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Linda

Age at interview: 59
Brief Outline: Linda’s fifteen years marriage to a man who subjected her to physical, emotional and financial abuse ended last year when her ex smashed up the family home, took all her belongings and her money and left. Linda has found it very hard to speak out to anyone at all, despite numerous hospital visits when she made excuses for her bruises, as she felt such a ‘fool to be taken in’ by her ex.
Background: Linda is a 59 year old white British woman, separated from her British Caribbean husband. Her two daughters from a previous marriage and her four grandchildren live locally. Linda used to work as a University lecturer and as a manager of children’s services, but is now unable to work owing to severe health problems, Reactive Airways Dysfunction Syndrome and Osteochrondrosis.

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Seven years after the end of her first marriage to an ‘irresponsible’ musician, Linda was delighted to meet the ‘charming, helpful, lovely’ man who became her second husband after a three year relationship. Linda sold her family home and made a new start but describes the first year of marriage as ‘hell’. Within 3 months her husband was having an affair and the man she loved ‘turned into a monster’. He verbally abused Linda daily, saying how ugly she was, humiliating her, openly talking about his lover and taking her away for weekends. He also used the ‘power of silence’ not speaking a word to his wife for a month at a time.

Linda referred to her ex as ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ with un-predictable moods and the ability to be delightful to family and friends who never understood the reality of her life at home. She was ‘on eggshells’, with a full-time professional job and a constant fear of not pleasing her husband at home which would lead to violent physical attacks, including being thrown against the wall, down the stairs and beaten. She felt unable to leave him or report his behaviour as he threatened to burn down the home and harm her children. In between his numerous extra-marital affairs Linda describes period of calm, some lasting several years, when she ‘fell, hook, line and sinker’ for his promises of change.

Linda describes unsatisfactory dealings with the police who she secretly visited, covered in bruises, following one violent episode. The police were unable to photograph the evidence or help her until she had a medical report, which she was too fearful to get.

In the last few years of her marriage. Linda became ill, with numerous hospital in-patient stays, when her husband never visited her. Back home he became ‘cruel’ and taunted her with his likely financial gain if she were to die ‘in service’. He manipulated her finances, leaving her with no money. He left, after smashing up the house, because for the first time Linda had challenged him, objecting to his behaviour. The violent assault that ensued led to police involvement. 

Linda describes living in fear since he left, not knowing the whereabouts of her ex, whose last words to her were his determination to ensure her a life of poverty before he killed her at a time of his choosing, followed by her grandchildren. She remains fearful of having to face him in court in the near future. Her daughters, who had always relied on her to be ‘strong’ and capable are having difficulty in adjusting to the ‘neediness’ of their mum.

Linda has recently received help from Womens’ Aid and a counsellor, but feels her relationship with her daughters has suffered badly, owing to the abusive relationship. She has a court case pending to try and retrieve some of her money as she has no fixed home, moving between family, friends and temporary rented accommodation.
 

At the end of their relationship when Linda was out of the house her partner took all the contents of the house and then destroyed everything that he didn’t want to take.

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So after that, so I went to my mum’s 80th birthday, still hadn’t told the police and I came back and the house was empty. 

Of everything? 

Of everything, except things he didn’t want, which he’d, we had two settees, chairs, leather, he’d left the three seater but he’d cut it up, well chopped it up, taken the beds, all the beautiful garden furniture we had, he’d smashed, and we had, one of the bedrooms was for the children so we used to have a rota and one stayed over at night, they used to call it Nanny Night. All their books, their toys he’d smashed up, we had chandeliers, taken them down, I’ve got photos I could show you, he’d stood on them all. In my office, in the basement, I hadn’t been able to get down there for a long time because of the stairs, he’d taken my computer with all my academic work, with the books I’d written, you know they were all on there, the research, he’d taken it all, all my files, my bank details, my savings things, he’d taken everything. And in the toilet, I can’t even tell you what was in there, you can imagine? In the bathroom. In the downstairs toilet, he’d taken the sink away because he was a plumber, he’d taken that away, put it in the, we had a big basement and part of that was his workshop, he’d put the sink, the basin, work benches off, smashed them up the only thing he hadn’t touched was the loft and that’s what I came back to and then I called the police and then I told them everything. 
 

Linda went to the police covered in bruises, but she was dismissed until she had a doctor’s assessment, which was impossible for her to get without her husband’s knowledge.

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No, first of all, well he stopped coming home at night so I questioned him was he having an affair and he just said “Yes”. He said “You’re ugly, you’re old I don’t know why I married you, I’ve got what I want, you’re never here”. Of course, I was never there because I was teaching. He then stopped working so he was in and out of jobs, obviously I was then earning more money and my younger daughter then started staying at friends, my daughter decided she didn’t want to live in the house and got a flat, when she was at university, she didn’t want to be around him and he was throwing me at radiators, throwing me downstairs, and who could I tell? I couldn’t tell my mum, I couldn’t tell my friends; it was never on my face and then one day I remember it was January again it must have been, he just beat me up so badly and I was covered in… 

I mean it was horrific, not on my face, and at 5 o’clock in the morning I thought I’m going to go to the police but then that night he knew he’d gone too far and he said if you go to the police I’m going to burn this house down with you and your and you know the language was foul, with you and your effing daughter in here, he said so it’s up to you. And I thought I’ve got to take the chance and I went to the police station, really early in the morning and I went to the desk and I said, “I need to see somebody but it’s got to be quick, because he’s in the house and this is what he’s threatened.” And I said, “I want to show somebody my body”. And they said you’ve got to go to your doctor’s first and I said, “I can’t because I’ve got to get back and get my daughter to school”. And that was it and they said well we’re going to need the photos first we need your doctor’s report first. 

So nothing happened. 

Didn’t, I couldn’t go, because I had to make sure she wasn’t in the house. 

Because, from what you’re saying, that threat sounded very real. 

It was, he has this look, this is what I’m still scared of.
 

Towards the end of their relationship, Linda’s partner responded with increasing acts of violence toward her property and belongings.

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And then work ethics came over me and I thought I’ve got get there, because this university is waiting for me and. 

Were you able to go? 

I did, I went. 

You did? 

Yeah. 

It’s extraordinary how you managed to hold together, this really powerful, you know demanding job, that is an extraordinary accomplishment. 

I went for 2 days and then I phoned one of his friends up and said you need to go and make sure he’s not there because I’m too scared to go in and another friend went and checked my daughter was alright, and he’d cut all my clothes up, all my clothes were cut up all over, all over the room and his friend, a male friend and he just went I can’t’ believe he’s done all this. 

And was that during that time that you were away, or was that, yeah that weekend you were away. 

Yeah and we had a basement in the house and that’s where I did all my lectures and everything, and everything, all my files had been shredded and. 

Really? 

Yeah everything. And I was teaching again, on the Monday. 

So how did you manage? 

I just re-did it. 

Extraordinary resilience that you’ve obviously got.

Oh the days, after a weekend I used to go in at 6 o’clock and I had been crying right until 6 o’clock, go in, put on my brave face. 

That’s amazing to be able to do that. 

Yeah, I don’t know how I did it now. 

So after that event. 

And then didn’t speak to me. 

Had one of those silent periods. 

So after that, so I went to my mum’s 80th birthday, still hadn’t told the police and I came back and the house was empty. 

Of everything? 

Of everything, except things he didn’t want, which he’d, we had two settees, chairs, leather, he’d left the three seater but he’d cut it up, well chopped it up, taken the beds, all the beautiful garden furniture we had, he’d smashed, and we had, one of the bedrooms was for the children so we used to have a rota and one stayed over at night, they used to call it Nanny Night. All their books, their toys he’d smashed up, we had chandeliers, taken them down, I’ve got photos I could show you, he’d stood on them all. In my office, in the basement, I hadn’t been able to get down there for a long time because of the stairs, he’d taken my computer with all my academic work, with the books I’d written, you know they were all on there, the research, he’d taken it all, all my files, my bank details, my savings things, he’d taken everything. And in the toilet, I can’t even tell you what was in there, you can imagine? In the bathroom. In the downstairs toilet, he’d taken the sink away because he was a plumber, he’d taken that away, put it in the, we had a big basement and part of that was his workshop, he’d put the sink, the basin, work benches off, smashed them up the only thing he hadn’t touched was the loft and that’s what I came back to and then I called the police and then I told them everything. 
 

Linda talked about missed opportunities in hospital when she made excuses about her bruising and was afraid to talk in case her husband arrived and could over-hear.

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And then on the Monday I had my physio appointment and the physio said to me, oh my gosh this is terrible you know your hips, what have you done, because I could hardly move them, my shoulder I couldn’t ‘cos of the, I told a lie I said I’d been knocked over by a little boy on a bike. 

Okay. She accepted that? 

It was a man [tearful]. He said, “This is, I can’t believe from a week ago, that it’s so bad, you know, so different the movements to how you were”. And he said “These bruises”. I said “I know I was coming down that slope at the hospital because there’s a big slope there and I said this little boy on his bike, on his scooter it was, on his scooter” and he said “oh dear me”. 

So what happened next? 

Nothing, and then I went back for my next week’s [medicine] injection and I was going to tell my consultant because I really trust her and she was in a real rush and she was really busy. 

Just when you decided. 

Yeah I decided, and she had this lovely patient with her, I can’t remember his name, and he’s having them as well and he didn’t feel well and his wife wasn’t very well and his wife had just found out she’d got cancer so I couldn’t tell her because she was really upset because his wife, so my problems weren’t as bad as his wife’s, and yeah so I didn’t’ tell her. 

When I went to the health service I was having a coil fitted and they couldn’t fit it so I had to have a general anaesthetic to have it fitted at the hospital and it was the time I was telling you about where I was covered in bruises and a week later I had to go and have this coil fitted and when I came round and there were auxiliary nurses they were called then and she came to me and she said you’ve got terrible bruises all over your back and your shoulders and your bottom and she said how did that happen and I went, I said “Oh um I think I just, oh I fell out of bed”. She said “oh okay” and that was all she said and they were so bad and what I wanted her to say was we’ll write this down in your notes, that’s what I wanted her to say was we’ll write those down in your notes that’s what I wanted her to say and then I was hoping it would be in my notes so that somebody else would ask me. Because the reason why I didn’t say anything because you know when you come out and it’s only, you’re only in for the day? 

Yeah. 

You only have those curtains, there’s so many people, you’re not in a ward, you’re not in a room and I was frightened because he was going to come and get me. 

And you didn’t want anyone. 

No I didn’t want him coming while I was saying it. 

Yes, yes of course. I think that’s a really important point that you’ve just made actually, about what it’s like and about how it was with the health professionals and the nurse and that about actually recording things in the notes, that would have been better for you if somebody. 

Perhaps if somebody has got those bruises or something you’re concerned about and you want to ask that question, perhaps when, make sure you have put them in, if you’ve got it a room where it isn’t just those curtains so you can ask them, because I would have said, if I wouldn’t have been in just on a bed with a curtain he, you know because the door was there and I was looking because the bottom curtain was open so it was only the two side ones from the other two people, women on the beds and that door so I would have been able, yes, I would have been able to see him come but. 

So at that moment in time things could have changed for you. 

It could have changed with the police officer that time and a week later if that nurse, if I wouldn’t have been in that situation where he could have come in at any time. 
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