Women’s experiences of Domestic Violence and Abuse

Shaina

Age at interview: 32

Brief outline: Shaina made friends with a local Caribbean man and their relationship developed over two years. Following the birth of her first child, she endured ten year of violent behaviour from her partner who used drugs, engaged in numerous affairs with male partners and smashed up their house. Shaina talks about a general lack of awareness of domestic violence and a consistent lack of support from the police. She finally received help when her GP referred her to the local Domestic Violence and Abuse Agency.

Background: Shaina is a 32 year old single woman with mixed French and Mauritian origin. She lives in a privately rented house with her three children aged ten, eight and six years, and works part-time as a school lunchtime supervisor.

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Shaina met her Caribbean partner locally and they were friends for two years before their relationship began after he was robbed and attacked in connection with drugs. He promised to give up drugs if they got together. While completing her University course, Shaina became pregnant and the couple moved in together. Shaina describes trust issues arising and alarm bells ringing soon after the birth of her daughter. Her partner regularly stayed out till the early hours of the morning and showed little interest in his family, preferring to play with a games console. If questioned he would violently smash property.

Physical violence towards Shaina herself began when she asked his whereabouts after he had lied to her. The attack was witnessed by family members who called the police, but Shaina feels that ‘domestic violence wasn’t really taken as seriously as what it is now’. Her partner was removed for two weeks but he returned, apologetically being ‘Mr Goody-Two-Shoes’. Violence followed by apparent remorse became a pattern that Shaina endured over ten years. Each incident she ‘swept under the carpet’ as she wasn’t really ‘clued up about domestic violence’, and thought his behaviour was ‘normal’. Her sister was aware of the situation but did not know what to do to help.

As Shaina wanted to avoid her children having a ‘broken family’, they attended couple counselling and stayed together. The ‘final straw’ for Shaina came when he had numerous affairs with male partners, which led to her suffering two bouts of sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs). With the help of a neighbour, she eventually turned him out of the house after a violent attack. She visited her GP for help with depression and was referred for counselling at the local Domestic Violence and Abuse Agency, where she finally learned about domestic violence and how to be strong.

Shaina still experiences ongoing harassment. Altogether, her ex has been convicted three times for violent offences but has received light sentences. Shaina has felt consistently un-supported by the police. She is now in the process of ‘rebuilding herself completely’. She feels strongly that there should be more general awareness of domestic violence and abuse and she is setting up, via the local council, a peer support group for women who are or have been in abusive relationships.

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