Women’s experiences of Domestic Violence and Abuse

Chloe

Age at interview: 32

Brief outline: Chloe met her partner via a local exchange forum website. Their relationship developed rapidly, Chloe fell deeply in love and the couple moved in together. Following an escalation of manipulative and controlling behaviour over nine months, Chloe became a virtual prisoner in her own home, fearing for her life and her sanity. Two years ago she escaped with the help of friends, and is getting support from a specialist domestic abuse agency. She is receiving counselling for PTSD and feels that her recovery will take a long time. (Video clips played by an actor.)

Background: Chloe is a 32 year old single white British woman born in South Africa. She lives on her own in a council flat. She works as a Holistic Bodywork Therapist but was unable to work at the time of the interview owing to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which developed in the aftermath of an abusive relationship. Chloe is single with no children.

Audio & video

Chloe fell in love with a ‘charming’ Peruvian man, enjoying his constant attention and desire to spend all their time together, despite her early ‘gut instinct’ to keep away. She now knows that, using her business website and a local exchange forum, he had ‘watched her and researched her’ for some time, so that he knew ‘exactly what she did’.

Chloe describes feeling incredibly happy and her friends and family being ‘charmed’ by her partner, later finding out that those who felt otherwise did not speak up. Over time, Chloe began to notice how his ‘pretty mask kept slipping’. Early on, Chloe met and got on well with his ex-wife and four year old son, but over time she found it increasingly difficult to go out to see friends and family as her partner was jealous and created reasons for her to stay in.

When the couple moved in to a rented house together, Chloe endured ‘extreme manipulation of the mind’ by a man who stayed home all day. She describes an ongoing internal battle between her ‘gut instinct’ to get away from this man and her desire to make the relationship work. Sometimes her partner would open up about his difficulties in relationships, giving her hope that things would improve. All Chloe’s behaviour was observed. Her partner obsessively locked external and internal doors in the house and although Chloe had access to the keys, she had to ask for his permission. Any trip outside the house, even to the shops, was timed and followed by a ‘thorough grilling and intimidation’. She became very isolated and her therapy business suffered, as her partner met and vetted all her clients as they arrived, so that they ‘dropped like flies’.

Her partner did all the cooking and fed Chloe on poor quality food. He ‘worked this up’ until he fed her only on food she was allergic to and nothing else, which led to her losing weight and becoming ill and weak. She became fearful of his interest in and practice of voodoo. She finally had a ‘light bulb’ moment when she recognised that her partner was playing a ‘manipulative game’ and that her life was in danger. She ‘played along’ for a while until she was able to get a secret message out to a friend, who picked her up at a pre-arranged time using an invented cover story.

Two years have passed since Chloe escaped but the trauma of her experience has long-term consequences. Following an initial sense of relief, she developed symptoms of PTSD and has lost trust in herself and in others. She hopes that through gradual healing she will be able to put her experiences to positive use to inform her therapeutic work. (Video clips played by an actor.)

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