Women’s experiences of Domestic Violence and Abuse

Catherine

Age at interview: 46

Brief outline: Raised by a domineering and physically controlling father and a violent alcoholic mother, Catherine’s experience of abuse began during her childhood. As an adult, she has been physically attacked, both by an ex-partner and one of her sons. From 2000 she lived in a 12 year ‘negative’ marriage, which was characterised by her husband’s controlling and manipulative behaviour. (Video clips played by an actor.)

Background: Catherine is a white British woman who lives with her new partner in their owned home. Catherine is doing postgraduate study at university. She has two sons, both in their 20s.

Audio & video

Catherine met her ex-husband when in her early 30s. For 12 years she was married to a man whose behaviour she describes as manipulative, controlling, undermining, passive aggressive and bullying. However, Catherine initially thought she was in a ‘good relationship’, as it was free from the physical violence that she associated with domestic abuse. Her perception of abusive behaviour had been skewed by her childhood experiences: where she was ‘subjugated’, ‘neglected’, and raised in a culture in which everyone shouted at each other and where being ‘knocked around’ was the norm.

Catherine also experienced physical abuse in two other relationships. She was physically attacked by a boyfriend 23 years ago, and one of her sons has been violent towards her on several occasions. He has lashed out and hit her in the face, barged into her, and thrown her across the room. 

Catherine’s marriage broke down in 2012 after her husband left her for someone else. After the relationship ended, Catherine’s friends started to comment that she had ‘gone back to who [she] used to be’ and had ‘come out from behind him’. These remarks helped her recognise that she had been pushed down by his behaviour during their marriage and that she had changed how she behaved to please him. Catherine also realised that his behaviour had led to her low-mood when they were together. 

Catherine believes that she ‘wasted’ too many years of her life on her ex-husband and this can make her feel angry. However, she is using her experiences positively to influence how she behaves in new relationships. She is adamant that she will no longer bury her own feelings or constantly placate other people. 

Catherine feels that it is important to educate men that it is inappropriate to ‘do certain things and to be a certain way’ in a relationship. She suggests that there needs to be increased awareness of how difficult it can be for women in an abusive relationship to extricate themselves, even if they themselves recognise that they need to leave. (Video clips played by an actor.)

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