I value my determination and my resilience

Dedication: To any girl out there that experiences hardship in a romantic relationship - you can get through anything life throws at you.

It all started back in 2016, harmlessly swiping on Tinder the social dating app, when I swiped right to someone who I could see had tattoos which looked really appealing at the time. That was all I wanted, someone with tattoos and a good body – what could go wrong right? That was my instant moment of regret. I had swiped with a 23 old male, who went to my primary school so it was as if we were destined to meet and had a common ground. He took me on a date (Rock and Rose) to be precise, ordered some champagne and was certainly flashing the cash, and picked me up in a Mercedes. I liked the sound of him already. From that day on, we spoke everyday, I introduced him to my mum and before long he was my boyfriend, ultimately living in my summerhouse at the bottom of the garden where I stayed.

I was aware that he had been in prison back when he was younger for certain things, but my profession within Social Services enabled me to see the good in him at the time and that the past is the past and people change. I remember him buying me a Louis Vuitton purse for Christmas and I thought he treated me really well. I distinctly remember him saying that he could make people do anything he wanted but I was so wrapped up that little did I realise the manipulation and despair I was about to experience.

At the time when we met, he was working at a local studios on film productions. As time went on, he started not going to work and it seemed he lived at mine, living of my money and taking it all for granted. He also seemed to have a lot of cash and it seemed his job paid well, but it seemed that he quickly lost all of his motivation to work and make a living for himself. The saddest thing was, I did not even question this and assumed that after some time he would be back on his feet. We had seemed to have drifted into a routine, like most couples do and I seemed stuck with a man who little did I know was too dangerous for my own good. My dad had gone off travelling for around six months and my mum could be fairly naive, so there were no red flags at the time.

A few weeks after we were dating, I remember him saying that he had such a poor credit score due to being in prison previously, that he was going to ask a friend to get a car out for him and then pay him back every month. Little did I know, I would be that person who carelessly walked into a car dealership and signed on the dotted line for a Mercedes E class worth over 20,000 pounds. We spoke about the idea, that I could potentially help him as he was my boyfriend but everything went from 0 to 100 miles an hour in a short space of time. I remember, it was me who drove to his sky dive when we first met, it was me that drove us everywhere, because he relied on me as he had nothing of his own. This was just before Christmas, I thought I was being a good citizen, giving someone a helping hand and I trusted him to pay me back every month. I remember the countless promises that I could be insured on it, we would go to Australia and he even bought a magazine from the shop once and told me to pick a country, which was where we would go on holiday, but I was let down, constantly.

At first, the I saw the money for the repayment of the Mercedes which was around 530 per month and I content – I knew he would stick to his word. It was not longer after that I wanted a new car for myself, so again, I walked into a dealership and signed my life away for a brand new Mercedes C Coupe worth over 30,000 pounds. I did not even look at the overall price at the time, but as I had landed myself in a successful job, I somehow thought I was powerful and could do anything. I was over the moon, with a brand new car I had no worries in the world. Until, he stopped making payments for the car, he made excuses and then broke up with me as he went back to his ex. I remember lying to my parents that he got it for himself and no one knew my dark secret that I had essentially got a car out for someone who I barely knew. As time went on, we got back together and I remember the stressed I endured every month of not knowing whether he would pay rightly for the car fee that he said he could.

Not long after, the car disappeared, he stated he lent it to a friend and it went missing. At the time, shockingly, I took his word for it and did not think anything of it as he still agreed to make the monthly payments. My friends describe me as being a different person, almost like I was under a spell of control and naivety. I was now one car down and I remember giving endless amounts of cash to him, when he said he needed some as he was arrested out of town for anti social behaviour. He also stated that he was in an open prison because of this, where he could come out at night so again was restricted with money. I distinctively remember dropping 250 off under a cone at the local train station, because he needed it for some reason for another. I felt bad and emotionally drained that someone who was supposed to be my boyfriend was now back in prison and I had very little control over the situation. I also remember me telling him I was planning on clearing my credit card as it was due, and to my dismay the 1500 I cleared off had gone back up past its limit, when I called up the bank to realise someone committed fraud on my card. To this day, I believe it was him (there were multiple transactions near his work) and I had to fight the financial obudsman to get that money back which took about 8 months. It seemed to be an endless cycle of me getting upset, giving him money and it repeating all over again. My Dad, who was now back at home was not happy with this and he had an instinct that he was not a good guy, hid all his valuables as he did not trust him and forbid him from coming into the house. That was when I decided to still be with him and stay endless nights at his fathers house so I could be with him. Then my birthday was coming along and he got me two black cats, who he stated were dwarf cats. I was so happy and ecstatic but I soon realised they were just normal cats and looking back it seemed it was a lie upon a lie.

The car bill was mounting up, and I quickly realised I was using my savings every month to pay for it as he did not have the money or made some excuse, on top of my own car which amounted together of about 1000 per month. Little did I realise that him being in an open prison was all a lie, and he was actually being unfaithful to me with someone else who I got in touch with some months after we had broken up. Not only was he a compulsive liar, a money stealer and an unfaithful man, he was a criminal who exploited me out of money and I had to pick up all the pieces. I was always scared of not being around his company because of the financial tie we had with the car.

The final straw was when we were no longer together, he broke up with me again for one reason or another and I was in a vulnerable state and ended up talking to someone he knew of. Word got out and before I knew it, he smashed my Mercedes up with a base ball bat. I was devastated and it went to court. On top of that, I was faced with the harsh reality that a car I got out for someone out of the goodness of my heart, had disappeared and there was no guarantee he would pay the monthly payments. I was living a lie for the 6 months we were together and I had to face up to the truth. I felt betrayed. I remember writing my parents a letter of the ordeal I had been through before I left for work, hoping that somehow they would be there to help me pick up the pieces. They were extremely supportive and I realised I was in around 22,000 worth of debt. My mum kindly got a loan out for me to reduce my monthly payments, which was a 5 year plan that I still pay for every month. My car was off the road for about 4 months and cost 12,000 worth of damage, where I lost my no claims at the time. Thankfully, over a year later, he admitted to the malicious damage and was sentenced to 12 months in prison but the emotional turmoil I experienced of preparing for court was one I will never forget. I had to drive a Skoda for this time period which really damaged my ego to say the least. I still experience problems with my car now, such as the panoramic roof broken and I am currently fighting with my insurance company and ombudsman about this as I believe it was not properly fixed from before. I feel it is a bad omen, which relates to the past when I was with him and I would now do anything to have the car gone and traded in for something else. At the time, I was working full time and studying for a degree, and I will now graduate with a 1st class honours in September. I have progressed in my career and he has not dampened my dreams of becoming a Social Worker. This experience nearly broke me but with the support of my friends, family and manager I was able to come through the other side. I have learnt very valuable lessons about fighting for what you believe in and not trusting so easily, as well as money can come and go. I remember the feeling that my life was now over. I value my determination and my resilience to get back up on my feet, for someone else this may have broke them. I am still very much re paying back money from this situation but I am stronger now and I hope that this story may inspire others. I have become interested in exploitation and controlling behaviour and I believe I will become a better Social Worker because of this experience. Since this has happened I have been travelling around Vietnam and have plans to travel Brazil – I do not want the absence of money to define who I am and certainly do not want to mis opportunities because of this very experience. Everyone is vulnerable, anyone can be financially and emotionally exploited and I am now determined more than ever to allow this experience to positively shape me and make my dreams come true.

Story shared by...

Kimberley Lucas

I am a 25 year old, determined and harding working young person just trying to become a qualified Social Worker. I live in Surrey with my parents and my two cats, who I adore. I love to travel and have a passion to help others, especially those who are less fortunate than myself in the care system. Having said that, I also love to be with my friends, go swimming and I am a bit of a book worm - I am continually working on myself and trying to find that inner piece!