Category Archives: Domestic abuse


[Courtesy of HealthTalk –]

From the age of 17 Nessa was in an emotionally abusive and controlling relationship with her children’s father. She also experienced physical abuse from a subsequent partner. Although the marks on her skin from the violent attacks she endured have faded, the psychological effects of the emotional abuse continue to impact on her sense of self.

Nessa experienced emotional-psychological abuse and controlling behaviour during her five year relationship with the father of her children. He made her feel unattractive and that no other man would want her because she had ‘stretch marks and two children’. Her partner dictated the clothes she wore, didn’t allow her to wear makeup and made it difficult for her to keep in touch with family and friends. She describes his behaviour as increasingly paranoid. She felt lonely and no longer knew who she was. Nessa ended the relationship after her father was diagnosed with terminal cancer and her partner tried to limit the time that she spent with him.

A few months later Nessa began a new relationship with an old friend. During this nine month relationship her partner subjected her to regular violent attacks. For example, pushing, slapping, head butting and hitting her with the metal buckle of his leather belt. This physical abuse often took place in front of her children. Nessa minimised and excused his behaviour to herself, friends and professionals (such as the police and social workers). It wasn’t until they broke up that she accepted that his behaviour was abusive and that what he had done ‘was really wrong’. This time, the trigger for the end of the relationship was the intervention of Social Services which followed a phone call she made to the police during one physical attack.

Two months on Nessa flinches all of the time, she doesn’t like men sitting too close to her and feels that she now has ‘trust issues’. Her confidence and self-esteem continue to be dented by her experiences of abuse. Her children, as witnesses to the abuse, are also affected. For example her daughter is wary of men and lacks confidence and her son sometimes displays violent behaviour, such as slapping and throwing things. However, her friends and family have been encouraging her to go out to pubs and clubs with them, which is helping to boost her confidence and both she and the children are feeling happier. Nessa has also found attending the Freedom Programme useful. It has helped her to realise that there are other women in the same situation and that she is not ‘the person to blame’ for everything that has happened to her.

Initially reluctant to have the involvement of Social Services, Nessa now accepts that her negative ideas about them were wrong. She continues to regularly receive support from her social worker and a support worker from the local domestic abuse service, who have helped her in many ways, such as providing a listening ear, arranging a place for her on the Freedom Programme, and helping her to access bereavement counselling.

Nessa wants to tell other women currently in an abusive relationship that ‘no matter how hard it is …there is a light at the end of the tunnel and just keep focusing on that light and try to get out of it, because it really, it really is worth it’.

Click here for audio and video with Nessa –

‘My wife said it was an accident when she poured two litres of scalding water over me’

Ken is a survivor of domestic abuse. In this video he tells us how what started off as verbal abuse soon turned into physical abuse.

One day, while sat at his computer, his wife poured the best part of two litres of scalding water over his head and back, leaving him with horrific scarring for the rest of his life.

Click on the below video to see Ken’s full story.

If you’re male and think you might be suffering domestic abuse, visit Men’s Advice Line for help and support, or you can call them on 0808 801 0327.


Do you feel as though you may just snap?

Almost a year ago to the day, on November 24, 2015, Matthew (not his real name) was asleep in bed when he suffered a vicious attack. The offender was his wife.

It was 4.59am when we received the 999 call from Sarah (not her real name) who stated there had been an incident with a knife.

We could hear a man in the background saying “why have you stabbed me?”

When we arrived at the house in Cambridge, we found Matthew with two deep stab wounds to his upper left shoulder, with blood across the bedding and floor, and a bloodied knife left on the desk.

Sarah was arrested on suspicion of causing grievous bodily harm (GBH).

In interview she was asked if she had stabbed her husband, to which she answered yes. She said she had smoked a couple of cannabis cigarettes and chatted to Matthew, all was quite normal and at about midnight they both went to bed and watched a DVD before falling asleep.

She then told us she woke up – she and Martin were squabbling around the bed for some 15 minutes when she recalled the sound of something being dropped on the floor, something she believed to be a knife.

She picked up the knife and was holding it, sat on the edge of the bed before she stabbed Matthew in the shoulder.

When asked why she had stabbed her husband, she said she wanted deflation, she wanted everything to stop and wanted to get away from Matthew and their marriage.

Five years ago Matthew had been diagnosed with depression and an anxiety disorder and struggled with his mental health. Sarah told us it had been hard to get her husband ‘back’ after this and wanted it all to stop – she couldn’t deal with his illness any longer.

Abusive behaviour can often be aggravated by the use of alcohol or drugs – if you are feeling as though you are struggling with a relationship and are worried one day you might snap, help is available in many different forms, whether it may be to work through the issues in your relationship, or to deal with any abusive or violent tendencies towards a partner or family member.

If you feel you need support, anger management guidance and courses are available from a variety of places, however the NHS website has lots of useful information.


JB’s story – Fighting for childhood: an NSPCC story

Mum made sure I had lots of happy memories growing up. One of my favourite days was spending time at a soft play centre and going down a slide really fast. I was six years old.

I have lots of sad memories too. All of them involve my dad. I didn’t feel very safe. Dad did lots of things that scared me. He would punch holes in walls and once kicked my brother’s door off the hinges because he wouldn’t let him into his bedroom.

I kept my feelings about what I’d seen at home to myself. School weren’t very helpful. They thought I had behavioural problems and sent me to a specialist who didn’t understand me.

My worst memory of growing up happened when I was nine years old. My dad was shouting really loud and calling my mum lots of really awful names. I saw him raise his hand to hit her and I was worried about what he’d do so I got in the middle to protect her and push him away. We moved out of the house that day and went to stay with my Nana.

I started to pretend to be ill at school so I could go home and be with mum. I was afraid that my dad would turn up and felt scared about what he’d do.

My school nurse asked Lynsey* from the NSPCC to come and see me. She talked to me about their Domestic Abuse: Recovering Together (DART) programme and how it might help me. Lynsey was the first person who spoke to me about the violence like an adult rather than a child.

At the first session I got to meet other young people who had seen the same things and had similar feelings. I started to feel a bit more normal and realised for the first time that I wasn’t alone.

My favourite session was where we made a volcano bottle bubble with vinegar and baking soda. I’d filled the volcano with words that described how I felt about my dad and lots of glitter so that when the volcano bottle burst it helped me to understand that bottling up things wasn’t a good idea.

It felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.

JB’s mum, Scarlett, describes how the DART programme helped them heal – visit the NSPCC website here to read it.

*Names have been changed to protect identity.

Domestic abuse can happen at any stage in your life

Domestic abuse can happen at any stage in your life, no matter how old you are or how long you have been with your partner.

Earlier this month, John Wallis, an 81-year-old man from Huntingdon, was convicted of coercive and controlling behaviour towards his 74-year-old wife.

John was arrested on May 2 this year (2016) after his wife told hospital staff he had been bullying her for a number of years.

John had been convicted of a common assault on her in September 2015 and as a result was given a six-month restraining order with a condition not to go to their marital home.

Despite the order, his wife told us John had never left the marital home and she was too scared to challenge him.

We learnt there had been a number of incidents over the years where John had tried to stop his wife from seeing her family; she would have to make excuses to family members about why she couldn’t visit or why she couldn’t stay long – this was out of fear of John making a scene or becoming aggressive after they had left.

She would not be allowed to make phone calls to her family in private, John would stand next to her in the hallway while she had conversations with her children and also check her emails constantly which eventually led to her no longer using them.

At the start of this year, the victim fell ill and John’s behaviour worsened. On one occasion she refused to say she loved him and, knowing that she was bed-bound due to her health, he turned the lights on in the bedroom so she would struggle to sleep, knowing she couldn’t get out of bed to turn them off.

In February this year, she fell over in her living room and cried out for John to help her. He came to her aid but instead of helping, pushed her back down and told her she would stay the night on the floor. She lay in pain on the floor until 4am when she started to scream out for help. John eventually called an ambulance which took his wife into hospital where she was later diagnosed with sepsis and was told she was extremely ill.

Over the next couple of months the victim was in and out of hospital with John constantly by her side. She was sent home with a catheter and was told nurses would come to assist every day to change it. On one occasion nurses attended the home but were refused entry by John who was aggressive and told them to get off his property.

He was interviewed about all of the allegations but denied any wrongdoing.

On May 3 he was charged with breaching his restraining order and engaging in controlling and coercive behaviour. He was initially remanded in custody but granted bail by the courts the following day.

Over the following three months John was continually arrested for breaking his bail conditions by calling his wife at home, writing her letters and poems and sending her drawings. He was arrested again on August 27, remanded in custody and was due to stand trial on November 1 but changed his plea at the last minute.

T/DC Adam McCluskey, who investigated this case, said: “This sad case just goes to show domestic abuse can happen at any age. The victim was abused and controlled by Wallis for a number of years but felt powerless to do anything about it, which is tragic.

“I hope people will read this story and understand it is never too late to get out of an abusive relationship. There is no shame in admitting someone you love is treating you badly and no one should have to suffer.

“The victim was at court, along with her family, and was ready to give evidence against her husband when he changed his plea – I believe her being in court was pivotal in him changing his plea to guilty.”

The following day (Wednesday, November 2) John was sentenced to nine months in prison, suspended for 18 months. He was also given a 12-month supervision and restraining order not to contact the victim or go to the street where she resides. Should he breach these conditions he will go straight to prison.

Paula, a Victim Care Co-Ordinator, describes her work and how a survivor took back control of her life

My name is Paula and I work as a Victim Care Co-Ordinator in the Victims’ Hub in Cambridgeshire. I have been in the hub from the beginning and we have just celebrated our first birthday.

I have been passionate about supporting victims of crime for a long time. I previously worked in the 101 non-emergency service centre where I first realised the impact of crime, when talking to victims as their first point of contact. I realised I wanted to work more closely with victims helping them to cope and recover from the crime which is why I applied for the position in the hub.

The hub provides support to victims of domestic abuse who have been classed as standard or medium risk and we make contact with them within 24 hours of the incident being reported.

When we first make contact with victims they are very often at their lowest point and appreciate receiving a call from someone who cares and wants to help them to move on with their lives. Alternatively the victim may still be in a relationship with offender and need encouragement and support to empower them to take control of their lives. People can be hesitant in calling for help but I would strongly encourage them to make that call. They will be assigned a Victim Care Co-Ordinator who will support them emotionally and signpost them to relevant agencies. Victims who live in Cambridgeshire can call the hub and the crime does not have to have been reported to police in order for them to receive our support. They can talk to us in complete confidence and this gives them a source of support when they feel they cannot talk to family or friends.

The hub recently supported a female who had been the victim of domestic abuse for many years. It had taken her a long time to be able to talk openly and honestly about the abuse she had suffered. She felt relief at being able to release her true feelings. Through the support from the hub and other external agencies she realised she could have a life away from her husband. Slowly she regained her confidence and took back control of her life.

I feel very lucky to be able to play a pivotal role in helping victims in Cambridgeshire cope and recover from their experiences. All the Victim Care Co-Ordinators in the hub are as passionate and dedicated to their role as I am, which is why we are very proud of the service the hub provides.

Find out more about Victims’ Hub
Find out more about how we tackle domestic abuse



It’s time to #talkaboutabuse

by Citizens Advice Peterborough

Last year one in every 15 women and one in every 33 men experienced domestic abuse at the hands of their partner/former partner.

Family and friends can be a lifeline of support for victims of domestic abuse in Peterborough. Those suffering from domestic abuse may feel unable to reach out for help themselves, so people who want to support them need to know the steps they can take and where they can get specialist help.

Every year Citizens Advice helps more than 5,000 victims of domestic abuse. Many victims of domestic abuse initially sought help from us for related problems like debt or housing, rather than about the abuse itself. Domestic abuse is often one part of a bigger problem which affects multiple issues – so it’s unrealistic to resolve everything at once.

Working with a multi-agency approach to tackle domestic abuse is vital as it ensures that people are supported not only as victims of domestic abuse, but also around issues that can arise as a result, such as housing, debt, income and concerns over children and prosecution.

We (Citizens Advice Peterborough) work with partner agencies to support victims with housing, benefits, employment and debt issues, while Cambridgeshire Constabulary and partners work to help and support those experiencing domestic abuse and bring perpetrators of domestic abuse to justice.

Client Story

In the spring of 2015, a middle aged mother of two came into Citizens Advice Peterborough with a benefit enquiry. It was quickly identified that she was a long suffering victim of domestic abuse, and did not know what options she had, or where she could go for help.

We worked with the client, giving her all the possible options available to her, such as benefit entitlement, living accommodation options and support from other agencies, and made her aware of her rights concerning the children. She was also provided with emergency helpline contacts and her initial benefit enquiry resolved.

Client Outcome

A few months later the client came back to us, for help with a different matter and told us that, as a result of our identifying domestic abuse and giving her all the options available to her, she had fled the dangerous situation and was much happier and safer.  

We are one of many local Citizens Advice services pioneering a programme which aims to identify people who are victims of domestic abuse. Our staff and volunteers are trained and supported to identify instances of domestic abuse with a simple but sensitive approach during face-to-face advice. The staff and volunteers are then able to provide support and advice to those who are experiencing, or have experienced, any occurrences of domestic abuse. The pilot of this programme in 2013 led to an 800% rise in the number of people who told Citizens Advice they were experiencing a form of domestic abuse.

We are joining the ‘Talk About Abuse’ and ‘Domestic Abuse Awareness’ campaigns so we can help people know how to recognise abuse, talk about it safely, enable victims to make the right decisions for themselves. If you are experiencing domestic violence or abuse, or you are concerned someone you know might be in an abusive relationship, you can seek help by calling confidential freephone helplines. You can also get face to face help and support by visiting Citizens Advice Peterborough.

Remember, no one should have to put up with domestic abuse. Ever.

Below is a message from a victim who has received support from Citizens Advice:

I would like to say to anyone suffering domestic violence – there is help out there and you will be believed. I would say get support and make yourself safe.

And, I would say to someone who suspects that their family member or friend is being abused – that person needs all the support you can possibly give them.”

If you are experiencing domestic violence or abuse, or you are concerned someone you know might be in an abusive relationship, you can seek help by calling the following confidential helplines:

  • For advice, support and options for all victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence call Specialist Abuse Services Peterborough (SASP) on 01733 55 22 00 or 89 44 55
  • Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) covering the whole of Cambridgeshire. They can provide care, help and support for anyone who has experienced sexual assault, abuse, rape or sexual violence. Call their helpline on 0845 089 6262
  • If the victim is a woman, she can get help from the freephone, 24 hour National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247 (run in partnership by Refuge and Women’s Aid)
  • If the victim is a man, he can get help from the Men’s Advice Line on 0808 801 0327
  • If the victim is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, they can get specialised help from Broken Rainbow on 0300 999 5428

You can also come to our drop-in to seek help around domestic abuse us at 16-17 St. Mark’s Street, Peterborough, PE1 2TU. Open Monday-Friday from 9am -12noon and 1pm-4pm.

Alternatively you can contact our Adviceline which is available from 10am-4pm Monday to Friday on 0344 499 4120. Calls are charged at 5p per minute from BT landlines, other network operators may charge more and mobile networks may be considerably more. At busy times your call may be routed to the national Citizens Advice Adviceline.