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Alonya

Age at interview: 31
Brief Outline: Alonya survived two relationships with men who were controlling and physically abusive. She stayed with her first partner for seven years after which she fled back to her home country with her daughter. A year later, back in the UK Alonya met and married her second partner but left after 18 months, following threats to her life. Alonya has struggled to find independence as she had a spouse visa and still experiences ongoing harassment from her ex-husband.
Background: a 31 year old British woman originally from Eastern Europe. She lives in a Housing Association flat with her nine year old daughter, and works part-time as an office co-ordinator.

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Alonya met her first partner, a Tunisian man, while she was working in Tokyo. The couple returned to the UK and Alonya gave birth to her daughter. Soon after, her partner began to control her life, dictating her activities that included caring for his extended family, cooking and cleaning. He humiliated her publically and became physically abusive if she challenged him. He also took drugs and drove the car recklessly with Alonya and the baby on board. After enduring seven years of physical and psychological abuse she fled back to her home country, taking her daughter. She describes how she felt ‘guilty’ and confused’ and not herself anymore.

A year later, on a visit back to the UK, Alonya met her future husband. She felt ‘tense’ and ‘terrified’ entering a new relationship but her husband was initially ‘very caring’. They travelled to Eastern Europe to get married , then Alonya and her daughter stayed on for seven months while their visas were arranged. Returning to the UK she found her husband ‘cold’, jealous and blaming, criticising her in front of her friends. He also fabricated stories about being in work and then of having a serious life-threatening illness. Alonya called the police several times following abusive episodes, including a strangling attempt, but her husband blamed her, suggesting she was crazy. Alonya felt ‘powerless, lost and scared’ but a police officer told her to leave. She then confided in her GP, who referred her to a Domestic Violence and Abuse Agency and Social Services. With their support Alonya planned to leave one morning but her husband found out and returned to the house. With the support of the removals men and the police she did manage to leave.

Alonya could not afford to pay for a place in a women’s refuge so she found a home for her and her daughter, a school place and a job. Her husband found where she lives and for four years Alonya has been subjected to stalking, verbal abuse, harassment, attempted blackmail and threats to kill her. Her employer has received abusive emails questioning her immigrant status. She has constantly had to talk to police and attend court and her mental health has suffered badly. After a year on anti-depressants, Alonya recently began trauma therapy which she feels is helping to put her ‘into recovery’. In order to escape her ex and the ongoing abuse she has decided to change her address and her name, to ‘disappear completely’ and start living a new life. Until then she still lives in fear, with high anxiety, and feels ‘broken inside’.
 

Depressed, anxious and scared, Alonya felt it was safer to keep the peace with her husband until she could work out a plan to leave, but friends witnessed his abusive behaviour.

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One time he said, I had some few friends and he one time it was my friend came in and I was going to go out with her. And we had some these kind of difficult moments. He was shouting the whole day and he would come very close to me and just shout into my face and tell me names and who I am, “You’re this”, and “You’re that”, and almost like a spitting into my face. And pointing, his finger was always going to, into my eyes blameful. Blaming in everything, in so many things. And telling how horrible person I was. This was, he was always, he would always tell me I’m the most horrible person and obviously was adding names. And so she came, I remember, and she just waited outside and I came out and he followed me. He had a cigarette in his hand and he tried to put his cigarette into my hand, like….

To burn you?

… to burn me.

Yes, yes.

And I remember she was saying, “Oh my God, what, what, what is he doing?” And we walked and he would keep shouting very loudly and he was not just shouting, it was like letting everyone know that I’m a horrible person I’m the most horrible person in this world. I’m hurting him, and you, it’s just it’s just always, always happen, I mean like he’s just like, it was very embarrassing. 

And how did that make you feel in yourself, when you heard him telling these things?

I just wanted to die.

Right.

I just, I couldn’t believe it’s happening again to me. It was different, but it, it’s just, I was trying my best to be a good person because I want to be a good person. And I had lots of questions to him because I started to see lots of things, he was just lying and I don’t know, it’s, it was so confusing….

Yeah.

So much, sometimes he just starts from nothing and sometimes he wouldn’t talk all of a sudden and slam the doors, and then it just starts. He would just need to get all that very, very strong energy on me into my face and it’s just, he wanted to tell me everything about me; who I am, what I am, how bad I am. And it’s just continuously would be rolling and rolling and rolling around, that I’m the horrible, that I’m the bad person.

Started with his friends, my friends, he a, he started to tell them that I was a bad person. 

And how did your friends react? I mean were you able to really talk to them about what was happening in the relationship….

[sigh]

…or not really?

A few of my friends were saying that there’s something wrong with him. 

 “He’s not right. There’s something mental about him”. And I wanted to leave, but there was another subject already. I didn’t want to lose this country and I didn’t want to go back to [Eastern Europe]. 
 

Tired after a day at work, Alonya said she did not want to clean the floor yet again. He strangled her and pulled out clumps of her hair.

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We lived in the centre of [name of city], [uh] in a nice place, which I had to clean all the time, and if it wasn’t clean the way how he would want to clean, I would be punished. 

Punished in what way?

He would tell me off.

Right.

Like, for example, my duty was to clean the place while he’s at in gym, or going to the gym and I come back from work. After I come back from work I have to clean and cook dinner for him. And he didn’t like the floor being wet when he comes back. And when the floor was wet, he would be extremely angry with me, assuming that I was talking to the phone, over the phone with a friend, or assuming I was lazy and not doing the properly job. One time he came back and I answered him, and I said, “I’m going to clean the floor as the way how I want. You’re not going to talk to me like that anymore.” And we went to extremely violent situation. He strangled me …

[Gasps]

… really badly with his, because we went wrestling [laughs]…

Yes.

….and he strangled me with his arm like that. He was a very huge, strong man, he was going to the gym and exercising, and I thought I was going to die…

Yes.

…because…

Yes.

….he was very strong. I started to faint, and then he let me go, and then I realised my hair were falling down continuously and just kind of getting lost. I couldn’t understand what, what’s wrong with my hair, it’s just fall on the floor, and piling like that and apparently when he was strangling me, he took my hair and he pushed like that and I had almost like a big patch here completely bald. He was all shaking and he saying like, “Look what happened? Look what you did. Look what you did. You made me do this”. And he called his sister and his sister came. She was always supporting him. She would say like, “Oh [name of participant], so sorry”, “I’m so sorry this happened”. She would always say that, “Well you shouldn’t have done to him, like you shouldn’t have spoken to him like that”, or, it was always like she would take his side always.
 

Alonya felt the only solution was to ‘disappear completely’, change her name and start a whole new life to stop her abusive partner tracing her.

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Recently I started to see because my ex-husband found my details again and he started to harass me again. 

So you’d moved, had you, from the first place?

Yes I did.

And he found out, found you a second time?

He kept, kept finding my his ways. He would come to my work, and he would just tell them, “Oh I need her address because I’m taking her to court” he would make the stories that I owe him enormous amount of money. And so things like that. And recently my friend, she gave him my details. He told her that I owe him money, and he probably made a big story about it. And she gave him my telephone number and my email address and he started to send again harassing messages and intimidating messages. 

Yes.

And anytime I hear from him, it’s a big shock. It affects my mental well-being quite strongly. 

Yes.

I act out of character. My, I start to think about different bad things probably not related exactly to the relationship. 

Yes.

I start to get really scared that, just images, something going to happen. And those images, like what we going to be sent or, put into prison, or sent from this country…which are not - I haven’t done anything wrong…

Yeah, that’s how you felt. 

….Yes. I was [tearful].

Yes.

And I can’t stop thinking…

And is that still going on now?

Well, this is I think recently I found if I started to get into recovery more and I decided that I will change this address again and I decided to change my name. I want to disappear completely….

Right

…because otherwise I will be always be scared of him, by my name, because I have his name….

Right.

…still until now somehow may find me. 

So I will be very careful to just have very small amount of friends or, who doesn’t know him, and it’s time to disappear, it’s time to start living new life. 
 

Alonya’s concerns were raised when her daughter confided in her that she had a ‘secret’ with her daddy that she couldn’t tell.

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And how was he with her?

Well, he was OK. 

Right.

He was, he was, although there was a time, I started to think, because I was so tired mentally, I probably didn’t see things through and I wish I was stronger, and I wish I didn’t leave her with him, because sometimes I think, “Well maybe he was hurting her”, but very cowardly.

You mean you left her when you went out to work, that type of thing?

That’s right. 

Yeah.

There was the moments when he would look after her.

Right.

And there was a time I think like he could have done something, because my daughter was really affected by all of that.

Really, in what, what ways do you think?

School found her behaviour very different. And we had a specialist working for, was with her for two years. 

There was a moment sometime where we left, she started to feel more free in the house, I remember we, she would take baths, she would draw a bath. It, it started it, she felt all that pressure inside although I tried not to scream or cry much, even at all in front of her. One time, when we left, a week after or something, she told me that they had a secret. And I said, “What sort of secret?”, and she kind of wouldn’t explain, wouldn’t be able to explain, but he said, she told me that, “He told me not tell mummy”, and that did concern me. 
 

When Alonya refused to let her daughter travel with her dad, he became abusive and threatening. Alonya realised the only way forward was to cut off all contact with him and his family.

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So recently I was supposed to let her go to [Arabic country] to meet with him and it was planned by him and his family. And I, throughout the year, I always felt like not, I don’t want to 100% to do that but I couldn’t say no. 

And in the beginning of June, I felt that I don’t want her to go. I felt, I started to feel that it would be bad. 

And I let them know that she’s not coming to [Arabic country] and he got furious and he started to, almost threatening me again and that brought me to decision that I will also completely stop contact with him and his family. It was very difficult because, again, I think about my daughter first, because she will miss them. But, I don’t see any other ways for me to recover.

And I began just to say this and want to change my name, change my address…

Yes. Yeah.

…and I want to start my life without my past… So.
 

After years of feeling sorry for her abusive partner, Alonya found out his ‘spinal tumour’ did not exist.

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It started little by little, and one time he told me that he had spinal tumour. And I believed that but after years I found out he’d never had any spinal tumour.

Why do you think he said that?

To control my feelings, I don’t know. To make me, oh, because we had started to have arguments. The arguments were on untruthfulness or on small things…

Right.

…and he would just defend himself a lot, and I think one time I just wanted to leave and he said, “Well, you don’t know everything and, you know, I have spinal tumour and I wouldn’t tell you that”. And I felt really sorry for him. And I thought I had to be more careful and, it was really, I felt bad. Over the years, it’s kind of, again, I just saw a letter, he was checked for that, but they didn’t find anything. 

Right.

And he knew already about it….

Right.

…that he didn’t have anything.
 

The GP was the first person Alonya talked to about domestic abuse. She said she didn’t know ‘where she would be’ if she hadn’t, and her GP ‘called up exactly the right people’.

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The police did that and then I went to GP…

Ah, ok.

… I was already on, on antidepressants…

Right.

…and I needed a higher dose. 

Right.

And I burst out, it was after the policeman, after a few days. 

Right.

And I burst out and I spoke to GP and I said, “This is what happens”, and she helped me.

Right.

She called up to the social worker… [tearful].

Right.

… which, who helped me a lot in the beginning. And she contacted [local Domestic Violence and Abuse agency].

The doctor did?

The doctor did. 

Right.

So she’s, she was, she made the referral to [local DVA agency]…

Right.

… and she made the referral to social worker. 
 

Alonya’s partner usually dominated and twisted communication with police officers, until she encountered an officer who could see what was happening.

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[Name of partner] was making, I’m sorry, sorry, he was making when the police will come, he would just shout, “Is she a liar?” And many times he would push away the police. When, well, he wants to talk to the police, he goes in the corner, they talk, and police would just look at me and it’s just like we keep quiet or something like, and I thought like, he, because he, there was a time I realised that probably, the truthful things he saying, or able to say, is, are very minimal. He twists facts around, he say, lying is a very comfortable very easy thing for him to do. 

And he was just he was just spreading all of these kind of rumours about me being horrible. And, what he was trying, the police kind of, he would say that I’m the one who’s the abuser. I’m the one who’s hurting him.

So, were the police helpful to you at all or?

There were times when the police was helpful. 

In what way?

And especially and I remember one police officer he spoke to me and he said, “Just leave, you have to leave” and he talked to me a very long time…

Right.

… for about forty minutes. And I think he did, he did change something in me a little bit, that was the first moment when I started to think that I need to do something…

Right.

…I felt very powerless. 

Yes.

I felt lost, and I felt scared. 

Yes.

And sometimes I would want to do something, but then I would change my mind and cave in…

Right.

…it was easier sometimes to give up. 

Yes.

And I was getting very tired, mentally. It was just so many things, he would keep me on edge all the time. Like wake up in the morning and he would come around and he would pinch me, and just, or just, or would just say like, “You horrible bitch”, for example, “I’ll kill you”. He would whisper that into my, into my ear. Then he would lock me out in the garden, or he would lock me, us, my daughter and myself out, wouldn’t let us in, into the house.
 

It was difficult for Alonya to pack her things as her partner was ‘always watching [her]’. He caught her in the act of leaving so Alonya had to call the police for support.

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And she said, “Just stop. Don’t think about anything you’ve got to leave from here and then make a plan”, she said. I spoke to my friend, who was giving me this place to live on temporary basis. It was wonderful and we agreed with the social worker that in two weeks’ time my husband had, because he was always at home [laughs] so… 

Even when he was working, he?

He wasn’t working….

He was home.

….oh no, it was just in the beginning he work, well, then he was always off.

Oh, ok.

He had appointment in GP at ten o’clock in the morning and I said that would be the time when I will try to leave from the house. At that point I didn’t realise how much he was watching me. 

Right.

Because when people came, I was moving my things and I was packing my things. When they came to move there was a telephone call to my house, to the house phone. I picked it up and it was him. He was checking and I don’t know how, he wouldn’t know anything at all that I was planning to move. It was a normal morning, I went to work. But I didn’t go to work…

Right.

…I was just sitting and waiting until he comes out from the house. Up until now I can’t believe that he did that, so maybe he was checking…

Yes.

…that he, could that be happening that I’m in the house…

Right.

…because why would he call empty house?

Yes, yes.

I was supposed to be at work. So, and he said, “What are you doing there?”, and I said, “I’m leaving you”. I was probably, but I almost wanted to, I felt badly when about doing that in way that time. Within fifteen minutes he was there. And he called, got into the house and the first day he was furious. He called me names, then he saw other people working there. There were two big Polish guys who were helping us with moving out, and he kept quiet. He couldn’t say anything. And the police told me before that if he will be around just call us. So I called the police and I said, “That’s he’s around”. So that what happened. I also got some help from solicitors,

In the meantime, and they issued with non-molestation order straight away.
 

Alonya had been ‘closed down’, thinking no-one would believe her, until a police officer listened and helped her.

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What advice would you give to a woman who was in a domestic violence situation?

Was in a domestic…

Or is currently…

…is currently…

…and you had a chance to talk to somebody..

It wouldn’t be one phrase only…

No.

You would need to, you need to talk to that person at least for one hour.

Right.

That’s what, the first person, I think, who did that …

Yes. Yes.

… was that police officer…

Right. 

…he just kept talking. He kept asking me questions, he, he wanted to know many things and he said, “Look, this is not right”, and he was the first person who kind of opened me because I was so closed down…

Yes.

… inside and not trusting anybody…

Yes.

…and, believing that nobody would believe me. So I think it’s important to listen, to…

Right.

… to talk …

Right.

… and yeah, you can’t be pushed. You, you have something, you changed mentally at that time…

Yes. Yes.

…you’re kind of in survival [laughs] and so closed…

Yes.

…from everthing.
 

Alonya’s local mental health centre used a standard questionnaire that did not pick up that she was suffering from trauma caused by domestic violence.

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If you had a message to give to some trainee doctors and, and wanted to help them to learn about, what, what, what would you like them to know do you think from your own experience?

Probably about some, I don’t know how to explain…

Don’t worry if it’s a difficult question, you don’t…

…it’s a hidden trauma.

Yes. Yes.

So, I was, for example, through [local mental health centre] psychology, they have standard questions…

Right.

..and I was not diagnosed for trauma for long time…

Right.

…and they were saying, well it’s a, you’re going quite normal, as average…

Right.

..but I felt, feel that I wasn’t average. 

Yes.

So I wasn’t diagnosed on time for trauma.

Right. When were you diagnosed?

In April this year.

This year?

Yes. 

So, you think …

I think they need to have more deeper questions…

Yes. Yes.

….and I think when somebody saying that you had a domestic violence, more, probably less should be different questionnaire…

Yes….

…for those people.
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