DOMESTIC VIOLENCE: '˜At mealtimes I would have to eat in a separate room. Then it got nasty'
On the final day of the Post's series examining the hidden scourge of domestic violence, STEF HALL investigates the increasing number of men coming forward in Lancashire and speak to victims and relatives.
IT worker John, 49, knows all too well the difficulties male victims face in bringing their abuser to justice.
He spent 13 years with his abusive partner, with whom he has two children.
Her erratic and disturbing behaviour began after their first child was born.
He recalls: “It started with verbal abuse, belittling me in front of the children.
“She made it difficult for my family to come around and see us so I ended up having to go to see them alone.
“We would be having a conversation and suddenly she would say: “Why are you staring at me? Stop staring at me” and make me face the wall.
“She would ridicule the way I talked and sometimes would not allow me to sit in the same room.
“At mealtimes I had to eat in a separate room.
“And that was when it was pleasant.
“It started to get really nasty. She would come into my bedroom and deliberately wake me up by making strange noises. She would scream she hated me.”
Then the violence began.
After her second physical attack police were called – but she was cautioned and allowed to return home.
It had happened when John was asleep in bed, the woman having banished him to his own room to sleep.
She dragged their two children out of bed saying that she “wanted them to see him be attacked”, before smashing his bedside lamp and attacking him with it.
On this occasion – the second time she had inflicted violence on him – police attended their home but they gave her a caution because she had no previous offences recorded against her.
John recalls: “I was disappointed as I had hoped it might be the point where things changed but she was just given a caution.
“Most police officers must know the likelihood is that it isn’t the first time it has happened.
“But I was told as it was her first offence, she would be cautioned.
“They kept her in the cells overnight. What got me most was that they’d indicated she wouldn’t be allowed to return to the house. But the next morning the officers arrived with her on the doorstep and said she was allowed to return. My heart sank.
“I didn’t want to make a scene for the sake of my children. I couldn’t believe it. I had thought it was a turning point but she was back again.
“I really wish I had reported the first incident of violence because it may have meant this time she was charged, because they had a record of the history of it.
“I would urge anyone to keep a record of incidents knowing what I know now.
“These figures won’t change unless the authorities have the evidence they need to pursue a case to court.”
John had nowhere to go and had to continue living in the same house as she refused to leave.
Worse still, she had tried to make out that she was the victim of abuse at his hands - something many other men have indicated as a factor when they try to report abuse.
The professional worker, from Preston, says he thought it was his own fault for many years until he had counselling with the Circle Counselling Service, based in Chorley.
Social services intervened after the woman self-harmed and ambulance crews raised concerns with other agencies on John’s behalf.
He eventually obtained custody of his children.
John spoke as figures show less than a fifth of reported abuse incidents lead to a charge or summons in Lancashire.
Case study 2
A Preston-based worker, whose father has been a victim of domestic abuse over the last 20 years, has spoken of her frustration and fear.
The 34-year-old said:“He’s spent a lifetime dealing with some of the North West’s toughest criminals.
“And at over six feet tall it’s easy to see why few people would believe my father, a jolly giant of a man, could ever be the victim of abuse.
“Especially at the hands of a woman.
“But is it this kind of stereotype that is putting lives of men like him at risk every day.
“Dad, an ex-prison officer, is in his 60s.
“My parents divorced when I was too young to know about it.
“At first his new relationship seemed like any other.
“But over time, little warning signs began to emerge - signs that at the time, in my 10-year-old mind, were easy to miss.
“The arguments triggered whenever I came to visit. The ridiculing everything he did.
“It continued as I grew up. Whenever I took my family to visit, he was insulted and belittled in front of me, and them.
“One one occasion while we speaking about computers she branded him a paedophile for chatting to his friends online.
“Such behaviour became a common theme whenever we visited, she would start an argument with him in front of us, making it very uncomfortable.
“Eventually, for the sake of my young children, I took the decision not to go there anymore.
“He very rarely comes to our home - when he does he has to lie about where he is to avoid the inevitable hassle.
“It means I spend a snatched hour with my dad on my day off work, while she is at work, gulping tea as he constantly checks his watch.
“He has to be home by 12.30pm because that’s when she gets home from work.
“Dad’s life has all the hallmarks of an abusive relationship. It is mainly controlling, emotional abuse, but it has been physical too.
“The night before a major family birthday party, we arrived at my grandmother’s to find he had been attacked the previous evening.
“He had painful looking red gouge marks down his face neck and chest from her nails where his partner had launched herself at him and scratched him.
“I know through my own line of work how difficult it is for a victim to leave an abuser without the support of their family.
“As Jane, who told her story on the first day of the Post’s series said, all her friends and family believed her abuser was charming.
“It’s true that domestic abuse breaks families. I’ve witnessed it first hand.
“My dad didn’t see my brother for more than three years because his girlfriend, like me, took exception to the abuse and would not invite his partner to their engagement party.
“Dad, to my shock, did leave for a short time a few years ago, and found a new relationship and a new home to rent.
“But she found out where he lived and hid in bushes near his home, filming the other woman going to his house.
“The morning after his 60th birthday, she hammered on his door at 7am, confronted him with the images she had filmed, and attacked him with a piece of wooden bannister rail that had fallen off.
“He did inform the police on that occasion, but did not want to antagonise the situation, he just wanted them to be aware of it in case anything else happened.
“Bizarrely after this incident, he was bombarded with tons of texts every day, lavish gifts, complements, taken for slap up meals to celebrate the birthdays of mutual friends.
“At the same time, having retired, he was struggling to manage his money because he still had to pay the mortgage and bills on their house, which is in his name.
“With the promise things would change, he went back.
“The insults, belittling, tempers – all continued within just a few weeks of his return.
“He was once again isolated from his children and grandchildren.
“This time he didn’t buy them Easter eggs or birthday gifts, or come to see them. It would have led to too much aggravation at home.
“We didn’t speak for nine months until we maintained an uneasy truce over Christmas.
“On New Year’s Day, as he slept at around midnight, I was told his partner stormed upstairs screaming and hurled a suitcase from their festive break at his head.
“I begged him to get help. I sent him information secretly on Facebook and e-mailed a domestic violence charity on his behalf for advice.
“After that he spent a few weeks secretly looking at flats to rent. But his determination to leave again waned, he believes he cannot cope financially because his funds are tied up in their house.
“When the terrible news of the murder of solicitor Dave Edwards in Chorley broke, it really struck home.
“Dave, an acquaintance of mine through work, was brutally stabbed by his abusive new bride, who is now serving a life sentence.
“I live with a constant worry that one day, things will go too far, and police will be knocking on my door.
“I can only hope that one day he gains the courage and strength to leave, for good.”