Cambridgeshire domestic violence survivor describes the full horror of her experience
A mum who thought she was going to die when her partner threatened to slit her throat, split her head open and bury her alive has written a first-hand account of her harrowing experience.
Michaela Holden, 34, hopes that speaking out as part of White Ribbon Day and the 16 Days of Action to End Domestic Violence will encourage others experiencing abuse to report crimes and reach out for support.
Her abuser, Geoffrey Pearce, 38, was sentenced to 15 years in prison in May for crimes including false imprisonment, threats to kill, common assault and actual bodily harm.
Michaela said: "I met Geoffrey on a dating site in February 2019. He was really kind and caring at first, but then he started drinking heavily and that’s when he started beating me.
"The first time it happened, I was made to believe it was an accident and it wouldn’t happen again, so I didn’t see any point in going to the police. Even when violence and threats to kill me and my family became a daily occurrence, I still didn't want to involve the police; mainly because I didn't think they would believe me.
"I had bruises all over my body, but I didn't think that would be enough evidence. In the public eye, Geoff was polite and came across very sweet and caring, so why would anybody believe he was capable of what he was doing to me?
"He took control of my phone, so I couldn't take any photos to keep as evidence. He also repeatedly told me he would kill me and my family if I told anybody about what happened.
"I tried to escape one night when he threatened to slit my throat and started strangling me. I honestly thought I was going to die.
"The next day, he drove us all to his mother’s house in London with a knife, and threatened to skin me alive. I told him my daughter was hungry and asked if we could go out for some food, hoping to raise the alarm in public.
"Instead of driving us to McDonald's, he drove us to a secluded wooded area. He picked up a log and said he'd split my head open. After he calmed down, he took me home and made me drink some tea. He then told me I would “go to sleep and wake up in a hole, buried alive”. That night I didn't sleep.
"I managed to escape the next night when he was drunk. That’s when I called the police.
"Two police officers turned up at my door within half an hour – it was about 4am. They came in and spoke to me about what had happened. They then took me, my daughter and my mum and dad to the police station to ask us more questions and keep us safe while they were looking to arrest Geoff.
"We were there all day and were very well looked after by every officer there. They even kindly popped to my house to make sure my dogs were both OK and to give them breakfast. We were then taken to a secret hotel for our safety until he had been arrested.
"Nobody apart from the police knew where we were, for our own protection.
"I was given a special police mobile phone for safety due to threats from Geoff, saying that he would get others to “finish” me. I only had to press one button on the phone and it would ring straight through to the police.
"Officers kept me up to date with everything that was going on and came to see me regularly. They gave me advice for future relationships to make sure it doesn't happen to me again and told me about Clare’s Law, where you can ask the police to look into someone you may be concerned about. They also changed the locks on my doors. I was given a family worker to help me through everything and get back on my feet. The support I got was very unexpected but I'm grateful to every person that helped me through this hard time.
"My advice to anyone experiencing abuse at home would definitely be to tell somebody: go to the police and report what has happened, even if you think it’s something small and seems a bit silly. If it has happened once, there's no reason why they won't hesitate to do it again, and next time they might really hurt you or someone you love. I feel like I had a lucky escape but not everyone is so lucky.
"I completely understand that it’s not as easy as it sounds. Even though I didn’t love Geoff because of how he treated me, he controlled me and took my keys and phone so I couldn't leave or get in contact with anybody to get help.
"I also recommend applying for a Clare's Law disclosure before you get into a relationship with someone new. If they have nothing to hide, they will be happy for you to do it. After everything that happened to me, I have learnt that some people aren't who they appear to be when you first meet them.
"Being completely honest, I never thought much of the police before all this, but I now have total respect for them and I want others to know that they are there to help."
More information, advice and support around domestic abuse can be found on our dedicated web pages.
You can apply for domestic disclosure information through Clare’s Law and report crimes online.
You can also call the national domestic violence helpline on 0808 2000 247.