Domestic abuse and sexual violence case studies

Hear people’s experiences of domestic abuse and how they have received support from organisations in Nottinghamshire.

A woman experienced eight months of abuse prior to fleeing to a Nottinghamshire Women’s Aid refuge.

She was experiencing physical, emotional and sexual abuse, as well as coercive control. All her moves were controlled, her phone was monitored and she had limited contact with her family and friends. She was told what to wear and wasn’t allowed to wear makeup. All her family and friends were afraid of him due to his prolific offending and their knowledge of his background and family links.

Prior to her arrival at the refuge, the woman was living a chaotic lifestyle, carrying out criminal activity and using drugs and alcohol. The woman had bi-polar, self-harmed and had made attempts on her own life. She had two young children who lived with their biological father due to her lifestyle and ability to care for them. She had no contact with them when she came to refuge.

The woman was severely affected by the abuse which impacted on her mental health, her drug and alcohol use and her capacity to apply for contact with her children.

The refuge put lots of support in place including regular one to one practical and emotional support, group work, emotional wellbeing work, domestic abuse awareness groups, housing, links to GP, mental health services, drug and alcohol services, sexual health screening and solicitors for advice around contact.

She was with the refuge for nine months and made huge changes during her time there. She completed the domestic abuse work meaning she has in-depth knowledge of perpetrator tactics and behaviour, healthy relationships and informed choices.

She is now in her own property, has contact with her children, has gone back to college and is in a healthy relationship.

The woman gave really positive feedback about her experiences with Women’s Aid: “I would be dead or in prison, you saved my life. You are amazing and have completely changed my life around for the better. I had full support and you helped me through everything I needed. Staff went above and beyond for me.  I feel like you keep on top of everything, I feel like you do care and notice if I am upset. I can come to you and ask if I need help. Happy with your support."

A woman experienced coercive control (physical, psychological and financial abuse) over a period of two years. The abuse had happened before but became worse when she was pregnant with their second child.

Her ex used their children as threats to keep the woman there. He told her that he would never allow her to take the children and, if she tried to take them, he would report her as an unfit mother and she would lose her children.

His control destroyed her confidence. She still finds it hard to make decisions, as they were made for her for so long. She is still recovering from the injuries caused from his last assault on her and is very nervous around loud noises and shouting.

She had to leave her home and start again from scratch.  Her ex refused to let her have all her belongings and threw what she could have out onto the street.

When she fled home, she spent one night in homeless accommodation, sleeping on a mattress on the floor with her two children. The next morning, she googled Women’s Aid and refuges and made a phone call. She said the “support worker was very kind and easy to talk to”. When she arrived at the refuge, she was exhausted and she said the room she was shown to was “so lovely”.

The refuge staff helped her to look at all the options. They calculated how much housing benefit she would be entitled to, helped with her Universal Credit claim, arranged school transfers, GP registration, health visitor visits, solicitor advice, provided a tablet for home schooling, support for her daughter, helped her find a property in the area and helped her secure a deposit from the Council. They also helped with donations of furniture and white goods. 

She said: “So much practical help, but the emotional support is what really helped me through the darkest times.  Support workers to talk to who “get it’, and to be able to talk honestly and listened to without any judgement.   They made me realise I was not to blame, and I did have a voice, and I was a good mum.  They really did help me to regain my confidence and to start to believe in myself again”.

“The future for me and my children is so much more positive. I look forward to making a lovely home for us all where we can be free and happy, with no fear every time the door opens.  I will be able to go back to work and my daughter will be able to see her friends again. My mother will be able to stay with me, which was never allowed. I can’t wait”.

“Women’s Aid helped me when I was at rock bottom and just didn’t know which way to turn.  They helped me turn my life around.”

A woman with a child and a baby were referred to Juno’s Serenity refuge by another Women’s Aid organisation. She was supported by Serenity for 18 months.

The woman presented with severe anxiety. She explained that she was trying to break away from an abusive relationship and had received a death threat which she believed to be from her ex-partner.

After nine months of humiliating physical, verbal, emotional and psychological abuse, she firmly believed that her ex was capable of killing her. For that reason, she was desperate to flee her home, leaving behind her family and friends, her son’s school and his friends.

The relationship with her ex was amiable to start with, but over time he showed more signs of jealousy and usurped more control. This got gradually worse after she became pregnant. At first it was physical intimidation: rough handling, poking, pushing her and squashing her with his body. Then it became verbal, raising his voice and name calling. This was followed by moodiness, then sudden outbursts of anger, slamming doors and absence from the home.

Once she delivered the baby, she immediately suffered a health crisis and the abuse became open, more frequent and intense. The perpetrator would yell at her as well as her 12-year-old autistic son. She was submissive and passive, hoping to keep their family unit together. She was also severely depressed and functioning on an autopilot. For the slightest sign of disagreement, she would be punished by emotional abuse: belittling and ridiculing. There were times when he would hit her, push her to fall to the floor and drag her around the house by her hair. She reported that his hands would be full of her hairs after he dragged her around while she screamed and cried. Some of this abuse was witnessed by her autistic son as well as her baby.

In her words, she was “humiliated, belittled and reduced to a status of a slave”. Looking back, she struggles to put together the image of herself as being unreasonably submissive, beaten up and abused in comparison with her sunny predisposition, natural intelligence, friendliness and strong personality. She explained that while living with the abuser, she was reduced to a shadow of herself, both physically and psychologically. The perpetrator took advantage over every aspect of her to establish his dominance and control. She was restricted in her movements, trips out and amount of contact with her family and friends. She was kept in isolation with very little help and very little attention or support.

The incident that made her realise the severity of her abuse happened when, out of the blue, she was hit while holding her baby. This event made her realise that she should fear for hers as well as children’s lives. She confronted the perpetrator and threatened him with the police. She demanded for him to leave and not come back. He left but on the same evening posted a death threat.

The woman arrived at Juno’s Serenity refuge to find safety and recover from immense fear and anxiety. She needed time to rethink her future and rebuild her life. As her landlord was the perpetrator’s friend, he put pressure on her to return to the house or she would lose her tenancy. Eventually, he called on her to organise removal of her furniture, removed all her belongings and placed them into the garden and moved in another family. As a result, she became homeless.

The woman and her children are now settled in social housing and have been supported to access funding for removal costs and acquire free furniture through charitable organisations.

Through Juno, the family were offered weekly support to address the effects of trauma due to domestic abuse. The woman was supported in dealing with anxiety, low self-esteem and attended the Freedom Programme. Also, she was helped in establishing a new functional routine with her autistic son.

To those women who find themselves in an abusive relationship, she says that “they need to be honest with themselves and recognise the signs of abuse in its early stage, not to wait until abuse becomes like an unescapable trap”. She would encourage women living with abusive partners to speak out, seek help, call agencies who support those suffering from domestic violence and abuse, to do whatever it takes to keep themselves and their children safe – call the police, access refuge. She says that “if she didn’t call for help and fled to a refuge, she is not sure if she and her children would be alive today”.

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