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EDITIONS
Monday, 24 June, 2002, 16:52 GMT 17:52 UK
'Law must change' - abuse survivor
A woman
Domestic violence kills one woman every three days
Gaby was physically abused by her partner for four years and still carries the scars two years since she fled their home to a refuge.

Her partner was jailed three times for attacking her and each time he was freed he returned to torment and abuse her once more.

The 40-year-old, who had a son with him, said she thought she would never be free because of legal loopholes and lenient sentences.


I cannot tell you what it takes to make that call to seek help and get out of the violent situation

Gaby Millar, abuse survivor
Gaby, who has since changed her name and remarried, welcomed the initiatives suggested by Solicitor General, Harriet Harman, on Monday to protect victims of domestic violence.

Ms Harman, at a conference of Crown Prosecution Service experts, said changes to the law could include anonymity for victims and an extension of injunction order powers.

She also called for tougher sentencing and a co-ordinated approach to the problem with agencies combining their work.

"The law has to be changed," Gaby said.

Agency help

"There were times even in the refuge when I put myself and my son under house arrest because my ex-partner had been let back out on the streets.

"I cannot tell you what it takes to make that call to seek help and get out of the violent situation.

"Then the law seems to give your tormentor the benefit of the doubt and put your life at risk."

Gaby's ex-partner was put in prison for the third time for attacking her once again but was let out on bail shortly afterwards to take part in an anger-management course.


I was stabbed with forks and strangled until I was unconscious

Gaby Millar
As Gaby predicted, he skipped the course and bail and went on the run for three weeks - leaving her in fear of her life while she was staying in a refuge.

She welcomed measures listed by Ms Harman for agencies such as social services and the police to pool their information.

"The police were called 12 times to my home in 18 months - there are things they saw first hand which other agencies did not," she said.

"Social workers would come around and not pick up on bruises and emotional problems because there was no medical evidence.

"Of course my attacker would not let me go to a hospital or doctor without him - if at all."

Gaby was consistently battered by her attacker.

"I was stabbed with forks and strangled until I was unconscious," she said. "I have a gash inside my head, a hole where the sinus has been detached from his attacks and in the past a broken cheekbone, broken ribs and teeth.

'Feeling guilty'

"An abused woman is always made to feel so guilty and responsible for the attacker - but in the end I got out because I knew my son would grow up to be just like him."

Gaby said anonymity is one of the single most important things the law can offer victims.

"I have changed my name by deed poll and now remarried but the law will not allow me to change my national insurance number, which is not ideal.

"Or if I did [change it], claiming any benefits would take a crippling length of time."

But she also applauded suggestions to extend laws enforcing an injunction to prevent harassment.

"It was the harassment afterwards which was horrendous," she said.

"Death threats through mobile telephone text messages and promises to snatch our son.

"It never leaves you, I now work in the refuge, I know he cannot find me but I could not go back to looking over my shoulder again."

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