“Oh god Sarah, are you OK?” I said to my friend after finally finding her amongst the crowd.
We were out in Doncaster in June 2004 and she’d got stupidly drunk and lost me.
“Do you know her?” the man propping her up asked.
“Yes we’re out together,” I laughed. “But someone had a little too much to drink!”
He helped get her to a taxi, and the three of us got in to take her home.
He introduced himself as Scott, and we started chatting about our favourite films and what we were up to that weekend.
Dropping Sarah at hers, the two of us continued onto my flat, and before I knew it, we were outside.
“Thanks for your help tonight,” I smiled.
“I’d love to see you again,” he said as I was about to close the door.
Trying not to smile too widely, I jotted my number down for him.
The next morning as I sat bleary eyed at work as a sales advisor for a cosmetics company, my phone pinged.
“Great to meet you last night – I’d love to take you to the cinema tonight?” a text from Scott read.
I eagerly text back to let him know how perfect that sounded – even more perfect when he said I could choose the film.
That night we went on our first date to see Mean Girls.
Everyone fell in love with Scott straight away – including me.
He was charming, thoughtful and went out of his way for people.
It wasn’t long until we were an official couple, spending every evening together.
“I don’t think you should be going out with Sarah anymore – she’s a bit of a liability,” Scott said to me one night over dinner.
It’s true she liked to let her hair down and I was the one to end up looking after her, but I’d always just got on with it.
“I know she’s your friend, but you deserve better than to keep picking her up,” he continued.
I was a bit fed up of it, and so I stopped seeing her.
Although at the time I believed that to be my decision, looking back, that was the beginning of the end – but I was hook, line and sinker in love with him and thought he was just being protective.
In January 2005 I fell pregnant and we welcomed our first son – the two of us were over the moon at our bundle of joy!
When Scott and I had met, he had just lost a job and couldn’t drive – but I’d helped him find a job as an apprentice kitchen fitter and sorted him out with a moped so he could get around.
I was working in Sheffield and we were living in Doncaster, and occasionally Scott would just turn up at my work once I was back from maternity leave – despite the hour-long journey on the moped.
“I just wanted to check you’re having a good day,” he would say, smiling at my colleagues.
Although at first I thought the visits were touching, they became more and more frequent to the point where every spare second of my day – breakfast, lunch and dinner – was being spent with Scott.
I’d stopped seeing more friends on his advice, but despite this I was still so happy – so when he proposed in September 2007 it was an immediate yes!
I’d always known I wanted a themed wedding, so two years later – when we decided to finally tie the knot – I knew what would make it the perfect day.
“How do you feel about a Halloween themed wedding?” I asked tentatively.
“Whatever you want – I want it to be the wedding of your dreams,” said Scott.
We sent out invites telling our friends to come in costume, and booked a haunted pub for the reception.
I wore a corpse bride style gown, and celebrated amid fake tombs, gravestones and Halloween figurines on October 31st 2009.
We’d just had our second son in June 2009, so our family was growing and I couldn’t remember ever being happier.
So when we had a daughter in May 2012, I was elated.
I took the usual maternity leave, but when I went back to work Scott started to become more noticeably controlling.
I’d moved branch and was now just 10 minutes from home in Doncaster, but still Scott would call all the time.
“What are we having for dinner?” he would ring to ask – always finding something to give him an excuse to call.
He’d been out of a job since his company went into administration just before the wedding and since then had struggled to hold down a job.
This continued for the next couple of years until 2015, when his behaviour ramped up another level.
I remember him getting into a fight in the middle of town with a perfect stranger who’d looked at him the wrong way.
“That’s not like him,” I thought to myself, worried about what this meant for our future.
I was right to be worried, as the violent side of him soon came out in front of me.
He made every day of 2016 a living hell, subjecting me to daily beatings triggered by a bad coffee or the fact I could get to sleep and he couldn’t.
He made us all sleep in the living room so he could keep an eye on us, so in a three bedroom house, the five of us kipped on the floor to keep his paranoia at bay.
“We’ve just got to do our best not to trigger your dad’s anxiety,” I would say to the kids, trying to normalise this incredibly unnatural behaviour for the sake of my children.
Scott would make sure I was accompanied by one of our children whenever I went to the shops so they could report back to him.
“Did mummy speak to anyone today?” he would ask my little girl – but I never did, I knew better.
I remember once wearing a bobble hat, and I bent over to tie up my shoelaces causing the bobble to fall forwards over my face.
“What’s that bobble doing?” he screamed at me as I pushed it backwards. “You’ve set my anxiety off now!”
Before I knew what was happening he landed a punch right to the side of my face.
Unfortunately this had become all too familiar – so I simply scooped the kids up and carried on with the school run.
In July 2016, my sister, Kelly, died suddenly of undiagnosed cancer, aged just 37.
We were close as children, but my relationship with Scott had pushed me away from those I loved so I hadn’t seen her – or my parents – in over a year.
My heart broke when I heard the news, but Scott was defiant in his response to the news.
“You’re not going to that funeral,” he glared.
I knew there was no point in arguing, or it could be me who joined her in the ground next.
Later that month something else had ticked him off, causing him to grab me violently by the ear.
He pulled it so hard that he caused it to tear at the back, until I felt hot blood trickle down my neck.
“Now look what you’ve made me done,” he cursed as he let go, allowing me to cradle the ear he’d almost ripped from my head.
“Sort that out yourself, you’re not going to the hospital.”
Rushing upstairs, I cleaned up the blood but knew I had to do something to stick my ear back on.
Spotting some nail glue, I knew that was my best option for the wound to heal properly, so biting my lip through the pain, glued myself back together.
As a trained make-up artist, I was unfortunately very good at covering up bruises – and Scott knew that.
Before I left the house he’d check me over and tell me if I needed to apply more concealer or foundation to patches of purple and black glowing from underneath.
He wasn’t afraid of beating me in front of the children either, as he’d conditioned them not to tell anyone.
“You tell no one about what happens, or they’ll take you away,” he’d say to the boys, who were old enough to understand exactly what was going on.
Although he tried his best, it proved very difficult to condition a six-year-old and so our little girl was less easily blackmailed by her cruel father.
So much so that one day in October 2017, she turned to her teacher and said: “My daddy’s hurting my mummy. She says she loves him but he keeps hurting her.”
This prompted a crescendo of events beginning with Children’s Services trying to get involved.
That December, Scott was told to move out of the house temporarily while they monitored the situation, and although he promised he would, remained under the same roof as us.
On December 22nd, Scott arrived home and began to beat me with a rolling pin.
For two hours he landed blow after blow upon my body, as I cowered on the kitchen floor, begging him to stop.
As darkness fell, he declared he was going to bed, but warned: “We’ll finish this in the morning.”
Sure enough when I woke up the next day he continued to beat me for another two hours, but thankfully I was saved when the doorbell rang.
Seeing it was the police, Scott fled out the back door, and I realised my ordeal could finally be over.
I hadn’t called 999, but two officers had been sent by Child Services after Scott failed to turn up to social care.
As the police began to ask questions, I admitted for the first time that I thought I was the victim of domestic abuse – which to them was glaringly obvious as they witnessed my battered body.
Scott was arrested later that day and our children were taken to a place of safety, before they took me to the hospital to be checked over.
They revealed that I had had a broken leg and left arm, nine broken ribs, six spinal fractures, a broken shoulder and thumb, the ripped ear, a huge scar to my face, numerous bite marks and 95 per cent bruising across my body from the rolling pin.
Scott had never let me visit the hospital, so a number of my injuries were historical but had healed by themselves, causing me to have crooked limbs and ugly scars.
In another interview with the police, I sat for hours talking about the hell I’d endured and discovered that Scott had also been raping me constantly throughout our marriage.
I knew a couple of times were wrong – including one where he used the rolling pin to sexually assault me – but because we were husband and wife I didn’t know there was anything I could do about it.
On September 5th 2018, Scott Keegans was found guilty at Sheffield Crown Court of six counts of assault, sexual assault by penetration and rape and sentenced to 18 years behind bars for the years of hell he’d caused me.
Although I used to love horror films, having lived one in real life I don’t think I’ll ever be able to watch one again.
I have discovered that if I don’t laugh, I’ll cry, and so I try to turn everything into a positive.
I believe the way to fight men like Scott is to educate people about the signs of domestic abuse, and now spend my time supporting victims who have been through a similar ordeal.
Perhaps if I’d known more about it I would have got out sooner, but the important thing is that I’m out now and my children and I can begin to rebuild our lives without him.
My little girl is my superhero who was brave enough to speak on my behalf – if it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be here today.