Women’s experiences of Domestic Violence and Abuse

Jacqui

Age at interview: 59

Brief outline: Jacqui’s husband subjected her to physical, verbal, emotional and financial abuse. His escalating violence motivated her to disclose to her GP about the cause of her serious injuries. They referred her to a local Domestic Violence and Abuse Agency and with the help of a support worker she started to make the preparations needed to leave the relationship.

Background: Jacqui is a white British, single, retired nurse with two adult children. She moved into a council rented flat three years ago after leaving an abusive marriage.

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During her 16 year marriage Jacqui’s husband subjected her to alcohol fuelled physical abuse. The violence towards her that had started with an occasional slap or push escalated to aggressive behaviour that inflicted serious harm, for example broken ribs. Jacqui also experienced financial, verbal and emotional abuse. Her husband’s words and behaviour made her feel stupid, small and unworthy. She became depressed and engaged in self-harm, cutting her arms with razors in an attempt to release the pain inside.

Over the years that they were together Jacqui became increasingly isolated. Her parents disliked her husband and she lost contact with her children after they became frustrated with her for staying in an abusive marriage. At work, Jacqui lied to colleagues about the cause of her bruises as she was ashamed about what was happening to her and did not think that they would understand. This, coupled with her husband’s control over who they saw in their social interactions, further restricted her social network. 

Although recognising that she was in an abusive marriage, Jacqui was initially reluctant to leave and walk away from the material things that she had built up around her during their years together. However it was the escalation of violence that led her to become aware of the permanent damage that her husband was capable of inflicting. Fear for her own life motivated her to finally seek help. She told her GP about the cause of the serious damage to her back. The GP put her in contact with a local Domestic Violence and Abuse Agency where she was allocated a support worker who began to help her with the practical aspects of preparing to leave the relationship. 

A few months later when Jacqui made the decision to leave the marriage she walked out with nothing. Her support worker helped her to access some basic belongings for her new flat, such as a bed and cooker, through local charities. After leaving, she also received the support of the local police community support officer who provided her with a personal attack alarm and helped to increase the physical security of her new home. 

The first year after leaving the relationship was a ‘real adjustment period’ for Jacqui. During this time she had to re-learn how to make her own decisions and regain her independence (for example, paying her own bills and eating what she wanted to). Three years on Jacqui remains highly suspicious of men and unannounced visitors to her home can evoke feelings of anxiety. However, freedom from the control of her husband has allowed Jacqui time to return to being the ‘strong woman’ she once was. Her depression has lifted and she fills her days with activities. She now volunteers at a luncheon club, helps out with the local domestic abuse organisation and is a research advisor at the local University. She has increased her social network and has started to rebuild the relationship with her children. Jacqui is determined that her ex-husband will not hold her back from enjoying the rest of her life and she is motivated to tell other women that ‘there is life after domestic abuse’.

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