Hello. I’d like to tell you about my experience of domestic abuse. I still don’t think it’s properly understood and I’m sure there are lots of men and women going through similar experiences.
One thing I want to get across is that it can happen to anyone, age, education, career, religion, gender, rich or poor, domestic abuse has no boundaries.
I work for Gwent Police. Ironic, isn’t it? You wouldn’t think that someone who works for the police would fall prey to domestic abuse, but that’s just it. It can happen to anyone. And for people in professional occupations it can be easy to mask the reality.
I knew early on that my other half was a bully, but by then it was already too late, I was caught in the circle of abuse. And because of having a job and a mortgage and so on, I didn’t think I would be entitled to any housing or whatever to help me leave. Working for the police didn’t help either. I was being subjected to emotional and psychological abuse – no physical violence, no injuries to show anyone. And I knew my partner only equated physical abuse as domestic abuse, there was no understanding of the emotional, controlling manipulation as being abusive. When we were (rarely) in company, he put on a very good show that we had a loving, perfect relationship. So who was going to believe me that I felt trapped and no control in my life? I did speak to certain supervisors, I was given counselling, I was put on anti-depressants by my GP. When I told my partner I had been prescribed anti-depressants, the response was “I don’t want you on tablets. You can manage without them”.
I put up with it for years. Then I hit my personal rock bottom. I needed to get that low to realise I needed help. And although I had acknowledged that I was a victim of domestic abuse to myself, I had never uttered those words to another person, because I knew once they were said they couldn’t be taken back. It wouldn’t be my secret any more. Realistically, my colleagues had known what was going on, but didn’t signpost me to anyone to get support. So, at my rock bottom, I was talking to a professional. I was describing what my life was like, and I heard myself say “It’s domestic abuse. I know it is.” That person did the best thing they could ever have done. They told me about Phoenix DAS, but there was no pressure to do anything. There was no reflex reaction to get me out of the situation. What sold it to me was how they said I could go to Phoenix DAS and get some support, whether it was to help me cope with the current situation or if I wanted to make any changes. I agreed for them for make a referral and within a very short space of time I was talking to my support worker. Again, there was no pressure to do anything, we had a conversation, I was asked lots of questions, which ultimately led me to the conclusion that I needed to get out.
I told my work colleagues and supervisors what was going on, that I was planning on moving out and things might get messy. I couldn’t have asked for better support at this point. I was also told about the new legislation that had come into effect, controlling and coercive behaviour. Legislation that was perfect to deal with what I had been putting up with for years. I chose not to make a complaint under the legislation, partly because of my job, but mostly because I thought it would make a bad situation even worse. However, the legislation is effective and if you recognise that you are being controlled and manipulated, I would urge you to speak to someone you trust and report it to the police. In terms of Gwent Police, when I needed the help and support, it was there, and still is. The organisation is getting better at dealing with domestic abuse in all its forms.
Phoenix DAS helped me through the process. I joined the Dignity program. I stayed with the program until I was strong enough to manage on my own. I have “graduated” now. It has been hard and there are many challenges still ahead, but I know I can deal with them. On my own. With Phoenix as a safety net if I have a wobble. Despite it being the worst time of my life, it has turned out to be the best. I am far happier, without a doubt I made the right decision.