A mother-of-two has revealed how she was raped and strangled by her violent partner as their infant daughter slept beside her.
Annie Smith*, 25, described how her childhood sweetheart Nyasha Makunike, 26, attacked her in bed after his controlling behaviour spiralled into physical abuse.
The mother suffered years of abuse at the hands of her ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ partner before finally fleeing with her young children and phoning the police.
Now, ten months after Makunike was jailed for 13 years, Annie has shared her painful story in the hope of helping other women.
Annie and Makunike met through mutual friends in June 2008 when she was just 16 years old. She was initially charmed by his doting manner and the pair soon became a couple.
She said: ‘He was the perfect boyfriend. My friends all really liked him. While he was away, we spoke every day until he came back a couple of months later.’
After four years together, Annie and Makunike discovered they were expecting their first child. But after the birth of their son in August 2013, the new mother noticed a change in her partner’s behaviour.
Though he was an attentive, hands-on father, he became distant and controlling towards her.
She said: ‘He’d tell me that, now I was a mum, I couldn’t wear makeup or dresses and slim-fitting tops.
‘I used to dye my hair all different colours, but he told me I couldn’t cut it anymore and had to keep it plain. He got angry if I ever suggested treating myself, and asked who I was trying to look good for.
‘Looking back, I can see now he was taking my identity away, but at the time, I loved him so much I didn’t see it.’
Annie told herself ‘it wasn’t the real him’ and that if he went to see a counsellor ‘everything would be okay’.
‘He wore me so far down that I was eventually just living through him, waiting for him to tell me what to do. I was so desperate to make him happy.’
Over time Makunike tightened his hold over Annie, forcing her to delete her social media pages and taking away her phone so she had no way to contact friends and family.
She continued: ‘Nyasha severed every last tie I had to a life outside him. I was alone – just how he liked it.
‘He’d often go out without telling me where, sometimes taking my keys. He’d even order me to keep the curtains closed, while he was out, and tell me he had neighbours watching me. I was, quite literally, his prisoner.’
In 2014 Makunike became physically abusive. On one occasion he punched her in the face, accusing her of leaving their son to cry for too long.
She called the police and he was arrested, but he manipulated her into dropping the charges by promising to go to anger management classes and begging her not to break up the family.
‘Looking back, I wish I’d left then, but, by that point, he’d sapped me of every ounce of strength,’ she said.
‘He’d balance his abuse with being really doting and charming. Around once a week, he’d be lovely. It was like living with Jekyll and Hyde.
‘I felt like he knew when I’d start to have enough, then he’d turn on the charm and become everything I’d always wanted to make me stay.’
In early 2016 Annie gave birth to their daughter and the abuse escalated. It came to a terrifying head one night in August of that year when Makunike came home to find Annie in bed, wrapped in a towel after having a bath.
Their daughter was asleep beside her.
She recalled: ‘I had a towel wrapped around me from being in the bath, but he took that to mean I’d slept with someone else.
‘I kept telling him I hadn’t, but he said, “Tell me his name”. Next thing I knew, he lunged toward me, strangling me until I couldn’t speak.
‘I frantically tapped his back to make him get off me, and he briefly let go – but then shoved me back onto the bed and raped me with our daughter asleep metres away.
‘I sobbed the whole way through, praying my baby wouldn’t wake up.’
The next morning, as Makunike refused to apologise, telling Annie she ‘was being overdramatic,’ she said his lack of remorse awakened her to the fact she had to leave for good.
But, worn down after years of threats and violence, she was terrified of what he would do if she tried.
She continued: ‘I knew I couldn’t stay, I had no idea what he’d do next. He was getting ready to go out and accidentally dropped a key. I kicked it under the couch before I saw, then waited for him to go.
‘After he left, I gave it some time in case he came back, then seizing my chance, took the kids and sprinted down the road to the shop.
‘I begged the shopkeeper to call the police, but didn’t say why in case anyone overheard and told Nyasha.’
Taken to the local police station, Annie reported Makunike, before going to a safe house with the children.
After being on the run for two weeks, he eventually handed himself in.
Although he denied his crimes, Makunike was found guilty of rape, actual bodily harm, sexual assault and nine counts of assault and harassment in February this year and jailed for 13 years.
‘Having to face Nyasha in court was the worst experience of my life. I was terrified he’d get let off,’ said Annie.
‘When I discovered he’d been found guilty, the relief was indescribable. Finally, me and my children were free.
‘Now, I want to help other women out there realise that they aren’t alone. Nyasha broke me down, and controlled me for so long, but I’ve finally realised that it wasn’t my fault.’
Speaking out during 2017’s 16 Days of Action Against Domestic Violence, which is supported by large organisations such as Amnesty International, Annie revealed how she has now returned to university to study fine art, and is determined to rebuild her life for her children.
She has also joined the Freedom Project, a support group for domestic violence survivors, and has set up an online page dedicated to helping other victims.
‘Programmes like the Freedom Project are amazing – hearing those women talk is like listening to my own life,’ she said. ‘We’re bound together by what we’ve been through.
‘I want others to realise they aren’t alone. I left the house that day with nothing, but there’s been so much help out there.
‘The way I was treated is never acceptable, but Nyasha was wrong. I do have a voice – and he won’t silence it again.’
*Name changed to protect identity