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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 January, 2004, 15:45 GMT
'Shame' of domestic violence victim
by Thelma Etim
BBC News Online

Domestic violence incident
Each year 120 women and 30 men are killed by current or ex-partners
A domestic violence survivor who was abused by her alcoholic female partner for four years says society still stigmatises victims.

Mother-of-three Jane, not her real name, believes people need to be educated about the trauma sufferers experience at the hands of their partners, which often leaves them feeling isolated.

The 38-year-old, from Winchester in Hampshire, said the shame and the guilt victims feel about their abuse stops them seeking help.

Jane's relationship changed for the worse after her partner suffered a breakdown and became violent.

She said: "I felt suicidal, I was ashamed that this was happening to me and I was allowing the abuse to continue with my children in the house."

Intolerable abuse

Charity worker Jane was married for 13 years to the father of her 10-year-old son and two daughters, aged seven and 13, before she embarked on her first gay relationship.

Jane met her unemployed partner on the gay social scene and allowed her to move into her home a week later.

But a year into the relationship, her partner had a breakdown due to bouts of depression she had suffered before she met Jane.

I picked up a domestic violence leaflet and identified that was me. It was a wake-up call that I was in denial
Jane decided to leave her job to look after her.

She said: "The relationship then became very abusive. She would drink alcohol from 3pm in the afternoon until late at night but would not admit to being an alcoholic.

"She would self-harm, taunt me and say I was a terrible mother and threaten to commit suicide. Then she started to hit me. "

Jane suffered regular violence at the hands of her partner - but she was also subjected to constant threats and verbal abuse.

Life at home became so intolerable for Jane's eldest child that she requested to be taken into care.

She added: "She told me she could not live at home anymore."

Jane took the first step towards leaving her abusive partner after reading a domestic violence leaflet.

She said: "I picked up a domestic violence leaflet and identified that was me. It was a wake-up call that I was in denial.

"There is still a stigma to domestic violence. People's attitudes need to change. It happens to women from all backgrounds. I would like to see more discussion about it and the raising of its profile."

Protection for women

Her comments follow the unveiling of more measures to protect victims in the new Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Bill.

Under the planned laws, suspected domestic violence offenders will face new court orders keeping them away from their partner.

The "stay away" orders will come into force whether somebody is found guilty or acquitted of violent crimes.

Ministers also want to prevent parents accused of killing their children from escaping prosecution if it cannot be shown which committed the crime.

It will cover gay couples and unmarried heterosexuals, as well as people who have never lived with their partners.

Just before Christmas, the government launched a 2m freephone domestic violence helpline with Comic Relief, Refuge and Women's Aid Federation of England.

It will provide access to 24-hour emergency refuge accommodation and an information service, including safety planning and translation facilities.

There were an estimated 635,000 incidents of domestic violence in England and Wales between 2001 and 2002, according to the British Crime Survey, with 81% of victims being women.

"Nobody deserves to live like this," added Jane.



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