In the second of a three-part series on domestic abuse in Bedfordshire, Local Democracy Reporter, John Guinn highlights some of the myths around domestic abuse, and how we can better understand the needs of those who are stuck in an abusive relationship.
Trigger warning: Descriptions of abuse
A common question asked, is why don’t the women and men suffering from domestic abuse leave the relationship?
Bedfordshire’s police and crime commissioner (PCC), Festus Akinbusoye, says it’s not as simple as just walking away, and that many barriers are preventing victims from doing that.
“If only it was that easy in all cases,” the PCC said.
“I have sat in front of a man who was told because he had a very good job, a very responsible job, that if he was to leave his partner they would ruin his career.
“He was told he would never see his children again if he left.
“And part of it was also ‘I’m a big old guy, the police won’t believe me anyway’.
“So he stayed,” the PCC said.
“The level of mind control that abusers are able to exert on victims is something most of us will not even believe existed.
“I went to a commissioned partner not long ago who provides support to women who have been victims of domestic abuse, and in this particular case, this woman is now about three years removed from her relationship.
“She’s been able to find a safe place and she’s moved on after several years in the relationship.
“This man had something against a particular colour that he didn’t like, this woman could not buy any clothes that were of that colour, otherwise, she’s going to get absolutely battered.
“Three years removed and she still needs support to go to Primark.
“But that psychological control is so strong, the average person has never experienced that so they wouldn’t understand.
“And I’ve also heard of cases of, ‘if I was to leave my entire community will ostracise me because we don’t get divorced, we don’t leave our husbands in our culture.
“‘So I’ve got to stay, otherwise my mum, my aunties, my uncles, my entire community would ostracise me if I leave.’
“And I won’t be able to have my kids either, because he’ll take everything. So it’s a very difficult issue, it’s not that easy to walk away,” he said.
Women being abused can call the National Domestic Abuse Helpline, run by Refuge, on 0808 2000 247 for free at any time, day or night.
Men being abused can call the Men’s Advice Line on 0808 8010 327 (Monday to Friday 10am to 8pm).
Other providers of help and assistance can be found on the NHS Domestic Violence and Abuse webpage.
If you are in immediate danger, call 999 and ask for the police.
If you can’t speak and are calling on a mobile press 55 to have your call transferred to the police.
The Chrysalis Centre is a local partnership whose programme of interventions sets out to break the cycle of domestic abuse making victims, families and communities safer. More information can be found here.
Additional reporting by Paul Hutchinson
for the Bedford Independent