Women’s experiences of Domestic Violence and Abuse

Penny

Age at interview: 62

Brief outline: A worker from the local specialist domestic abuse service helped Penny to recognise that her partner was abusive. However, it was a message from his previous partner to ‘get out’ of the relationship that actually motivated her to leave him five years ago. She is now in a new, healthy relationship.

Background: Penny, a white British semi-retired nurse, lives alone in her privately owned home. She has no children.

Audio & video

Penny met her ex-partner, a ‘charming’ and initially ‘pleasant’ man, in 2002. He was always helpful and patient with her elderly father. It was two years into their eight year relationship that he started to become ‘really nasty’ when they were alone, belittling and criticising her behaviour and interactions with others. As the relationship progressed she realised that he did not contribute financially and was ‘sponging off her’. He made her feel guilty if she wasn’t spending time with him and on several occasions he raped her. Her confidence was badly affected. 

Six years into the relationship she knew that she should leave him. However, with the recent death of her father and suffering from depression she felt that it would be too much of a struggle to start on her own again. Around this time she became anxious and visited her GP, as she recognised that she was drinking in excess as a reaction to the stress of her relationship. Penny felt let down when the GP didn’t listen to her and instead attributed the drinking to be the cause of her stress, rather than the relationship. 

In 2009, still experiencing low mood and disturbed sleep, Penny disclosed to a different GP that she was being bullied by her partner. This GP immediately referred her to a local specialist domestic abuse service. With their understanding and encouragement, Penny started to recognise that she was experiencing domestic abuse and with time began to make a move towards leaving the relationship. During this period she also benefited from the support of her GP, who helped her to manage her depression using anti-depressants. 

It was an email from her friend that contained a message from her partner’s ex-girlfriend to ‘get out’ of the relationship that finally motivated Penny to actually walk away from him. She ‘felt like a fool’, questioning how she, an intelligent woman, could have been taken in by his charm. 

After leaving, Penny was harassed and stalked by her ex-partner; she changed the front-door locks. Frightened, she contacted the police to make a statement, however did not feel able to proceed and prosecute due to the emotional consequences of doing so. 
Despite initially feeling unsure about starting a new relationship, Penny has met a new partner: a ‘very gentle’ and ‘lovely’ man. Her confidence has greatly improved and she no longer takes antidepressants.

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