SINGLE mum Danielle wasn’t looking for love when she signed up to dating website, Plenty Of Fish.
But the 31-year-old, from Tameside, Greater Manchester, was quickly wooed by handsome Ryan Fletcher, 38.
Things seemed great… at first. But less than a year into their romance, Fletcher became possessive and controlling.
He then turned violent, attacking her so brutally after a night out he triggered a medical condition, which caused a huge tumour to erupt behind her ear.
It affected Danielle’s hearing so badly, more than two years on, she is still partially deaf.
Here, Danielle bravely shares her story with Fabulous Digital.
I hadn’t dated anyone since having my daughter, now six, and wasn’t willing to jump head first into a relationship when I came across Ryan on Plenty Of Fish in June 2016.
I’d been on the dating site for ages but, being a single mum, barely had time to use it. But, sat on the sofa one day, I was intrigued by Ryan’s profile.
Tattooed, with dark-hair, I was immediately attracted him. And he had messaged me, saying, ‘Hey gorgeous, how are you?’
Things quickly escalated. He dragged me home by my hair and savagely beat me
I typed back and over the next few weeks the messages flew back and forth.
Around a month later we went on our first date to a pub in Manchester. We got on really well and increasingly saw each other more.
We officially became a couple on Christmas Day that year, not living together but spending a lot of time together.
Things continued happily until April 2017 when we went on our first holiday to Egypt.
I was drunk during the holiday when, following an argument, I locked myself in the hotel bathroom.
I couldn’t remember much about the incident the next day so thought I must have been overreacting, although I did have the sense – although not the memory – of something being amiss.
Blood poured from my head as he rained down vicious punches and kicks
At this stage Ryan didn’t attack or bully me but he wasn’t overly kind. He wouldn’t splash the cash on me and did flirt with other girls, although I have no proof he cheated on me.
But, at the same time, he seemed infatuated with me. He didn’t like me being friends with men and wanted to know who I was with all the time.
In July that year, while working at a cafe, I went out after hours with colleagues.
I had barely drunk anything as I had work the next day but suddenly Ryan, who was out with us, started shouting that I was flirting with my married boss.
I was so embarrassed I immediately left with Ryan in tow. Things quickly escalated. He dragged me home by my hair and savagely beat me.
Blood poured from my head as he rained down vicious punches and kicks, while I cowered in agony.
What is neurofibromatosis?
According to the NHS, neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) is a genetic condition that causes typically benign tumours to grow along your nerves.
NF1 is caused by a faulty gene. causing uncontrolled growth (tumours) developing in the nervous system.
In half of all cases of NF1, the faulty gene is passed from a parent to their child.
Only one parent needs to have the faulty gene for their child to be at risk of developing the condition.
If either the mother or father has the faulty gene, there’s a 1 in 2 chance that each child they have will develop NF1.
He hit me so hard that he popped a blood vessel behind my right ear, triggering an illness I’d suffered since birth called neurofibromatosis.
As a result, a huge tumour appeared which immediately reduced my hearing. I could barely hear anything and still suffer partial deafness to this day.
I don’t know why but I didn’t initially connect the sudden worsening of my symptoms to the attack by Ryan.
Despite needing hospital treatment, I had no intention of leaving Ryan. He told me it was a one off and I believed him.
He swore he’d never hurt me again, but his promises barely lasted a week.
He nit-picked at everything I did and criticised me for wearing makeup and accused me of flirting with other men.
Despite needing hospital treatment, I had no intention of leaving Ryan
Convinced I was cheating, he’d constantly check my phone. I told myself he was just insecure but Ryan became a Jekyll and Hyde character.
He was a boyfriend one minute but would slam me against a wall the next.
‘You dirty slag,’ he would say. ‘You’re lucky you’ve got me, because nobody else wants you.’
On one occasion he even poured a drink over me.
I lived in constant fear until April 2018, when I finally found the strength to leave him for good when, after a night out at a restaurant, he hit me in the face so I was severely bruised.
Where can you get help?
I reported him to the police, went to stay with my mum and he was charged with assault. But, even then, he called me.
So I stumbled upon the idea of recording his confession. The next time he called I clicked my phone onto record mode.
I taped him screaming at me, insisting I drop the charges and admitting he had beaten me. It was terrifying, but now I had the evidence I needed to nail Ryan once and for all.
I handed the recording to police and in February this year it was used as evidence during his trial at Manchester’s Minshull Street Court.
There, following a trial where I gave evidence, Ryan, from Oldham, was found guilty of two counts of assault and one of threatening criminal damage and was jailed for three years and six months.
But sadly I no longer trust men – and want to stay single forever. Ryan has done this to me.
But there are positives from the situation. I hope to join the police to support women who have been victims of domestic abuse like me. I know just how strong and resilient they are.
I’m still receiving treatment to preserve my hearing and the emotional scars run deep, but knowing my actions jailed that monster has given me the strength to carry on.
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