Trigger warning: this article includes reference to domestic abuse including threats to kill.
It’s hard to clearly define domestic abuse in a short and concise way as there are so many forms. Not only that but, as we explored in part 1 of this series, it has after-effects that often last for generations. Without a true understanding of the scale and impact, it’s impossible to make any sort of positive change.
When planning for this series of articles, I knew the scale of the task was significant and securing first-hand accounts could be difficult. However, there are those who have been courageous and candid enough to share their stories.
Names have been changed, but I have also left some personal information out to protect their safety.
Case study – Adrianna
Adrianna told me her story early on and so many parts of this are truly shocking. It all started off so normally though. In her youth, she met a slightly older boy and he had a crush on her for some time. However, they didn’t get into a relationship until much later. Adrianna initiated things and in the early days, he ticked a lot of her boxes.
In recent years though, things started to change. Adrianna mentioned that the first incident involved her being locked in a room and thrown around. He sat on top of her and, she recounts, “punched me through a pillow”. On top of that, there was repeated name-calling and efforts to make her “feel inferior”.
The incidents continued and throughout this time Adrianna was losing hope. Her happiness had gone and she saw no chance of escape. He even made a habit of taking her spare keys so he could easily come back whenever he wanted. This was also the genesis of her anxiety issues and PTSD (a very common consequence).
Other experiences include:
- having many injuries such as bruised ribs and a displaced jaw (“I now have cracking and pain every time I open my mouth past a certain point”)
- bite marks and scars all over her body
- her abuser managed to damage walls when pushing her against them.
In one shocking incident he’d charged towards her, grabbed the blade she was using to defend herself and pushed it into her hand. When the police later became involved, it was Adrianna who got arrested for GBH – not him. He managed to convince the police it was all her fault. Luckily, she was able to provide ample evidence and a 20-minute recording of one attack when interviewed later on.
Adrianna is willing to take this to court in order to get justice, which is an inspiration to other domestic abuse victims out there.
Case study – Paisley
There are so many layers to Paisley’s story. It is another that may be hard to listen to, but her voice needs to be heard.
Paisley and her abuser were best of friends for many years. Memories of the good times stay strong to this day. However, it got to the point where the abuse was so bad, she threw him out of the house. Despite this, she was still concerned about his welfare.
There was a long period where she believed that she was the problem. However, it was her abuser who was prone to regular verbal meltdowns, was prone to violent attacks, was verbally abusive towards their child, and who made Paisley feel worthless. He forced her to do everything (e.g., cooking, cleaning, homeschooling), but he remained critical and expected her to do even more.
“I was honestly concerned that he would kill me if I left and he had mentioned wanting to multiple times, graphically”
She told me how she’d developed a habit of hiding her mistakes from him (such as relapsing on cigarettes) for fear of retribution.
Fortunately, after reading books and online threads, she knew that she wasn’t alone. She now realises she spent “too much time in the role of caretaker” and should have ended things “a very long time ago”. Unfortunately, in her case “the person who needs ‘fixing’ is so busy blaming everyone else for their issues”.
‘Why don’t you just leave?’
This question is often asked. However well-intended it might be, it also displays a level of ignorance and naivety.
Lesley Morgan Steiner addresses this topic in her TED Talk. She didn’t think she was a victim – at least not initially. She didn’t leave for a period because she thought she was “in love with a deeply troubled man” and that she could help her abusive husband “face his demons”.
There are many reasons why victims don’t leave, which include:
- the fear of the unknown
- the chance that the abuser will find you
- the abuser convinces you that it’s all your fault
- mental health issues that might lead to a victim not being believed
- the concept of ‘trauma bonding’, whereby the victim stays with the abuser due to a shared understanding of the situation
- abuse in previous relationships might lead to a degree of acceptance that this is what life is like
- cases of financial abuse could lead to a situation where the victim has no money if they escape, meaning that they feel unable to survive on their own
- a lowering of self-worth
- pre-existing mental health issues
- perceived justice system failures.
You should be able to recognise some of these in the stories in this article and in Behind Closed Doors part 1. These are obstacles that can seem insurmountable to those that find themselves in such a position. Escaping from such circumstances is often a complex task that may involve assistance from external agencies.
Help and understanding
Victims need to be assured that they are not alone.
If you are experiencing abuse, please know that there are services available. Here are some of them:
- National Domestic Abuse Helpline – 08082 000247
- A live chat service is available from Women’s Aid
- Stop Domestic Abuse has a helpline – 03300 533630
- Local authorities have pages listing services and information (this is an example)
- The website of your local Police & Crime Commissioner will also have options (an example)
- If you’re in the BAME community, do an internet search for local services. Examples include Hull Sisters.
- There are helplines for male victims and those in the LGBT+ community.
- You can see if your partner has a history of abuse by making a request to the police using Clare’s Law
In the next few parts of this series, I will be taking a critical look at the police and justice system, taking a look at support services and some of the issues they face (this includes more from my visit to Hull Sisters) and also considering how politicians are attempting to tackle the issue.