Clare Douwman, 21, from Bicester shares her shocking story...
I’d never had a boyfriend before I started seeing Cain Donald. At just 14, we’d hang out at the park or at the cinema with friends.
Cain was cute, funny and popular. ‘Your accent’s great,’ he told me.
At 8, I’d moved from the USA to Oxford. My mum Julie, 61, is American, but had married my stepdad Colin, 66, after meeting him online, and I’ve always called him Dad.
Cain and I were young, and never discussed the future seriously. But, three years on, Cain fell in with a bad crowd.
Possessive and jealous, he’d regularly grab my phone to read my texts. If I protested, he’d say I must have something to hide. I felt violated, but I let him look, wanting to prove he could trust me.
I couldn’t even watch a film showing a guy taking his shirt off without Cain erupting.
‘You fancy him more than me,’ he’d say.
It was exhausting reassuring him. He’d twist everything, and he’d use emotional blackmail so I’d feel like the baddie.
Turning 18, I left school and started working as a primary- school assistant. Meanwhile, Cain started work in a factory. We wanted different things.
‘You can do better than him,’ Dad said.
I knew he was right, but I didn’t want to hurt Cain.
After five years together, I still cared about him.
Still, I plotted to escape by applying for a university place in Michigan, USA.
In January last year, I was thrilled to get in. But, instead of being proud of me, Cain went mad.
‘The minute you get on that plane, we’re over,’ he spat.
‘Suits me fine,’ I replied.
But, then, a few days on…
‘I love you. I’ll see you when you come back at Christmas,’ Cain told me and, to keep the peace, I didn’t argue.
As Mum and Dad waved me off at Heathrow airport, the freedom was exhilarating.
But, one night, as I was getting ready to go out, I got a text from Cain.
Send me a photo of what you’re wearing.
It’s slutty, he replied.
So, last September, I broke up with him for good.
Cain bombarded me with calls and texts, one minute begging me to change my mind, the next calling me vile names.
And the problem was, he knew I was coming home for Christmas.
It was great to see Mum and Dad. But, on Christmas Eve, I received a Facebook message.
I’m going to drop off your card.
Do not come to my house, I replied.
Only, 20 minutes later, there was a knock at the door.
With a heavy sigh, I took the card and shut the door in Cain’s face. But then I felt bad.
I knew he’d be at The Saxon pub later, where our old school pals were gathering, and I didn’t want a row.
Re-opening the door, I said, ‘We should be civil. Let’s not have any trouble.’
Cain nodded, then skulked off.
‘I feel sorry for him,’ I told Mum.
Arriving at the pub with my pal at around 11.30pm, Cain didn’t speak to me but, whenever I turned my head, he was staring at me. I felt uncomfortable, but went on chatting to old friends.
One guy was moving to the USA to study, so I put my number in his phone. Enraged, Cain marched over and headbutted him!
‘Stop!’ I yelled.
Thankfully, bouncers threw Cain out, but I was shaken. I could see him pacing around outside the pub.
Scared, at around 2.30am, I asked a friend to walk with me.
Cain instantly leapt towards me.
‘Who was that guy? Can I walk you home?’ he kept repeating.
I refused, but he wasn’t about to give up easily.
Two old, male school friends agreed to walk with us, so, hesitantly, I agreed.
By now, it was nearly 3am on Christmas morning. I just wanted to get home.
As we walked, Cain managed to separate me from the lads. Suddenly, his eyes turned dark, burning with pure hatred.
Without warning, he lashed out, punching the left side of my face, sending me to the ground.
Cain’s 5ft 8in, I’m 5ft 3in. He’s skinny, but much stronger than me. Dazed, I lay in shock as Cain was rugby tackled to the ground by the two lads.
‘Clare!’ he screeched, breaking free and coming for me.
Then I saw his foot coming towards my face.
I must’ve blacked out because, next thing I knew, one of the lads was cradling me, my jaw and head throbbing.
Cain had disappeared.
I tried to talk, but my jaw wasn’t working and my face was swollen, covered in blood.
My memory’s hazy, but police arrived, and I gave them Mum’s address, five minutes away.
She arrived quickly.
‘I don’t know what happened,’ I sobbed repeatedly.
Then police told me Cain had been arrested.
Adrenaline pumping, my body in shock, nothing sank in…
Mum and Dad came with me as I was rushed to Horton General Hospital in Banbury.
I became hysterical, asking paramedics if I’d survive. I’d never felt pain like it.
At the hospital, doctors ran X-rays of my face and head.
‘The good news is there’s nothing wrong with your brain,’ the doctor began. ‘But your jaw’s broken in half on the upper right side, and you’ve a hairline fracture to the left of your chin.’
I’d need emergency surgery, and was transferred to Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital.
I wept the whole way, and spent Christmas morning on a hospital ward.
At 1.30pm on Christmas Day, instead of excitedly opening presents, I was undergoing two hours of surgery to have three small, titanium plates inserted in my jaw.
Mum and Dad stayed with me, but Christmas was ruined.
I had to keep my mouth closed, and could only talk through gritted teeth.
We’d planned to have a lovely roast with all the trimmings. Instead, I could only manage liquids, and I’d stay on that liquid diet for two weeks.
My stomach growled – I was so hungry but couldn’t eat. It was torture.
My face had swollen up like a balloon, and I felt ugly, disfigured.
Discharged on Boxing Day, I wasn’t in the mood to open any presents.
Mum comforted me with cuddles on the sofa, but I couldn’t bear looking in the mirror after the attack. Cain had stolen my looks and my confidence.
Determined to study, though, I flew back to the States on New Year’s Day.
My 21st birthday was coming up on 10 January, and, defiant, I decided I’d still go out for a meal with friends. However, still unable to eat anything but soup, it was a miserable night.
Then I heard that, as he’d no previous convictions, Cain had been released on bail and was out partying.
It was so unfair.
‘He’s ruined everything,’ I cried, and, over the next few weeks,
I suffered from flashbacks and nightmares. I was a wreck, both physically and emotionally.
Studying in my room, Cain’s dark, savage eyes would suddenly ping back into my thoughts.
By February, I was able to eat solids again, but mostly just soup with bread.
Three months on, the swelling had finally gone, and I started to feel stronger.
I wasn’t going to let Cain win.
In April 2016, Cain Donald appeared at Oxford Crown Court and admitted one charge of causing GBH with intent.
I attended court to read out my personal-impact statement.
Locking eyes with Cain in the dock, he smiled awkwardly at me, and I felt sick.
He was jailed for six years and eight months, handed an indefinite restraining order, and made to pay a victim surcharge.
At least I got justice, but I’m just relieved it’s finally over. Now I can focus on myself again and continue with my studies back in the US.
I’ve recently met a new guy, who’s a caring boyfriend and an incredible support.
I wish I’d ended things sooner with Cain Donald. Hopefully, his time in prison will make him realise he needs to be a better person. But he’s firmly in my past.
I’ve learned the hard way never to tolerate that sort of behaviour.
I’d urge anyone in a similar situation never to make my mistake. If you feel you’re being abused, leave as soon as you can.