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Episode 8: Signs And Symptoms Of Domestic Violence

Part Five: Forms of Abuse – Psychological (Mental) Abuse

This type of abuse certainly highlights and supports all the other forms of abuse making them possible. Usually the abuser systematically wears down the victim mentally over time, grooming them long before they ever even throw the first punch.

Mental abuse occurs when the abuser continually plays mind games with the victim, literally toying with them just because they can. When the harassment they are responsible for, happens to such a tremendous extent that the victim can no longer distinguish between what is in fact reality, and what is not, this is mental abuse. The abuser has so mastered the art of manipulating the victim, that they begin controlling even their very thinking process. It is as if they are literally in their head and able to pull their invisible strings. The victim is then resigned to dancing to the beat of whatever music their abuser decides to play at any given time!

At times Robert would cleverly get into my head and stop me in my tracks just by sending me a text message! I remember once he told me, “You have become completely insignificant in people’s lives! Where are all the people who are supposed to love you?” It was a question strategically asked and one pregnant with meaning. As I pondered the answer, I felt so intimidated by him that I almost didn’t remember what it felt like not being bullied by him. He had no problem getting me to believe that it was all my fault.

Even when we were not physically together, we might as well have been, the way that I was affected and left feeling. Regardless of time and distance, he had the ability to send me somewhere mentally, and ruin my whole day just by something he said. He had such incredible power over me unfortunately. After two years of wearing me down, if he had told me the sky was pink with white spots, I would have believed him. It was only later that I learned and came to understand that the power he had over me was in fact power I had naively given to him. I also learned later that no other human being, is qualified or deserves to ever have that much power over me!

A young lady called Baljit found herself in quite a dilemma, as things certainly had not worked out, or gone the way she had planned. She was in her late twenties, married and the mother of three children under five. She found herself to be in a nightmare that she could not seem to wake up from, no matter what she did.

It all started when she met Jaswinder. Although they were both from Asian backgrounds, it was by no means an arranged marriage. It was in fact quite the opposite. They met at university, fell in love and decided to get married. They both had good jobs and the plan, therefore, was to save up enough money to buy their own place.

Jaswinder’s parents however had other ideas. They persuaded them to move in and live with them, so that they had the opportunity to save and get together enough of a deposit, to buy their place sooner. Of-course the young couple were grateful and thought it was a brilliant idea. They were excited that they would be able to save even faster than they originally thought possible. They set about making their plans.

Once they got married and moved into the family home however, the mother in law became very aggressive towards Baljit, and demanding of them as a couple. She immediately set about showing her true colours and laying down the law. She told them that they no longer needed to buy their own place. After all they were now living with them and had a suitable roof over their head!

On top of that while she was on a roll, she demanded they begin to pay her six hundred pounds every month for the privilege of living there. She also got on their case demanding they start a family so that she could have grandchildren! The young couple on the other hand, had planned to wait before starting a family. They wanted to concentrate on getting a mortgage first.

When Baljit spoke to Jaswinda privately about using contraceptives, he adamantly refused explaining that they were not allowed to because of the families’ religion! He caved into the pressure obviously deciding that his mother’s wrath was far worse than his wife’s. Baljit was besides herself with frustration.

As a result, before long Baljit became pregnant and had a son. Not long after he was born, before she knew what was going on, she found she was pregnant again and then again in very quick succession. Suddenly she went from being a busy woman with a good job, to a mother of three small children. She had no choice but to give up work to look after the kids. This was not a good set up or situation. This was definitely not how she planned it! On top of everything else she got absolutely no help to look after the kids, and she was expected to do endless chores around the house.

Her mother in law cracked the whip and made it seem as if her mission in life was to make her daughter in law’s life a living hell. It later came out that apparently her issue with Baljit, was that she had planned how she was going to get her son to marry a nice ‘yes’ girl from Pakistan. At the same time, her son Jaswinder rebelled and burst her bubble because he put his foot down, absolutely refusing to marry anyone the family chose from Pakistan. To rub salt in the wound, of course Baljit came along and destroyed her elaborate plan. This was definitely something she intended to make her pay for, the rest of her life!

The mental and emotional abuse became a way of life therefore for Baljit. She had no money of her own anymore, so her independence was truly a thing of the past. Presently she had her work cut out as she looked after the kids, the husband, the in laws, cooked, cleaned and became essentially a live-in slave. Baljit was trapped but could not do a thing about it. Jaswinder her husband, could not really do a lot to help her because he found himself working every hour God sent, to pay his mother the money she demanded. He felt his hands were tied, and that he had no choice either!

Amadia an eighteen-year-old Nigerian woman, with a six-month-old baby, initially arrived in the United Kingdom unaccompanied. The home office however managed to track down the man she referred to as her ‘brother.’ It was arranged for her to live with him, his wife, and three children, babysitting for them most of the time. This however was not a good set up, as the wife was very suspicious of her. This made her hostile, aggressive and cold towards Amadia. Meanwhile, her brother who was supposed to provide for her and the baby, in reality, only saw to their bare essentials. Whenever he was home, she had to stay in her room because she was not allowed to sit in the same room as him! She was forced to cook and clean for the family. The health visitor had concerns about the young lady and her child, as the story began to unfold. The child’s father was apparently a friend of Amadia’s brother.

Sadly, in 2016 a man named Lance hart ended up killing his wife Claire and daughter Charlotte before he killed himself. This happened just days after the marriage ended and she left him and moved into a new property. Their two sons Luke and Ryan were out of the country at the time and were therefore not attacked by him.

In the family home, Lance was not usually physically abusive. In fact, the abuse was mainly mental and emotional, so it wasn’t easily spotted by the professionals involved with the family, namely the GP. The family didn’t go to the police because they didn’t know that what they were going through was illegal. They were not aware that the law had been changed, so that someone could be convicted for coercive controlling behaviour.

Ryan told the BBC “No-one knew what to look for. Unfortunately, it was missed by us and we lived it.”

Luke said, “We were living a personal hell and our father was dangerous. I think a lot of people felt afraid of asking us what was going on because of the fear he had cultivated, especially around close family. They were all afraid of helping us because of that fear.”

Now the brothers are campaigning for a greater awareness of coercive controlling behaviour, so that other families don’t have to go through what they had to.

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.”