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    Nadine’s Story

    Reading Time: 3 minutes

    Nadine’s Story

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    “For me working for NCDV is a vocation rather than a job. I feel privileged to work for NCDV, an organisation that provides a free service to obtain emergency civil injunctions for domestic abuse survivors.

    I am particularly delighted when we obtain injunctions for survivors who mirror the position I was in; I was not entitled to Legal Aid and I could not afford a solicitor.

    I was a police officer for 30 years, during this time I was in a long-term relationship. In this relationship I endured 11 years of domestic violence, I suffered all the strands domestic abuse crime has to offer.

    I never imagined that the man I fell in love with and married would become my abuser and eventually, because of his actions; I would provide evidence that would send him to prison. All too often we forget that domestic abuse knows no boundaries, it saddens me when I hear ‘It would never happen to me “or “Why doesn’t she leave?’

    Due to the abuse I gradually became isolated from my family and friends. I was embarrassed for putting up with the abuse and increasingly I could not see a way out. As a police professional I faced additional barriers; I was fearful should there be counter allegations I might be arrested, as on occasions my husband received injuries when I was acting in self-defence.

    Work became my crutch, I stayed longer and longer at work, being fearful of what to expect upon my return home. I started to police my own case, thinking what would the likely outcome be? I thought I would report something when there were witnesses, sadly when assaults occurred in public, no one intervened.

    Due to financial abuse my money was no longer my own. My husband took money for alcohol, gambling and cigarettes, I could not afford petrol for my car and I bought my clothes from charity shops. I didn’t have the fees for a refuge; besides I did not want to leave my home or pets.

    I became aware of NCDV; I knew NCDV would have been a lifeline in assisting me to obtain Non-Molestation and Occupation Orders, but unfortunately at that time they did not cover the area I lived. My only option was to go to court by myself as a litigant in person, at this point, like so many others, I did not have the courage or strength to do this and so the abuse continued.

    When I first reported an assault to the police, despite my husband pleading guilty, I was let down by the courts. My husband was not working and not in receipt of benefits due to my salary, I found myself paying his court costs;  also, because there was no other option to his living arrangements he returned to live with me. He pleaded about how sorry he was and promised the abuse would not continue.

    Unfortunately, the abuse continued. I started to keep a diary, where possible trying to corroborate incidents. I again reported offences; the diary assisted in bringing the criminal charges that would eventually imprison my husband and result in an indefinite restraining order.

    We divorced when my husband was in prison and yes it cost me a lot financially, but I am now happy.  If I am out it is because I am enjoying my life, not deliberately staying out because I am fearful of returning home.

    My diary now includes something positive each day, it could be the pleasure of walking on a beach, or positive thoughts for the victims who we have assisted that day.

    Although it has taken me a long time, I am a survivor.

    I implore victims to seek help, not to wait as long as I did.”

    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.”