Domestic violence 

Two women describe their experiences of domestic abuse. Find out how they found the strength and support to move on. Contact the National Domestic Violence Helpline 0808 2000 247 if you need more advise or look for support in your local area.

Learn more about domestic violence

Transcript of Domestic violence

I met my ex-husband in 1997.

We got married within ten months. He was absolutely charming and lovely.

I met this man through a friend

and he was very charming, everyone seemed to know him, like him,

he was very sociable with everyone.

I had no reason to suspect him of anything.

The statistics for domestic violence are very worrying indeed.

It affects one in four women.

30 per cent of cases start, in fact, in pregnancy.

6 per cent of cases are, in fact, men.

And, shockingly, two women die every week in the UK

as a result of domestic violence.

After a couple of months I got pregnant and it was from that point...

It was unexpected, I have to say, and it was after that point things changed.

His behaviour changed. The controlling behaviour came into place then.

On the honeymoon it changed.

He became very abusive.

Looking back now I realise that there were problems back then

that just escalated when I had my children.

When I tried to get out of the relationship

he held a knife to my stomach on one occasion

and another occasion he smashed my head into the wall,

made out it was an accident.

My self-esteem was at rock bottom.

He was very derogatory about me as a person,

about my looks, my clothes, everything.

He was just very unpleasant most of the time.

I always ended up saying sorry

even though I hadn't done anything, just to keep the peace.

Women are affected most,

particularly women in the 16-to-24-year age range.

Domestic violence is no respecter of wealth or culture.

It can again occur across the whole socio-economic spectrum.

He isolated me from people that would say,

"Hang on a minute, Zoe. What are you doing that for?"

Because he knew, looking back now, that anybody close to me would say,

"You shouldn't let him treat you like that."

I was about four months pregnant when I suspected that he was drugging me.

I would wake up with hazy flashes, bits of memories,

and I just didn't feel well at all.

That's when I really did think, "I'm losing my mind here."

I was questioning my own sanity.

Part of me knew something was very wrong

but I was being told by him I was mad,

my family weren't believing me,

so I really did question myself.

I called a drugs helpline

and explained to them that I was terrified that I was being drugged.

They advised me to go A&E

so I went to the hospital, I got the test and it came back positive.

It was a cocktail of amphetamines, cocaine and ecstasy.

Obviously I was pregnant as well, so you can imagine the fears.

The doctors couldn't tell me whether the baby would have been OK or not.

Given the situation, along with that, I decided to have a termination.

We now know that children are seriously affected by domestic violence.

It can affect their emotional development, their social development,

it can make them very frightened

and have a long-lasting impact for the whole of their lives.

One of my worries was for the children

and obviously I couldn't leave him

because I didn't want to render my children and I homeless.

He had told me...

I have two children. He would have them picked up from school by somebody else.

I would never see them again.

So I was going through all kinds of threats.

At the end my son became very abusive to me

because he'd seen his father treat me that way.

It's very important that women feel safe

to share the information that they're experiencing domestic violence,

so it's important that if it's happening to you,

you do seek help and talk to someone that you trust.

It was actually a colleague who put me in touch

with a local domestic violence unit

because I had a breakdown in her office and she felt I needed help and support.

Luckily I had heard of the Worth Project,

so I made contact with them

and it was just such a relief for someone to listen to me, believe me,

not judge me at all, in any way, shape or form,

and to be there with total support for me.

It was an absolute relief. It was a lifeline.

Women can go to the police for help with domestic violence,

but they can also go to other people that they trust.

They can approach health service staff.

They could talk to someone in the A&E department.

They could talk to a GP, a midwife.

Everyone these days is much more aware of what needs to be done

and can advise on where to go for help.

As a woman on your own, going to the police, going to court,

it can be very traumatic,

but with the Worth Project I wasn't alone, I was able to do it.

There is a lot more support available these days.

Independent domestic violence advisors are based locally

and you can be put in contact with these by the NHS or by the police.

Within two or three weeks after seeing a solicitor, that was it.

I'd shut the door and I had to call the police, but he'd gone.

When I was told that he'd been given life, I was so relieved.

I was exhilarated, I felt as if I was set free from a complete nightmare.

I realise now that just because he wasn't physically violent,

the emotional and mental abuse that I was suffering was equally damaging

and I knew for myself and my children I had to get us out of it.

Go and seek help immediately, not to leave it,

because things can escalate, they can get far worse.

There is help out there. You will be believed, you will be supported.

I would just say to anybody that there is help out there.

There are people that can support you and help you make that move

and you really have to do it for yourself as much as anybody else.

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