Women’s experiences of Domestic Violence and Abuse

Min

Age at interview: 47

Brief outline: Min survived an early relationship with a physically abusive boyfriend. She went on to marry twice and experienced coercive control, financial and sexual abuse, and a form of psychological abuse known as ‘gas-lighting’ where her partner twisted information leading her to doubt her own sanity. (Video clips played by an actor.)

Background: Min is a 47 year old mixed race single woman living with her four children in a privately rented home in a rural area. She works as a Pilates teacher, alongside her training to become a lawyer and is engaged in consciousness raising about domestic violence and abuse.

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Min’s first boyfriend of seven years was possessive and physically abusive. Despite family and friends telling her to leave she stayed in the relationship because he threatened to kill himself if she tried to leave. She eventually left following a pregnancy termination.

Following a number of happy but short-lived relationships, Min got married to a man 20 years her senior who she described as ‘very charming’. They split up temporarily when Min found she was pregnant and she refused to go ahead with the termination that he had arranged for her. They re-united when the baby was born and lived happily in France for some time. On their return, her husband was out of work and began to bully and gas-light Min. This played into her biggest fear of being diagnosed with a mental illness, which had happened to a close family member. The abusive behaviour came to a head after the birth of their second child when her husband made a false allegation of child abuse against Min. Min was sectioned and assessed by a team of psychiatrists who pronounced her sane. This led to extended Child Protection procedures and assessments before Min was reunited with her children, and the marriage ended.

Following another interlude of a happy relationship Min eventually met her second husband, who relapsed into drug use when she became pregnant. The relationship was often violent and controlling, including sexual coercion and rape. After they separated he continued to control her by attempting to get her diagnosed as mentally ill, breaking into her house and smashing up her property. During one incident, Min accidently severed her carotid artery on a piece of broken glass but he did not help her. Instead her teenage son dialled 999 and helped the paramedics to keep Min alive by holding a clamp to her wound.

Min was referred to a Domestic Violence and Abuse Agency by the police and now she volunteers, to support other women living through domestic violence and abuse. She reports that she can talk to her GP about domestic abuse but feels that she is ‘absolutely lovely and totally and completely clueless’. She urges medical professionals to identify over-emotional, anxious stressed women and recognise that they are not mentally ill but are traumatised and often sleep-deprived. She feels that ‘immediate availability’ of help from support services was lacking when she needed it.

Min reports being on friendly terms now with her first husband, the father of three of her children, but she is engaged in an ongoing legal battle over her second husband’s contact with their daughter. She reflects on the difficulty of talking to others about domestic abuse which she used to describe as her ‘dirty secret’.

Following the portrayal of coercive control in a marriage on a popular radio series which generated a huge response via Twitter and Facebook, Min, using her personal experience as a survivor and as a Litigant in Person is now supporting women in similar situations worldwide using telephone and email. (Video clips played by an actor.)

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