Experience of suffering domestic abuse and coercive control
Hannah* and her children were subjected to controlling behaviour and domestic abuse from her ex-partner. With the support of Victim Support Scotland, she has written about her experience and how she and her family have been able to begin the process of rebuilding their lives.
I had started a new relationship and thought everything was good. My partner was always very loud so I ignored the shouting. I was a single mum and so when he accepted my child I thought everything was OK. Like everyone we had arguments, but these got worse as time went by – he would throw things at me and then walk away. He was always right. He started taking me everywhere I wanted to go; even on nights out he would take me there and fetch me back. I was not allowed my own money unless he gave it to me. He soon controlled everything. I was a woman who would say what I thought and did not tolerate fools, so my friends soon noticed a change in me as I was unhappy and withdrawn.
Time went by, and we had a child together. He became even more controlling. The children and I would take trays upstairs to eat away from him as it was a way to escape from him. He was always calling me and the children names –we were stupid, I was fat and useless, and he would always blame me and put me down causing my self-esteem to go. He became violent too, and would push me, or kick me. He started to physically and psychologically abuse my kids. I was alone – my parents had died and I had nowhere to go as everyone was scared of him. I had tried to leave him before but he would trick me into coming back, swearing it wouldn’t happen again but of course it did.
He kept me locked in the house, taking my keys and mobile phone off me as well as unplugging the house phone so that I could not go out or contact anyone. I was petrified but was not going to show him. I knew I needed to go. Eventually I spoke to the police and a solicitor and made arrangements to leave. I stayed with a friend and in a B&B at first. My older child had to go stay with a member of the family. We did not know how long this would last; it was heartbreaking for us to be split up.
My ex-partner would send texts and constantly phoned me, yelling threats down the phone. I was really scared. Eventually we were given a place in a refuge; it was a scary feeling and lots of other women with children were there but it had to be better than what we had been through. I could not think – my brain was like a mushy pea. But we were soon made to feel safe and welcome.
Eventually I had a house of my own and both my children but my ex would not leave us alone – he would stalk us and manipulate my oldest child. He did not like it as I was moving on and had found someone new. Because the police where we stayed rated us a high risk to the point of homicide, I knew the only way was to away which would mean the heartache of leaving my older child, my friends and family – my whole life.
Now I am happily married and my youngest child is settled and has a special bond with my husband. We still have struggles at times, like making sure the door is locked in case my ex-partner ever comes near as sadly he knows an area where we are. I suffer from anxieties from time to time and check on my child as she sleeps. I sometimes forget things and places. My husband has shared our tears and felt our pain and heartache. We lost nearly all our belongings and personal things that can never be replaced. As for my ex, I no longer hate him – I feel nothing for him now, as it was his loss and I hope I can help others to be as strong as me. I am no longer a victim – I am a survivor.
Victim Support helped me by listening to me, and putting me in contact with other organisations that I needed. I now volunteer with Victim Support Scotland’s Witness Service at a Sheriff Court. As a Witness Service volunteer I show people around the court before they appear in court so they become familiar with the court room and are not so scared. I do this to help others and to give back something to the people who helped me and my daughter be who we are today, where we are living a better life. VSS is so important to anyone who has been a victim of crime; even if it is only a small crime, they are there for you. They are sympathetic, a shoulder to share your burdens, they care and can help you find the right people you need to support you through difficult times and help you get your life back. Like me, the volunteers could also have been a victim so they know your fears.
*Name changed to preserve anonymity. Pictures are for illustrative purposes only.