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Shaina

Age at interview: 32
Brief Outline: Shaina made friends with a local Caribbean man and their relationship developed over two years. Following the birth of her first child, she endured ten year of violent behaviour from her partner who used drugs, engaged in numerous affairs with male partners and smashed up their house. Shaina talks about a general lack of awareness of domestic violence and a consistent lack of support from the police. She finally received help when her GP referred her to the local Domestic Violence and Abuse Agency.
Background: Shaina is a 32 year old single woman with mixed French and Mauritian origin. She lives in a privately rented house with her three children aged ten, eight and six years, and works part-time as a school lunchtime supervisor.

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Shaina met her Caribbean partner locally and they were friends for two years before their relationship began after he was robbed and attacked in connection with drugs. He promised to give up drugs if they got together. While completing her University course, Shaina became pregnant and the couple moved in together. Shaina describes trust issues arising and alarm bells ringing soon after the birth of her daughter. Her partner regularly stayed out till the early hours of the morning and showed little interest in his family, preferring to play with a games console. If questioned he would violently smash property.

Physical violence towards Shaina herself began when she asked his whereabouts after he had lied to her. The attack was witnessed by family members who called the police, but Shaina feels that ‘domestic violence wasn’t really taken as seriously as what it is now’. Her partner was removed for two weeks but he returned, apologetically being ‘Mr Goody-Two-Shoes’. Violence followed by apparent remorse became a pattern that Shaina endured over ten years. Each incident she ‘swept under the carpet’ as she wasn’t really ‘clued up about domestic violence’, and thought his behaviour was ‘normal’. Her sister was aware of the situation but did not know what to do to help.

As Shaina wanted to avoid her children having a ‘broken family’, they attended couple counselling and stayed together. The ‘final straw’ for Shaina came when he had numerous affairs with male partners, which led to her suffering two bouts of sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs). With the help of a neighbour, she eventually turned him out of the house after a violent attack. She visited her GP for help with depression and was referred for counselling at the local Domestic Violence and Abuse Agency, where she finally learned about domestic violence and how to be strong.

Shaina still experiences ongoing harassment. Altogether, her ex has been convicted three times for violent offences but has received light sentences. Shaina has felt consistently un-supported by the police. She is now in the process of ‘rebuilding herself completely’. She feels strongly that there should be more general awareness of domestic violence and abuse and she is setting up, via the local council, a peer support group for women who are or have been in abusive relationships.
 

Shaina made sense of her experience when her Domestic Violence and Abuse worker showed her the ‘Duluth Power and Control Wheel’* that shows the difference between an abusive and a healthy relationship.

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So you went to the GP and they put you in touch with [local DVA agency].

Yeah.

And what did they do, give you a number to ring or how did that contact come about?

I think I got a referral letter, then I was given an appointment of like for 6-12 weeks long.

Right, and how did that go, how did you get on with that?

It was good. It was literally learning to be strong, not to blame myself. You know, we did the wheel of…

The wheel, yeah.

…abuse and all of that. And it was like, “Ding dong, makes sense.” And that’s when everything really, the whole definition of domestic violence was clear for me.

That was the first time you’d really understood it?

Yeah, yeah that was the only time. Before then I was you know, mentally, emotionally, you know, people think physical all the time but, yeah, there’s a lot more to it than that.

* The Duluth model which includes the Power and Control Wheel is an approach to challenging abuse which underpins many other services (see our resources).
 

Shaina described having to rebuild herself and learn to trust people again.

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What do you think has been the biggest impact really on you as a person and your life from having been through that domestic abuse?

I think I had to rebuild myself completely.

Really?

Yeah. And learning to trust another person to come into your life has taken me a long time. I’ve been single three years, you know. It’s been trying to process everything. And my main priority was to re-stabilise my children. Because, again, they’re the innocent people that I brought into this world. Like his dad told me, “He hit you when you had your first child. You shouldn’t have had more kids with him.”

No.

And that is something I do dwell on and I think, yeah, that was a mistake. I don’t regret my kids, but I have brought two additional children into quite a volatile situation. So now my main focus is to make sure they’re fine, because they didn’t deserve to be in that. So that’s what my life has been dedicated for like two years. Then rebuilding myself enough, and again to learn to trust a man to come into my life, so yeah.
 

The RELATE counsellor suggested techniques for Shaina’s partner to control his anger, but he never put them into practise.

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And during that time we had got onto, I think it was Relate, for relationship counselling.

Oh right, how had you got on to them?

I really can’t remember how we got there, to be honest with you. But we had three sessions.

And your partner went with you?

He went, he did, and this is when we discussed baby number three was coming. He came to terms with that through the counselling.

Right.

So he was OK about then having the child. Then we discussed the physical violence. And the counsellor said that he needs to learn a mental state of mind. Where he knows he’s getting angry, he needs to learn to walk out of the house.

Right OK.

It never happened.

But he was able to talk about his violence in front of the counsellor?

Yeah, he was. He did discuss it and he even his mum knew, even his dad knew. They used to talk to him. So he was quite – I think – I don’t know if he acknowledges that he has a problem.

Right.

Yeah.
 

Shaina felt her partner’s conditional sentence was just like a ‘slap on the wrist’ after her terrifying ordeal.

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He went crazy. He broke all the door handles trying to get in, shaking the house. I ran into my bedroom and I was banging on [neighbour]’s bedroom door, [neighbour] next door.

Next door, yeah.

“Help, help, he’s coming for me.” I knew he was going to get in at some stage.

What were you afraid was going to happen?

He was going to beat me really bad. I could tell by the rage of him shaking the whole house, trying to break all the doors to get in. The kids were still sleeping and I think, I believe they, they slept through it all, luckily, I think. So in the end he smashed this window. Blood all over the place. Came – I had set up the camcorder, because I thought he was going to beat me up, remember.

Yes.

I was panicking. I thought, “Set up the camcorder so I’ve got proof that he’s beaten me up.”

That was good thinking.

But big mistake. He climbed back up and saw the camcorder on the windowsill. I think that raged him even more. And that’s why he smashed that, went straight to the camcorder in my room and was about to throw it at my head.

Gosh.

Yeah.

What happened?

So he smashed it on the floor in the end, so there was no evidence. Because obviously he came towards it. Then [neighbour] came. All the doors were broken and I couldn’t let her in. The only way was in and out of the glass area. She said, “[name of partner], what the fuck are you doing? You’ve got your kids in here. What is wrong with you?” And he’s standing there huffing and puffing, still got my phone in his hand, full of blood, all the glass all over the place. She said like, “Get, go away. Give her phone, because she’s going to have to call the police for the window to get boarded up. Your kids are in there, for God’s sake.” And he left. He got convicted again for domestic criminal damage. He just got a conditional sentence for that, slap on the wrist.
 

Shaina described her close relationship with her neighbour who she called her ‘saviour’ as she provided support all through her abusive relationship.

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Something triggered, something massive, I can’t remember what it was exactly, but I had enough and I told him that I wanted to break up with him, on a message. Then he called me from work. And he left work, apparently, and went to his mum’s house in a rage. He hung up the phone in tears and I just knew something was brewing. So I rang my neighbour. She doesn’t live there anymore. But she has been my saviour through all of my stuff.

Really?

I rang her and I said, “I’ve tried to break up with [name of perpetrator]. He’s hung up the phone crying. I need to leave. I need to, I need to go away where he can’t find me.” Because he knew too much about me. This is where I left myself vulnerable.

Right.

He would have found me somehow. So I said, “I need to go somewhere where he will never know.” So she said, “Go and park in the forest.” She gave me directions of a secluded car park. And she said, “I’m getting dressed, I’m going to take the dog and I’ll meet you there.” So I took – my daughter was at school at the time, my two boys were with me. I just panicked. I just left the house.

Hmm, with the two boys?

With the two boys. And not really expecting what really happened. He was ringing me. He’s like, “Where are you? I want my family,” blah, blah, blah. He knew it was coming to the end of the road. Then he was ringing my neighbour, because he clocked that we would have been together. And none of us were telling him where we were. And she was on the phone with him and she’s like, “[name of participant], he’s smashing up your house.” So her mum and dad were next door. So she rang them and she said, “Can you hear him smashing up the house?” They’re like, “Yeah, we can hear everything.” So she was like, “[name of participant], call the police.” So I called the police. He got arrested in the garden, with a massive fight with the police. He’s got no respect for the police.
 

Shaina talked about the ‘emotional understanding’ shared by women survivors which led her to train with the local council and set up a support group.

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But I think generally it is good for somebody to support another person that’s been in domestic violence.

Right, so you mean get support from someone else, another survivor basically?

Yeah.

Yeah OK.

We’re actually setting up a domestic violence support group at well, hopefully,[local school].

Really?

With [name of town] Council, yeah. We’ve had training and we’re hoping to start in October.

Excellent.

Yeah so we’re, we’re all bringing survivors together or people who need, are currently in, need support, but it’s going to be hard to get them and they need to get comfortable. But what we’re going to do is set up like activities that you do, so that it’s a social thing. And, you know, maybe you hear other people talking and you’re not really ready to open up yet, and maybe one day you’ll get comfortable with the group and have the confidence to open up and discuss stuff.

Yeah, and how are you going to reach out? Are you going to put leaflets around or?

We are. We’ve called ourselves ‘Stars and Rainbows’, so that it’s an anonymous kind of title. And we’re going to give out like leaflets that doesn’t actually indicate too much to people about the whole what’s included.

Right.

But discuss face to face with that person. So, you know, if their abuser finds things it’s not related to like domestic violence. So it’s a little bit of a secret thing.

Yeah, no, I understand, yeah.

And they’ve got like little lip balms that they’ve designed with numbers and helplines on it.

Fantastic.

There’s a bar code on it, but it’s actually a helpline.

Oh brilliant.

So no one would ever think that it was that. And we’ve got panic alarms and little leaflets and little cards to give out.

Brilliant. Who helped you design all that?

Well three, well, me and two other women who have suffered from domestic violence got together after we did Parent Champion for [name of town] Council. And we decided, well, we want to support other people that have been through it, and we can understand what they’ve been through. Whereas maybe someone that hasn’t, it’s very hard to put yourself in that.

Yeah absolutely.

Because even some of my girlfriends can’t understand why I stayed in my relationship for so long. But unless you’ve been in it, you don’t get it.
 

Shaina described her ex-partner turning up at her door, and the panic this caused her daughter.

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And do you have any contact with him or?

No. Oh wait, saying that, he’s turned up at my door twice.

Hmm, hmm and how has that been?

Traumatic. My daughter literally had a panic attack, was crying and dribbling all over the place. another time, I knew it was him, I just like happened to be down here in the dark and the curtains were open. And my daughter came down. And you could hear this little tapping on the letterbox, not the doorbell this time. So I looked out and it was him.

Hmm, and what did you do?

And I panicked a little bit. I messaged my friend and I’m like, “[partner]’s at the door.” She’s like, “What are you messaging me for? Call the police.” And I called the police. And then they came and he had already left. And they were like, “If he comes again, call us. We’ll talk to him.” Because by that stage the restraining order runs out, had run out.

Right.

So every time it runs out he thinks he’s free to do what he wants.

How long do they last for each time?

It’s been one year, one year, and now they’re fed up of seeing me every year and they’ve given me two. Because it’s becoming a continuous pattern: when they elapse it starts again. 
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