Women’s experiences of Domestic Violence and Abuse

Linda

Age at interview: 59

Brief outline: Linda’s fifteen years marriage to a man who subjected her to physical, emotional and financial abuse ended last year when her ex smashed up the family home, took all her belongings and her money and left. Linda has found it very hard to speak out to anyone at all, despite numerous hospital visits when she made excuses for her bruises, as she felt such a ‘fool to be taken in’ by her ex.

Background: Linda is a 59 year old white British woman, separated from her British Caribbean husband. Her two daughters from a previous marriage and her four grandchildren live locally. Linda used to work as a University lecturer and as a manager of children’s services, but is now unable to work owing to severe health problems, Reactive Airways Dysfunction Syndrome and Osteochrondrosis.

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Seven years after the end of her first marriage to an ‘irresponsible’ musician, Linda was delighted to meet the ‘charming, helpful, lovely’ man who became her second husband after a three year relationship. Linda sold her family home and made a new start but describes the first year of marriage as ‘hell’. Within 3 months her husband was having an affair and the man she loved ‘turned into a monster’. He verbally abused Linda daily, saying how ugly she was, humiliating her, openly talking about his lover and taking her away for weekends. He also used the ‘power of silence’ not speaking a word to his wife for a month at a time.

Linda referred to her ex as ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ with un-predictable moods and the ability to be delightful to family and friends who never understood the reality of her life at home. She was ‘on eggshells’, with a full-time professional job and a constant fear of not pleasing her husband at home which would lead to violent physical attacks, including being thrown against the wall, down the stairs and beaten. She felt unable to leave him or report his behaviour as he threatened to burn down the home and harm her children. In between his numerous extra-marital affairs Linda describes period of calm, some lasting several years, when she ‘fell, hook, line and sinker’ for his promises of change.

Linda describes unsatisfactory dealings with the police who she secretly visited, covered in bruises, following one violent episode. The police were unable to photograph the evidence or help her until she had a medical report, which she was too fearful to get.

In the last few years of her marriage. Linda became ill, with numerous hospital in-patient stays, when her husband never visited her. Back home he became ‘cruel’ and taunted her with his likely financial gain if she were to die ‘in service’. He manipulated her finances, leaving her with no money. He left, after smashing up the house, because for the first time Linda had challenged him, objecting to his behaviour. The violent assault that ensued led to police involvement. 

Linda describes living in fear since he left, not knowing the whereabouts of her ex, whose last words to her were his determination to ensure her a life of poverty before he killed her at a time of his choosing, followed by her grandchildren. She remains fearful of having to face him in court in the near future. Her daughters, who had always relied on her to be ‘strong’ and capable are having difficulty in adjusting to the ‘neediness’ of their mum.

Linda has recently received help from Womens’ Aid and a counsellor, but feels her relationship with her daughters has suffered badly, owing to the abusive relationship. She has a court case pending to try and retrieve some of her money as she has no fixed home, moving between family, friends and temporary rented accommodation.

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