up each day wishing that I was dead.

Why me? I thought. It felt like he’d taken everything from me, and I had so many unanswered questions.

I needed to know why he hurt me and I spent every day wondering what was going to happen to me next. I wanted to look him in the eye and gauge what had happened, and finally look forward to the future.

Not telling friends or family, I called my victim liaison officer in January 2018. Something in me just clicked, and I knew I needed closure or I’d end up dead. I needed to be there for my daughter and start living my life again.

I asked if I could send him a letter to act as a form of relief, but she suggested meeting him face-to-face. It took me a few weeks to think it over, but eventually I agreed. 

Everything moved quite quickly, and I found myself outside the room where he was waiting with support officers and facilitators six months later. It felt like I needed a whole army to keep me safe, but I needed to show that I was confident.

From the moment I walked in, my life changed. I stayed strong as I listened to what he had to say. 

I no longer feel like my daughter and I are under threat

While everything said in restorative justice meetings like this one has to stay confidential, I received answers to all the questions I’d had going in. 

At the end of the meeting, I already felt lighter. I got the closure I needed.

I walked (well, skipped) out of that room a new woman. I’d conquered my mountain and left my black cloud behind. I’d felt the best I’d done in years. It was the most liberating and empowering experience of my life.

I no longer felt like my daughter and I are under threat and, instead of having ‘what ifs’ racing around in my head, I could move on with my life. 

Now, I’m five years sober and working as an ambassador for Why me? charity –they help promote restorative justice for those affected by crime. I’m a facilitator for a local victim support group, a public speaker, and I even work with police forces nationwide to share my story and the importance of restorative justice.

It sounds simple, but I even walk around with headphones in – something I’d never dreamed of.

Every victim is entitled to know about restorative justice under the Victim’s Code of Practice, but only 5.5% of victims in England and Wales are offered the opportunity to meet with the offender, according to ONS data from 2020.

Restorative justice is still not widely recognised, or enforced, despite the life-changing impact it can have on lives.

Every victim gets a sentence of their own, like the criminal. It’s a life sentence that they wake up with every single day – so, who has the right to say that restorative justice in the form of visiting the person guilty of a crime against them is out of bounds? Or to hold that recovery from them?

If it helps victims move on – like it did for me – and begin to forget, then institutions need to start openly offering victims the chance to meet their sentence-dealer face-to-face.

It saved my life, how many others could it save?

You can find out more about Why Me? and restorative justice here

Do you have a story you’d like to share? Get in touch by emailing jess.austin@metro.co.uk

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