Director of Public Health Annual Report 2021: Domestic Violence and Abuse
Experiences of domestic abuse
Two Buckinghamshire residents share their experiences of domestic abuse.
I never expected domestic abuse would happen to me.
"I never expected domestic abuse would happen to me. I always thought that domestic violence and abuse was something that happened to other people. But it happened to me. This is my story from ten years ago.
“He will be nameless. We met online, but we had mutual acquaintances in common, so I felt okay about meeting him. We first met in a quiet local pub - he wasn’t really my type, and I only agreed to a second date to not hurt his feelings. However after meeting more, I felt that we had a connection. We ended up moving in together quite quickly and that’s when my life began to change.
“From the start he was ‘love bombing’ me, a tactic that abusers sometimes use to get you on side – sending texts saying that he really liked me, and thought I was amazing. He was also controlling and overbearing – my phone would ring and he would be hovering, wanting to hear what I was saying. He would question me – what did they want, why had or hadn’t I spoken about him? Then there were questions about why people weren’t ringing or texting me. I felt that I couldn’t do anything right.
“Things reached a head when I stayed away overnight for a work trip. He accused me of making it up – I was going away because I was having an affair (I wasn’t). He cornered me in our bedroom, pushing me against the wall, yelling and screaming at me. In his mind, he was right – I couldn’t say anything to stop him. I’m not proud of it, but I slapped him. Silence. Nothing happened. I got my bags and I left. For the next 36 hours I had text after text saying things like the police would arrest me, he was sorry, please come back, I love you, I need you, why aren’t you telling me the truth, don’t you dare come back, your stuff is in bin bags at the front door.
“You might wonder, why I didn’t ring someone and tell them? What do you say? Who do you tell? Abusers pull you away from your friends and family. Contact becomes limited, and often you can’t see people without the abuser being present. Unless you’ve been in this position, you can’t imagine how lost and alone you feel. Reaching out to talk to someone, becomes the most impossible thing you can do.
“Christmas came. I was trapped in a flat, with a man I was petrified of. We rowed, and by 4am, he had ripped out clumps of my hair, tried to strangle me, kicked me in the ribs, given me a black eye, and ripped an earring out my ear. He proposed at some point that night. I said yes because I didn’t know what else to say. It was terrifying. I couldn’t even cry. I just felt numb.
“It was another three weeks before I left, and I can’t tell you what happened. I don’t let myself think about it. But I did leave. And I didn’t go back.”
– Anonymous resident, Buckinghamshire
To start with it was the occasional push or slap, but it got worse.
“I met my ex-husband when I was 17. I moved in with his family 6 months later when I was pregnant. Everything went well for a while. However, one evening at the pub he suddenly told me we were going home – I thought it was a bit strange but agreed. On the way home he told me that he was angry with me as I was flirting with another man. I told him that I hadn’t and he slapped me around the face. This was a bit of a shock but he apologised straight away and told me that he was sorry.
“Things went okay, we got married and my child was born. I quickly became pregnant again and although things did become a bit tense, I put this down to the pressures of suddenly having a family. My ex-husband would drink a bit. It seemed that if he had too much we would argue, he would say that I was lazy, and that I could not look after my children properly. The drinking was happening most evenings and so were the insults. Then it started to get physical.
“To start with it was the occasional push or slap, but it got worse. One particular evening, when the children were 6 and 5, he came home from work early and shouted at me because the dinner was not ready when he had arrived. He told me that I was useless, slapped me across the face and then told me to get on with his dinner. When I took it through to him he started shouting at me – ‘What the hell are you giving me, I don’t like this…’. He grabbed the back of my neck, and pushed my face towards the food, shouting at me all the time, saying I was trying to poison him. Then he shoved his hand full of food in into my mouth and told me to eat it. He pushed me to the floor and started to punch and kick me.
“The children were screaming. He told me to shut them up or he would sort them out too. I managed to quieten them down by taking them upstairs. When I returned I apologised to him about the food and he told me to clear it up. He said that I was not fulfilling my duty as his wife properly. He then made me have sex with him and all the time he was telling me how useless I was and that I deserved everything I got.
“The next morning I decided that I could not do this anymore. I contacted my friend and she took me to her house. We spoke to housing and they gave me the number for Women’s Aid, where there was space in a refuge for me and my children. I did not have much with me, just a few clothes and things for the children. When I got to the refuge I was shown to a room and was given some spare clothes and food. I did not have any money. My worker helped me to claim a crisis loan and sorted out getting my benefits. I did report what had happened to the police and my worker came with me to make a statement. The police were very helpful but unfortunately although they arrested him he denied everything. They were unable to proceed with any charges.
“When I was in the refuge I was helped with things like housing, and support for the children getting them in to school. I stayed in the refuge for 6 months and I was then offered a house from the Council. The staff at the refuge helped me to get things for the house and helped me move in. I contacted Women’s Aid later as my ex-husband had applied for custody of the children. He was awarded contact only. I could not have coped without the help of Women’s Aid and I am so grateful to them for helping me and the children. My ex-husband no longer sees the children as he moved out of the country.”
– Anonymous domestic abuse service user, Buckinghamshire