Women’s experiences of Domestic Violence and Abuse

Tanya

Age at interview: 45

Brief outline: Tanya first met her husband when she was 21. They married in 2001 when she was 31, by which time they had three children. Throughout their relationship, her husband was verbally, emotionally and physically abusive to Tanya and also to their children, especially to their daughter. Tanya and her husband were together for 20 years in total and although she left him in 2012, he has refused to sign the divorce papers – so four years later she is still legally married to him.

Background: Tanya is a 45 year old white British woman who lives with her three children in a rented home. Educated to degree level, Tanya works part-time and also volunteers for a domestic violence and abuse charity.

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The abuse Tanya experienced started early in the relationship with a slap because she was talking to some young men in the pub. The abuse was mostly emotional and verbal at first although her husband would also punch holes in the walls, often right next to Tanya’s head in order to terrify her. He would smash things in the house, including a piece of pottery that Tanya had made herself and the living room table. He would also restrain her physically by grabbing at her wrists. If she was left with bruises, he would say this was her own fault for trying to move away or to resist, and that she must bruise easily. He would also tell her that if she was hurt, then she was hurting herself by trying to get away. For a while Tanya believed these lies. 

After seven years, Tanya left her husband because he had bruised her spine by dragging her downstairs. However, she was not able to get any professional support after leaving, she still loved him, and they had children together. So, after ten months apart, Tanya went back to him. 

At times, the abuse would happen in front of the children. When her twins were about six years old, he told them that ‘your mum is a whore’. He also emotionally and physically abused their daughter, by twisting everything she said and, on one occasion, pushing her out of the door and leaving her out in the rain and the dark for half an hour. Tanya wanted to let her daughter back into the house but was too scared of what else her husband might do. Tanya was isolated from her friends and family in a small rural village close to his family but away from her own family and friends, in Ireland. 

Her husband forced her to hand over any money she had so he could go to the pub, leaving Tanya and the children without things they needed. He used to verbally abuse her, keep her awake and force her to have sex when she didn’t want to. Tanya began to sleep in her daughter’s room in order to protect them both.

The final straw for Tanya was when her husband severely battered their daughter, and threatened to kill Tanya if she told anyone. However, by talking to a teacher at the school and her GP, she went into a women’s refuge with the children, escaping from the house while her husband was asleep after getting very drunk. Once they had reached the refuge, they did not stay there long before being offered support from friends who also helped with the court process and with getting a court order to ensure that Tanya and her children were protected from her husband. 

Since leaving, Tanya and the children have been able to move closer to her own family and so are able to access more support. However, they are all struggling to deal with the impact of the violence. Her daughter became violent towards Tanya but after receiving support from Child and Adolescent Mental Health (CAMHS) and from a Targeted Youth Support Worker, things have improved. Tanya has had support and counselling, through the Freedom Programme, and a housing action group. 

Tanya now feels much more positive about her situation, and believes that self-healing is possible. She now feels strong enough to be able to provide support to others and is volunteering for an organisation providing domestic abuse mentoring and counselling.

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