Age at interview: 45
Brief Outline: Tanya first met her husband when she was 21. They married in 2001 when she was 31, by which time they had three children. Throughout their relationship, her husband was verbally, emotionally and physically abusive to Tanya and also to their children, especially to their daughter. Tanya and her husband were together for 20 years in total and although she left him in 2012, he has refused to sign the divorce papers – so four years later she is still legally married to him.
Background: Tanya is a 45 year old white British woman who lives with her three children in a rented home. Educated to degree level, Tanya works part-time and also volunteers for a domestic violence and abuse charity.

More about me...

The abuse Tanya experienced started early in the relationship with a slap because she was talking to some young men in the pub. The abuse was mostly emotional and verbal at first although her husband would also punch holes in the walls, often right next to Tanya’s head in order to terrify her. He would smash things in the house, including a piece of pottery that Tanya had made herself and the living room table. He would also restrain her physically by grabbing at her wrists. If she was left with bruises, he would say this was her own fault for trying to move away or to resist, and that she must bruise easily. He would also tell her that if she was hurt, then she was hurting herself by trying to get away. For a while Tanya believed these lies. 

After seven years, Tanya left her husband because he had bruised her spine by dragging her downstairs. However, she was not able to get any professional support after leaving, she still loved him, and they had children together. So, after ten months apart, Tanya went back to him. 

At times, the abuse would happen in front of the children. When her twins were about six years old, he told them that ‘your mum is a whore’. He also emotionally and physically abused their daughter, by twisting everything she said and, on one occasion, pushing her out of the door and leaving her out in the rain and the dark for half an hour. Tanya wanted to let her daughter back into the house but was too scared of what else her husband might do. Tanya was isolated from her friends and family in a small rural village close to his family but away from her own family and friends, in Ireland. 

Her husband forced her to hand over any money she had so he could go to the pub, leaving Tanya and the children without things they needed. He used to verbally abuse her, keep her awake and force her to have sex when she didn’t want to. Tanya began to sleep in her daughter’s room in order to protect them both.

The final straw for Tanya was when her husband severely battered their daughter, and threatened to kill Tanya if she told anyone. However, by talking to a teacher at the school and her GP, she went into a women’s refuge with the children, escaping from the house while her husband was asleep after getting very drunk. Once they had reached the refuge, they did not stay there long before being offered support from friends who also helped with the court process and with getting a court order to ensure that Tanya and her children were protected from her husband. 

Since leaving, Tanya and the children have been able to move closer to her own family and so are able to access more support. However, they are all struggling to deal with the impact of the violence. Her daughter became violent towards Tanya but after receiving support from Child and Adolescent Mental Health (CAMHS) and from a Targeted Youth Support Worker, things have improved. Tanya has had support and counselling, through the Freedom Programme, and a housing action group. 

Tanya now feels much more positive about her situation, and believes that self-healing is possible. She now feels strong enough to be able to provide support to others and is volunteering for an organisation providing domestic abuse mentoring and counselling.

Tanya’s husband threatened to smash up the house if she did not go out at night and buy him a bottle of whisky. Tanya returned home with the whisky to find that her husband had dug her a grave.

Because he just, he just, he’d threatened, he’d threatened to smash, one night he threatened to smash all the windows in the house if I didn’t go and buy him a bottle of whisky. And this was 11 o’clock at night. So I went, and came home went to look for whisky for him, came home and he’d dug me a grave. I mean - where do you go from there? How would you want to sleep with a man who’s done that, who’s just disgusting, disgusting? Hmm.

And then he’s excusing his behaviour with other women, blaming you for it?

Yeah, but I put up with it. Yeah, I put up with it because, I don’t know, because we had a house to live in. And he used to say I’d end up in a, if I left him, when we lived in [Town], before we moved to [Country], if I left him I could, I’d end up at did I want to live on a council estate? Because that’s where I’d end up. And that’s where I’m living now, on a council estate. And it’s pretty, it’s pretty good. We’re safe. There’s no psychopaths trying to kill us now, you know, and it’s fine. I pay my rent and he’s living in our house for nothing, mortgage-free. I need to sell it [laughs]. Hmm yeah acceptance, accept what’s happened to you. Accept what’s happened to you and move on and do as much self-healing that you can. And you’ll get, you can get there, you can get there. Because I was, I was just crying all the time a couple of years ago, crying all the time. And now I’m not. It’s great!

Tanya’s husband beat up their daughter in front of her brothers, then threatened to slit Tanya’s throat if she told anyone or took her child to hospital.

What was the biggest, just during those years together, all of those years, all that abuse experience, what was the biggest effect, what was the biggest impact or effect on you and on your life?

Right OK, that’s hard to say, because I think it’s every little bit adds up. It’s like a building block, isn’t it? That, that I know that the main thing that happened was when he absolutely battered our daughter and really, seriously could have killed her. And the boys were there witnessing it, terrified and crying. One was saying, “Daddy, stop it. You’re going to kill her.”


And I was just, I was really trying to stop him. I kept physically trying to stop him from hurting her. He was just hitting her all over and dragging her all around the house. And after that he said just to get me, I’d calmed the kids down, got them all in bed and my daughter went to sleep quite quickly, I think she was exhausted. I know we should have gone to hospital. You can’t just leave, you can’t just leave. He’d have killed us. He’d have killed us. You can’t leave. Anyway after that he said if I ever told anyone about it he would find me and he did this, slit throat, he would slit my throat. And I remember him doing the action [laughs] so that kind of scared me a bit [laughs]. And he told the boys that he was very sorry - to get me, that evening, to get me to come out to leave the boys’ bedroom, he told me that – he told the boys that he was very, very sorry about that and daddy shouldn’t have done that, and daddy won’t do that ever again. Right, he said that just to get me to come away from the boys. So I went in the dining room. And he said he just threatened me in a very calm, calculating way, which is even more scary. When they’re calm and they threaten you, that’s so scary. And he said something like, “I only said that to get you out of there,” and then he threatened me with slitting my throat, he said, if I told anyone about it, about him battering our daughter. Yeah, that is scary when they’re calm, that is terrifying.

Tanya talked about the impact of abuse on all three of her children, including her daughter’s violent behaviour, which took them years to address.

So let’s start then with talking about the impact you think it’s had on you and your daughter.

And the children, the three children, the impact. Well, the kids learned that if you shout at mummy, mummy does what you say, OK, so they learned that. So I had them shouting at me a lot. Now the daughter became violent when we when we left him, her violence, her violence increased.

Had she been violent when you were with him?

Hmm not really, hmm not really, only when she was fighting him off, him off her. Yeah, behaviour, major behavioural issues off, off my daughter. She blamed me for the violence. I remember her one day, when we’d moved back to England, and she was screaming at me in the street and crying her eyes out saying, “You wanted daddy to hit me. You, bet you, I bet you told him to hit me. Bet you told him to beat me up.” She was really cry, really crying. And violent where she threw knives one night at me in [Country], when we still lived in [Country]. She just trashed the house because she wasn’t getting her own way about something. Yep, that, so I had to end up, I had to ask for support, parenting support.

Who did you ask for that from?

I phoned, when her behaviour was just making it unbearable at home, because it was impacting then on the boys, I phoned school. I asked school for some help. And I didn’t get it. And then it was the summer holidays. Because she was a little angel at school at that point.

Was she at secondary?


Secondary school then, yeah.

Secondary, she was 13 at this point. Secondary, maybe 14 she was, nearly 14. Angel at school at that point. However, nightmare at home. I was, it was like living on, it was still living with abuse, but it was from the daughter, my daughter…

Was it just towards you or was it directed towards the boys as well?


Just you?

Me, mainly me, mainly me.

Was it verbal abuse or…


…just physical?

Oh yeah, verbal, lots of verbal, screaming and shouting. Nasty. So I got to the point where I just couldn’t cope, couldn’t cope anymore. So I phoned the school. They did nothing for a while. And then it was the summer holidays. Phoned them back and they finally put, they, this, took me seriously. Because I was saying, “I can’t live with this anymore. Got rid of my husband and now I’m having it off my daughter.” So that really delayed my healing process. I was like friends, when I moved back to [UK], a friend said I was like a, a startled rabbit in the headlights. I was just terrified, terrified of my own shadow.

Terrified of him turning up and following through with the threats of burning the house down, and just being near me. So great impact. All the kids had, all the boys had learning developmental delay, which can be an impact, can be a symptom of domestic abuse. I mean they lived with it from the word go, from the moment more or less that I conceived they were living, that, you know, they, even when I was pregnant I was stressed and upset by my husband’s behaviour.

When Tanya told her GP how scared she was of her husband, her GP responded: ‘Oh, that’s Irish daddies for you’.

Yeah, my daughter was playing a sport the next day and we, I told the lady that I knew was the child protection officer of the sport team.

Right OK.

So I told her. It took me ages. It took, it, it, I don’t know how long it took. I was stood outside her car window, outside her car, trying to tell her. And it, it took me at least ten minutes to say, “I’ve got something that I need to tell you.” yeah, so I did. And I was sat [voice falters] in the car with her and I told her everything, how he’d been that night, and that it wasn’t really an isolated incident. And she said I needed to speak, tell my GP.

Right. Was she the first person you disclosed to what had been happening in your relationship or had there been other people?

No, she was the first - no, I’d told - his mum knew, his sister knew.

Yeah OK.

His addiction counsellor knew.

So you said about the keys, yeah.

I tried telling the GP before, but the GP was, had been my husband’s father’s GP. We were living where all his family had grown up and were still there from.

Years and years.

Yeah, so really I didn’t stand a chance. So I told her and she said, “Oh, that’s Irish daddies for you.” I said, I said, because we were scared about my youngest son, my husband had been very emotionally cruel one morning and then we’d ended up at the GP for a toe, a sore toe, some damage. I mean my husband hadn’t done it. I’m not making sense. 

Yeah, but that’s XXXX.

We were there because of a foot injury to my son, yeah. And I’d said about being scared of my husband and that he’d upset us and he’d upset the kids sometimes. Because one thing he’d do with the kids was he’d grab hold of them, lick their faces, which would just upset them. Obviously, whenever he was doing stuff like this, I was trying to get him to stop. And, you know, made, you know, like, “Alright, bedtime kids.” Just always trying to keep things as peaceful and OK.

Tanya was relieved when the assessment showed she was ‘not mentally ill’. Health professionals identified Domestic Violence and Abuse and suggested she go to a women’s refuge. Her friend took her and her children.

Went to see a GP on the Tuesday. She decided - told her everything about the attack on my daughter.

Did you tell her about the abuse that you had sustained as well?

Can’t, can’t remember. I think – I can’t remember, don’t know. Probably said he’s always been horrible, I would imagine. And went to – I mean obviously I was terrified of telling anyone else at this point. Absolutely terrified I’d get the kids taken off me, I was scared he’d kill me if he found out I was telling anyone, but I did it because I had to. So the GP, she got a mental health assessment done on me. That was the first thing she wanted done. So I was waiting in absolute terror for a letter to be – come – to post – to be posted out to me while I was still living with my husband about my appointment for a mental health assessment. Anyway, luckily, I got the letter before my husband found, got it. Otherwise I – what would have happened, I don’t know. Well, he’d have been horrible and evil and oh terrifying. So I got the letter, went to the assessment, terrified when I was having my – talking to this mental health professional, terrified that my husband would know. Plus I remember he was at home, and obviously I’d had to make up that I was going, I don’t know where I said I’d gone, but I’d had to lie to him. And you couldn’t lie to him because he’d wheedle out, he’d just terrify you that he knew, yeah, what was really happening, what you’d really done or something. So I oh yeah, I was terrified. Anyway, went to the – anyway, she, the health professional, mental health professional, the report came back to the GP and the recommendation was I was not mentally ill, so that was good. So I was quite relieved.

They had to assess you, she felt that she had to assess you…


…before even?

Yeah, nothing else had happened. The police weren’t phoned, nothing, nothing, nothing like that. And the mental health professional had suggested that I needed to get in touch with the local refuge, that was the outcome. 


So it was obviously it was, it was decided that we were suffering domestic violence, I wasn’t mentally ill and I needed to now get – so this was a couple of weeks after he’d, he’d battered our daughter, you know, that’s how long it had taken. So I went to the refuge. My very good friend, who was the safeguarding lady, she took me.

Tanya’s partner was ‘charming’ to the police officer and manipulated the children to take his side, using fear.

I phoned the police, I said, “He’s absolutely psychotic, he’s just told us this, just threatened this, that he’s going to pull us, drag us round the garden by our tongues. Please can you come and take him away?” Anyway, they turned up a good while after. I had to phone them back up again. And it took me a lot of courage to use, to take the phone outside to phone the police, because if he’d have found me talking to the police, oh my God, I think it’s dead time for [Participant]. So I, so I plucked up the courage, phoned, yeah, phoned them. They didn’t turn up, right, and he got more psychotic. And I phoned them again and they were like, “Oh right yeah, we’ll send someone now.” I’m like, “Thanks.” They turned up, they spoke to the children in front of my husband and they said, “Are you OK?” And he’d calmed down. He was being Mr Charming at this point, yeah. My daughter put up this front of, “Yeah, I’m fine. I’m not scared of him.” That’s what she was saying, “I’m not scared of him.”  and he was, he was like, “Who’s phoned you, who’s phoned you?” And he was being Mr Nice Guy. Like the boys were both sitting there, like I could tell they were scared, but somehow the police officers just were like they said to me, “We can’t do anything now because he’s not actually done anything. He’s not physically hurt you so we can’t do anything, we can’t just take him away.” I would have to go to court on Monday morning, get an injunction, get a court order against him, and that’s what, that’s all she could say.

Tanya found her social worker helpful in providing a range of support and referrals.

And how long did, how is your relationship with your daughter now?

It’s OK, it’s OK. Lots of parenting support. We got, she got, we got, she got referred to CAMHS, Child and Adolescent Mental Health. We, she had, oh, behavioural managers at school. She did eventually start kicking off in school and they wanted to get rid of her, because she’d have them, she’d be running around school when she should be sat in class, just causing disruption all through, literally all through the building. Yeah, but they still loved her because she’s very charming. And they kept sending her home from school and they put her on a part-time school table because they just couldn’t cope with her. And then I’d have to deal with her at home, and she’d be screaming at me. And we ended up with a social worker, who was very good. She got me onto the Freedom Programme.

Right, so this was a social worker who?

Social worker got me on that. My daughter had a Targeted Youth Support Worker at one point before the social worker got me on the Freedom. She tried, targeted, TYS, she tried to get me on the Freedom Programme, but she couldn’t.


Targeted Youth Support, yeah.

Right OK.

Yeah, I couldn’t get on through her, but the social worker got me on. yeah, so that was, that was really helpful that course.

What was helpful about it for you?

It was helpful because you learn that you’re not the only one. You learn that it’s actually text book stuff. The abusive man, which in the programme they call the dominator, is it’s text book, they follow the same cycle, they do similar, similar abusive activities or traits, how they behave, they control, isolate you, call you names to keep you down emotionally. So it was, yeah, it was useful to know that I wasn’t the only one.

And what other support have you received from the specialist services?

Right, yeah, so then, oh, I had [Women’s housing charity]. Their, one of their centres is based in [Town]. I think they’re a northern organisation in [Town].

How did you get in touch with them?

How? Good question. Targeted Youth Support Worker.


Tanya lost contact with her friends as her partner very soon began to treat her ‘like a dogsbody’. At that point, Tanya still loved him but she ended up feeling depressed and worthless.

Oh, very early on, very early on, definitely within the first, phew, I don’t know, first few months I reckon, first six months when he slapped me, it at that pub.

Yeah, what about the emotional side?

And he used to put me, he used to really put me down and treat me a bit like a dogsbody in front of my friends. So we ended up with no – I – we had none of my friends around because they couldn’t stand, after a long period of time of seeing it, they couldn’t stand to see me treated like that.

So was it them who broke the ties or was it you?


So socially, so even before you moved to [Country]…


…you became isolated from your friends, would you say, or?

Yeah, oh definitely, definitely. They couldn’t stand to see it. But I loved him.

So when you were together then, just thinking about what effect did the abuse have on you? I mean you’ve already mentioned the anxiety, the fact that you didn’t see your friends as much, but how else did it affect you and impact on your life?

Yeah well low self-esteem, depression, always feeling a bit down, low self-worth is there anything else [laughs]?

So when


Just thinking, because like…

Worthless, feeling worthless.
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