Women’s experiences of Domestic Violence and Abuse

Mandy

Age at interview: 37

Brief outline: During her three year relationship Mandy experienced emotional, verbal and sexual abuse. She ended the relationship in autumn 2014 after her boyfriend physically attacked her for the first time. However during the weeks and months that followed Mandy was subjected to a period of harassment. In 2015 her ex-boyfriend pleaded guilty in court to the physical assault, and as an injunction has been issued to prevent him from coming near her, Mandy has been able to start moving on with her life.

Background: Mandy is a white British woman who is educated to degree level. After a period off work with depression, she now works full-time and is currently living with her new partner and dogs.

Audio & video

Mandy was in an abusive relationship with a man who she initially thought of as a ‘totally charming’ and ‘normal northern working class lad’. She remembers how the emotional abuse ‘sneaked up’ on her, starting slowly and subtly. Her boyfriend was spiteful and would criticise her, and she recalls that whatever she did she was, in his eyes, always the one in the wrong. Although initially unable to see what was happening in her relationship, Mandy did know that she was no longer herself. She had become isolated, had stopped going to the gym, felt overweight, tired and was experiencing low self-worth. 

Three years after the relationship began Mandy visited her GP as she was feeling depressed, irritable, was not sleeping well and was struggling at work. Her GP prescribed anti-depressants and referred her to see a counsellor. It was during the counselling sessions that a ‘switch in [her] head’ was ‘flipped’ and Mandy began to realise that it was her boyfriend’s behaviour that was making her miserable. Mandy told us that seeing the counsellor ‘was the best thing [she] ever did’, because it helped her to open her eyes ‘to what was actually going on’. 

During their time together Mandy’s ex-boyfriend’s temper gradually got worse. She recalled a time when she had to ask him to stop during sex because he was hurting her, and of him reacting angrily to her request and not seeming to care that he had raped her. Mandy tried to end the relationship on several occasions. However, it finally ended in October 2014, after he physically assaulted her for the first time, grabbing her around the throat.

In the months that followed, Mandy’s ex-boyfriend struggled to let go, and he started to harass her with emails and text messages. Five months after they split up, she learnt that he had painted a declaration of his love for her and an apology, on motorway bridges close to her home. His actions attracted the attention of both social media, local and national news, who were keen to know who the woman was in the graffiti messages. His behaviour and the attention it attracted led to Mandy feeling ‘freaked’, ‘sick’, ‘vulnerable and exposed’. For many weeks she rarely left the house and kept her blinds shut. 

In 2015, Mandy’s ex pleaded guilty to physical assault. Because of this a court injunction was issued to keep him away from her and this has meant that for Mandy, ‘it’s pretty much been quiet since then’. At the time of interview Mandy had started to do more things for herself and spoke of how others had noticed that she seems much happier now. She feels calmer, has more energy and is in a new, healthy, relationship. Mandy wants other women who are living in an abusive relationship to tell somebody that they can trust about their situation. She wants them to know that there is help out there - whether it is from a GP, parent, colleague or trusted friend.

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