A-Z

Ana

Age at interview: 32
Brief Outline: Ana travelled to the UK aged 17 to work as an au pair. She met her partner through mutual friends and they soon started living together at his mother’s house. They married and had two children. Her husband controlled her behaviour and isolated her, and Ana endured eight years of verbal and physical abuse until she got a UK residency card when she was able to flee to a women’s refuge with the help of the police and Women’s Aid. (Video clips played by an actor.)
Background: Ana is white European and divorced. She has been living with her new non-abusive partner for one year, with her two children aged eight and ten years, in a rented flat. She works full-time as the Administrator of a Children’s Centre.

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Ana gave up her au pair job to move in with her boyfriend at his mother’s house, shortly after meeting him on a weekend away with friends. She soon became pregnant and began to suffer verbal and physical abuse. Her husband took drugs, stayed out late at night and accused her of having affairs. When his mother overheard the violent arguments she did not offer any support.

The couple moved to a different town where Ana knew no-one. Her partner could not tolerate her having any friends or visitors, she was isolated and became depressed as the abuse escalated. During her second pregnancy the couple returned to Ana’s home country to get married. On the eve of their wedding her partner was violent and aggressive to her in private but her family urged her to stick with him. Ana described being ‘in a daze’, like she was enduring a ‘forced marriage’.

Ana recognised early on that her partner was abusive but she felt trapped because her immigration status was only on a spouse visa with no right remain in the UK outside the marriage. She made frequent calls to the National Domestic Violence Help-line where she gained comfort and support, but she could not enter a women’s refuge without access to public funds. She left after violent assaults and, despite involvement of the police, she was offered no alternative but to return to her husband. When her mother and brothers visited from her home country they witnessed but remained silent about her husband’s abusive behaviour.

Ana decided to play a ‘waiting game’ until she achieved indefinite right to remain in the UK, with its accompanying rights and benefits. She endured many more years of abuse, whilst planning a more ‘strategic’ way of escaping, getting information online about her rights and the availability of support. She found some ‘freedom’ in part-time jobs but these never lasted long owing to her husband’s jealousy and his demands on her. She was able, eventually, to get her residency card which she described as a ‘golden ticket’!

Another mother at her children’s school recognised Ana’s situation and introduced her to a women’s refuge worker. With her support, a Women’s Aid outreach worker, and a domestic violence counsellor, Ana prepared for separation and, after a violent row her husband moved out. After many months of harassment, threats to kill her and police call-outs, Ana moved to a women’s refuge with her children for a year. This was the beginning of a long ‘journey’ of recovery for Ana and her children. Her children both displayed aggressive and abusive behaviour towards her at first, and Ana felt un-supported by social workers who questioned her parenting skills.

Ana is now happily settled with her children in a flat, with a healthy partner relationship and a rewarding job. (Video clips played by an actor.)
 

Ana felt her husband wanted a ‘trophy wife’ whose appearance, behaviour and friendships he could control (played by an actor).

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So did you find, were you able to go out and about much or …

No, no. I could with like, collect the children. Not as in, you’re not allowed, but he’d be, if I did go out, I would pay for it. Or if I did go out to the park, “Where are you?” If, “I need, I need a letter, I need you to look something up on …”

Oh, on the phone? Yeah.

Yeah, he would be on the phone.

Yeah.

Or if, I never had friends around because he would come in, start slamming doors, start shouting on the phone. He would just make it really uncomfortable for me to have friends so I didn’t have friends.

Right.

Couple of times where I did go out couple of times, like I meant two, three times. One time I went to a salsa class. It was a Thursday, with, with one of the mums from school.

Yes.

And I’ve been told, he had, he had a dream that I’d cheated on him with the salsa teacher, and so for the rest of that week, he, it was just, it was just I was in the wrong and I was being punished for it. I was being shouted at and called names and just him being horrible.

Yes.

And then other times, he just made me feel like absolute shit of why am I wearing that, and he wasn’t, well you’d think he’d be, “Oh, you can’t wear this, it’s too short.” He’d be the opposite. He wanted me to dress that way because I think he [sniffs], it was all about appearance to him.

Right.

So I don’t know, I guess he wanted me to be like a trophy wife, a good little wife that looks like a …

Glamorous.

Yeah, glamorous. And then doesn’t say, doesn’t argue with him and doesn’t argue back and …

Right.

… keeps her mouth shut, but that wasn’t me. …

So he made you wear certain clothes.

Yeah. Well he, he made me feel shit, he’d say, “Oh, why do you need to wear that? That looks, that looks old.” And I’d say, “But I feel comfortable. This is my style, this is how I wear …”

Yes.

“… this is what I wear.” And he just made me feel just crap, so obviously, it would spoil my night …

Yes.

… because I was worried that he’s angry and he’s going to be angry tomorrow and the next day …

Yes.

… and the next day.

Yes.

So I wouldn’t be having fun, so I just, I just didn’t go out.
 

Verbal abuse on the eve of her wedding became a feature of Ana’s marriage if she had social contact with anyone apart from her husband (played by an actor).

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I was with my friend, just chatting in the, like kind of local area, in the centre of the town really, and she was chatting to these friends of hers, boys. They were like young boys that she knew. She was chatting to them. I was standing near her and, at that point, my ex-husband has already collected his friends and my brother has sent them to go, told him, “Oh go to that bar, go for a drink,” …

Yeah, yes.

And they walked past us and I said, “Oh my God, you’re here.”

Yes.

And he just ignored me, and I thought, I kind of thought mm, like my husband to be?

Yes.

Like my darling husband just ignored me? And then I went home, I went to my mum’s, I tried ringing him, ringing him, ringing him, and he didn’t pick up, and then … and that was the night before our wedding, and [pause] finally in the morning, [pause] oh no my mum’s friend took me to the hotel they were staying to knock on the door, and he opened the door and he just went, “What?” and I said, “Well what, what do you mean what? I didn’t know where you are. Like we’re getting married today.” And, “Not getting married. The wedding’s off, you fucking slag, you fucking whore. Go and, go and fuck the guy that you were talking …” I said, “What guy?” Those, those, those guys that you were …” and he just started going … I don’t know what exactly was said, but as a gist, I would be …

Well yeah sure.

… called fucking slag and fucking whore.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

And things like that, and then he just wanted to, he said, “I’ve rang the airline, I’m cancelling the wedding. Now it’s not happening. Just, you can fuck yourself.” That’s what I would be told. I said, “Okay.” I just went, “Okay, cool.” So I went back to my mum’s, and I just sat there and cried and my mum said, I know why she said it, because I think she was stuck of things to say or to help me …

Yes

So she said she was stuck, she didn’t know how to help me …

Yes. 

… so she said, “You, well what you, what are you going to do? You’ve got a baby together. You, you [pause], you’re going to have to go through with it.”
 

Ana felt the refuge was a haven where she felt ‘free’ but her children spent half the time with their dad who had a negative influence on their behavior (played by an actor).

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I went straight into the refuge.

Right, okay. Yeah. And how long were you there for?

I was there for less than a year, just under a year I think.

Right. Okay, and then you’ve got your own place after?

Yeah, yes, it was, it was a journey.

I’m sure.

You know, it was, it wasn’t easy because the children didn’t know, and at that point, they still had contact with their dad…

Right.

… and they had a lot of contact with their dad. They had like half the time with him.

Right.

We actually didn’t live in the main house, we lived in one of the flats.

Yes.

So we had a bedroom, had one bedroom with all our stuff. So I guess for me, it was a haven.

Yes.

I remember saying to [name], “I feel, I feel free.”

Yes.

Obviously it wasn’t the end, you know.

No.

But I said, “I feel free.” Unfortunately, my children didn’t feel the same.

No. Mm.

They found it, they found it hard and that reflected on the stuff he was telling them when they would go and see him reflected in their behaviour, which is still ongoing, unfortunately the issue.
 

Ana described living in isolation and fear and how one of the mums at the school helped her contact a friend who worked in a refuge (played by an actor).

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So what happened next?

Yeah, so I got … at that point, I was [pause] sorry, it’s such a big since, long time since … I’ll try and, I basically, I got talking to one of the mums at the school, and she kind of said, “Oh, where’s your other half?” and we look like a perfect family, and I said, “We’re so not. We’re like appearances deceive.” Anyway, this friend put me into contact with [name], that you know.

Right.

And she said, “Oh I know a lady that works at the refuge,” and I was like and I thought that was like, not overly religious, but I thought that was like oh my God, there’s someone, you know, looking over me.

Right.

Because it was just like wow, and I was like, “Oh wow, you know a lady that works in a refuge.”

Yes.

You know, because it was very, it’s quite, it’s unknown to, you know, it’s a bit scary, “the refuge”.

Yeah. Yes.

Even the word refuge is like …

Yes.

… you know, scary. Anyway, so this friend put me into contact with [name] and I think, as I started talking to this friend, there was an incident with him and then I was texting her, and then my, my friend texted me back, just like a long text of support but now looking back, it was definitely [name], because I know [name].

Oh right.

Telling her what to write to me, to like …

Right.

… “You don’t need to put up with that,” and you know.

Yes.

and [name] put me into contact with the local domestic violence agency again but it was a different team because I lived in a different borough than before. 

Right.

Her name was [name] and she was an angel.
 

Ana cried with relief when her support worker told her ‘100%’ she was being abused (played by an actor).

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And she was an angel.

Oh.

She met up with me in the local children’s centre. And I remember asking, I remember just crying and telling her and she was just shaking her head. Obviously my memory was a little bit, obviously I knew more, I can’t remember everything. I can remember things but it’s more fresh. And, and I just said, “Can you just, can you just please tell me, just please tell me, am I being abused?” And she said, “Yes. Like of course,” not in a good way said, “100 per cent, you are,” and you know, so it was just kind of direct admission.

So you still had a bit of doubt?

Oh yeah, yeah. Deep down, I knew, but they always, they, he always made me question myself.

Yes. Yeah.

So yeah, you kind of always need to, you need someone to just …

Yes.

… reconfirm things to you because you do…
 

After enduring eight years of abuse Ana described the moment of getting her ‘Golden Ticket’, a visa that enabled her to access services (played by an actor).

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There was a big issue with me of my immigration status.

Oh goodness. Yes.

So I only had the spouse visa.

Right.

I didn’t have my indefinite leave to remain.

Right.

So I actually did, yeah, I, oh yes. He did hit me when I was pregnant with my son. I rang the police and then why did I, oh I left the house, I left the house with my daughter in the buggy  and I sat nearby on the common, on the green and I rang the helpline [sniffs] and I just been told then of, you know, they obviously have to ask, “What’s your immigration status? Have you got indefinite leave to remain? Have you got …”

Yeah, yeah.

 “… access to public funds,” which I didn’t.

No.

So she just, she just kind of … it was a bit, it’s a bit tricky, can I just say this?

Sure.

It’s a bit tricky with this, the helpline. I know obviously refuges can’t work, you know, the ladies can’t work 24/7 but it’s, after a certain time, it’s very, it’s like office is shut kind of thing.

Right.

Which I found, you know, so …

So is that with the helpline as well? Are they …

Yeah, yes.

They actually, it isn’t 24 hours?

It is 24 hours but it’s like oh, you know if it’s like urgent-urgent …

Yes.

… which I was, I got hit and I was pregnant and I had the baby in the buggy.

Yes, yes.

Put aside my immigration status, it was, “Oh well, you know, you’re going to have to wait.” …

And what did you want to do at that point?

Oh, leave, leave.

You wanted to leave, yeah.

I wanted to leave, but then the lady said, “Unfortunately we can’t, you know, we can’t house you because …”

Oh, right.

 “… of the …”

The funding, yeah.

 “… of the funding,” so I just went back and then I did call the police.

Right.

I can’t remember exactly how it happened but the police attended so I was telling them what happened and again, and the way, sorry, because things are coming to me.

So perhaps you can just tell me about when you did actually go, how you got away.

Okay. So after like five years of being married I kind of, I’ve learnt to, I’ve learnt how to cope.

Right.

You know, I just kind of thought this is it for now but I used to like promise myself …

Yes.

… you know, I will get away.

Right.

And I, as I said to you, it was a waiting game for me.

Yes.

And then, when was it, 2011 I think. Trying, yeah 2011 I sent off for my permanent residency, but I needed his passport, his payslips. There was a lot of things that need to be sent for this.

Yes.

And he used to say, “Oh, you’re going to leave me when you get this,” and I used to go, “No,” you know, “Don’t be silly, no. No, no, no. Well I need this because it’s just easier.” So sent off for that and the, my passport after, I don’t know, a few months it come, it came back when he was at work, and it was like his passport, his passport got returned and then there was my passport with permanent, with the residency card…

So he did eventually let you have the details?

Yeah, yes, he did, he did because I’m not sure what I said, because I said, “Well, it’s just a bit easier because I don’t need to renew my visa and you know, I won’t be …”

Yes, okay. So you got your residency?

Yeah, so I got my golden ticket and I just kept that. I didn’t tell him for two weeks. Yeah, I had that, I was like yep, excellent.
 

Ana was ‘petrified’ of her husband’s anger and made excuses for his behavior (played by an actor).

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And then I remember one incident, yeah, it was just a couple of months after I gave [gasps], oh in the hospital, oh God, yeah. When … so it’s coming to me, yeah.

When you were giving birth?

When I was giving birth, he was actually really good before and then during the, during labour, and then after, it was really weird. I was, they come to visit me, his mum come and his sister and he was there and the baby was next to me, and the way he was speaking to me was you know, it was just, he was basically being rude to me so much that one of the breastfeeding advisors pulled me to the side and she said, “Oh sorry, can I just talk to you about breastfeeding equipment?”

Yes.

And I said, “Okay. Okay, whatever.” so, and she said, she said to me, “You know this man is abusing you, he’s abusive, you know you can get help and you can ring the helpline.”

Really?

Yeah, so she recognised and she’s seen the look he would give me and the tone he was giving him, she recognised it straightaway.

Really?

And I, obviously, at that point, I was petrify.., you know, I was like, “No, no, no. He’s just…” Oh, just making excuses. “Oh no, he’s tired or oh no he’s stressed.”

Well what things was he saying to you that made her …

I can’t remember but he was giving me the looks and he was just like, everything I was doing, if I packed the bag, he would get angry over absolutely everything. He would just look at me and I’d get scared. It was the look.
 

Lonely and isolated, Ana was pregnant when her partner began to abuse her and neither her mother-in-law nor her mother felt able to help (played by an actor).

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So we were in the bedroom and he just started dragging me. He dragged me by my hair on the floor and just started punching and kicking me.

This is when you were …

Yeah.

… pregnant? Goodness. And what happened next?

I just… sorry [begins to cry].

No, that’s … there’s some tissues there actually [name of participant], but don’t worry if you feel you’ve said all you want to say about that incident.

No, it’s, sorry, it’s just, it just always… so I just, I just curled up in a ball, just to kind of, I didn’t like to sound. But, just to kind of curl up my …

Sure.

I think …

Yeah, of course, you were pregnant. Yeah.

…and then he just continued doing that. I don’t, it wasn’t a long time but it was, you know, long enough. And I think I felt dizzy and I just was lying on the bed when he calm, he’s calmed himself down and sat on the bed. And I remember his mum, mum being downstairs. It was a Sunday and she had this big bunch of keys, and she heard what was happening [tearful], and she just left the house to kind of leave him to it.

But…

So you think she knew what was happening?

Oh yeah. Definitely.

But how did that leave you feeling, that she walked out of the house?

It was just to - an indication was just what was going to follow and…

Right.

…as in never getting any support from her, never getting recognition of his behaviour or her saying, “Yeah, he is abusive to you.”

Did you try talking about what was really happening to anybody in your family or anybody else?

No, because I’m, something happened when my mum was there, and again, I don’t think my mum knew how to help me, so she kind of froze. He would just be angry, just getting angry, just giving me the looks and the, he wouldn’t shout as much.

Right.

He, he used to come in my face…

Right.

…and like spit would be coming out and then his nostrils will flare up, and bang stuff. And just, just be very, very vocal, but he didn’t do it as much, but just a, just he was very quiet in those times when my mum was there. 

Right.

And then I remember taking my mum to the airport and he sat in the car and I, and I was there with them for a little bit when they, just before they went through the gate and I just said to my mum, she didn’t say nothing but I said it, I just said, “I’ll get through this, I’ll be alright. I’ll come out the other end. I prom …” and I said, “I promise you,” and she’s just hugged me.

Mhm. Mhm. And so you think she understood?

Yeah.

Right.

Yeah, she did. She just, I think she just didn’t know how to cope.

Sure.

I think she felt helpless because I was in another country…

Yes, yes.

…and, with the baby, with no family …

Course.

… and no money of my own, nowhere to go but to be with him so. 
 

After threats to kill her, Ana with the support of a Domestic Violence and Abuse agency and the police, moved into a women’s refuge to keep her and the children safe after her ex broke a non-molestation order (played by an actor).

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Anyway, he, my ex-husband , because he was paying the bill, the phone bill, he just went through the messages and he just, obviously he rang, I think he rang everyone I was ringing and rang his friend’s number, and that’s when it gone terribly wrong. He just rang me one Friday and said, “I’m, I’m coming to kill you. You’ve been sleeping with …” the friend.

His friend, yeah.

And I tried to explain. I said, “No, I haven’t.” I said, I swore, I said, “I swear I haven’t.” He just wasn’t having it. He got, he got really, he got really, he drank a lot and he took drugs that night and I tried to go to bed. I was, I was very stressed and very afraid.

Yes.

Knowing, knowing him and his …

Yes.

… jealous ways and, so he, he’s showed up at three o’clock in the morning, woke the children up, and started just shouting and, “Tell me, tell me you slept with him. Tell me.” And then it just continued for like an hour, da-da-da, the shouting and the name-calling. And at that point, like the children were screaming. And then he left. He said he’s going to kill him, and then I didn’t sleep, it was like five o’clock in the morning. I rang [support worker] and then [support worker] said, “Right, enough.” I think it was Saturday, anyway, I went to my friend’s house, and then he rang me and then I heard his brother call me names as well. He called me a cunt and just horrible things on the phone, and he said again, “Where are you? Where are …” I think at that point he took more drugs and he just said, “Oh, I’m going to … you just watch, I’m going to …” Yeah, he’s just said again, “I’m going to come and kill you.” and then like the police were searching for him. Sorry.

It’s alright.

So he got, he had to hand himself in because they couldn’t search, they couldn’t find him, so they … no, he, the policeman come and, and said, “I’ll ring him,” and then he said, “Mr …” blah, blah, blah, “can you come …”

Yes.

“Can you hand yourself in or we’ll put a warrant out.”

Right.

And then I had court and all the, just having injunction done. Oh sorry…

Yeah.

After that, he broke the orders and then just I think it was June, [support worker] said, and I said, and [support worker] said, “Right enough now.”
 

Ana resisted the urge to kill herself or her partner and kept alive the hope that she would eventually be free (played by an actor).

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So finally, is there one piece of advice that you would give to another woman who was in an abusive relationship?

Not to give up. And I know sometimes it’s hard. I used to just kind of, I’ve got a vivid imagination so I used to just disappear in my head and just think of, this will, I’m just going to get through this, and it was hard … I just, some days I wanted to throw myself under the bus.

Yes.

Because I was so, I was so help, I felt so helpless.

Yes.

So I would just kind of go through that emotion and then a few days after an incident, I would just kind of pick myself up and I just … I always have hope.

Yes.

Live in hope because that’s what, can … because if I gave up, I used to think of well what, you know, if, if I give up, if I kill myself or if I kill him, which the thoughts I had.

Yeah, sure.

Then my children wouldn’t have their mum either way.

Right, yeah. Sure.

So.
 

Ana urges health professionals to be sensitive to women’s fears about disclosing abuse, such as losing their children, and to take things gently (played by an actor).

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What would you like to say to health professionals, if you had the chance?

Yeah, yeah, I actually, I actually work in a children’s centre. We have like health visitors, midwives …

Right.

… come and we have a lot of families and …

Right.

… when I’m not going to kind of say names or nothing.

No, of course, yeah.

And we had a case of a young mum, pregnant mum being in an abusive relationship, and she left and I kind of put her into contact with the notice board with someone.

Is there someone on the staff of where you work or …

This was a mum that come to see a midwife and so I gave her the number and the midwives were talking next week, week after, “Oh she didn’t ring them,” and I just said,“You need to, you need to let her decide for herself.”

Right.

Obviously there’s an issue of, you know, safeguarding and if they need to contact …

Yeah, yeah.

… social services, there is that. But I said, I did say to them, “You, with women, it’s really important not to pressure …”

Right.

It’s, they need to be kept safe and if there’s immediate danger, which I get … is the pressure of if you don’t leave, I think all women have that, which I had that thought, social services will come and take your child away. It’s very scary, just all of a sudden people [pause], you know, jumping on, on, on her case and like, “Oh you have to, you have to ring them or X, Y and Z will happen.” So I think that’s my main … just kind of being considerate of that and just a woman, a woman will kind of hopefully have that, you know, point and just say, do you know what, enough, in herself.

When she’s ready.

When she’s ready, yeah.
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