Women’s experiences of Domestic Violence and Abuse


Age at interview: 33

Brief outline: After experiencing ten years of abuse and constant promises from her husband that he would change, Irina ended the relationship in March 2015, after he became aggressive in front of friends. Although Irina sometimes misses the good times that she had with her ‘Prince Charming’, she no longer lives in fear or feels like a prisoner in her own home.

Background: Irina is an Eastern European woman who is separated from her husband. She lives in a privately owned apartment with her two children (four and eight years old). Currently unemployed, she is actively looking for work.

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During her 10 year marriage Irina experienced the aggressive, angry and controlling behaviour of her ‘Prince Charming’. For example, he would throw things and shout at her, control what she wore, and make it difficult for her to see her friends. Irina recalls how her friends could not understand why she behaved like her husband was ‘the king’ and she the ‘slave’, constantly aiming to please him.

Irina felt that she was no longer the ‘bubbly, chatty, happy all the time, full of energy’ woman she had been when they met. Her self-esteem was badly affected by his negative comments about her abilities, she became unhappy with her life and how her husband was treating her and felt that she was living as a prisoner in a cell. Irina looked forward to his business trips away as they allowed her weeks of respite, when she was able to be herself once more. 

Irina often felt that her husband’s behaviour was her fault and believed his promises that he would change. Three years prior to the interview he hit her after he had been drinking, and although she called the police, she decided not to press charges as she wanted to give him one more chance. The turning point for Irina came in March 2015 when her husband became aggressive in front of friends. After searching on the internet, she realised she was experiencing domestic abuse. She gathered together her most important documents and belongings and left them in a backpack with her neighbour. From there she rang Women’s Aid who put her in touch with the local specialist domestic abuse service. She continued to live with him until he went on a business trip the following week. It was at this time Irina decided that she needed to file for divorce: she ‘wanted respect and a healthy relationship’ and did not want to stay with ‘this monster’ anymore. After she told him she wanted a divorce he became angry and abusive, bombarding her with texts and emails. 

Irina is currently attending the Freedom Programme and a support worker from the local domestic abuse organisation has been helping her with the practical side of moving on, for example, how to apply for child tax credit. Her GP has also supported her by providing a letter to assist her in applying for legal aid.


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