Page last updated at 05:22 GMT, Tuesday, 14 March 2006

'I walked away and started again'

Domestic violence (generic)
Leaving a violent relationship can be incredibly difficult, as victims of domestic violence testify.

Fiona, who is now 48, moved away from her family and friends to live in a different city.

But she only found the courage to do so after a manager at work intervened.

I'm still in the position where I have not seen him since I left, and I don't want to see him again. I don't want him to come along and mess up my life.

He said if he couldn't have me, no-one else could, and he threatened to kill me.

I met him at college. I was very young and very naive.

As time went on the beatings got worse, the violence got worse

He said he was madly in love with me after a couple of days - I felt this was wonderful. But that was the start of the possessiveness. Even in the time we were going out, he was violent to me. I believed I could change him.

My self-esteem was very low when I met him, and when confronted by this person who was so jealous and possessive, I thought that showed how much he cared.

Throughout the marriage, I worked in a bank, he had a number of jobs and progressively had a worsening alcohol problem.

The signs of domestic violence were there but I'd tried to hide it

As time went on, the beatings got worse, the violence got worse. Each time he did it he said: 'I promise it will never happen again.'

I'm an intelligent woman. I thought: 'How am I allowing it to happen?' I was hiding it, telling lies about having black eyes and bruises.

I was working at two jobs. He was out drinking and I was trying to get money, I was running up debts.

Beatings

I was a cashier in a bank and my employer started to notice I was getting into trouble with money. My manager pulled me in - I was overdrawn and you weren't allowed to do that. The signs of domestic violence were there, but I'd tried to hide it.

The one thing that kept me going was my job. I fed off that. I looked forward to Monday morning and dreaded the weekend.

Things were starting to get bad with the beatings. I ended up at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary Severe Head Injuries ward.

My employer got involved because I had the keys to the bank. The hospital wouldn't take responsibility for them, so I had to give them the name of my manager, but I told the hospital I didn't want to see him. Something must have twigged in his head, though, and he was insistent on seeing me.

When he saw me, he couldn't believe it. I said: 'Please don't tell anyone.'

He said: 'Do you want your parents to know?' and I said, 'Please, don't.'

But he took it out of my hands. My parents were very straight, the kind who say: 'You've made your bed, you must lie on it.' They had no idea. My mother took me back to the marital home and tried to get me to sit down with him and work it out.

I didn't feel protected. I had so few friends.

I realised the next time I was beaten, he would have killed me

That was when there was involvement from my employer. He got someone from human resources to come up from London, and come to see me.

I remember the lady, she sat and talked to me and said: 'When the time is right, when you're ready to go, give me a call and we'll transfer you anywhere in the country.'

It was that kind of practical help - they didn't want to know the ins and outs, they offered me a practical way out.

My manager offered me the chance to go and see a solicitor. Over the next three months, I realised the next time I was beaten, he would have killed me. I suddenly realised I couldn't change him, it would carry on if I stayed and there was an opportunity to get away from it.

So I rang the lady from HR and said: 'I'm ready now. My time has come.'

She said: 'It will take time to find a placement but wait and we'll do it.'

Three months after that, I was told on the Wednesday I had a new job to go to on the Monday.

I had borrowed money and paid off the debts. I left everything.

There are lots of ways employers can help - if they have a policy and procedure

I got on a plane and flew to London, arrived with nowhere to stay. I found a hostel, got myself in there and got myself to work on the Monday.

I walked away and started again - it was the only way I would be safe.

I recently managed to contact the guy who was my manager and we spoke last week.

He said he had had no idea what to do. He had never had the training - he wanted to help, but knew from a professional point of view, he could only do so much.

There are lots of ways employers can help - if they have a policy and procedure. I was really lucky because the bank had places for me to go.

It was 20 years ago - it's taken me this long to tell my story.

It's an embarrassment for women, because they will be seen as weak in the workplace, and showing some form of weakness is a problem. People don't want to talk about it - and part of the problem is that people won't talk about it, because it's got such a stigma.

Since then, I've done all sorts of things, including an MBA, and worked hard and started my own business a couple of years ago. The message is, there is a life outside and you can build yourself up.


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