‘It was terrible, I was a nervous wreck, having nightmares.’
Jess* was a victim of both physical and emotional abuse by her then-partner. One night he seriously assaulted her, leaving her with significant injuries. Jess called the Police and they arrested her partner for the first time.
As Jess talks about the physical, emotional and mental health impact of the abuse, she recognises that it had a dramatic negative effect on all areas of her life; Jess’ pre-existing health conditions worsened; at times she felt extremely low; Jess had to flee the home that she was living in with her partner and she became classified as homeless.
Jess’ ex pled not guilty, so the case went to trial. While waiting for the court date, Jess was referred to Victim Support Scotland by Victim Information and Advice (VIA), who are part of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service for Scotland (COPFS).
Victim Support Scotland, an independent charity offering free confidential and non-judgemental advice, offered Jess regular emotional support in the run up to trial, giving her space to talk about her feelings about the crime and about the ongoing justice process.
‘Even though I blamed myself every day for what happened to me, they [Victim Support Scotland] told me it wasn’t my fault.’
On the day of the trial, a volunteer supporter from VSS stood alongside her as she gave her evidence, something which she found highly beneficial. In Jess’s words:
‘court was hell, but the support at court was amazing. The VSS supporter made me feel encouraged to go in and give evidence…she was great.’
Jess’ partner was found guilty and received a sentence of unpaid community service. Although Jess accepted the outcome, she was disappointed and considered the sentence as a ‘slap on the wrist’ rather than being appropriate to the crime committed. In the aftermath of the trial, Jess continued to get support from Victim Support Scotland as well as from other organisations such as Scottish Women’s Aid and her local mental health team. After a while living in a women’s shelter, she moved into a new flat.
Jess’ experiences also prompted her to become involved in volunteering with services for people affected by domestic abuse, as well as taking part in advocacy and policy work. Through this, she has highlighted the importance of services raising awareness of what domestic abuse is and about how the justice system works.
Furthermore, she emphasises that services need to work together to provide rapid and sufficient support to somebody who has decided to take the step to report domestic abuse:
‘A woman needs to feel safe, a woman has to know that if she reports something, something will happen.’
*Name has been changed to protect the individual’s identity