Controlling boyfriend made me survive on nothing but 50 cans of tuna a week
SellUsYourStory.com helps hundreds of survivors of domestic abuse and violence share their stories every year. This week we helped Gemma Doherty speak out about the torture her controlling boyfriend put her through.
A caged yob who forced his former partner to train so she had shredded abs and a large bum like fitness guru Graceyanne Barbosa has spoken out about her torturous ordeal.
Brave victim Gemma Doherty, 30, says she was forced to eat 50 cans of tuna a week and run on a treadmill every day to meet the demands of her obsessive ex-boyfriend Mohammed Anwaar.
Vile Anwaar beat Gemma black and blue, while controlling what she wore, what she ate and who she spoke to. Anwaar was jailed on wednesday to the relief of Gemma who says she has “finally been brought back into the real world”.
Gemma’s controlling boyfriend
I loved my job at the bookies – I got to meet so many characters. And as the manager I was sat at the counter most days taking bets and making people’s day by handing them their winnings. But when it was my turn to take a punt, it was on tall, dark and handsome Mohammed Anwaar, 27.
‘Just one drink,’ he’d say. Everyday. He’d come in and sit by the counter and chat me up.
He was handsome, but not that handsome. But he was very charming and flirtatious. After a while his persistence paid off. ‘All right,’ I said. ‘But only if I can bring my friend along.’
So we went out in Leeds town centre and we got on like a dream. Pretty soon we were an item. He’d constantly tell me how beautiful I was and tell his friends to ‘look at this girl, isn’t she gorgeous’. He was so sweet, he even started getting my lunch delivered to work.
He’d ring me afterwards to check I got it. He’d ring me two, three, four times a day at first, just to make sure I was all right and that I still fancied him. He’d even ring and text constantly if I went out with my friends on night out, and he would always offer to pick me up.
One night in the car on the way home, he turned to me and said he was feeling uncomfortable. ‘I don’t like the thought of you being out and other men looking at you,’ he said.
To be honest, I thought it was flattering. Nobody else had ever seemed to care so much about me. After that, I wasn’t bothered about going out much. I had Mohammed, and that was all I wanted. If I did go out, it would be with him.
In May 2015, a few months after he’d moved in with me and my two kids, we went to a club with a couple of his friends. After a good night and a few drinks, he said he wanted to go home. ‘OK, love,’ I said. ‘Let me just nip to the loo first.’ Out of nowhere he exploded.
After about ten minutes of nonstop verbal abuse, I asked them to stop the car at a petrol station so I could get out. ‘I have to go to the loo or I’ll burst,’ I said.
They stopped the car on the forecourt and I leapt out and immediately hailed a taxi. But Mohammed jumped out and came after me, dragging me out of the cab by my hair, and shoving me back into his friend’s car.
Too scared to move, I sat there shaking until we got home and I could lock myself in the bathroom until he’d gone to sleep.
In the morning, Mohammed was full of remorse. ‘It was a big mistake,’ he said. ‘I’m so sorry – will you forgive me?’
At first I wondered what I’d got myself into. Now’s the time to get out, Gemma I told myself. But once again, his persistence paid off. He didn’t leave my side for 48 hours and apologised the entire time.
For the next few weeks he was nice as anything. He bought me handbags, designer clothes, makeovers. My mum, Lindsay Borrows, 48, wasn’t convinced though. ‘I don’t care what gifts he’s given you, Gemma,’ she said one night when I’d gone round for tea. ‘That man is trouble. And don’t even try to tell me you got those bruises on your ears from bumping into a door.’ But I couldn’t see what she was talking about.
After the happiness of those few weeks after the attack, he started showing up at my work place more and more. He’d walk in puffing his chest out and walk right up to my customers.
‘This is my girlfriend’s workplace – what do you think you’re doing here?’ he’d say, menacingly.
Mortified, I tried to tell him he couldn’t do that, that he’d get me fired, but he just ignored me, and carried on threatening them. Funnily enough, they never questioned him, and they never came in again. It was like Mohammed had a reputation and they weren’t going to say no to him.
In the beginning, I had a choice of either saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’, but pretty soon I realised that saying no wasn’t an option for me either. Mohammed was lovely, in the beginning. He’d ask for a favour with that sweet voice of his. ‘Do you mind not answering the door in your pyjamas?’ he said one morning. Puzzled, I said: ‘You’re mad. It’s not like I’m answering the door in my knickers and bra, is it?’
Mohammed flipped and for next few hours I was verbally and physically abused. I quickly learned that when he asked for something, I had to say yes.
The compliments dried up, and so did the gifts. The confidence boost he’d given me in the beginning was brought crashing down to earth. Now, I felt like a piece of dirt.
A friend of mine sent me a snapchat from her holiday in Turkey of her on the beach in a bikini. Mohammed grabbed the phone from my hands: ‘Look at this slag!’ he said. He text her back: ‘You should be ashamed of yourself – look at the state of you.’ Then he took it out on me.
‘If this is the kind of girl you’re friends with, what type of girl are you?’ He was raging mad and throwing things around the house. I was crying and screaming at him to stop, but it only made him worse.
In August, he started complaining about how the clothes I wore made me look like a tramp. ‘They’re from TopShop and New Look!’ I cried.
‘They make you look like trash,’ he said.
So he gave me £500 to go shopping and told me to buy only designer clothes, like he wore.
When he flipped again, I’d had enough. What had I got myself into? I thought. I packed his things up into bin bags and told him to get out.
‘Not without my £500,’ he said. He knew I didn’t have it. And he knew he had that control over me. He grabbed my phone and threw it against the wall, shattering it beyond repair.
‘Debt cleared,’ he said and started to walk away.
I was fuming. I started screaming at him to get out, but he turned on me and slapped me across the face. I fell to the ground and he kicked me in the ribs and punched me in the back of the head.
When I screamed out in pain as he punched me in the ribs, he shouted at me: ‘Why are you screaming?’ Then he straddled me and put his hands around my throat, strangling me.
I must have passed out because suddenly he was telling me to wake up, slapping me in the face. I opened my eyes and he started choking me again. ‘I will kill you,’ he said. ‘I’m not bothered about a life sentence.’
From that moment on my life changed completely. I wasn’t allowed to wear short sleeve shirts or blouses; I had to wear large long sleeve shirts and a jacket that covered my bum, even in summer.
I never had a phone again – he wouldn’t allow it. Or a car. He took mine and made me get the bus everywhere.
Not that I could go anywhere. He forced me to answer my work phone to him. ‘I can’t talk to you when I’m in a meeting,’ I pleaded. ‘You don’t have to talk,’ he said. ‘But you better answer it.’
He wanted to listen in to every minute of my life, without exception. If I went to visit my mum, or saw my friends, or even the doctor, he’d ‘call in’ to my phone and listen to whatever I said. I had to lie to everyone.
Whenever I turned up at work with new bruises, I knew I couldn’t tell them the truth. He’d hear me saying it. Even when my mum rang the police and reported him and they performed welfare checks on me, I’d tell them I was alone and that my mum was lying. He was always there though, hiding at the top of the stairs.
The strangest thing was, my confidence was so low, I actually felt lucky to have him.
‘What am I doing with a girl like you?’ he’d say. And I’d think, yeah, what are you doing with me?
After witnessing him Google himself one day, I saw that he’d been convicted of kidnapping and torture before. I was terrified. I thought there was only one way out, so I tried to take my own life. I took 18 pills, but survived, and he beat me for having the nerve to try.
When he wasn’t beating me or abusing me he was sat on the toilet watching fitness videos featuring big-bottomed, fitness gurus with shredded abs. He got it into his head that he wanted me to have abs like his latest crush, Graceyanne Barbosa, and an ass like Kim Kardashian.
‘They’ve got different figures than me, and they’ve been training hard all their lives,’ I said. But he didn’t care. He became obsessed with my figure and what I ate.
At first he had me jogging through the streets until he got paranoid of other men looking at me.
He made me watch the videos and then tell me to burn 500 calories on the treadmill he bought for ‘us’. I never saw him using it. After running for a couple of hours, while he sat there watching me, he made me do 2-300 squats immediately after.
My legs were permanently like jelly, but if I complained, he’d tell me to just get back on. I knew that when he asked nicely, I was a wrong word away from a tirade of abuse.
If ever I said no, that I physically couldn’t run anymore, that I’d never look like the girls he watched on youtube, he’d beat me.
Once, when he fell asleep while I was running, I turned the machine off at 425 calories. As soon as he heard the beep his eyes opened and he forced me to start again. 925 calories in total. And then 300 squats!
Then he started in on the food. I was only allowed to eat boiled egg whites for breakfast, a tin of tuna with vinegar for lunch, and beetroot for dinner. I was eating around 50 tins of tuna a week – with no mayonnaise.
I was so hungry, I’d raid the kid’s cupboard for crisps and chocolate. I would see my friends out and they told me I was wasting away. But I felt like a zombie on auto-pilot, treading on egg shells, with only one goal in mind – to make him happy, so I didn’t get hurt.
When we had sex, he’d make me wash the sheets, the clothes we were wearing, the material covers on the sofa if I sat down on them after, bleach the toilet after I used it and scrub myself clean. He was a freak. The ultimate controlling boyfriend. He treated me like an animal – like a laboratory Guinea pig for his sick controlling experiments.
On March 5th last year, he woke up and was on the loo watching his youtube videos again. Then he came into the bedroom, stood over me, and said: ‘You don’t love me.’
I told him I did, and that he was being silly, and went downstairs to watch TV. After a couple of hours I went up to wake him, but he’d been awake the whole time. ‘You think I’m an idiot?’ he said. ‘Leaving me alone up here for two hours after telling you don’t love me?’
He was talking nonsense. I knew what was coming. I tried to reason with him, but he got angrier and threw a glass against the wall. I ran downstairs and he followed me, tripping me up in the living room.
He picked me up and started punching me in the face. He grabbed a baking tray from the kitchen and started hitting me over the head with it.
A hair clip broke and embedded itself in my scalp, and he hit his fingers on it as he brought the tray down again. He roared at seeing his own blood and started hitting me again. He picked up a hammer and held it my ankles saying he was going to hobble me. He dragged me by my hair, punching me, threatening to urinate on me, kicking me.
‘You’re a dog,’ he yelled. ‘Bark like the dog you are!’
I was almost out cold, but I knew I just needed three seconds to grab my children and get out of there. The car keys were in my dressing gown pocket.
Somehow, I managed to convince him to let me go to the shops to get some fresh air. I combed my hair over my bruised ears and let him inspect me. After about half an hour, I convinced him to let me go.
I grabbed my children, who were hiding under the bed the entire time, and jumped in the car and sped off without looking back. I had no phone so I had to search for a phone box.
I tried one, but the receiver wasn’t working. I found another but the coin slot was jammed. Three more broken phones and I was crumpled on the street in floods of tears. Just then a woman pulled over, saw the state I was in and immediately called the police.
It took the whole weekend to find him. He was such a dangerous man that only armed officers could make the arrest.
When I was brought in to make a statement, I told officers I didn’t mind a slap or being roughed about, but they told me it wasn’t normal. I hadn’t realised. I had been sucked into Mohammed’s life of him being a King – I thought it was normal. But I’d been brainwashed and become a ghost to society.
Mohammed Anwar was jailed for 28 months at Sheffield Crown Court for 10 counts of assault and criminal damage. One of the counts was a new charge of controlling or coercive behaviour, only brought in at the end of 2015, and was the first conviction of its kind.For that one charge he received a 12-month prison sentence.
He should have got a lot longer though – I was only with him for 15 months, but it felt like eight years.
I know there are many others like me who are trapped and lonely. I urge them to tell police as soon as possible. Tell someone, tell anyone – get your life back.
People like this worm their way into your life so you believe that this abuse is all there is – but it’s not. Please do something about it.
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