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EDITIONS
Friday, 14 February, 2003, 02:23 GMT
'I kept the beatings secret for years'
Lorraine suffered regular beatings from her partner for eight years before telling anybody. To the outside world they were the perfect happy couple with three young children, but here she tells of the secret life she endured for so long.

I met my partner when I was 19. I came from a really good strong family and thought everybody was as great as my Dad.

My partner was very caring, very attentive in the beginning, the clown really, the person that everybody thought was the funny guy. Our relationship progressed fairly quickly and within two years we had our first child.

What made me call the police that night? Maybe it was the sight of cleaning up my own blood

Lorraine
It was really during my first pregnancy things began to go wrong.

By the time I was eight months pregnant, we'd been having a few problems, things that I put down to the stress of having a baby.

On this occasion, we'd been out for the evening. He decided I had been looking at another man and when we got home it ended in a fight.

I was punched, kicked and had a glass ashtray chucked at me which cut my head.

The next day my partner explained it away, saying he'd 'just lost control', he was worried about being a father and that nothing like that would ever happen again.

The last thing I wanted to do was think about becoming a single mother before our life as a family had even begun. So I just let it go.

Cycle of violence

When my child came, I still had the bruises. I didn't want to be asked about them so I covered them up during my labour and made sure I bathed myself. I literally told myself that this was it, a new child, a new beginning, everything was going to be fine.

But weeks later he beat me and I was in the same position again.

It became far more frequent and I was very, very frightened of him. People have asked me why I didn't just leave, but my partner made lots of threats to me which he always carried out.

To the outside world we were the perfect family

Lorraine

One of the threats would be 'If you ever leave me, I know where to find you and I'll never settle until you're six foot under', and because he'd done everything else that he'd ever threatened I had no reason to believe that this wasn't just another threat that he'd carry out.

So you get to the point where you live with it, it becomes a normal pattern of your life, you adapt, you cope, you hide it.

To the outside world we were the perfect family. Even my parents didn't know, they thought he was a really good person and literally it went on like that for eight years.

Final straw

The night I had my partner arrested was the first time I had ever told anybody anything that was going on but I was getting to the end point.

My partner had also been having an affair that he waved in front of my face. He would say if I was a better person he wouldn't have to do it. If I looked better, if I wasn't as fat, wasn't as ugly, he wouldn't have to see somebody else, and I was getting to the point where I thought 'this can't go on, what are you teaching your children?'

Poll findings
  • Domestic violence acceptable if partner has been unfaithful 30%
  • Domestic violence acceptable if partner nags 27%
  • I really don't know what it was that evening that made me decide to call the police but I always say it was the sight of cleaning up my own blood. I had done it many times before but it just hit me how normal it had become and I just thought, no, that is enough, today is the day you've got to do something about this.

    My partner was in the front room with the children and I couldn't use the telephone without arousing his suspicions. So I crept out the back door and ask a neighbour to call. Her initial response was 'Who has assaulted you?' She never even thought it might be my partner.

    Harrowing wait

    Those minutes waiting for the police to arrive were the most harrowing, because once you've made that call you start backtracking and thinking, 'what have I done? maybe he'd have calmed down later, things would have got back to normal and what if they don't believe me?'

    Common problem
    1 in 4 women will experience Domestic Violence during her adult life. (Council of Europe 2002)

    But they did turn up. Of course the children were hysterical, two policemen there to take their daddy away when five minutes away he'd been reading them a bedtime story.

    It turned quite nasty because he looked at me and said 'There's nothing going on here is there?' and I half felt like saying 'No there isn't, there must have been some mistake.' But I knew this was my perfect opportunity and when I actually said I did want him arrested he went crazy.

    The police asked if they could phone somebody to come and sit with me but no-one knew so they called my mum. Again, she thought somebody had broken into the house and assaulted me and to know it was my own partner was a big shock for her.

    The 12 months after I left my partner were not good months for me. I lived in fear - I was stalked, harassed, but at least people knew, and it was out in the open and I could talk about it.

    Moving on

    And I made a definite decision that I was not going to hide it any longer, I was going to tell family, friends, the school because I'd hidden it for so long and for me that was the first road back.

    A lot of women aren't frightened of going to court but they are frightened of what their partner is going to do to them afterwards

    Lorraine

    I did go through the courts and he was charged with assault and breach of the peace. I nearly dropped it a couple of times and I can quite understand why a lot of cases don't get to court.

    I have no contact with my former partner now, but it's still painful at times, particularly when you realise what your children had to go to through.

    But I'm not bitter about what happened. I used to find it difficult to see how I could ever move on but your life doesn't have to finish there.

    I now work supporting other women going through the same kinds of experiences and by speaking at conferences and discussion groups on domestic violence.

    Doing this makes me realise what a long way I've come.

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