Women’s experiences of Domestic Violence and Abuse

Kanya

Age at interview: 41

Brief outline: Kanya met her husband when he was on holiday in Thailand. He returned to Thailand to marry her and the couple settled in England with Kanya’s nine year old son from a previous relationship. After five happy years, Kanya endured years of verbal and financial abuse from her husband who lost his job, drank heavily and controlled her behaviour. She eventually fled, alone, to a women’s refuge and then to a flat where her elder son joined her.

Background: Kanya is a 41 year old Thai woman, separated from her English husband after ten years of marriage. She lives with her adult son in a council flat. Her younger son lives with his father. Kanya is currently unable to work owing to health problems.

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Kanya left a controlling relationship in Thailand with a man who had numerous affairs. She described how it is ‘normal’ for Thai men to be dominant and controlling and for their wives to be respectful and stick by them. So when she met an English man, who initially treated her very well, she was ‘amazed’, and the envy of her friends and family.

Kanya describes her first five years in England with him as ‘amazing ... everything was good’. Verbal and financial abuse began when her husband lost his job and spent time at home. Kanya worked long hours as a waitress and her husband drank heavily. Kanya found out later that he had a history of alcoholism. She says ‘his personality changed’, he became easily upset and angry, swearing at her in front of the children and accusing her of seeing other men.

Kanya left for three months, sleeping in a garage behind the restaurant where she worked. She hoped to get somewhere for her and the children to live but Housing officers told her to return to her husband, as she was not eligible for housing without paperwork that she did not have; for example receipt of child benefit which was registered in her husband’s name. After returning, Kanya developed severe psoriasis which meant she lost her job. Following two suicide attempts, she went back, alone, to her family in Thailand. 

After three months, she came back to see her children and was offered a job in another town, where she planned to take her children. However the job was postponed, her husband threatened to throw her out of the house and threatened to kill her. She went to the police who gave her the contact details for Women’s Aid and she entered a refuge in another town, where she received help to find a flat. Her elder son came to join her there when his step-father started to blame him for the marriage breaking up. He is however, unable to work as he lost his passport and visa and they cannot afford a replacement. Kanya has contact with her younger son at weekends but feels concerned that he is heavily influenced by his father and is learning abusive forms of behaviour.

Kanya gets her support from a worker at a Women’s Aid One-Stop shop and feels strongly that there is not enough information available for women experiencing domestic abuse. Before she went to the refuge, although she confided in her doctor and had medication for depression, no-one could help her to get a place to live which was the main thing that kept her trapped in her marriage. Her message to other women is to be strong and confident so that they too can feel as ‘amazing’ as she now does having left the relationship.

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