“After our wedding, he grabbed me by the arm and told me we were leaving so I didn’t even get to go to my own reception,” the wife, who had lived with his abuse for more than a decade, said.
It is far worse than a nightmare when the person you were looking forward to spending the rest of your life with turns into someone you are most terrified of. 32-year-old Catherine believed that she was saying "yes" to the man of her dreams, Matthew Hartley, but she was too young to see the red flags in the early stages of their relationship.
Catherine met Matthew when she was just a young teen; she was 15 and he was 25. The couple got married in October, 2006 and it did not take long for him to start showing his true colors. The controlling side of Matthew's behavior even came out on their wedding day. “I was very young when I met him and one of the things he did was to groom me. His controlling behavior started the moment I said 'I do,’" she said, as reported by Daily Record. “After our wedding, he grabbed me by the arm and told me we were leaving so I didn’t even get to go to my own reception.”
But that was just the tip of the iceberg. Catherine was later tortured and Matthew refused to let her eat because he didn't "want a fat wife". While she was a healthy size 12 when they tied the knot, Matthew's controlling behavior slowly chipped away at his wife's well-being, shrinking her self-esteem and, quite literally, her body.
“He said I was fat so he put me on a diet. He wanted a size 0 wife," Catherine said, “If I ate before I went to bed, he forced me to sleep on the sofa as he didn’t like the smell of food on me. I ended up so thin that when I lay down on the mattress my bones hurt." She was starved until there was barely anything of "Catherine" left, both physically and emotionally.
He started taking out his frustration on her through violence and it was damaging Catherine bit by bit. “One day we were with my family in their living room and I asked him to take me for some food as I was hungry," she said. He lost complete control and was extremely harsh to her.
Matthew's need to control his wife reached a point where she was made to feel uncomfortable in her own home by the constant surveillance he kept her under. “He wanted to control me and installed CCTV in every room in our house, even in our bedroom, so he could watch me on his phone..." she said. “He terrified me and he took pleasure in torturing me because he had nothing better to do with his time.”
According to Catherine, Matthew would make a fuss over the silliest things and make life extremely difficult for her. “My life was like the horror film Sleeping with the Enemy. If the bathroom towels weren’t hanging perfectly straight he would go crazy," she said.
Things only got worse when she was bearing his child in 2012. “I had back pain during my pregnancy and once, when I asked him to rub my back," he was extremely reactive with her and called her "disgusting and fat”.
In tomorrow's Daily Record, we reveal how a battered woman claims her violent husband starved her because he wanted a size zero wife. #scotpapers #tomorrowspaperstoday @hendopolis pic.twitter.com/TYIU2PBhtR— The Daily Record (@Daily_Record) July 26, 2019
Catherine finally got the courage to walk away from her abusive husband in August 2017 and they divorced in April, 2019. But a contract cannot wipe away the nightmarish memories that her marriage had left her with. She can't believe that he's walking free from court with a community payback order with 12 months of supervision, even after he was found guilty of assaulting Catherine on multiple occasions, according to The Sun. He was convicted for sexually assaulting another woman between December, 2010 and January, 2011, and he was added to the sex offenders' register for 12 months.
However, Catherine believes that the torture she went through was nothing compared to the punishment that Matthew is facing. “I was his prisoner for 12 years, I practically served a life sentence and all he got was a slap on the wrists. It’s like what happened to me doesn’t matter," Catherine said. “There needs to be harsher punishments for people like him.”
For her, it wasn't just about going through a divorce, but more about building her physical and emotional health from the ground up. Over the course of the marriage, Catherine had lost so much weight that she could only fit into clothes made for 7-year-old children. And along with her physical health being affected, what she also lost was her sense of self-worth. The 12 years she spent with Matthew in a toxic marriage had become a living hell for her. “He chipped away at my confidence and self-worth. I felt ashamed of the abuse. I knew my sisters wouldn’t have ever stood for anything like it. I felt like I’d failed," she said. “In the end, I went along with things he wanted because I hoped he might be nicer to me but I was never perfect enough."
She urged people to get out of relationships like this because nothing justifies this kind of treatment. “These people don’t change.," she said. "No one deserves to live like that. You have to tell someone. You have to get out.”