By Hannah Phillips
A mum who spent three years in an abusive relationship has revealed her ex was so controlling he would steal her car keys, count the mileage on her car and even threatened to abandon her in the woods without shoes or a phone.
Drug and alcohol counsellor Gemma Bush, 31, from Norwich, met Christopher Bartrum, 33, in a pub in 2015 but claims the labourer became controlling within weeks of them starting a relationship.
Over the next three years, Gemma was banned from seeing her friends and family, forced to transfer her partner cash for no reason, wasn’t allowed to leave the house without permission and Bartrum would even check how many miles she had driven.
Every time she tried to escape the relationship, she claims Bartrum would threaten to call social services to have her children taken away or post nude images of her online which would ruin her career.
The pair moved in together in April 2017 and Gemma eventually called the police in October 2017 when she was threatened in her home while her children, Sofia, eight, and Oscar, five, were asleep upstairs.
On July 5 this year at Norwich Crown Court, Bartrum was sentenced to 22 months’ imprisonment for controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate relationship.
Mum-of-two Gemma said: “When we first met, he was really loving, I’ve been married before and he cared about what was going on with me. But he turned very quickly.
“If the miles didn’t add up on the car he would want to know where I’d been.
“He’d take my car keys so I couldn’t take the kids to school or to their dads, I was just stranded.
“He would say things like my friends weren’t good for me so I shouldn’t see them, he would act like he was saying it for my benefit.
“He put me down a lot, I lost my mum to cancer when I was six and he’d say things like she’d be ashamed of me.
“That was the hardest thing to hear.”
Over the next three years, Gemma was banned from seeing her friends and family, wasn’t allowed to leave the house without permission and Bartrum would even check how many miles she had driven.
After the pair moved in together in April 2017, she was banned from seeing dad Viv, 74, and if she arranged to meet up with friends, she felt that she was being watched.
Gemma said: “I was volunteering when I first met him but he made me stop doing that.
“One day, I snuck out for a coffee with my friends and one of his friends saw me and told him.
“I was been watched all the time. I couldn’t go anywhere without him finding out.
“My dad had his suspicions. He said to me ‘he’s got a hold on you but I don’t know what it is’ and then I was banned from seeing my dad.
“I didn’t speak to him for five to six months.”
When Gemma eventually called the police in October, she took her two children, Sophia, 8, and Oscar, 5, to stay with her dad.
Bartrum was arrested and charged with one count of controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate relationship.
The law defines controlling or coercive behaviour as an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten the victim.
Gemma, who has now moved on with new partner and childhood friend Will, 33, said: “I knew I was in an abusive relationship for a long time, I was just looking for a safe way out.
Gemma said: “As soon as I reported him to the police I called my dad and just said ‘daddy’ and broke down.
“He came straight away and we went to stay with him.
“It’s been a lot better since he left, we’re a lot more settled.
“Christopher wouldn’t let me speak to my family but I’m back in touch with them and they’ve been really supportive.
“However, I have issues. I don’t trust anyone. Doctors think I have complex PTSD, I’m having counselling.”
Gemma is now a domestic abuse champion in her local area, supporting other victims of violence and is speaking out to warn other women.
She said: “There is help and support, women say they can’t live without all these things, like if they don’t have their own money but there’s always a way.
“It took me so long. I was trying for years to get away.”