Women’s experiences of Domestic Violence and Abuse

Ella

Age at interview: 27

Brief outline: Ella experienced emotional, financial, sexual and physical abuse at the hands of three different abusive partners. The first relationship lasted seven years followed by shorter relationships of six months and 18 months. When she eventually became homeless she was referred to Women’s Aid, and with their support she has been free of abuse for three years. Ella said that had she known about Women’s Aid sooner, and realised that domestic abuse was not just about being physically ‘beaten up’, then she might not have continued into further abusive relationships. She now feels she could ‘knock it on the head before it began’. (Video clips played by an actor.)

Background: Ella is a 27 year old single white British woman with no children. She lives on her own in privately rented accommodation and works full-time.

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At the age of 15, Ella fell in love with a man who she describes as a ‘local hero’, a successful sportsman. They eventually moved in together and Ella soon found that he ‘controlled’ her life, dictating her activities, calling her ‘a slag, a slut’ if she went out in the evenings, taking her money to spend on drugs and ‘cheating on her’. She was raped and sexually abused before being allowed to buy essential items and she believed that he would kill her if she challenged him. He also ‘cheated’ on her from early in the relationship.
 
Throughout her relationship, Ella felt unable to disclose the details to anyone because of her partner’s local celebrity status. Ella felt so trapped that she would occasionally self-harm to ‘release’ the pain and stress that she felt. Attempts at disclosing to family and friends ended up in Ella feeling ‘judged’, hearing comments like ‘she likes bad boys, she brings it on herself’. This strengthened her resolve to make the relationship work and she convinced herself that her difficulties were ‘normal’.

With some help from her parents Ella managed to leave her partner but she got back together with him when she discovered she was pregnant. Following the trauma of a subsequent miscarriage, Ella decided to end the relationship, aged 21. When she split up with her partner after seven years of a controlling relationship she describes ‘feeling completely lost, I didn’t know who I was, I had no identity’. She felt suicidal and her GP prescribed anti-depressants.

She became briefly involved with a Pakistani man who was in between prison sentences for drugs offences and assault, but then moved in with a new partner for an 18 month relationship. She suffered further emotional, financial and physical abuse from a man who she discovered was addicted to drugs, and spent his time partying, drinking and taking drugs at their flat and disappearing often for many days at a time. Following a three day drug binge, her partner smashed up their flat and Ella feared he would become violent within their relationship. With the help of a friend, Ella, now penniless and homeless, fled from him.

In the aftermath of her experiences of abuse, she suffered from ‘terrible panic attacks’ and felt unable to go out alone to do basic tasks such as shopping. She received counselling at her GP practice, which she found helpful but too short at only six sessions. She was also referred to a Stress Management course. 

With counselling and with support from Women’s Aid, Ella grew in confidence and the panic attacks faded. She is now happily settled on her own and feels that Women’s Aid literally ‘saved her life’. (Video clips played by an actor.)

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