Don’t put on a brave face

LIVING IN FEAR: Women suffer around 35 assaults before seeking help for domestic violence. Picture posed by models.

LIVING IN FEAR: Women suffer around 35 assaults before seeking help for domestic violence. Picture posed by models.

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ON average, a woman is assaulted more than 30 times before she makes her first call for help.

Loneliness and isolation are often the main reasons why victims continue to suffer in silence, forced to remain in the possessive clutches of their violent partner.

The other reason is love, many say they still love their partner, no matter how violent they have become or the emotional, psychological or sexual torment they are subjected to.

One victim, who lived on the Fylde coast for two years with her abusive partner, the father of her two children, explained how difficult it is to find the strength to walk away.

She said: “Looking back, I can see what a lonely time it was, what a sheltered life I was living, in a world dominated by him and his threats and demands.

“But finding the strength to walk away is tough. They isolate you, they make you feel you have done something wrong, and the main thing is fear, fear of what will they do next.

“These people make sure you don’t have a social life. They make sure you are removed from your friends and family.

“You give them everything, you give up your life and you love them, they lull you into a false sense of security by being loving and caring at the start of the relationship.”

During their six years together, the victim, who did not want to be named, suffered physical and emotional abuse.

The woman, in her 30s, said she was made to feel worthless, constantly threatened with violence, and towards the end of their relationship was pushed over, throttled, and on one occasion forced off the road when he rammed into her car.

At one point, after becoming involved with drugs, her partner went on the run from police, and on several occasions forced her to bring his two children to meet him in secret locations, despite the threat of police intervention.

She said: “He became more controlling when I became pregnant with our first child, constantly asking where I was and who I was with.

“He would phone me and ask me what I was doing. I would tell him I was in the park, and minutes later he would be there. I think the warning signs were there. For a long time I didn’t want him to move in with me, I kept ‘forgetting’ to get a spare key cut, but I liked the idea of having a family life.

“He told me how much he loved me, so in the end I caved in and let him move in.

“I was soon pregnant with my second child, and that is when his behaviour became really irrational and threatening.

“I had two children to look after, but he didn’t care about that, everything had to revolve around him. It was miserable.”

She is urging other women in her position to find the strength to seek help from the police or other organisations such as Women’s Aid. She added: “You have to be strong, when I met him he was up in court facing charges of harassment made by his former partner – he said she had exaggerated everything.

“I even went to court with him, but he pleaded guilty so all the evidence wasn’t read out. He kept telling me I was the family he wanted and I believed him, at that point I was still my old confident self – I was happy to believe him.

“But it was all lies, and after years of abuse it got to the point where I already felt dead, so the fear of death didn’t really mean much any more. That is when I told the police.

“They were brilliant, all his lies about the children being taken off me just weren’t true, everyone has given me endless support, that continues today.

“If just one person reads this and picks up the phone then I have done something through my strength.”

A Safer Lancashire campaign was launched this week by Lancashire police and partner agencies, and aims to reassure women they can break free from abuse.

County Coun David Smith, community safety lead for Lancashire County Council, said: “Domestic abuse is much more common than most people realise and sadly, on average, a woman is assaulted 35 times before asking for help. It can happen at any stage of a relationship and is very rarely a one-off.

“One in four women will suffer domestic abuse at some stage in their lives.”

Det Supt Ian Critchley, head of Lancashire Police’s public protection unit, said: “Domestic abuse can devastate families and relationships and all of us at Safer Lancashire are committed to providing victims with the help and support they deserve.”

The national Domestic Violence Helpline can be contacted 24 hours a day, seven days a week, on 0808 2000 247. Contact police on 101, or 999 in an emergency.