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    Melanie’s Story

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    Melanie’s Story

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    Our latest case story is *Melanie’s (*not her real name). Melanie was in a relationship with her ex-husband for almost 30 years. Melanie faced verbal and emotional abuse along with controlling behaviour throughout the marriage. Over the years there were a number of increasingly violent physical assaults.

    This is Melanie’s story in her own words: –

    “We were in a relationship for nearly 30 years. After a number of years, the abuse began. He lost his temper over a trivial matter and punched me on my face. He was a lot taller and bigger than me. As a result, I fell onto something and lost consciousness. He then smashed a number of items. Afterwards he apologised and said he would never be violent to me again. I believed him and thought it was a one-off.

    For the next 8 years, he was verbally abusive. He would raise his voice and shout at me. He would treat me in a dismissive and derogatory manner, he would belittle me in front of others to show off. He would have to be in control at all times and that control extended to me as well. I got used to being treated in that way.
    But then, he became physically violent to me again. I made a trivial comment and he went berserk. He picked up an item in the kitchen and threw it at me, hitting me on the arm. He ran over and started screaming in my face. I managed to run away and lock myself in the bathroom. I made up a story to tell my work colleagues to explain why I was bruised. I was always walking on eggshells, afraid of upsetting him. I would also have to make excuses to others about his behaviour.

    The verbal abuse and controlling behaviour continued. After another 12 years being treated like that, he became violent again. He did not like the fact that I had left him in a bar because he was being insulting about me in front of others. He broke one of my ribs and gave me concussion. His attack put me in hospital. Again, afterwards he appeared sorry for what he had done.

    But the horrible names and emotional abuse continued, and it was only a couple of years this time before he was physically violent again. Yet again, he threatened to kill himself afterwards. Looking back now, he was just emotionally blackmailing me into keeping quiet about his abuse. This time was different because I called some friends and for the first time, I told someone about his abuse. I then felt strong enough to tell other friends and a family member. I got support from them and eventually, I left him. We were separated for 3 months during which he got help for his anger problems and promised he would never hit me again, so I went back to him.

    However, he still got angry on a regular basis and within months, I realised I could no longer endure his abuse. I told him I wanted a divorce. Within a week, he threatened to kill himself. Then a couple of weeks after that, he locked me in the house and repeatedly began to punch me. I thought he was going to kill me. He then got a knife and as I tried to leave, he stabbed me, causing a deep cut on my body. I was bruised and battered with a broken nose. The police were involved. I hope I never see him again.

    I later found out that he had abused his first wife including physically assaulting her when she was pregnant and then in front of their children.”

    We met Melanie when she was referred to us by the police. The team helped her by preparing her witness statement, completing the court application form and provided her with information about the process of making her application along with details about the Court process, along with encouragement and moral support.

    Melanie was successful in obtaining a 12 month non molestation order protect her from her abuser. An occupation order was also granted preventing him from exercising his legal right to return to the former matrimonial home.

    “I would never have been able to get this protection from the court without the help of the NCDV. The moral support I got from them, really spurred me on to go through this process. The Judge was very impressed with the statement they prepared for me and that definitely helped with my application”

    We asked Melanie how her life has changed since she gained the Court’s protection: –

    “I feel safe in my own home”

    “I feel liberated. I am not having to watch what I say or do”.

    “I am in control of my life again and it is amazing”

    “I just want to say to anyone that reads this and is suffering from abuse, that you can take steps to stop your abuser so that you take back control of your life and live in safety.”

    Share Your Story

    In this series we are using the brave stories of domestic abuse survivors to bring hope to others currently facing abuse. Their stories are sadly not unique, the victims share them willingly to help others get the support they did.
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    By Fiona Bawden, Times Online (8th May 2007)

    “Steve Connor, a student at City Law School, is a man on a mission. Six years ago he was a fairly directionless 27-year-old. Today, as well as taking the Bar Vocational Course, he is chairman of the National Centre for Domestic Violence, a ground-breaking organisation that he dragged into existence after a friend could not get legal help to protect her from an abusive partner.

    Connor’s route to the Bar has been circuitous. In 2001 he returned from a year in Australia (he says that he would not dignify describing it as a gap year), and took a job as a process server in South London. The job (“I just saw it advertised in the paper”) was not quite as dull as it sounds. On one occasion he was threatened with a machete, on another, he was nearly stabbed by a man he had arranged to meet on Clapham Common to serve with a non-molestation order: “He’d seemed really friendly on the phone…”

    The turning point in his life came when a friend, who was being abused by her partner, turned to him for support. Connor went with her to the police. She did not want to press criminal charges so the police suggested that she visit a solicitor to take out a civil injunction. “We must have seen 12 solicitors in a morning. We just went from one to the next to the next to the next. Everyone was very eager to help until we sat down to fill in the forms for the legal aid means test,” he says. The woman, who had a small child, did not qualify for public funding. But, Connor says, her financial situation as it appeared on paper did not bear any relation to her financial situation in reality. “She had a part-time job and she and her partner owned their home. Yet she didn’t have any money. Her boyfriend was very controlling and controlled all the money; he kept the chequebooks and didn’t let her have access to the bank account.”

    The injustice of the situation got under Connor’s skin. “I just couldn’t believe that there was no help available to people who did not qualify for public funds but could not afford to pay.

    I just kept feeling that this must be able to be sorted if only someone would address it.”That “someone” turned out to be him.

    In 2002, thanks entirely to Connor’s doggedness, the London Centre for Domestic Violence was formed. It started out with him and a friend, but is now a national organisation, covering 27 counties, and has helped approximately 10,000 victims last year to take out injunctions against their partners.

    NCDV now has nine full-time staff, 12 permanent volunteers and has trained over 5000 law and other students as McKenzie Friends to accompany unrepresented victims into court. We have also trained over 8000 police officers in civil remedies available regarding domestic violence. The National Centre for Domestic Violence (NCDV) has branches in London, Guildford and Manchester and is on track to have branches in 16 areas within the next two years.

    NCDV specialises exclusively in domestic violence work and could be characterised as a cross between McDonald’s and Claims Direct. The high degree of specialisation means that its processes are streamlined: clients can be seen quickly and the work is done speedily and cheaply. “Sometimes, we will have one of our trained McKenzie Friends at a court doing 10 applications in one day,” Connor says.

    Clients are not charged for the service. NCDV staff take an initial statement: clients who qualify for legal aid are referred to a local firm; those that don’t get free help from the centre itself. It runs on a shoestring, heavily reliant on volunteers and capping staff salaries at £18,000 a year.

    Steve expects to qualify as a barrister this summer and hopes that having a formal legal qualification will give the centre added clout. “We are already acknowledged as experts and consulted at a high level, so I thought it would be helpful if I could back that up by being able to say I’m a barrister,” he says. He is just about to complete a one-year full-time BVC course at the City Law School (formerly the Inns of Court Law School) and, all being well, should be called to the Bar in July. Although Connor sees his long-term future as a barrister, he says that he has no immediate plans to practise. “I want to get NCDV running on a fully national level. Then I may take a step back and have a career at the Bar.”