Women’s experiences of Domestic Violence and Abuse

Liz

Age at interview: 46

Brief outline: Liz is now divorced from her second husband who subjected her to physical abuse, controlling behaviour and harassment, as well as abusing their daughter aged seven. Liz did not recognise his behaviour as domestic abuse, since she grew up in a household where physical violence was prevalent. Liz is keen to increase awareness of domestic violence and abuse by speaking out in her workplace and through other networks and is keen to see better support services in place.

Background: Liz is a 46 year old, white British woman who is divorced and lives in her own home with her three children and stepson. She works full-time as a Tax Director for a large professional services company.

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Liz ‘escaped’ her childhood home where she was frequently hit by family members, by gaining a degree and accountancy training and getting married at the age of 21. She was married for 17 years to a man who was not abusive but had difficulty in communicating and showing empathy or emotion. They had two children and then Liz met a man with whom she had an affair and became pregnant with her third child. She stayed with her husband and they attended Relate couple counselling. However when her child was 18 months the marriage split up and Liz moved in with and subsequently married the father of her third child (a barrister).

Liz was highly motivated to make the marriage work but soon experienced controlling behaviour and emotional abuse from her husband who would frequently become extremely angry, damage property and call her names. Liz worked full-time in a demanding professional role but her husband expected her to carry out all the domestic tasks such as shopping, cooking and cleaning, but nothing she did was ever ‘good enough’. If she or the children challenged him he behaved in an angry threatening way. He often ‘went ballistic’, shouting, frightening the children and eventually resorting to physical abuse, hitting Liz and throwing her against the wall.

Despite calling the police on several occasions, Liz did not get the help she needed. She blamed herself, believing that it was up to her to be a ‘better wife’ so that her husband’s behaviour would change. His family re-inforced this view. 

Liz eventually discovered that her husband was having an affair but her attempts to talk about this and to work on improving their marriage led to increased violence and threatening behaviour so that Liz became frightened for her safety and that of her children. She ended the relationship after a particularly violent episode, and re-settled in her home from her first marriage. 

Liz then found out about the regular sexual abuse her husband had inflicted on their daughter. She took steps to safeguard herself and her children but felt completely un-supported by Social Services who took no action despite the evidence and vulnerability of the youngest. Liz was pro-active in gaining support from the NSPCC instead, and also had a referral via her GP to the local Domestic Violence and Abuse Agency. She is also engaged in long-term psychotherapy to gain a better understanding of what happened.

Liz feels strongly that services are not advertised or available for women when they most need them. She is fighting a legal battle with her husband who continues to harass her, and she has concerns for women who do not have the financial resources to fight for justice.

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