My experience with Domestic Abuse and the UK Courts
I was in a very violent marriage for almost 15 years. I was totally emotionally crushed by him, and believed that I would never be able to survive on my own. Then one morning he threatened my children's lives. As soon as he passed out blind drunk, I grabbed my bag and we ran. We left with everything but the clothes on our backs. I left my house, my job, everything. Our safety was what mattered.
I fled to a friend who lived around sixty miles away. She took me in, saw my bruises and called the police. The police turned up and took me down to the station and took a lengthy statement from me. They took my mobile phone, as he had been calling almost constantly since he knew we were gone and had left several death threats on my voice mail.
Three days later, I had to attend to have my injuries photographed. By this time, my bruises were starting to fade. Surely that should be done right away?
My friend took me to the DV support team at her local council then. They were just amazing. They took me to see a wonderful solicitor. I had to give such detailed descriptions of the abuse that I was a wreck by the end of it all. We first applied to the court for a restraining order with power of arrest attached.
When I had to attend court for the first time, I almost didn't make it through the door. It was a nightmare. I had to sit in a little room with the judge, my solicitor, my support worker and my ex! He was right across a small table! I was so terrified. How can that be a good environment for a victim of DV? I couldn't look at him and only looked up when the judge spoke to me. He granted me a two month temporary order. I would have to come back to court for a full hearing. I felt so sick at the thought.
When that time came, I attended court with my solicitor and my support worker. I was so terrified and stressed, I ended up in hysterics in a waiting room and vomiting into a waste paper bin. My solicitor went to talk with the judge and he agreed she could speak on my behalf. My ex had brought down his brother and two of his friends to act as "witnesses" for him. Thankfully, the judge was very kind. He listened to my solicitor and granted a full order of protection without listening to the lies that my ex had persuaded his friends to tell! He then started trying to talk to my solicitor and demand that I should still pay the mortgage and the bills. He had not only lost his punching bag, he had lost his mobile bank as well. She ignored him and walked straight back towards me. He got aggressive and started shouting. Court security had to step in. We had to wait half an hour to let them clear the building.
Two months after this, I decided to move back to Scotland. I have family and friends up here. Not long after I had moved back home to Scotland, my ex started again. I was lucky enough to find a wonderful solicitor again. He first of all demanded full custody, but when he was told he had no chance, he wanted the boys to spend all school holidays with him. We had to go through a lengthy court process. The boys were terrified as they did not even want to see him.
They drew pictures and wrote letters for the Sheriff begging him to send their father away. We were all assessed by an independent solicitor who thankfully saw through my exes lies. He recommended that there was written contact only between the boys and their father. He was only allowed to write five times a year. The letters would go to my solicitor,who would read them first and them pass them on to me. He wrote once. I offered the letter to the boys... well I say letter. It was half a side of A5 paper covered with his drunken scrawl. They both refused to look at it and said they did not want to read his letters. I reported this to my solicitor who in turn reported it to his. He never wrote back again.
My divorce was finalised a little while later. The relief I felt was beyond belief. That was seven years ago. Yet even now I am fiercely protective of our safety. I will not allow the boys to be in school photos for the local news etc, in the small risk he might see it. I still don't feel safe at all. I still look over my shoulder.
The support services for victims of DV are so drastically underfunded it is criminal. I firmly believe that victims should be able to give evidence at DV hearings via video link.
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