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Jane

Age at interview: 46
Brief Outline: Jane left her abusive relationship of twenty years three years ago after her eldest daughter reported to her school that she had witnessed abuse towards her mother. The support offered to Jane from different agencies (including Social Services, the Police, her children’s school and a local Domestic Violence and Abuse Agency) helped her to leave the relationship and to move on.
Background: Jane is a single, white British, unemployed woman. She is a mother of two and lives with her youngest daughter in a privately rented home.

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Jane met her partner in when she was in her early 20s. The psychological abuse started early on in the relationship and infiltrated many aspects of her life. For instance, her partner imposed restrictions on her clothing, controlled who she spoke to, and would time her when she left the house for essential errands (such as fetching groceries). Despite Jane working long hours in their joint business her partner had full control over their finances and any requests for money were scrutinised. Jane also experienced years of physical abuse: punches to the chest and smacks around the face. Although recognising that things were not right in the relationship, it was painful for Jane to accept that someone who was supposed to love her, was abusing her. She recalls rationalising his behaviour and hoping that things would get better. She hid what was going on from people in her social network as she did not want to worry them. Living with a health condition exacerbated by stress, meant Jane experienced considerable pain during this period and became reliant on regular painkillers. 

In 2011 Jane’s husband brutally assaulted her in front of the children. Later that day her eldest daughter reported the incident to her school and this triggered the immediate involvement of the police and Social Services. These agencies supported Jane to leave her partner that evening, and she and the children moved into a friend’s home for a while before going into a women’s refuge for three months before moving into their own home. 

After the day of the attack Jane continued to receive multi-agency support whilst adapting to life out of the abusive relationship. The police put in place measures to help her feel safe, allocating her a police domestic abuse worker and checking the security of her new home. The local specialist domestic abuse service helped with the practicalities of moving on, such as helping her to claim benefits, and also provided emotional support through counselling. Her daughters’ schools also offered emotional and practical support. 

Three years after leaving her ex, Jane is now witnessing long-term health effects of the abuse on her eldest daughter, who is suffering from an eating disorder. For Jane, the regular use of long-term pain relief has led to a dependency on tablets to sometimes help her to ‘get through the day’, despite experiencing a ‘bad stomach’ as a result of their long-term use. 

However, Jane now feels that she ‘has her life back’. She enjoys going out when and where she wants to and is free from the feelings of inadequacy and low confidence that she felt for so long as a result of the abuse she endured. She suggests that women living in an abusive relationship need to ‘be strong’ and that once they have made the decision to leave then that will be the start of their future.
 

Jane described how her fibromyalgia was made worse because of the stress of being in an abusive relationship and consequent over-reliance on painkillers.

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I suffered from, well I still suffer from fibromyalgia.

Yes.

Which is caused by stress, and can be made worse by stress. And the amount of pain when I was in the relationship was absolutely horrendous, and I was on painkillers all the time just to try and get through the day. And I found, every time I had an argument, every time that he wasn’t very nice to me, I would reach for the pill pot. And now, as a consequence of that, I’ve got a bad stomach because I was taking all these pills. It’s only yourself and your health further along the line that actually suffers. You don’t realise it at the time but, you know, the things that you’re doing, like I used to quite often just have a few drinks just to blot it out, I would use excuses, “Oh I’ll just have a couple of pills, it’ll make me feel better,” and all it was doing was just pacifying the fact that I knew that this wasn’t working. But I just didn’t know what to do, I didn’t know where to turn and it was just a really awkward situation. But…

And in terms of the long-term impact on your health, and so you said you’ve got some damage to your stomach…

Yeah.

…due to the pill use for pain relief, was that over the counter or was that prescribed medication?

Prescribed.

Prescribed medication.

Prescribed, because they wasn’t really sure what was the matter with me, whether I had arthritis or whether I had the fibromyalgia. But it takes time for that diagnosis, because it’s quite difficult to diagnose.

So it’s when they’ve usually exhausted every other possible cause and all the blood tests keep coming back that there’s nothing wrong with you that they’ll then decide to, that that is fibromyalgia. And then I had, of course I could just have the pills on repeat prescription. I didn’t have to go to the doctor’s I could just phone up and get more pills. It was easy, yeah, and it was just pills, pills, pills, pills, pills. Nobody ever bothered checking [laughs] as to how many I was eating, how many I was having. But later down the line, now it’s had a real serious impact on my, my health.
 

Jane blamed herself when she did a ‘silly thing’ that annoyed her husband and he slapped her. At the time, she felt she had ‘deserved’ it.

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But how did that progress through the 20 years you were together?

Well it started really mainly as sort of like a, a punch, you know, like a punch in the chest or, you know, a smack round the face. I got a really huge smack round the face one day just because I forgot that the milk was in the fridge in the shop and he had to reopen the doors and reopen the shutter just to get the milk out. So, you know, because there was so much to think about, you know, that was just a silly thing and it got a slap round the face. It was totally, totally uncalled for and unwarranted. But even then, I thought I deserved it [laughs]. He made me feel as though everything he was doing I asked for or it was deserved of me, because I’d done something bad or I’d done something that was not acceptable, you know. Or the main phrase would be, “You know I’ve got a temper. You know would you put your head in a lion’s cage, you know, knowing that you’ve got your head, your chance of your head bitten off?” You know, he was then just like that saying, “Well, you know, don’t wind me up and then you won’t get it.”

Yeah.

Not, you know, it was always wasn’t his fault, wasn’t his fault. So that was but it becomes a way of life. You start to think like that and you start to, to think that he’s right in everything he’s saying, and it’s easier to change your habits to change the person that you are, rather than admit that this relationship isn’t what you expected, what you wanted, and how do you even begin to get out? You know, most people probably would have walked away at that point. But because I had a shop and my name was on the lease for nine years, and because I didn’t have a job, I wanted to stay in [Name of city] so, you know, this was where I wanted to stay, so I didn’t want to go home to, to [Name of county in England], so I just put up with it, thinking that, “Well, it’s just an off day. It’ll get better.” By that time, you know, you haven’t got any money. 
 

Jane saw the effects of her abusive marriage on her children once she was out of it. She regretted that their childhood was ‘a battleground’ not a place of ‘nurturing’.

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So just reflecting back now, what do you think have been the biggest impacts of your experiences on you as a person, on your life?

My health and the health of my children, especially the mental health. You don’t always realise it when you’re in a domestic abuse relationship. You think the kids are going to be OK and that they’re going to cope. But in reality they don’t cope, you know, especially with the constant arguing between one parent and the other parent and where one person is saying one thing and the other parent is saying something else. They don’t know who to trust, who to believe and who is telling the truth. Because quite often in domestic relationships there’s a great deal of control, and how the control is gained is through emotional and through financial and also through making the abused feel that they’re worthless and that they don’t know what they’re talking about and, you know, just generally trying to gain that sort of mind control over the person. So they lose who they are, the abused loses who they are for the abuser to take control. And that sort of mental shift, as it were, is where you don’t trust yourself, where you don’t believe in yourself. It happens over a short s-space of time, but quite quickly, but you don’t usually realise it. It happens just a little bit and then a little bit more and a little bit more, and before you know what’s happened, suddenly you’re this person that you don’t recognise. And if that’s happening to you, then you can be sure that’s happening to your children as well.

So did you see that in your children, that shift?

You don’t when you’re actually in the relationship. But when you leave the relationship and you actually realise just how close you got to maybe not being here for your children, because it got so serious that, you know, you got a really severe beating that time, and also on your child’s behalf as to what they go through emotionally. A childhood should be one of growing up and being nurtured and be loved. It shouldn’t be one of where it’s a battleground. And if a child gets forced to grow up too early because they get to deal with adult emotions and adult feelings, then what happens is they don’t grow as a person, like as a child would. So there’s a great deal of mental health issues there that could happen. My oldest child, she was very badly damaged by my partner, my ex-partner, mentally and physically. And when she, when we finally left the relationship, she suffered from nervosa bulimia. And she got down to about six stone, and she was being sick all the time, she had no self-worth in herself and it was actually pitiful to see that that was the direct impact of domestic abuse. And, you know, you don’t realise it at the time, but these are really serious issues. You mustn’t just think of yourself; you must think of the children and what they could go through later on in adult life just because of domestic abuse. You have to be strong for yourself and for your children, even if it’s really hard to do. There’s lots of support out there. And the minute you make that break, you think that you’re not going to be able to cope, but you will, you will. And you’ll find that friends that come out of the woodwork that you lost contact with, family that you didn’t really tell will all rally round and they will all help you. And, you know, it’s so much easier when you’ve actually left, but you have to make that break and you have to make that decision that this is the right thing to do. And you have to think, not just of yourself and the impact on yourself, but also of your kids. 
 

Jane’s husband occasionally took her shopping with cash in hand if she’d ‘been good’.

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But it becomes a way of life. You start to think like that and you start to think that he’s right in everything he’s saying, and it’s easier to change your habits to change the person that you are, rather than admit that this relationship isn’t what you expected, what you wanted, and how do you even begin to get out? You know, most people probably would have walked away at that point. But because I had a shop and my name was on the lease for nine years, and because I didn’t have a job, I wanted to stay in [Name of city] so, you know, this was where I wanted to stay, so I didn’t want to go home to, to [Name of county in England], so I just put up with it, thinking that, “Well, it’s just an off day. It’ll get better.” By that time, you know, you haven’t got any money. It’s all joint finances, he’s looking after the money, he’s doing all the cashing up you know. If you want something you have to ask him for the money to go and get something. And then, you know, “Why do you want that?”

Yeah, yeah.

Everything was scrutinised, you know, even stupid little things. And then another time he’d just pull out £100 in his pocket and he’d say, “Come on then, we’ll go shopping,” you know. But it was very much you felt like you had to be grateful for that, like you’d deserved it because, you know, you’d been, you’d been good. So, you know, all of a sudden, yeah, he’d keep saying, “We haven’t got no money, we haven’t got no money, we can’t do this, we can’t do that, we can’t go there, we can’t go this,” all of a minute £100 comes out the pocket and it’s, “Get yourself whatever you want.” Obviously we went shopping together but, you know.

So he had control of the finances?

Yeah, he had control of the finances.

And you were working all those hours.

Yeah so, you know, I didn’t have no, no money of my own. When, when my eldest child come along, I mean I had the Child Benefit which was paid into our joint account so, you know, I had that money. And I also, later on, had Child Tax Credit money. So that’s when sort of like things started to change a little bit because things started to come out of the bank by, you know, direct debit and that because, because of the Working Tax Credit and because of the Child Tax Credit, so that was something that he didn’t like. He hated that because it was money that he couldn’t see where it was going and what was being spent. And obviously because it was written down in a bank statement he wouldn’t have been able to understand it.
 

Jane was reluctant to recognise her partner’s behaviour as ‘abuse’ and decided to accept her situation rather than disrupt her own life and that of her children.

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And so when you were in that relationship was there any point did you recognise that what you were experiencing was abuse?

That’s a difficult one, because it starts off very slowly when you think, “This isn’t right. That isn’t right. Something else isn’t right,” but you don’t put it down necessarily to being abuse. You don’t recognise it as abuse. It’s, “He doesn’t treat me very nice, but it’s not abuse.” You know, because to actually, to actually say the word “abuse” and to actually recognise it is a very painful thing to do, to think that somebody that’s supposed to love you could abuse you. So, in a sense, it’s you rationalising things to yourself so that you kid yourself that it’s not, although you clearly know in your heart that it is, and it’s not right, you still rationalise it. So then you think, you know, “I can put up with this. This is obviously the way my life has to be for a while till the children get older or until our circumstances change that I could, you know, perhaps get out, move away or whatever.” The shop was supposed to do a lot, lot better than what it did, yeah, and it was supposed to be that we’d both have our own money being taken out of it, not that it was going to be put together in joint finances.

Right.

So, you know, it was it was sold as an idea that, you know, I’d work really hard and that from that work we would get you know, OK, well off and be able to afford to do things that we couldn’t do.

Yes.

Yeah, you know, and then we’d be able to have holidays and, you know just what everybody else wants, work hard and get, you know, some rewards of, of that hard work. But the, the rewards never ever came.
 

When Jane’s partner began to hit her and put it down to stress, she convinced herself she was being ‘silly’ and ‘paranoid’ when she began to feel their relationship wasn’t ‘right’.

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What path did it take after that? Before she was born there was physical abuse, there was physical abuse. Because, you know, he used to get cross a lot in the shop when things wound him up and he would take it out on me and then say, “Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to do that, you know, it was just you know how I don’t react well in stressful situations.” And we’d just pass it off like that. But even at that time you have feelings for someone and then all of a sudden they turn round and hurt you and you think, “Well, this isn’t right. This isn’t how it’s supposed to be.” But then he gives you an excuse or a reason or, you know, just passes it off and then you think about it and you think, “Well maybe he is right. Maybe I am being silly. Maybe I am being just paranoid and it could be, you know, just a one-off.” You put an excuse down to it. And as soon as you put an excuse down to it you seem to have rationalised it to yourself, so then you move on.
 

Jane was manipulated by her partner to believe that she ‘deserved’ to be hit.

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Well it started really mainly as sort of like a punch, you know, like a punch in the chest or, you know, a smack round the face. I got a really huge smack round the face one day just because I forgot that the milk was in the fridge in the shop and he had to reopen the doors and reopen the shutter just to get the milk out. So, you know, because there was so much to think about, you know, that was just a silly thing and it got a slap round the face. It was totally, totally uncalled for and unwarranted. But even then, I thought I deserved it [laughs]. He made me feel as though everything he was doing I asked for or it was deserved of me, because I’d done something bad or I’d done something that was not acceptable, you know. Or the main phrase would be, “You know I’ve got a temper. You know would you put your head in a lion’s cage, you know, knowing that you’ve got your head, your chance of your head bitten off?” You know, he was then just like that saying, “Well, you know, don’t wind me up and then you won’t get it.”
 

Jane said she had needed a ‘crutch, just to get [her] through the day’ that led her to drink alcohol and take prescribed medication in excess.

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Because, you know, they [health professionals] could never quite understand as to why I suffered so badly from the, the pain I was suffering and how I was getting through so, so many tablets and everything suddenly sort of like started to make sense. But like the impact of that health-wise is I still now have to take a pill sometimes when I feel stressed.

Right.

It’s, it’s something that doesn’t go away. It’s now a lot, lot, lot better than what it was, because I was doing that all the time. But I still get that moment, I suppose it’s like a, a smoker having to give up cigarettes or an alcoholic having to give up alcohol, you still get those moments when you feel that you need that, that crutch, just to get you through the day.

Yeah, so that again was control. So, you know, we was out cutting the grass, was going to have a, roast dinner, the neighbour was out down the bottom and she offered me a glass of wine, had a glass of wine, then had another glass of wine. I offered to go and help to cut their grass, which he wasn’t very happy with, but I still did. And of course then whilst I was round there I helped myself to another glass and another glass, because it was freedom for those, those few, you know, minutes, it was actually that I, I had something that I could control rather than him control it. And I could have that alcohol because that would blot, you know, you know, blot out everything that was going on, would blot out his nagging and his getting upset and all this, that and the other because, you know, I didn’t care. At that point I was I was drunk. I didn’t care. So then later on of course this led to a massive argument. My daughter was born at the time, she was quite young, she was clinging onto me. Massive argument, I shut the door and he broke it down with his foot rather than use the key. He had a key in his hand, he could have opened the door but, no, he didn’t. He was so cross that he actually kicked the door and he kicked the front door in, you know. all the time saying, “I just want to talk to you, I just want to talk to you,” but at the same time I knew that he wanted to have a moan at me and a nag at me for what I’d done and, you know, to make me think that I was the bad person that, you know, just having a bit of fun or just having, you know, just having a few drinks was wrong.
 

Jane’s daughter told her school counsellor about the abuse at home, which led to her, her mum and sister getting help to leave the relationship.

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Because she was absolutely hysterical whilst this was happening, you know. And then again afterwards it was my fault. He didn’t really think he’d done anything wrong. My eldest daughter actually reported that to her school. And because I was travelling to school that morning, taking the two children, and I was still very upset I kept saying, you know, I said to myself in the car out loud, “Something needs doing about this,” well it was then that my daughter took it upon herself to disclose that to the school. And as soon as that was disclosed then Social Services got involved and the police.

Right.

And I was able to leave that night. But even then, when Social Services was following me because he was following me back past my house to be able to go to my friend’s house he had the gates open like he was expecting me to come home. And the shock on his face when he realised that I drove by and that the Social Services was behind me, was a picture.

Yeah.

It was like, “What’s going on?” you know.

I think that was my main that was my main form of support in the first place, was that she was so nice.

Yeah.

There was her and there was her area manager.

OK.

And they made me feel so at ease and, you know, she was really, really nice to me and said, “Look,” she said, “use this as your opportunity to get away,” she said, you know, “from this moment in, if you want to, if you work with us, then he’s never had to, going to have to bother you again.”

And how did they support you then through that time?

Well literally as I’ve gone to pick up my eldest child, because they wouldn’t let him pick her up, he was obviously waiting at the school, and there was a police officer outside. So he wasn’t allowed to enter the school premises or try and attempt to get our oldest child away. From that moment, you know, when I walked into the school, was when I felt safe. Because there was, there was my daughter’s class teacher there, there was the head of year there, there was the parent support worker there, they was there on behalf of the school, and there was also two lovely social workers. And at that moment I felt actually safe because there was a policeman outside.

Yeah.

Because there was all these people there that was willing to help me.

Was that the first time you’d felt safe in a long while?

That was the first time I’d felt safe in a long time, yeah.

And thinking back to that time, was there anything that was done particularly well for you?

The school were fantastic. You know, they supported my eldest really well. She was, all she kept saying all day was, “My dad’s going to kill me, my dad’s going to kill me for this.” And she was really, really scared. She was white. She was wondering what I was going to do 

Yeah.

And what I was going to say, whether I was going to diminish it. And they kept reassuring her all the time throughout the day that now she’d said something there was absolutely no way that they are going to let like even Social Services or even the school is going to let her live with her father again.

Yeah.

Yeah, and if I chose to come with them then, you know, all well and good. But if I decided to choose him and go home then they would, they would have to go somewhere together.

Yeah.

You know, so that was incredibly frightening for her, but at the same time they made her feel, you know, that this was the right thing to do and that, “Obviously mum’s not going to go and go home, she’s going to go with you, she’s going to choose the children, she’s not going to choose an abusive partner.” You know, so they put her mind at rest there. And once I realised the enormity of the situation and then looked back as to what I’d put up with, I couldn’t believe it. You know, I was a totally different person when I came towards the end as what I was in the beginning.
 

Jane could not stop crying with relief when she was finally able to say what was going on.

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Because you’ve always got that voice in your head, you’ve always got that feeling that you know you’ve done nothing wrong, which is partly why the mental torture is so bad, is because you know that you haven’t done anything wrong but he’s making you believe, he’s trying to make you believe that you did something wrong. So the minute you’ve left that relationship it all seems to lift. It’s like a big weight that’s just been lifted off your shoulders. But, you know, I had tremendous support from my doctor. There was only one doctor that I wanted to see, and she saw me during her lunch hour because she had to measure my injuries just in case it went to court, if I pressed charges, and different things like that. And she’d just make sure that I had the right medical support as well so.

And the contact with that GP over the lunch break, what day did that happen?

That happened, I think, on the, on a Friday.

Friday.

Happened on the Friday.

Was that the day after…

Yeah.

…he beat you up?

Yeah, it was the day after.

And was that the first time you’d been to a GP and talked about what had happened?

Yes, the very first time. And again, I couldn’t stop crying because it was such a relief, such a relief to, to actually finally say what was going on. Because you, you kid yourself that everything’s OK. You know, you sweep it under the carpet and you, you make excuses. And every time you do that a little bit of you gets lost.

Yeah.

So then when you finally do lift that carpet up and sweep up all the rubbish, it just comes out so much and it’s just a, a great relief to, to finally get that off your shoulders and to, to, to realise that, you know, it wasn’t you, you haven’t done anything wrong. It was the relationship, you know, and you’ve called time on it and that’s the correct thing to do.

And how did you get that appointment with the GP? Was that through Social Services?

It was through Social Services.

Right OK.

Yeah, they just literally rung up my GP surgery and said, “Look, you know, [Name of participant] has suffered some severe trauma and injuries from domestic violence attack. Would you be willing to see her?” And, yeah, straight away, no problem.

Yeah.

Got in straight away.

Was it a she?

Yeah.

And how did she react? What did she offer?

She just said, “Things make sense now.” Because, you know, they could never quite understand as to why I suffered so badly from the, the pain I was suffering and how I was getting through so, so many tablets and everything suddenly sort of like started to make sense. But like the impact of that health-wise is I still now have to take a pill sometimes when I feel stressed.

Right.

It’s something that doesn’t go away. It’s now a lot, lot, lot better than what it was, because I was doing that all the time. But I still get that moment, I suppose it’s like a smoker having to give up cigarettes or an alcoholic having to give up alcohol, you still get those moments when you feel that you need that, that crutch, just to get you through the day.

Yeah, yeah. And were there times in the consultations when you were at the GP’s and talking about the pain you were experiencing that you thought perhaps it was something that you could disclose to them?

You’re worried that, as a result of that disclosure, that something is going to happen that you’re not going to be able to control. You’re worried that you’re going to say something and that they’re not going to do anything or, you know, nothing’s going to happen, or it’s going to get looked into and then everything’s OK, everything’s fine and just, you know, close the door again and leave you to pick up the pieces. 
 

Jane’s social workers said that with support from all the agencies, her ex should never have to bother her again. She felt safer than she had done for a long time.

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The social worker at the time was really, really lovely. She was nice. And she said to me, she said, “Use this,” she said, “as your opportunity to finally get away.”

Yeah.

She said, you know, “We’ll be behind you all the way. And I can guarantee that you’ll be absolutely fine. You know, we’ll get you to a safe place,” which was then when they mentioned [Local specialist domestic abuse service], I could have gone to a hostel.

Right.

On that night. But it was not something I really wanted to do, because I’d just got attacked. So they asked if there was a f- like a family member or a friend I could have stayed with.

Yeah.

So I mentioned a friend’s name and they rung up and they said, “Look, this is what happened. Is it OK if your friend and the children come to stay with you, you know, just temporarily?” “Yes, that’s absolutely fine,” you know. She had to sign a piece of paper to say that he would not sort of like come into contact with the children, because that was their main concern was that he would have absolutely no contact with the children whatsoever. And if that was to happen, she was to call the police straight away.

Just thinking about, I mean so a lovely social worker…

Yeah.

…that you were in contact with.

I think that was my main, that was my main, form of support in the first place, was that she was so nice.

Yeah.

There was her and there was her area manager.

OK.

And they made me feel so at ease and, you know, she was really, really nice to me and said, “Look,” she said, “use this as your opportunity to get away,” she said, you know, “from this moment in, if you want to, if you work with us, then he’s never had to, going to have to bother you again.”

And how did they support you then through that time?

Well literally as I’ve gone to pick up my eldest child, because they wouldn’t let him pick her up, he was obviously waiting at the school, and there was a police officer outside. So he wasn’t allowed to enter the school premises or try and attempt to get our oldest child away. From that moment, you know, when I walked into the school, was when I felt safe. Because there was, there was my daughter’s class teacher there, there was the head of year there, there was the parent support worker there, they was there on behalf of the school, and there was also two lovely social workers. And at that moment I felt actually safe because there was a policeman outside.

Yeah.

Because there was all these people there that was willing to help me.

Was that the first time you’d felt safe in a long while?

That was the first time I’d felt safe in a long time, yeah.
 

The school gave Jane’s daughter constant reassurance, and after leaving their Dad she was offered one-to-one sessions to recover from the trauma.

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And thinking back to that time, was there anything that was done particularly well for you?

The school were fantastic. You know, they supported my eldest really well. She was all she kept saying all day was, “My dad’s going to kill me, my dad’s going to kill me for this.” And she was really, really scared. She was white. She was wondering what I was going to do 

Yeah.

And what I was going to say, whether I was going to diminish it. And they kept reassuring her all the time throughout the day that now she’d said something there was absolutely no way that they are going to let like even Social Services or even the school is going to let her live with her father again.

Yeah.

Yeah, and if I chose to come with them then, you know, all well and good. But if I decided to choose him and go home then they would, they would have to go somewhere together.

Yeah.

You know, so that was incredibly frightening for her, but at the same time they made her feel, you know, that this was the right thing to do and that, “Obviously mum’s not going to go and go home, she’s going to go with you, she’s going to choose the children, she’s not going to choose an abusive partner.” You know, so they put her mind at rest there. And once I realised the enormity of the situation and then looked back as to what I’d put up with, I couldn’t believe it. You know, I was a totally different person when I came towards the end as what I was in the beginning.

Did they stay in their schools?

They stayed in their schools and they continued to go to the school even though, you know, I’d only just left. I was praised by both schools for still managing to keep their education up together during such a difficult time. And, considering the fact that it was 20 miles away from, from the school, so I got, you know, a tremendous amount of support from them, “Don’t worry if you’re late, we understand, you know you’re under difficult circumstances, you know, and if there’s anything we can do just, just say.” My eldest daughter got a lot of support from the parent support worker at her school.

And this is secondary school?

Secondary school. She gave me a lot of support as well afterwards. I got support from my daughter’s school as well through staff there. my youngest daughter, because she was quite badly affected in the beginning, because she had these mixed emotions of still wanting and needing her father and not understanding why he was taken away, but on the other hand also the fact that he had done, attacked me, and it was a very bad situation. So, you know, she needed time to explore her feelings and to try and understand what was going on. And she got a tremendous amount of support from her school over that, you know, lots of one to one sessions.

Yeah.

Exploring how she was feeling, you know, things like writing, writing things down, drawing diagrams, and it was always the same situation, it was always a really angry man, picture of an angry man, and there was myself and her and her sister on the other side with sad faces. And then after a while that changed to being no angry man and there was just me, mum, with the two children smiling, you know, and sort of like a, a happy ever after picture. So it was nice to see that, you know, she was supported well during those crucial moments.

Was that with a teacher or was that with a specialist?

That was with…

Did a specialist come in and do that?

No, no there was no specialist that came in. They had a learning mentor in the school.
 

Jane thought the CAMHS staff should have seen through her younger daughter’s outward appearance of being ‘happy and smiling’, and offered her some support.

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She then referred on to CAMHS, which was Childhood Adolescent Mental Health Services. they said that she didn’t actually meet the threshold, which annoyed the school immensely. Because, you know, you had to be at a Tier Three to receive this report, or this support. And because when she came into the room my youngest daughter was happy and smiling and, you know, she was not concerned in any way they went on that one like experience.

Yeah.

Yeah, and because my eldest daughter was there anyway, and she really didn’t want to go, when my daughter went out for a little while because she didn’t want to sit in there, because she didn’t want to have all the story gone over again, it was then that I said I was a little bit concerned for my eldest daughter because she suffered more physical and emotional abuse than the youngest one did. So it was then that she got the help from, from CAMHS, but my youngest one didn’t. Again, that was a bit annoying to sort of like have one chosen over the other.

Just because she’s not showing it didn’t mean to say that she didn’t feel or, you know, think it. And she had such good help from the school in the beginning, but I think, you know, that was crucial, you know, she received that, that good support which was what helped her moved on so quickly.

Yeah.

So, you know, I think that was, that was paramount, was having the right support in place for both myself and the children.
 

Jane’s husband listened to her phone calls so she could not be open to her family about her home life.

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You haven’t got the time for your family because you don’t really want to ring up and have a nice conversation as if nothing has happened, “Oh, hi mum, I’ve just been, you know, and gone shopping,” when it’s not like that. So you tend to hide it. You sort of like hide your feelings and you, you hide what’s going on because you don’t want people to worry, you don’t want your family to worry and you don’t want your friends to worry. But, in reality, they know. They know what’s going on, maybe not the extent of what is going on, but they know that the relationship isn’t what it should be, and it’s not an equal relationship, it’s very much an unequal one.

So when you were in the relationship did you find that you could talk to family and friends then about what was happening?

No.

It was hidden?

No, because I always felt like he was listening to the conversation. Or if he wasn’t listening to the conversation it would be, “Oh, what was you talking about then? I heard you say this. I heard you say that.” And you would have to find yourself explaining even the slightest little comment that you might have made because it could be misinterpreted by him, or made to feel three times worse, because he’s terrified, he’s absolutely terrified that you’re going to say something to someone and he’s terrified that you’re going to leave.
 

When Jane’s daughter talked to the school counsellor, the school contacted a range of professional services, so Jane felt safe, supported and ready to leave her husband.

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You know, I’d been putting up with all that for all those years, and for what? Mainly because I thought, you know, you keep your enemies closer than you do your friends, and that was very much in my mind, that as long as he was under my nose I knew what he was going to do. I didn’t feel safe when I was away or, you know, I thought that he would be following me, he would harass me, he would make me, he would try to control me and try to bring me back into the relationship, but I didn’t want to go. So, and there was also this feeling in the back of my mind that I thought, “This isn’t quite the right time to leave. It doesn’t feel right. The time doesn’t feel right to leave.” When that actually happened, the attack, that was, the morning after and after the Social Services got involved, it felt the right time to leave. I just thought, “I’ll be OK now,” you know.

Yeah.

“This is, this is the opportunity I can use to leave.”

Yeah.

And I got support from the Social Services. I got a good deal of support from the police, because I was given like a domestic abuse worker to liaise with that would keep the police informed. They put a “treat as urgent” marker, a TIA marker on my friend’s house and on my mum’s house. Which that means that as soon as anything happens, even turns up or, you know, comes there, you ring 999 and straight away they treat that as urgent, they’re there.

Right.

You know, they’re there within, within seconds. So that was very helpful. They’d also put that on my mobile phone as well, so that if I rung 999 then it’d go straight through as an emergency.

How did that feel having that in place?

It made me feel very safe, made me feel very safe, knowing that all those people was looking out for me. Because that was my main concern, was safety for myself and safety for my children. So, you know, to actually come out of the relationship and stay with a friend for a while and, you know, actually have those s- that support in place

Yeah.

Made me feel better. But the social worker did say to me, “Actually when women leave, that is the most dangerous time, is when they leave.” And that is the reason why they put all these things in place, is because they know that automatically the abusive partner is going to try everything in his power or her power to try and get you back into that relationship. So I got a tremendous amount of support, as I say, from the police. Social Services were good. They then gave me [Local specialist domestic abuse service], which I then stayed in a hostel for a while. They were fantastic. 
 

Jane described being able to go out with her friends and not being made to feel guilty for not having prepared the tea or done the washing.

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What about the psychological impact on you being in that abusive relationship, when you were in it, how did that affect you?

Psychologically [nodding] it affected me quite bad, obviously because I was having to have a couple of pills, I was having to have a couple of drinks just to get by. But you make those excuses to yourself because you think that everybody does this, you know, when they have a bad day they take pills, when they have a bad day they have a couple of drinks. But you don’t seem to realise when you’re in that situation that it’s, it’s really bad. And there is a solution and there is a way out you just need to decide to yourself one day, “That’s it.” And I had the strength two or three years ago to say, “That’s it, I’ve had enough. I want to leave.” and I, that was probably when I was picked on the worst, was those six months sort of previously, was because I actually said that I wanted to leave. But what I should have done was say I wanted to leave, and leave, not make it worse by just keep saying, or just thinking there’s a right time to leave. There’s never a right time to leave. You’ve just got to literally pack up a bag and just take what you need. As long as you’ve got yourself and you’ve got the children and you’ve got like some clothes and you’ve got somewhere to go, then you’re fine. And there’s always somewhere to go because you’ve only just got to pick up the phone and ring Social Services, you know, or ring somebody like [Local specialist domestic abuse service], and they would have you out and somewhere to stay that night.

Yeah.

And they’ll make sure you’re safe.

So take the action.

Yeah, the action might seem really, really, really scary but that’s the thing to do. And you need to make up your mind and you need to be strong. You need to be strong for yourself and the children. Because although it’s really, really hard, now when I look back at it, it’s been three years since I’ve left the domestic violence relationship and the change has been absolutely incredible. Just to be able to go out when I want to go out, just to be able to go shopping when I want to go shopping, just to be able to pick up the phone and say to one of my friends, “Do you fancy going down the road and round the park with the kids for half an hour?” and to be able to do that and not be made to feel guilty that tea’s not on the table or you haven’t done the washing or you haven’t done this. You just take so much control of your life back. And then when you do that you just realise as to how much the domestic abuse relationship affected yourself and the children.

So how does it feel now having all of that control back of your life?

Absolutely amazing, you know. I mean I still can’t believe it that something so horrible went on and that I put up with it. A lot of people said to me, “Well why did you put up with it? Why didn’t you leave? You don’t seem the type of person to have gone through that.” But it’s because you make excuses for yourself or you say, “Oh he needs me because he’s not very well,” or he hasn’t done this or, it’s all those excuses when actually, you know, he’s exactly the same, he’s an adult and has choices. Yeah, and if he chooses to abuse you then he’s not a nice person. And it doesn’t matter what has gone on in his life, that doesn’t mean that he has to take it out on you and the children.

The most important thing is you know, you get your life back. And to think three years later on down the line that the person I am today as to the person I was is absolutely amazing, you know. And just to be able to be free and to be able to be your own person again and do what you want and to, you know, take control of your life is absolutely fantastic just to, just to think that I’ve actually come out the other side. Because you don’t see there’s another side when you’re in that relationship, that’s your life and you can’t see anything past that.
 

Jane said doctors must have the courage to ask questions and offer information which a woman can use when she is ready.

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And one of the aims of this project is that we’re hoping to educate doctors and nurses about domestic abuse. So based on your own experiences then, what do you think are the most important things that they need to know?

What, health professionals?

Yeah.

The right questions to ask.

And what do you think those right questions could be?

“How are things at home?” You know, to start off with. If they have a suspicion that domestic abuse is occurring then to have the time just in that appointment to be able to say, “Look, there are services available,” even if you have to show it on the computer because you can’t take leaflets away with you, “there’s this service, there’s that service, there’s something other service.” And don’t be afraid for the, to broach the subject. You know, because it’s quite a taboo subject, or you think you might have crossed the line because you’ve gone into sort of like the, the patient confidentiality thing, but don’t worry about that. You know, ask those questions and just reiterate the fact that, you know, there is help available.

Yeah.

And that if you wanted to talk about it then, you know, there’s definitely so much help available.
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