Reporting Domestic Abuse to the Police
I reported my assault to the police - but only when I thought my abuser might kill me. I'd suffered more than 50 assaults by the time I did dial 999; from minor (!) slaps, escalating to punches, kicks & strangulation.
The question is often asked 'why did it take so long to report it' and so I'm going to tell you why I waited so long.
The first time a physical assault happened, my abuser was so sorry. It was completely out of character, because they'd been drinking, because they were angry. I knew it wasn't ok - but the abuse didn't make up the whole of our relationship, it was just a one-off.
The next time it happened (a back handed slap, resulting in me having a bruised & blood shot eye for a week), I was going to call the police. But my phone had been taken. The house phone was smashed to pieces, and my abuser had my mobile phone in their pocket. The next day, same as before - an apology. Some flowers, a promise that it would never happen again.
The next time was a significant assault - I was beaten black & blue - and I retaliated. I grabbed the first thing that came to hand (a stiletto heeled shoe) & I hit back - cutting my abusers face with the heel of the shoe & causing significant bruising & bleeding. Now - I was sorry! I was just like them - wasn't I? My abuser threatened to call the police (despite me having to wear polo necked jumpers in May, to hide the bruising around my throat, chest, shoulders and arms). I was petrified - I'd lose my job working with young people, I'd have social services involvement & might have my daughter taken away; no-one would believe that id acted in retaliation, would they? My abuser was charming, popular, and believable.
So the abuse continued in the same vein. First - the argument. Usually about where I was going, who with, where id been, who with, what was I up to, that I was a bitch, a slag... All sorts. Then the house phone would get broken - usually as I attempted to grab it, in order to call the police. My abuser would already have my mobile - they took it, usually before the 'argument' started. It was planned - keeping my isolated, making sure I couldn't call for help.
Skip forward a couple of years, and I was starting to worry that they might actually kill me. I was being strangled for longer (often to the point of losing consciousness), or choked with an elbow forced into my wind pipe - less strain on the arms & not likely to show hand print bruises, said my abuser. If only I didn't struggle so much, I'd not need to be held down!
On the night I did finally call the police, I'd made a plan myself. I knew a significant assault was coming, and I hid my mobile phone in the car, and put one of the house phone handsets down my bra! I was going to get help, because if I didn't id be dead.
My abuser seriously assaulted me - slaps, punches, kicks, bites (yes, bites), and another serious strangulation. I was screaming for my life - there is no doubt that the neighbours heard, but they didn't call the police.
I pressed 999 on the phone & the call connected. I couldn't speak into it, but I was screaming; I was going to be killed, someone needed to come, quickly. Help me. The phone dropped out from under my t-shirt, and my abuser picked it up & disconnected the call.
At this point, I thought I actually would be killed. I was told 'fucking look at the state of you' as my abuser went to the bathroom, tidied themselves up & waited for the police to arrive.
The police arrived, my abuser let them in & tried to be charm personified. Thankfully, it didn't work - the police arrested them, and off they went.
Two hours later, different officers arrived to take my statement & take photographs. They said that my abuser stated that they wanted to press counter charges, because I'd scratched their face. I was horrified, but thankfully the police said 'we don't press charges for scratches done by women who are defending themselves, fearing for their lives'. They took my statement, I said it was part of a pattern of behaviour & they charged my abuser with common assault by beating.
They left me with some information about support services & said they'd be in touch. I called a friend who came straight over & started to tidy the house (because loads of my things had been trashed during the evening). I received a call from the police who asked me if I had anywhere to go. I asked why, and they said they were bailing my abuser back to the family home, because they'd said they didn't have anywhere to go. Our house had a joint tenancy, we both had equal rights to the property despite the fact that I had a child.
The police told me they'd be releasing my abuser within 6 hours, so I needed to collect my stuff & find somewhere to stay. I rang a helpline who said as I was working & didn't want to leave my job, a refuge probably wouldn't be suitable due to the cost. (The cost is usually met by housing benefit but I'd not qualify due to being employed).
I packed a few bags, and collected my daughter, (thankfully she'd been away for the night) and off I went to stay with relatives.
The police said I could have a police escort to the property to collect my belongings, and they'd try & do this when my abuser was at work. I managed to get back into the home and collect my worldly belongings.
I then remained homeless, sofa surfing with a child for 2 months. Thanks to the lovely friends who put me & my daughter up. The case went to court, my abuser pleaded guilty & was given a community order.
The landlord of the property wouldn't remove either of our names from the tenancy, and as it was just a month away from expiring, the tenancy wasn't going to be renewed. I paid the rent for that last month - if I hadn't, I would have been liable anyway & didn't want the whole thing continuing for any longer than it had to.
The outcome of the HMIC report into domestic abuse doesn't surprise me. Generally, the police were ok when I reported. Apart from returning my partner to the family home & expecting me to move with a child. But hey, you can't have everything. I'm just thankful I didn't live in one of the 4 force areas that deal with domestic abuse so poorly, that they've been expected to do another report for HMIC. I'm white & well educated. Imagine - if I had a disability, if I was a woman of colour, if English wasn't my first language. Imagine then, how bad the police response may have been.
I might well have been on the Count Dead Women list.
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