Women’s experiences of Domestic Violence and Abuse

Alonya

Age at interview: 31

Brief outline: Alonya survived two relationships with men who were controlling and physically abusive. She stayed with her first partner for seven years after which she fled back to her home country with her daughter. A year later, back in the UK Alonya met and married her second partner but left after 18 months, following threats to her life. Alonya has struggled to find independence as she had a spouse visa and still experiences ongoing harassment from her ex-husband.

Background: a 31 year old British woman originally from Eastern Europe. She lives in a Housing Association flat with her nine year old daughter, and works part-time as an office co-ordinator.

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Alonya met her first partner, a Tunisian man, while she was working in Tokyo. The couple returned to the UK and Alonya gave birth to her daughter. Soon after, her partner began to control her life, dictating her activities that included caring for his extended family, cooking and cleaning. He humiliated her publically and became physically abusive if she challenged him. He also took drugs and drove the car recklessly with Alonya and the baby on board. After enduring seven years of physical and psychological abuse she fled back to her home country, taking her daughter. She describes how she felt ‘guilty’ and confused’ and not herself anymore.

A year later, on a visit back to the UK, Alonya met her future husband. She felt ‘tense’ and ‘terrified’ entering a new relationship but her husband was initially ‘very caring’. They travelled to Eastern Europe to get married , then Alonya and her daughter stayed on for seven months while their visas were arranged. Returning to the UK she found her husband ‘cold’, jealous and blaming, criticising her in front of her friends. He also fabricated stories about being in work and then of having a serious life-threatening illness. Alonya called the police several times following abusive episodes, including a strangling attempt, but her husband blamed her, suggesting she was crazy. Alonya felt ‘powerless, lost and scared’ but a police officer told her to leave. She then confided in her GP, who referred her to a Domestic Violence and Abuse Agency and Social Services. With their support Alonya planned to leave one morning but her husband found out and returned to the house. With the support of the removals men and the police she did manage to leave.

Alonya could not afford to pay for a place in a women’s refuge so she found a home for her and her daughter, a school place and a job. Her husband found where she lives and for four years Alonya has been subjected to stalking, verbal abuse, harassment, attempted blackmail and threats to kill her. Her employer has received abusive emails questioning her immigrant status. She has constantly had to talk to police and attend court and her mental health has suffered badly. After a year on anti-depressants, Alonya recently began trauma therapy which she feels is helping to put her ‘into recovery’. In order to escape her ex and the ongoing abuse she has decided to change her address and her name, to ‘disappear completely’ and start living a new life. Until then she still lives in fear, with high anxiety, and feels ‘broken inside’.

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