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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 June, 2003, 16:10 GMT 17:10 UK
'I thought abuser would kill me'
The government is proposing new legislation to encourage women to testify against their partners who are abusing them.

But will the proposals, which include giving anonymity to victims of violence and introducing a register of offenders, make any difference? BBC News Online's Jane Grove spoke to a victim of domestic violence.


Gabbi Millar was beaten black and blue by her former husband for four years before she finally got the courage to leave.

"I really thought after the final beating that he would kill me the next time," she said.

The 41-year-old said her husband had shown no signs of being a violent man before their wedding.

"But two weeks after I got married it started, I can't even remember what the row was about now. He was an alcoholic and would flare up at anything."

Assault
One in four women will experience domestic violence
On average, a woman will be assaulted by her partner or ex-partner 35 times before reporting it to the police
Two women each week are killed by either their partner or ex-partner

Now the manager of a women's refuge, Gabbi said at the time of her abuse, she had thought she was to blame.

"Now I realise he was the one to blame, it wasn't me, that I wasn't the odd one out, that there were other people like me also suffering."

Gabbi said she was regularly abused and was hospitalised three times after particularly severe beatings.

"He would strangle me and stab me with forks and knives. When he was drinking, I wasn't allowed to go to sleep, I had to stay awake with him. It was sleep deprivation, something which happens a lot to victims of domestic violence."

Raped

Gabbi said she was also raped.

"I was too scared of him to say anything to anyone, and he didn't let me have any friends, anyway. He controlled my life. He would drink away all the income support money so I would have to go shoplifting to get baby food."

During a period of 18 months, the police were called to the family home 36 times by Gabbi or worried neighbours who heard her cries for help.

During their four years together, he was jailed three times for assault, actual bodily harm and grievous bodily harm.

I would advise anyone to get out the first time it happens, not suffer four years of absolute hell like I did - the level of violence only ever gets worse
Gabbi Millar
Domestic violence victim

Gabbi said she had stayed with her former husband because she was afraid of what he might do if she left, but finally she could take the abuse no longer.

She and her son, who was 15 months old at the time, were put into a safe house by social services, but Gabbi's husband tracked her down and beat her up again.

It was then she went to a women's refuge in Southend and changed her name so he could not find her. After that, things started to get better.

"I've turned my life around," she said.

"I have married again and my son is fine now. Although he never suffered physical abuse, he did have behavioural problems. All he ever saw was me being punched and kicked so he used to do the same thing to me, but he doesn't do that anymore."

Anonymity

Gabbi said her former husband has since been jailed for life for murder.

"I was right to get out. I really did think he would end up killing me. I would advise anyone to get out the first time it happens, not suffer four years of absolute hell like I did. The level of violence only ever gets worse."

Last year, of the 72 women who came to the refuge she works at, only two went to court and only one conviction resulted.

The new proposals by the government to give victims anonymity in court would encourage women to testify against their partners, Gabbi said.

"Women are afraid of reprisals. Often they have to testify against the perpetrators and it is very traumatic for them. Anonymity could really help.

"If there was also a register of offenders who have been ordered to stay away from their victims, and if breaking an injunction for non molestation is made a criminal rather than a civil offence, this could help too," she said.

"Every woman has the right to live free from violence in her own home."


SEE ALSO:
Scale of domestic abuse uncovered
18 Feb 03  |  UK News


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