Help available to escape from domestic violence

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A WIGAN domestic violence victim has bravely spoken out about her suffering at the hands of an abuser in the hope other victims will feel empowered to come forward.

Sarah (not her real name) was married to her partner for 13 years and suffered years of brutal and controlling behaviour.

Once when I said something about work that he didn’t like, he came over to me and pulled my legs up so my back hit the floor. He had hold of my legs and rammed my back into the floor

Domestic violence victim

A new domestic abuse law for “coercive and controlling behaviour” in relationships came into force in the UK at the end of 2015, giving more protection to victims that suffer psychological and emotional abuse.

And 38-year-old Sarah is hoping, that by sharing her story, other victims will feel hopeful that there is light at the end of the tunnel and is urging them to report the abuse.

She said: “I’d been with him for 17 years, we’ve got two children, and initially things were fine. He was always a bit of a character and a bit difficult to talk to, didn’t have many friends, and after about a year we’d had a fall out and he told me his parents had never told him they love him and he was upset by that.

“I felt like I should help him. There were problems before we got married but there was never violence, he was just a difficult person. The violence started when I was eight months pregnant when he held a pillow over my face until I couldn’t breathe. When my eldest child was 10 weeks old he hit me and that was the first time he was arrested.

“It wasn’t a weekly thing and it wasn’t all the time but when he got really annoyed with me he would attempt to hit me. Once when I said something about work that he didn’t like, he came over to me and pulled my legs up so my back hit the floor. He had hold of my legs and rammed my back into the floor.

“On another day he pushed his thumb into my eye. But all these times I never got him charged because I didn’t want family to know and for people to think it was my fault.”

As well as the violence, Sarah now realises her partner’s behaviour was controlling throughout their marriage – something that this new law will be able to prosecute offenders for.

She said: “I’d visit my mum and dad and he would tell me my behaviour was different when I’d been with them. He told me I had to choose between them and him.

“It did make me think, ‘am I different?’ He’d tell me that my parents didn’t love me and I couldn’t go back home.

“I didn’t have any friends and he didn’t want me to have any. I felt on edge all the time.

“I got depressed and I was frightened of being out in public on my own. I found social situations quite daunting. When I tried to better myself at work he put me down. We did a degree together but he put me down so much that I quit with eight months to go. He told me I’d be better to take a manager’s job where I was working even though that wasn’t what I wanted to do.”

It was in June 2013, when Sarah was subject to a whole day of violence, that she decided to leave for good.

“He kicked the bathroom door in and it took the top of my toenails off, he pushed me around the house, threw me out of bed and was violent with me all day until midnight and when I came downstairs to phone the police he smashed the phone on the floor.

“I tried to climb on the sofa to shout out of the window for help. He grabbed hold off me and pulled my fingers back so much I thought they were going to break. The children were upstairs in bed. I managed to break free, grabbed my coat, ran down the street and two ladies phoned the police.”

Unfortunately for Sarah things got worse when she split from her husband. She said: “In the end he divorced me. When we split up he wasn’t accepting of that. Because he had no control left he flooded the house, I had the locks changed and he wrote himself lots of death threat letters and said they were from me. He’s tried to get me framed for lots of things.”

But support from the police, Wigan Council and other local domestic abuse agencies has kept Sarah positive and she now has a new partner and her children are thriving at school.

“The police have been fantastic”, she said. “I’ve had an officer who I can speak to all the time, who I can phone with any problems, and they’ve been amazing.

“The council’s social services can seem scary but they aren’t, they are here to help and they’ve been great.

“I can’t imagine what life would have been like if I’d not reported this.

I want to tell people although it is frightening to report it and you might feel like you love the person who’s controlling you, there’s lots of support out there and lots of people to talk to.

“Trust them that eventually it will all been solved and that you can move on with your life. I feel like I can move on now, I’m enjoying life a lot more and I’d like to help other people in the future.”

Coercive and controlling behaviour can include the abuser preventing their victim for having friendships and hobbies, controlling aspects of their day-to-day life, and refusing them access to money.