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Mandy

Age at interview: 37
Brief Outline: During her three year relationship Mandy experienced emotional, verbal and sexual abuse. She ended the relationship in autumn 2014 after her boyfriend physically attacked her for the first time. However during the weeks and months that followed Mandy was subjected to a period of harassment. In 2015 her ex-boyfriend pleaded guilty in court to the physical assault, and as an injunction has been issued to prevent him from coming near her, Mandy has been able to start moving on with her life.
Background: Mandy is a white British woman who is educated to degree level. After a period off work with depression, she now works full-time and is currently living with her new partner and dogs.

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Mandy was in an abusive relationship with a man who she initially thought of as a ‘totally charming’ and ‘normal northern working class lad’. She remembers how the emotional abuse ‘sneaked up’ on her, starting slowly and subtly. Her boyfriend was spiteful and would criticise her, and she recalls that whatever she did she was, in his eyes, always the one in the wrong. Although initially unable to see what was happening in her relationship, Mandy did know that she was no longer herself. She had become isolated, had stopped going to the gym, felt overweight, tired and was experiencing low self-worth. 

Three years after the relationship began Mandy visited her GP as she was feeling depressed, irritable, was not sleeping well and was struggling at work. Her GP prescribed anti-depressants and referred her to see a counsellor. It was during the counselling sessions that a ‘switch in [her] head’ was ‘flipped’ and Mandy began to realise that it was her boyfriend’s behaviour that was making her miserable. Mandy told us that seeing the counsellor ‘was the best thing [she] ever did’, because it helped her to open her eyes ‘to what was actually going on’. 

During their time together Mandy’s ex-boyfriend’s temper gradually got worse. She recalled a time when she had to ask him to stop during sex because he was hurting her, and of him reacting angrily to her request and not seeming to care that he had raped her. Mandy tried to end the relationship on several occasions. However, it finally ended in October 2014, after he physically assaulted her for the first time, grabbing her around the throat.

In the months that followed, Mandy’s ex-boyfriend struggled to let go, and he started to harass her with emails and text messages. Five months after they split up, she learnt that he had painted a declaration of his love for her and an apology, on motorway bridges close to her home. His actions attracted the attention of both social media, local and national news, who were keen to know who the woman was in the graffiti messages. His behaviour and the attention it attracted led to Mandy feeling ‘freaked’, ‘sick’, ‘vulnerable and exposed’. For many weeks she rarely left the house and kept her blinds shut. 

In 2015, Mandy’s ex pleaded guilty to physical assault. Because of this a court injunction was issued to keep him away from her and this has meant that for Mandy, ‘it’s pretty much been quiet since then’. At the time of interview Mandy had started to do more things for herself and spoke of how others had noticed that she seems much happier now. She feels calmer, has more energy and is in a new, healthy, relationship. Mandy wants other women who are living in an abusive relationship to tell somebody that they can trust about their situation. She wants them to know that there is help out there - whether it is from a GP, parent, colleague or trusted friend.
 

After Mandy asked him to leave, her partner launched a violent attack on her. Afterwards he left and Mandy never took him back.

After Mandy asked him to leave, her partner launched a violent attack on her. Afterwards he left and Mandy never took him back.

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His temper was getting worse, I was asking him to get help and he kept promising he would, never did. And I think towards the end I sort of realised what was going to happen. And I told him, “The first time you lay your fingers on me will be the last”, and it happened and I made damn sure it didn’t happen again. 

Are you able to describe what happened in that situation?

The actual attack?

Yeah, if that’s OK.

Yeah, it was, it was the morning of Halloween. We’d just had breakfast, and we’d had a big fight the day before to the point where I’d asked him to leave and he’d actually packed the car up with all his stuff and I’d actually got the key back from him. He’d wormed his way back in that night and ended up staying over. And I can’t even remember what started it off, but we were fighting about the firefighters’ strike. Of course, I was wrong because I’m always wrong. I’ve actually got three firefighters in my family. And he was just shouting and I asked him to leave and he got up and started washing the dishes, in his pyjamas. And I asked him to leave again and he ignored me. I actually raised my voice for the first time and told him to leave and he came up to me in the kitchen doorway, got right in my face and was screaming. His face just went purple, he was just screaming in my face. And he went back and picked up the bowl of dishes and slammed it in the sink. There’s bits of glass and ceramic everywhere and my first thought was, “Oh my God, the dogs are going to cut their paws”.

I said, “That’s it, I’m calling the police”. I turned around, the minute I put my hand on the phone he came after me. He grabbed my around the throat and had me over the back of the sofa. I don’t remember anything after that other than thinking, “This is how it ends.” I don’t know what he was saying to me, screaming at me. I don’t know whether I got him off me, or whether he’d let go of me, I just remember running upstairs to the bathroom in hindsight, probably a stupid place to go because I’ve literally cornered myself, but it’s the only room in the house with a lock on the door. Until I remembered he could unlock it from the outside. It’s just like a slot…

Yeah.

…if you put a coin or even a nail in. So I sat with my back against the door, waiting for him to start kicking it, and he didn’t. After about twenty minutes I suddenly got it into my head that he was going to hurt the dogs and I opened the door and found him lying on the bedroom floor crying with his arms around [Dog], apologising. Again, I calmly asked him to leave. This time he got dressed and he did. The first thing I did when he left, I made sure all the doors were locked and I phoned my mum. And I told her exactly what had happened because I knew if I did that, that he wouldn’t be welcome by the family anymore. There’s no way I could take him back after that. And I didn’t see him after that.
 

Mandy, depressed and unable to sleep was offered counselling and medication by her GP who also wrote the phone no. for Women’s Aid on the prescription.

Mandy, depressed and unable to sleep was offered counselling and medication by her GP who also wrote the phone no. for Women’s Aid on the prescription.

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I think I realised that I had serious problem in the sort of September/October last year. I thought I was depressed, I wasn’t sleeping. I was having a hard time at work as well. I went to see my GP and she prescribed me antidepressants and signed me off for two weeks. She also put me forward for counselling because I said I, I felt like I was depressed and I was really struggling at work, it was having a negative impact on me. And I think it was the counsellor that first sort of flipped the switch in my head, and I thought, “Oh my God, she’s actually right”, and suddenly everything made sense. It wasn’t me that was depressed, it was him, and because of it he was making me miserable. As soon as I actually ended it, I felt free. 

So when, when did you go to see your GP, in the…

It was, it was in the October, because I was…

…Right. 

…still signed off for two weeks, last week of October, first week of November. 

So after it all?

Well, while I was, yeah, I think, I was on my first week when he attacked me. 

So, did you, what did you tell your GP? Did you discuss it like, what had been going on in your relationship with him or…?

Yeah…I can’t even remember, I know I wasn’t sleeping. I didn’t think I was coming out of there with antidepressants, I thought I was coming out sleeping pills. I hadn’t slept properly for weeks. I was irritable. I was tearful. I was stressing, and I mentioned I was under-performing at work, and I probably said that I was snapping at him…

Did you say how he’d been to you?

I must have done, because on the prescription she gave me the phone number for Women’s Aid.

Right.

I can’t rem-, I honestly can’t remember, as I say … 

…She wrote it on there.

She wrote it on there, and told me what she’d done and I remember taking, taking these antidepressants and, everything just went a little bit soft-focus. I remember, they gave me an incredibly dry mouth, no amount of water could, could help with that and, I didn’t stay on them long. I think I maybe did three weeks…

Yeah.

…and I just felt so rubbish on them. It, but it took weeks for the dry mouth to go away. 
 

Mandy described how her counsellor ‘flipped a switch’ in her head, so that ‘suddenly everything made sense’.

Mandy described how her counsellor ‘flipped a switch’ in her head, so that ‘suddenly everything made sense’.

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I think I realised that I had serious problem in the sort of September/October last year. I thought I was depressed, I wasn’t sleeping. I was having a hard time at work as well. I went to see my GP and she prescribed me antidepressants and signed me off for two weeks. She also put me forward for counselling because I said I felt like I was depressed and I was really struggling at work, it was having a negative impact on me. And I think it was the counsellor that first sort of flipped the switch in my head, and I thought, “Oh my God, she’s actually right”, and suddenly everything made sense. It wasn’t me that was depressed, it was him, and because of it he was making me miserable. As soon as I actually ended it, I felt free. 

And he kept texting, and he kept emailing, and I was responding. And the counsellor said, “Stop it, because whenever you respond he’s going to come back to you”. And we likened it to a boomerang. If you don’t pick it up and throw it, it can’t come back and hit you on the head. So I stopped and he went quiet for a while, and then it started escalating. He just didn’t want to let go. I didn’t see him, but he started sending me texts saying that he was going to end it all…
 

Mandy had changed her appearance to please her partner and ‘lost sight’ of herself. Now her relationship was over, she was doing what she wanted and feeling happier.

Mandy had changed her appearance to please her partner and ‘lost sight’ of herself. Now her relationship was over, she was doing what she wanted and feeling happier.

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I spent a lot of time re-evaluating things, even just little things like going through all my drawers. I had thirty-two pairs of gym pants. I haven’t been to the gym in three years, half of them were a size eight [laughs] seriously, what the heck? Just little things like that, you know. I just felt like it was a complete, fresh start. I had the opportunity to try and, well so I thought at the beginning, to try and find a job that I’d be happy doing, yeah, with a firm I’d be happy working for. And then of course, the longer I was out of work, you know, it was just like, “OK, I’ll do anything now” [laughs].

[Laughs]

I’ll stick stamps on envelopes if it pays me. Just, de-cluttering the house, getting rid of, just getting rid of clutter stuff I felt was bogging me down, going out, the weather was quite nice actually when I was off work, getting out and, you know, in the sunshine and the fresh air...

Yeah.

…watching the dogs enjoy themselves, it really, really helped, I felt like I was starting to do things that I enjoyed, there was nobody else here, it was just, I had a whole day to please myself, joining the gym again, just everything. Everything was a case of, who am I doing this for? Am I doing this for me? Do I really need to do this if I don’t want to be?

Yeah, yeah.

And, yeah, I just feel so much lighter, I’ve just got rid of all that baggage.
 

Mandy urged doctors not to ‘take things at face value’ but look out for ‘little signs’ and encourage women to open up.

Mandy urged doctors not to ‘take things at face value’ but look out for ‘little signs’ and encourage women to open up.

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What do you think are the most important things that kind of health professionals need to know about domestic abuse and what it’s like to be in an abusive relationship?

That very often, unless it’s actually physical, that that person might not even know it’s happening to them. As I say it sort of sneaked up on me gradually. It’s not like, one minute you’re all hearts and flowers and the next minute .there’s a fist in your face, and you sort of think, Oh”. It sneaks up on you. It’s like gaining weight, you don’t notice until you go to put on last year’s bikini and you can’t get your leg in it. 

[Laughs]

[Laughs] And then you’re just sort of confronted with it. So it’s looking out for those little signs, you know, is somebody not sleeping, is somebody, you know, crying for no reason, are people feeling hopeless? It’s, it’s the little things like that. I thought it was down to my work situation, in fact I hated my job. I was screwing up and getting into trouble, and now I know it was the situation with him that was causing that. It wasn’t the fact that I was crap or useless. It was what I was having to deal with, without knowing it.

Yeah. Yeah.

Yeah.

So it’s kind of, being able to recognise that in people who come, women who come into their...

Yeah.

… their surgery. Anything else that you feel that they need to know, or be aware of?

No, I think that’s about it. I mean it, it might not be, if there’s children involved it might be affecting the kids as well, maybe it’s one of the kids that comes in and, and says that, you know, they’re having nightmares or, yeah, it might not be the parent. And it might not just be women, it can equally apply to men.
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